Following IRONMAN Wisconsin my legs were completely trashed. I returned to work the day after the race, and my energy levels were actually great! But walking felt terrible and I was waddling everywhere for days. This is exactly what happens when your legs are unprepared to run a marathon and you force them to anyways. After 6 straight days of work, my legs felt like ground up sausage and I finally got a day off. But while my legs felt fatigued, most of my nagging injuries had resolved. Over the next couple of weeks, I was able to get moving again, and actually got into somewhat of a rhythm. I was even able to start running regularly again! Starting with some uphill treadmill work and before too long I was even able to work my way outside again!
While I had originally planned to do IRONMAN Chattanooga, I did not know that it would be 3 weeks following me racing IRONMAN Wisconsin. Since everything seemed to be turning around decently, I decided to pull the trigger and see what would happen. Plus I would get to see my family and had the honor of donning bib #3 for the race!
I was able to fly out to Chattanooga the Thursday before the Sunday race and had ample time to settle in before the race. I was staying with my friend Joe Wilson, his wife Jess, and friend Aaron Bloom just a couple miles from the race site. Friday was an interesting day involving a breakfast with the Ironman Executive Challenge participants, an easy ride and swim, the Pro meeting, and finally the infamous Chattanooga Underpants Run. So what is the Chattanooga Underpants Run? Basically a large group of people who meet to run scantily clad through the city for a couple of miles to permanently scar the local community. Mission accomplished!
Saturday morning contained the highlight of the weekend, the IronKids races! After volunteering for the event in Wisconsin, I absolutely had to do it again. And this time Charleigh, Rebekah, and my mom got to go! It was amazing and is a guaranteed way to make me smile for hours on end. Just see for yourself!
The rest of the day was spent finishing up the logistics of racing an Ironman, and I eventually got to get my feet up back at Joe’s place. Jess made us some pre-race lasagna while we watched some college football. We finally got to sleep before our 4 am race morning wake-up.
Race morning went as planned with only using the bathroom 3 times before the race start. I had plenty of time to sit around at the start before they allowed the Pro Men into the water just before the start as the sun was just starting to rise. The current in the Tennessee River didn’t seem very strong like the other day during my practice swim, but still had the start line of guys drifting forward a bit. I placed myself right in the middle and got ready for the start!
For maybe the first time ever, we actually got a countdown and then we began our thrashing! It was actually a bit more controlled than usual and I wasn’t very far off the lead. After about 200 meters, I lost contact with the first few guys and found myself swimming at the front of the second group similar to Wisconsin. I felt the familiar tapping on my feet of somebody drafting my feet, and after about another 200 meters I decided to back off the pace some. I had apparently gained a small gap to a larger group behind, but I wasn’t interested in wasting energy pulling at the front like I had in Wisconsin. I eventually found myself on the feet of Matt Russell with Sam Long directly behind me, which lasted for probably half of the swim. With maybe 1500 meters to go, I saw Colin Laughery taking a line more to the left and gaining a gap on the others. I felt good so decided to quickly shoot over to him before the others could follow. This allowed me to end up having a straighter line to the swim exit at the end and get a small gap on some of the others behind.
I came out of the water in 7th, but quickly lost time in transition as I decided to put on socks (and just generally being slow) before heading out on the bike. I got on the bike right with Colin and Ben Hall (who I met as we were waiting at the swim start) but with a deficit to Matt and Sam. I took the first few miles to warm into the effort, at which point the legs began to click and I got to work. Ben came along as I settled comfortably into my time trial position. Just as we entered into Georgia at about 11 miles in, we were able to see a few others up the road and it was apparent that we were gaining ground. I continued to keep it smooth without doing anything crazy and we reeled them in after the next few miles.
To my surprise, the guys that we had reeled in were Matt, Sam, and Andrew Talansky. Considering the firepower of those guys, I thought that they would be getting much further up the road. I found myself taking the lead of the group a couple times on the way out on the lollipop course, but was a bit nervous doing so. Talansky and Ben dropped back after a bit, but were replaced by Pedro Gomes and Nicholas Chase who we had caught shortly before the sharp left turn on Hog Jowl Road. While it was awesome to have a media moto around, they nearly caused me run straight into them at the turn since they weren’t able to take it quickly enough. Despite me attempting to wave them off well before the turn.
Shortly after that, Sam came around and got a gap that nobody, including me, wanted to close. While my power wasn’t any higher than it had been in Wisconsin, the temperature was about 30 degrees higher and would only be rising throughout the day. I focused on just keeping it steady with some surges to see if I could shake Pedro or Nick. Just after an aid station, Matt came around and was clearly upset and said something about a penalty for tossing a bottle. Initially I thought he had meant that I had gotten the penalty, which was weird since I still had my bottles. Upon re-passing him, I figured out that it was Matt that had gotten the penalty at the prior aid station. This seemed completely bogus as we had clearly been right near the aid station when it had happened, so there should have been plenty of room to get rid of empty bottles. Matt took to the front again before long, and started to gain a gap as well. I attempted one more larger surge to see if I could drop Pedro and Nick again before the start of the second loop. While it worked temporarily, my legs and body finally started to feel the heat and some fatigue. Pedro and Nick not only caught back up, but made the pass as we began the second loop.
My power over the next 10 miles continued to drop as my effort was climbing quickly. I knew that I was entering damage control territory and just hoped that I could salvage the rest of the ride. I attempted to use what energy I had as efficiently as possible and maintain my now much less comfortable tt position. I knew that getting more calories and fluids in would be the only way to turn this around, but now my stomach was backing up and not wanting to digest anything in the heat. While I had powered through the first lap very strong and fast, I was now suffering just to get back in to transition. I passed Matt as he was in the penalty tent, but it didn’t take too long for him to come back by me again. I kept him in sight for a few miles, but there was no way I had the power to stick with him. Not much later Talansky also came around. As I turned on the highway to make the last stretch into transition, I was having serious doubts about finishing the race. All I wanted to do was get off my bike and lie on the side of the road. I was extremely fatigued, super dehydrated, and was even starting to feel cold at times (not a good sign). But I fought it. I did my best to keep my head down and keep it going no matter what. I tried not to think ahead to what would happen once I finished the bike, but to just get there at all costs.
I finally made it to the end of the ride, though I was positive that I had been bleeding time in the final miles. I was actually surprised that nobody else had caught me and assumed that everybody was hurting. I felt like I took forever in transition, but actually ended up having one of the faster times of the day. I tried not to think about stopping and letting my momentum stop. I headed out on the run just wanting it to end, but refusing to pull the plug. I saw a lot of friends and family in the first mile cheering for me, but didn’t have the heart to tell them how much it hurt.
My first mile ended up not being too slow actually, and I used that to try to raise my spirits. I knew that I was in 6th place at the time which meant that I was still in a paying position at least. After a few miles of keeping the legs going I was able to see Talansky up the road. I knew he has had troubles on the run in the past, so was confident that I could make the pass if I just kept going. I did so at about mile 4 and was once again by myself. I just kept chugging along at my slow pace trying to take in what fluids that I could and having volunteers constantly dump ice and sponges into my tri-suit. The hills on the back side of the first loops were torture as usual, but I was at least able to find a bit of a rhythm on some of the downhills.
I heard the sound of another runner coming from behind just before mile 11 before going up the Barton Avenue hill on the way back into town. I noticed Patrick Brady and after we both took plenty of time at the aid station, he took off up the road with me still just plodding along. At the finish of the first lap, I occasionally was able to get some more energy on some of the stretches, but still wasn’t able to consistently maintain a decently quick pace. Shortly after joining back with the age group athletes who were on the first lap, I noticed an athlete sitting on the side of the road. It was Pedro who was suffering from the heat and ended up not being able to finish. This put me back into 5th place. Knowing that everybody would be hurting terribly on the second lap, I just had to fight to keep things going.
I had a lot of ups and downs in the final lap, but I was able to continue on and did not see any other Pros in front or behind me. It was encouraging to see some friends on the course on their first lap, and the aid stations were really getting exciting now with more people out there. I definitely sang along to a number of songs that were playing as I went by! With just a couple of miles to go, I was informed that Patrick Brady was cramping pretty badly ahead of me. I was pretty much already at my limit, but powered ahead to see if there was still time to catch him. I heard his name being called out with just a few minutes left to go though, and there was nobody in sight behind me either. I soaked in the downhill to the finishing chute and crossed through the finish in just under 8:59 and in 5th place!
I have mixed feelings about this result if I’m being completely honest. I don’t think I managed the conditions as well as I should have, and I think I could have had a lot more to give on the day. But I’m proud that I didn’t succumb to the demons in my head and my ability to push. Had you told me that I would have a couple top-5 Ironman results at the end of my season, then I would have gladly taken it! But knowing that I could have had more will always be there. I am hopeful to be able to dedicate more time to appropriately train and race at the new levels that I am reaching, and hopefully support my family in the process.
I spent my time after the race with family and friends, talking about how things went and just how terrible the conditions were out there! I was certainly tired, but not wobbling around as much as after racing in Wisconsin. I was actually able to stay to watch some of the late night finishers for the first time and the atmosphere was amazing! The DNF rate for this race was the 3rd highest in Ironman history at over 24%, so I know every person out there had to fight to make it to the finish.
I’m looking forward to some rest following this race and spending more time with family. I hope to do a post soon with updates of what our life will be looking like in the next few months, but we’ll be in Grand Junction at least through January! Thanks to everyone that made this past month of racing possible and I can’t wait to get back out there before too long!