I’ll admit it. I had a hard time getting my brain in to race mode (half iron distance, and racing in general) after IMSR and facing a second Ironman in October. I was pretty sure I wasn’t alone in this experience (dialed in to a goal for so long and once achieved… Changing gears.) I was feeling very ambivalent about the race. A pre-race chat with my coach helped set me right, be OK with that, and got me to remember that once I am at the start, it (the desire to race) will hit. I knew it would. Just because I didn’t feel the pre-race adrenaline shots and embracing the suck of racing strong I feel before a race didn’t mean I wasn’t race ready. When I asked, my body would react. I trusted that and Matthew confirmed it. I was ready to race. And race strong. My whole goal was to be in it from the start. And strong to the end. Spoiler alert: I accomplished both goals. And I feel good about this race. If I Execute the same set of goals in my next race I will be very happy.
I normally am a pretty solitary creature before a race. I am good with that. Sometimes I hang out with people for a bit, but even if I have been with a group, I end up on my own. No fault to anyone. It’s just how it goes. I know people have pre race routines and so never put pressure on others to remain together. I do enjoy the time I spend with people before a race….as long as we talk about anything but the race! Which so many have done for me.
This race was different. I actually stuck with someone. And she to me! She also rather solitary pre race. Rebecca and I went to the race together (Carlos drove us down), we went to transition, pumped tires together, returned said pump to Carlos together, and then hung out at a hotel lobby together (shout out to the Courtyard at Marriott at downtown Chattanooga. They have impressed me so many times over race weekends and non race weekends with their openness, helpfulness, and accommodation of so many needs… Guests or not. I heard an employee tell someone who asked to use the bathroom “our house is your house”. They have my business any day. Except this race. We stayed father out), and then she walked with me towards the start (she didn’t start for about another 1.5 hours after me), and saw and chatted with friends together before we parts ways where I headed off to the swim start and she to go relax or chill as much as pre race nerves allow in the hotel lobby. Of course, as usual, no pictures of us together.
So then, after a few hugs and chats with friends I headed to the swim start. I started chatting with the few of us there. I guess they held people back after I went through as about 10-15 minutes later most of my age group came down. F40-44 was the first group after the pro women. We were supposed to seed per expected finish time within our age group. But I think that failed as Then they took us to a coral (think similar to boarding a roller coaster) and no one went for the back of the line. I ended up heading straight in to the coral for the second to last slot. And the one who,an a headed of me didn’t want to go first and asked if I wanted to go. I said sure. Why not and up I went. I am pretty sure I was not am going the fastest of swimmers in my age group.
The start ping went in I jumped (I wasn’t going to dive). And like that…I was racing. Yes! Goal 1 accomplished. I started swimming strong and never had an issue breathing. I was able to keep pushing. Hit the turn to start the upstream swim and swam hard. I remember a lot of what Maria has been working with me in as of late. She’s had me in
her sights. And what she’s telling me is settling in. I did get swum over in the first 5 minutes. But it worked. Be brave from the start. Own it. And so I did.
I felt my effort going upstream. I found feet a couple of times and kept with them as much as possible. However, I’m focused on swimming that I rarely notice much besides buoys and my stroke. But I stuck with those feet for a few minutes each time. and on the second turn to go parallel/a little downstream opened up and kept moving. The sun was in my line of site so it was hard t see buoys but not impossible, and I actual swam very straight. Yea!
And downstream… Same thing, but no feet. Soon I was looking for the exit.
Up and out. Wetsuit strippers had me down and out of my wetsuit quickly. And off I ran to pick up my bag and head to the change area. Some deliberate (slow….sigh) movement in getting everything out and in my bag but worked to have everything else quick. I went in one row early, caught it quick and out to my row. I carried my shoes to my bike and put them on there. Grabbed my bike and ran out to the mount line.
And off I went. It’s amazing how quickly time on the bike flies. There is so much you are watching, feeling, and experiencing. I was thrilled my Garmin was up and working and connected to my bike. Last 2 races it wasn’t.
I had ridden the course before.
I had my race parameters. And was good. The first few miles were closed to cars, including the climb up Lookout Mtn. Yea!
The climb I took steady and strong. Maybe a little conservative. But good. A few people
passed me. I passed a couple. One thing about being first age group….you know it’s your age group ahead of you!! That can play with your brain. I had to settle in and work on my ride.
The crowd cheering at the top was phenomenal. And loud. And fun. I got ready to turn the corner and told the woman next to me “time for some fun!” And fun it was. Up top is a series of rollers. A couple of good climbs. But a lot of fun. And I got to enjoy almost freely. A few times I had to slow due to a group. But all in all….fun!
It amazed me how quickly it was over and it was time for the descent down the mountain. It was great. Great that is Until I caught up to a group stuck behind a car. I was annoyed. And did mutter a few words. After the race I have chatted with others and this was a more common experience than it should have been. The race directors did a great job putting on the race and so much was good. I think they should have closed the descent as well as the climb to cars for the race. It left a bad taste in my mouth and really…wasn’t safe. For a race.
As I came to the bottom, after sitting up and riding my hoods for most of the descent and those passed early on had joined me and a few others. we were a small group. Ugh. I saw the store, Carlos. And my parents. And I yelled “biggest disappointment ever!” I repeated
this to my teammate Abby as I came along side her on the bike. And kept rolling along. You can’t dwell on something in a race. And I moved on quickly. there was more fun to be had on this course!
At this point, for about 10 miles there was a small group and we had to work to disentangle. I had to slow a few times to fall back. And then accelerate to pass.
All was well, though. The marshals were out and calling drafting. I worked not to. But did play back and forth with a few women. Nothing like Chattanooga 70.3 though. Not even close.
At Chickamauga I got out of the group. And as I left town I rode up the hill well. I felt like I was gathering steam. That hill out of Chickamauga has been my push for fun every time I’ve ridden it: I’ve broken free on the climb and then ride solid (and draft free) in.
I felt the wind after the turn to Chattanooga. And then I saw a loose dog on the other side of the road. Really? He wasn’t chasing but I watched him. Cars were coming the other way when I passed him and I seized the opportunity that I was safe and pushed on. There were small crowds at the next two intersections including my parents and Carlos. They got around!
In to town and soon I was coming in to transition. I slowed down, and left my shoes on. It was such a short distance to the changing area I was good with it.
I handed my bike to a volunteer and ran to grab my gear which, thankfully was on top of the table vs below and I found quickly.
I dumped my gear. Sorted through, put a gel in my pocket, helmet off, shoes off, in bag, running socks and shoes on and was off.
I always forget something before a race and this time it was my hydration belt. I had the bottles. Dang. I wasn’t upset. I had asked Matthew and Rebecca, and she her husband Kris. And all were along my feelings….I normally do mostly on course nutrition in a half iron (yea Coke and water) and would be fine relying on course nutrition. I was buoyed by the affirmative input, and confident with the choice. So no hydration belt. Just my race number belt (which I have a collection of as that I keep forgetting). And I relied on course nutrition. It worked great. This may be a permanent change for halfs.
The run always starts with me wondering “how” and then settling in, counting down the miles. One at a time. Stay present. I wasn’t as present as I Was in IMSR. But I was present. And soon was having a great time. Working hard and having fun.
After mile 1 was the hot corner and I was cheered through and was giving a series of high 5s. I was set. And kept going.
At each aid station I took water. And either warm (yum!) Gatorade or Coke. But Coke was not at each aid station. And only 1 had ice. I took it there each time.
The aid stations were great. Two stuck out on my brain. And one I took a Coke from the guy on both laps. Lap 2 I said “you’re my Coke guy” and got a rounded cheers. In the neighborhoods there were children giving high 5s and people of all ages out. I smiled at them all as much as I could and kept running.
It was a holy run and I pushed the run up with strong form. It wasn’t fast fast. But it was strong and I wasn’t collapsing on myself as I can do if I am tired. Yes, I was working, yes my heart rate
was a little lower than I like and I couldn’t get it where I wanted it exactly, but I felt solid. And kept running.
A woman I had played back and forth with on the bike, passed me, and we proceeded to play some back and forth on the run. Especially lap 2. I passed her up the hill to the neighborhood and didn’t see her again until she sprinted past me about 0.2 miles from the finish. I gave chase but never gained on her.
The miles clicked down. I kept going. And soon there was 5 I left. And then 1 mile. And then the hot corner and I took it on home.
Overall. Was proud of my race. I was strong and in it from the start. I didn’t recite mantras (forgot) but didn’t yield either. I
raced a solid race. Could I have done better on another day? Likely yes. But I am proud of my race effort. I had a fantastic time being cheered by my teammates on Podium and Dynamo. I loved seeing them together. And smiled the entire race. My parents and Carlos were there. My Friends Karen and Ashley came up to cheer as well. I was alive and having an amazing time while putting a strong foot out there.