Race Report: 2019 Chattanooga Waterfront Olympic

This having a race every four weeks has been nice this year. I’ve really enjoyed having the carrot on the stick – it’s helped me get through rough patches at work.

Man do we love Chattanooga. The city has always been a great place for racing and this would be my first time doing Waterfront. It would also only be the third time I did an Olympic distance race (my first race and last year’s struggle through depression Lake Hartwell), so I was about 95% sure I’d cross the finish line with a PR.

From Atlanta it took us less than two hours to get up there. We left at about 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. I wasn’t in a particular rush to get there after finding out transition and registration got trashed the night before with the storms. Team Magic put their message out via Facebook, which I haven’t had in over two years. They also sent out mass text messages. I told Danielle these people were like Jimmy “Two Times” from Goodfellas because every message came in twice, plus they were all broken up.

Since I couldn’t go directly to registration we went directly to Chattanooga Brewing. We were hungry and we go there every time we’re in town. Tri Joe and Jess dropped by after grocery shopping for a little bit before we headed to packet pick-up at some hotel down by the River. Packet pick-up took less than five minutes and was nothing special other than the hotel wanted to charge you $3 for parking to take advantage of the situation.

We headed back down to the Wilson’s condo to hang out and eventually go to dinner. Tri Joe decided to sport his “Y’all need Jesus shirt” which fits right in. If you’ve ever driven through the state of Tennessee you’ll find three things available at almost every freeway exit: churches, fireworks and porn shops. The Bible Belt has their priorities in order.

I had to write about this restaurant because this was such a shitty experience. The joint was called “Alimentari Cucina e Bar.” It was one of the only places we could find that didn’t have a huge wait list. As a matter of fact there were plenty of tables open. Now Jess and Tri Joe had been there before and said they had a good experience, but that wasn’t the case today.

Our waiter was the essence of pure shit. For almost 20 minutes he didn’t come over and take our order. We watched another huge table get seated, order and get their bread (they had a different waiter). He finally takes our order and disappears for a really long time again. I eventually went over to the owner inside and said, “Hey, you see that guy over there? He’s our waiter. It’s been over almost 40 minutes now, we have no booze or bread. See that table over there?” (As I point to the large group) “They sat down after us and they have their drinks and appetizers.” The owner says he understands and will take care it.

The owner and the waiter came out with our drinks in five minutes (still no bread). They owner says, “I made sure the order went in.” The food was also disappointing. For me, the springer mountain chickens must be tiny little fuckers because this was the smallest chicken I’ve ever seen. Tri Joe had like four pieces of Ravioli and Jess had barely cooked pasta. Earlier she asked about the gluten free menu and the waiter said, “Well, we don’t have much that’s gluten free…how severe is your allergy?”

We talked to the owner one last time about how bad things had been and he knocked off 25% off the bill. He was kind of a dick about everything too. We went to an Italian restaurant and never got any bread. Tri Joe wrote on his bill “No bread, no tip.” I also did not tip him, after all he didn’t do anything. Even Jesus would have given us bread.

Anyway, I’m going to skip to race morning because the rest of the night was just chilling out in the condo.

Transition was opened half an hour earlier to accommodate for everyone needing to check-in bikes. It never takes me very long anyway so I was in and out quick. Danielle and I needed coffee…and there was no place open in the area until 7:00 a.m. I even went up to the cops and asked because you’d figure they’d know. We ended up coming across a tent manned with these people from Peet’s coffee. It was some good stuff too.

You can shuttle bus up to the swim start or just not be lazy and walk the mile up the Tennessee Riverwalk like most people. Being that Chattanooga is two hours from Atlanta there were going to be a lot of people we knew there, so the swim start was more or less social hour.

Team Magic had some kind of glitch with their numbering for the swim start, so they redid the order of the start assignments (you had to enter a time based on your expected pace and then they’d seed you. My shitty timing chip band caught my swim skin and tore it, which pissed me off because I’ve only worn the thing three times. Since this was the Clydesdale and Athena National Championship they were seeded ahead of everyone else, but there weren’t that many of them.

The current in the river was weaker than I expected given the amount of rain there’d been in the last week, including storms the night before. The kayakers were kind of annoying because they were forcing me further in when I was trying to hug the buoys to shorten the distance. Taking off swimming from October to March has had an effect on me this season. Really 2018 wasn’t much swimming either because of the car accident. To give you an idea, in 2016 I did a 4.5 mile swim at 1:06/100 yard pace and for a 0.93 mile swim that day I averaged 1:14/100 yards. I was still out in 19:52.

We had to run up a set of monumental stairs in order to reach transition (at the half and full you exit slightly further down and run up a hill). Monumental stairs don’t have to follow building code, so no railings and no 7″ riser/11″ tread. The tread was minimum 24″, which was in that awkward range for me to not feel comfortable running steps two at a time without thinking I could fall on my face. For out five seconds I thought about shooting my toes with Tri Slide before putting on my socks, but I figured I’d be okay and opted not to. Because of the rain the night before the ground wasn’t completely firm and I could feel my cleats sink in as I ran with my bike to the bike exit. I was a little slow and managed a 2:40 T1.

I had a hard time clipping in for some reason I can’t explain, but managed to get the left foot in finally as I rounded the corner to head uphill from the Aquarium. The climb looks steeper on an elevation map than it really is. Don’t get me wrong, it was a pretty long climb, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought (maybe because I’ve only ran it until that day).

Once you reach the top of the hill the course flattens out. On my first loop I spent my time passing the slower sprint racers, and on the second loop I was passing the slower Olympic racers. The turn-arounds were very tight and were very congested. The roads weren’t in the greatest condition. It’s Chattanooga, there’s no way you’re going to be able to ride anywhere without finding railroad tracks, so expect to go over them about 15-20 times for this race. There were also a decent amount of potholes.  On your way back down the hill you’ll get a tha-thunk every 15 feet because the concrete slabs no longer sit flush. There were more crashes than I’ve ever seen on this bike course.

I kept an eye out for people I knew when I was riding. I knew my bike wasn’t as strong as theirs and they’d be closing on me each time we passed. I made sure to yell out to them. Tri Joe caught me just before mile 22. I had stayed at the average watts I wanted to ride (245) and didn’t feel gassed. I finished the bike in 1:03:23 (23.3 mph average), which was much faster than I thought, but given that I don’t race this distance I wasn’t quite sure how’d it be to begin with.

I didn’t do a flying dismount for the first time. I knew the ground was soggy and had dew on it, so I thought it’d be better to have the shoes on. It didn’t matter, when I took off my tri shoes I saw my toes were wet and knew there’d be a good chance of getting blisters. I should have used the Tri Slide in T1. I was out of T2 in 1:26.

The only advice I received about how to run the 10k was to go as hard as I can, which is not how I race the run in a half. For some reason I always get a song stuck in my head during the run I heard in transition setup in the morning. This time it happened to be “Billy Joel – You May Be Right”, at least it wasn’t “Old Town Road” which was played at least three times. I left transition with some guy named Derek and we ran the first mile in 6:53. He said he was toast from the bike and fell off about half a mile later. I started to slow during my second mile and was 7:05. When I saw Thiago he told me “Hold off Marcos!” and when he saw Marcos not too far behind he said, “You’re close, go get him!” Shortly after I saw Thiago I came across three stray dogs. They were just hanging out under the I-24 bridge and moved further up the Riverwalk on my way back in. They did not care anything about us, just sat there quietly spectating. Mile three was a 7:27. I knew I couldn’t hold that pace so I walked the aid station at the turn-around, which gave me an 8:21 mile for mile four. Mile five I picked up the pace again and ran a 7:48. I ran harder knowing I was closing in on a mile to go and put up a 7:35 for mile six. I finished the 10k with a 46:25 (7:29/mile pace).

My overall time was 2:13:49, which was awesome because it was a 14 minute PR. I did have some nice blisters on both of my big toes so Danielle and I couldn’t do the extra six mile run on the Riverwalk like we planned. It’s a shame I couldn’t wear flip-flops to work the next day.

There wasn’t too much time to hang out after the race as I had to get Danielle down to Hartsfield-Jackson by 2:30 p.m. for her flight to Vegas. I did manage to get a couple beers, a mimosa & breakfast tacos. By the way, if you lose your bracelet like most people did, you can’t get your two free beers.

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