From Chatham to Chattanooga - An Age Grouper's Hapless Journey to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships

I stood in shock the moment I found out I finished fourth in my age group in Ironmane 70.3 Racine back in 2016, qualifying for the World Championships in Mooloolaba. So shocked, in fact, that before I new it, I actually signed myself up to travel half way around the world to compete. It took 6 months to talk myself out of it. Neverthelss, it ignited a fire to qualify once again when it made logistical sense. Enter Chattanooga.

The Qualifying Race is Racine Muncie

Why Racine was the Wrong Race

​​​​What happens when you're one month out from the qualifying race that gets you to the World Championships, and you realize that you signed up for the wromg race? This was my plight. I was registered for Racine, assuming (with convincing evidence, as is noted below) that Racine was the last qualifying race for Chattanooga, when it was actually the first qualifying race for South Africa one year later. 

Check out the World Champion site below.  Racine is listed under the heading "BY QUALIFICATION ONLY." A reasonable person could make the assumption that Racine was a qualifier.

Fortunately, WTC agreed, and I managed to get my race transferred to Muncie for a small fee. Thank God! 

Night Before Muncie- Hail and Lightning

The thunderstorms during packet pickup the day prior to the race made the process quite problematic. Packet pickup was cancelled, and social media blew up with complaints. There was not much that race organizers could do. Once storm followed the next and even if the tent didn't flood, lightning made it far too hazardous. 

Muncie Morning

2:00 AM Wakeup Call. 3:00 AM Muncie Time the alarms go off and we’re up  While the clerk was very nice, the Super 8 left much to be desired. We refused the first room because of the smell. The second room would have to do. I was afraid to lay my head on the pillow so I wrapped it in my 2015 Ironman Racine shirt before turning in for the night, in hopes of dreaming of a cramp-less race the next morning. I spent the night looking at the clock every 45 minutes or so, adjusting the room temp now and then, and thankful that I was able to get excellent sleep the days before the event.

I woke up at the sound of my alarm and immediately the race morning shivers induced by nervousness kicks in. It's a strange phenomenon, but one I now recognize after years of falling victim to my body's strange coping mechanism. I don a warm sweatshirt and lay back down until it goes away. We were out of the hotel quickly and on to the race after a quick coffee stop. We paid $20 to park across the street from the race venue in someone’s front yard and had easy access compared to the year before, when we hauled my gear for an estimated ½ mile. We pick up my packet since packet pickup shut down the tent the day before around 3:30. I headed into transition and set up the bike. Though this is my third 70.3, I still can’t manage to figure out proper bike racking, and line my bike up in the opposite direction to what it should be. I check my bike one last time before heading to the water and see that it is now pointing in the right direction. Whoever made this move for me did a phenomenal job setting me up.

I was a nervous wreck heading to the water. I put my wetsuit on backwards. I had to get the thought of cramping out of my mind. Even after all of the work to prevent the cramps leading up to this race, and no hint of potential issues since this very day last year, the sartorius cramp manifested itself after a long run the week before.

Here’s a picture of me racing out of the water with a cramping sartorius in 2016:

Thankfully at a family gathering one week from the race, I met Nicole Woodard, Physical Therapist out of Robinson IL who dry needled my legs and worked them over, providing me with additional stretching, smashing, and strengthening techniques for both the sartorius and vastus medialis, which often cramp on my runs. I was relying on that and the nonstop electrolyte intake the preceeding 168 hour window to get me out of the water in race-ready condition.

The news of a wetsuit legal race was well received. My only regret was not training in my new wetsuit prior to the race. But that turned out to be a non-factor, once I put it on the correct way. My swim was a best-ever 33:34 minutes, and 5 minutes faster than the year before (not wetsuit legal). Swim Division Rank: 16

I hop out of the water and race to the last wetsuit stripper in the volunteer group. I noticed while carrying this wetsuit to transition that it was considerably heavier than my sleeveless one, but I felt more buoyant and faster in the water. I’ll happily exchange one for the other.

I was actually about one minute (.2 mph) slower than last year’s bike time, despite having borrowed my friend’s Zipps. However, I don’t think I pushed as hard as last year after the swim debacle, and if how I felt on the run is any consideration, then the energy conservation on the bike was well worth it. Bike Division Rank: 14

The run was amazing. At every mile I was looking down at my watch, concerned that I was going too fast, thanking God for how good I felt. I was passing people in my age group, surging as I did to discourage chasers, and maintaining pace. The volunteers were fantastic. Things didn’t start to hurt until about mile 8, at which point I was a bit concerned that I did what I hoped I wouldn’t do - go out too fast - but the slowest mile time was only 7:31, at which point I picked it up again. I had to - there was one more guy to catch.

With one mile to go, I could see a competitor with the number 46 on his calf as I slowly gained on him. He slowed through the last water stop. I passed him and accellerated hard for one last push. I heard him follow, which only steeled my resolve. If I was going to qualify for the World Championships, it was now or never. I stomped on the gas pedal, and heard him fading. Up the last critical climb and through the chute. I stayed there, exhausted, and consumed three bottles of water. I spied my wife who delivered the good news from outside the chute. 6th place. Would it be enough?

The qualifying slots were read for my age group. There were 4. Places 1st and 2nd were refuesed - they had alread qualified. I'm in!

World Championships

In the hours leading up to the race i found myself kneading my sartorius and vastus medialis obsessively. Anything I can do to remain cramp free, I will do, even if it means a very public self-shiatzu massage.

Because when the sartorius cramps, you're toast:

The morning started at 5:30, Coffee at 6:00, in trasition at 6:30. I filled up the water bottles, taped the gels, and set my shoes in their pedals. Next time, I'll do the two latter tasks the night before.

9:23 AM - the last heat of the day to enter the water. The swim start was phenomenal. No washing machine/rugby beatdown. Just swim. I could see well enough in the water  to avoid people (so why aren’t people avoiding me?). The swim seemed a little long and I don’t feel like I got my rhythm, but I got out of the water pretty respectably and stripped down and on to the clean transition. This event was top notch.

Onto the bike like a storm trooper with new helmet and cruised until I got to the massive incline, and I mean massive. I'm a bit bigger than the average triathlete and this one hurt.  I still need to accumulate more stats per splits to see how my heart did on the climbs. I know my legs were cooked, but would soon recover. Watching the pros on video was humbling. Uphills - need more than a 25 on the cassette. Downhills - need cars to get out of the way :-)

The run. Tough hills

Great course.

Awesome volunteers

Chatty Race Day Nutrition - the Plan

  • > 2.5 hours: Bagel and 2 bananas. Sip on Heed. Take salt tabs
  • < 15 minutes: Gel

On Bike: 3 bottles of Perpetuem; Taping 5 Gels to my bike frame, consuming 3 salt tabs per 30 minutes. Taking a package of HEED powder with me

On Run: 2 Gels; 3 Salt Tabs per 2 miles; Consume pure Water

Chatty Race Day Nutrition - The Execution

A couple of hourse before the reace, I choke down a bagel and then consume a couple of bananas as I walk around. Done with last banana one hour before racing. A gel 30 minutes before; 15 minutes before. Consumig a proprietay mixture of coffee, heed, perpetuem and water, based on the post water bottle filling station. Always remmber to bring an extra bottle for mizing or just in case. Alsays bring something of everything just in ase, as you will see.

Turned out that the panic of not having an extra bottle cage was not enough was no problem. I raced with the profile design between the aerobars and two water bottles on the frame. I wonder if two water bottles behind me on the seatpost would be more aero. Probably.I’m sure some research on Slwotwicth would satisfy my curiosity. The problem was solved by the length of the aid stations. I could grab a gatorade endurance at the beginning, drink to my satisfaction, and pour most of the rest of the bottle into the profile design cage before the last chance trash. I abandoned the idea of mixing heed or perpetuem on the fly. I made three one hour perpetuem bottles and rather than mix heed, I drank gatorade endurance at the aid stations. Worked great. Gel and 3 salt tabs every 30 minutes, give or take.

On Run: Three Gels total, and more salt tabs than was healthy. Will confirm later. Took 2 salt tabs every 2 miles, until mile 10, when cramps prompted me to take triple that amount. Cramps held at bay and I completed run in negative splits.

Ran into runner rick once before the race, twice during. Will be interested in seeing his blog about his experience.

 

 

Training - The Last 22 Days

  • 22 Days out  - 60 mile ride (rocked roads made for alternate route).

3 Weeks from Race: 12.75 hours of training: 3 hours swimming, 4.75 hours of running,  5 hours of cycling

  • 21 Days out  - Two 3 milers after church for time - Interurban
  • 20 days out  - Swim AM, lunch core
  • 19 days out  - Bike commute rainout, so runch. 3 x 800/400, Team Mack group ride in evening. Double up on electrolytes for calves.
  • 18 days out  - 14 mile run with Kelly. 7:00/mile on last 6. 
  • 17 days out  - No Bike Commute - Evening Group Ride instead. Worth it!
  • 16 Days out  - Friday - Swim in A.M. /  6 mile run - Octopus - 8 hills
  • 15 Days  out - Saturday 60 mile bike

2 Weeks from Race - 9 hours of training: 3 hours swimming, 3 hours of running, 3 hours cycling

  • 14 Days out - Sunday - 5.5 mile run sub 7
  • 13 Days  out - Monday - Swim, 8-10 400s on track
  • 12 Days  out - Tuesday - Core, Crushing Team Mack ride
  • 11 Days out - Wednesday - Swim, 11 8 mile run. I think dropping the mile was a smart decision. 1 hour run after the team mack ride. I need to taper...
  • 10 days out - Easy Commute / Commute/brick I don’t think a brick is smart. Rest and heal.
  • 9 Days out - Swim, Core after work
  • 8 days out - Saturday - I ran about 6-8 800’s back and forth watching XC races the entire morning. Once home, took a nap, and then rode 25 pretty solid starting from the house down the interurban and then out west and back on fat tires.

Week of Race: Predicted 7 hours of training: 1.5 hours of running, 3.5 hours or cycling, 2 hours of swimming

  • 7 days out - Sunday - Changed everything up! Feel much better than 11-10 days out. 9 mile run before church.
  • 6 days out - Monday - Labor Day  - 30 mile ride.
  • 5 days out - Tuesday - 40 minute straight swim; Afternoon - skipped the run;  core work at Y. 
  • 4 days out - Wednesday - rested. Feeling lethargic. Pack bags.
  • 3 days out - Thursday - REST DAY.  Leave at 5:00 AM. Travel 8 hours and arrive at 1:00 PM
  • 2 days out - Friday - 1 mile swim in Tennessee River; 11.5 mile ride near lookup mountain in the PM.
  • 1 day out Saturday - women’s race , ran two miles of the course.
  • Sunday - Gotime

 

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