Race Report: 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

So race weekend for me started Saturday morning because my athlete check in slot was from 2-3 pm. That’s my fault, I would have preferred early morning so I had a chance to enjoy Chattanooga a little bit longer, but this one falls on my TBI. IRONMAN sent out a really lengthy email covering like four things two weeks prior, including athlete check in sign ups, but that was towards the end. Because of my TBI I have problems processing very long instructions, everything has to be short and to the point. Anyway, that left me with little option for check in times.

I loaded up the Mazda at about 10 and left at about 11:30. I had my race wheels in their bags in the back seat. Chattanooga is only a two hour drive from Atlanta, so it kinda flies by. All the radio stations in range of Chattanooga suck though, and like one out of every three is weird religious shit. When I got closer to downtown I noticed there was no construction or orange barrels. I had been coming to race in Chattanooga since 2015 and there had always been construction. This was a pleasant surprise as it looked beautiful.

However I got an unpleasant surprise once I parked in the deck and took down my bike. As I was swapping out the training wheels for the race wheels the hub on the rear Zipp 808 was fucked. I had only ridden this set once since it was overhauled in March. I felt like I was about to have an aneurysm. I took it to the mechanics in the athlete village and they said they didn’t have the parts to fix it. Great. I said just put the cassette on the training wheel.

I’ve been sober for 17 months and until right now I never felt more like I needed to drink. I went for a walk through this tiny market out front of the aquarium and found a pasteries tent that sold my dago comfort food to help take my mind off my wheel…delicious cannolis. Then I stopped at another tent and picked up more goodies, homemade hot pepper jelly and salsa verde. I put that hot pepper jelly on grilled chicken for lunch today and it was fuckin’ delicious. I can’t wait to use the salsa verde for my crockpot salsa chicken for tacos.

Two hours later the mechanics finally swapped the cassette, which pissed me off because I could have done it in under five minutes if they let me use their tools. That ran me $72…what a price gouge. Now I had to drop my bike off at transition. Holy shit…I hated that layout with a passion that consumes my soul. Those diagonal rows were horrible. Transition was so damn big the CARTA could have added a new electric bus route around it.

By the way athlete check in is functional yet pointless. Where was all the free swag, man? Sunbelt Bakery used to have a tent where I’d swipe 25 granola bars, now there was nothing. Or Red Bull…Challenge Miami had free Red Bull…where you at IRONMAN? They were giving away free non-alcoholic beer, but as an alcoholic myself I’ll tell you that taste wasn’t the primary reason I drank them…it’s all the calories and none of the fun stuff. I also would prefer you drop the price of your entry fee than giving me another useless 70.3 backpack that only fits well on a 10 year old.

It was now 5 pm and I was hungry. My hotel was at Lookout Mountain and I knew there was a winery on the hillside overlooking the river. It’s very picturesque, especially at sunset. Yeah, I know I’m sober, but they had really good wood-fired pizza. It was very relaxing, so now I could go to the hotel and go to bed.

I awoke at 3:00 am the next morning and my right calf was severely cramping. I couldn’t walk on it. I did have my H-wave and I thought of when my PT did e-stim to fatigue the muscle spasming in my back once. I took the A nodes and B nodes and lined them up diagonally on my calf so they criss-crossed. I then turned one on low frequency and one on high frequency, and cranked it all the way to nine. After about 15 minutes I could move around the room, and after an hour I could walk normally again. I loaded up the car and headed downtown (which is really easy on race morning thus why I stay at cheaper hotels on Lookout Mountain).

Setting up transition that morning wasn’t out of the ordinary…except once you were done you had to find the group for your predicted swim time and walk the 1.4 miles to the swim start and no one seemed to know where they were congregating.

Just gonna fast forward to the swim, when I flexed my ankle to flatten out my foot to kick I could feel that cramp from the morning still lingering. I had also not been swimming much the last two months either, just hadn’t felt like it. So I tucked behind someone’s feet and enjoyed the free ride down river, which took about 37 minutes. That extra 350 yards made a difference and there wasn’t much of a current as the lack of rain recently gave them no reason to open up the dams.

By about 10 steps off the stairs I had my wetsuit peeled down, but these Jakroo kits have zippers that unzip easily and my finger caught it when I peeled. Also my goggles got stuck in my sleeve so when I yanked my arm out it snapped the eye socket bracket for the nose piece, which isn’t a big deal because I literally have 26 pairs thanks to Georgia Tech CRC’s lost and found. So as I was running like half a mile to my bike I was trying to zip up again without ripping the kit. As far as I had to run I actually don’t think 4:32 was a bad time for T1. I do need to perfect the flying mount because running that far in my cycling shoes sucked.

The bike wasn’t all that exciting, it’s all rollers with one big climb over the ridge on Andrews at mile 26. I feel like not having my Zipp 808 really hurt my bike. That training wheel sucked. It was heavy and had a tire on it with shit rolling resistance. I did manage to ride at my FTP for all 57 miles. Abby passed me at mile 45 and saw my kit and said “Go all3.” There’s no exclamation on that, she sounded just like the secretary from the original Ghostbusters (for reference). I caught up to her on the downhill though because I’m still kinda fat being 20 lbs over race weight, but I’ve managed to drop 25 since New Year’s, and 10 just in the last month. Oddly enough there were no huge draft packs like in previous years. Crappy aluminum wheel aside I still managed a 2:49. As a side note…the roads aren’t that great. There are sections that are downright terrible.

T2 was just more of T1 except I think it actually might have had even more ground to cover. Transition is huge, you exit at one corner and end up doing a whole loop around it. At least I know how to do a flying dismount, but it sucked doing it barefoot. That being said I think my 3:17 was kind of fast.

I wore my Kinvaras on the run because I wanted a lighter shoe on a hillier course. Abby caught back up to me after the first half mile of the run. We exchanged some words and then she was off. Tri Joe passed me at 1.5 while giving me a hard enough ass slap to jolt me—if you’re gonna slap my ass that hard you usually have to buy me dinner first. I was actually having a really good run for the shape I was in. Through mile five I hadn’t walked and I was at 9:40/mile pace…until that hill on Battery, I had to walk that—It was too long and too steep. I could also feel my right calf starting to cramp again. I’d battle with that right calf the entire second loop, but when I was running I could still manage a decent pace. I saw André at the top of Battery Hill the second time and he said “Come on, you gotta get going!” I asked “What are you doing here, it’s like a four hour drive.” André says “I flew!” Apparently it was his wife’s idea. The climb on Walnut Street Bridge is one last fuck you before the finish—I loathe it, it’s so long. I ran the last mile as hard as I could all the way to the finish. Two months ago I ran the bone flat Challenge Miami at 10:57/mile, today I ran a hillier, hotter run with cramping and averaging 10:43/mile, so I’ve done better with my run over the past two months.

I ended up finishing in 5:55. It wasn’t a horrible day, I dealt with my problems well, but as we all know the slower you go the worse your sunburn will be. I stopped at Chattanooga Brewing Company for their pretzel on the way out of town. God their pretzel with the cheese dip and Dijon is amazing, I really needed that…plus I didn’t have someone picking away at it like a vulture and bogarting the cheese dip either.

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