May 17, 2015:
This was the first Half-Ironman I ever attempted. It was full of challenges that I never could have anticipated, but I still managed to overcome them.
The swim felt really good for me. The current was negligible compared to the last time Chattanooga hosted an event. The previous year it was extremely fast. I finished in about 26 minutes.
Coming into T1 I faced my first challenge. I had set up my bicycle for a flying mount. When I arrived at my bike, I saw everything out of place. My shoes were ripped off the pedals. The helmet and sunglasses were on the ground. The rest of my transition area was also messed up. It wasn’t until a couple of months later when I was going through the unmatched race photos when I saw a guy with the same bike, same shoes, and almost identical helmet. My guess is this guy forgot where his bike was and thought mine was his. I assume this guy doesn’t do flying mounts because he ripped off the shoes. I question at what point did he realize “Man this isn’t my bike?” He could have been a nice asshole and put everything back where it was. Luckily, I was able to pull it together and get through transition quickly.
On the bike it was total chaos. The rules on passing and drafting did not really apply because it was such a mess. We had to ride over several sets of railroad tracks during the race, which they covered with carpet to try to make it a little smoother. Despite the carpet, I still managed to crack an arm pad on my Norcom while riding over the tracks early on. After about 10 miles it started raining. It wasn’t a heavy rain, it was a kind of irritating drizzle. Most of the course is rollers in the Georgia Mountains, but at about mile 26 you have to make a hard left and go on a really steep climb (Andrews Road). This wasn’t an easy task for most of the athletes. As I was attempting it I had to dodge a couple people that fell over. At mile 40 I had my next challenge. I had a flat tire, possibly from running over a shallow pothole. I couldn’t find a hole in the tire when I was fixing the flat, so I figured I was good. Getting the tire back onto my Carbon rim is not an easy task. Since this day I’ve made sure to practice it. Once I had it on I went to inflate the tube. I heard a loud bang, I new I popped the tube while inflating it. I must have had a tiny bit caught in the tire. I have no more tubes left, but I managed to be stopped in front of a police officer directing traffic. He was nice enough to call mobile services for me. Unfortunately, it took over an hour for them to get to me. When I was finally back on the road I rode as fast as I could to T2. The bike is actually longer than 56 miles by a mile or so.
As I’m in T2 I hear “Go Eric!” I heard this the first time I was in transition, but I couldn’t figure out who said it or where exactly it came from. All the people I was with were racing, so it couldn’t have been them. The second time I stopped briefly and looked around to try to figure it out. After the race I found out my buddy Elliott was working the relay transition area and he was the one cheering.
The run was the most difficult part for me in that race. Coming off the double-flats on the bike I didn’t really want to go on, but I’m not one to just give up. Although, after the first loop of the run I was dreading to have to do a second because of the bridges.
This race was not a very good one for me personally, but it did teach me a lot of valuable lessons. I now carry two tubes in my seat wedge, just in case. The rain caused the adhesive on my aero water bottle Velcro straps to deteriorate, so I used zip ties to hold it down. When I changed my bar tape, I used red instead of stock black. I wanted to make sure my bike stands apart in transition so no one ever mistakes mine for theirs.
6:24:18 is a hard pill to swallow knowing you could have easily done a good hour faster, but some days you just need to play the hand you’re dealt.