Race number 2 of the season was Chattanooga 70.3. The lead-in to this race could not have been more different than for St. Anthony’s (which went perfectly). 10 days out from the race I was fighting a cold and had next to zero energy. I am working a lot more closely with Barrie this year, so while I still write out my training plan, when an outside voice of reason is needed he is there to provide it- in this case it meant that workouts got scrapped or cut short in order to try and stay healthy and be ready to race. Better to be under-cooked than over-cooked when you’re at the start line. So despite what seemed like a dreadful taper, I still had a great race, so some lessons to be learned.
I was also concerned about my lack of volume. I had only 2 bike workouts since March that reached 3 hours, with most being in the 1-2hr range. This is vastly different to what I was doing last year, where 2 hours on the bike was considered short. However, the lack of volume has been contrasted with an increase in intensity, and this race was to be the test to see how that was working out for me. (the tldr: worked just fine)
There were some nerves amongst all the athletes about the weather forecast heading into the race. A week out the forecast was calling for 40 degrees and sunny, and I was having flashbacks to Eagleman last year where I ended up in the med-tent post-race due to overheating and dehydration. As the race drew nearer the forecast changed to 29 degrees and “100% chance of thunderstorms,” which left us wondering whether we would even have a race. The thunderstorms that came Saturday night were loud enough to rattle the dishes in the kitchen, which was kind of awesome, but I went to sleep mentally prepared to race a full race, but also prepared to adapt to whatever happened in the morning. Being able to deal with last minute changes to races is something that as a professional (or at any level), is a necessity. I don’t think I’ve ever gone an entire year without a race needing to be changed due to weather. However, when I checked the radar at 3:45am race morning (yay for early mornings right?…) it looked like the storms were going to travel just east of us and miss us completely. The race was on!
I went through my usual pre-race routine and took the shuttle upstream to the swim start. We had about 4 minutes in the water before the gun went off. The course was ~350m upstream, 100m across, and then the rest of the way downstream with the current. This is something that benefits the weaker swimmers (comparatively speaking), so no complaints from me. Apparently we took too long to swim upstream (sorry??) so the age groupers had their course changed so they only had to swim downstream… I did not think the current was that strong, but oh well. I ended up leading the group of myself, Heather Jackson, Barbara Riveros, and Lauren Capone out of the water, so I was in good company.
On to the bike course I focused on settling into my own pace. Heather took off quickly, and knowing her biking abilities I wisely decided to not try and match it that early in the race. The course took us south to do a big loop in Georgia, and the scenery is spectacular- thankfully I drove the course beforehand because I don’t pay much attention to what is around me when I’m racing. Once we were out of town I was able to see two athletes well up the road, spaced fairly far apart. This was great as it was motivation to keep my pace steady and keep them in sight. At about 25 miles I passed the first of the two (Jackie Hering), and set my sights on the next person. I did not seem to be getting any closer and I found myself wondering “who IS this??” Usually I go through the start list before the race and try to figure out who will be ahead of me out of the swim, but I didn’t do that this time (I don’t have time for it and it’s essentially useless information), so the only athlete I knew who was ahead of me was Sarah True. As the miles ticked by I came to wonder if it was in fact Sarah up the road. Finally the gap started to close so I knew I would find out who this person was soon. At around mile 40 I caught up to them and my first thought was “ooo, that’s a nice bike” and then “holy shit I’m passing Sarah True, where are the cameras???” Of course they are never around when you want them right? After the race Sarah said she was glad I came by because she was getting bored- welcome to long distance racing!?! Anyways, I was pretty stoked by the fact that I was actually competing with a 2x Olympian and someone I have watched race on TV countless times. She stuck behind me the rest of the way and we entered transition side by side (again, WHERE were the cameras? I would have paid Finisherpix $26US for a photo of that).
Out onto the run course I focused on finding a good pace and relaxing into it. Sarah left me in her dust out of transition and I had no illusions that I was going to catch her- maybe someday, but not today. So it was a matter of staying ahead of the people behind me. 3 miles in Jackie Hering caught back up with me and I tried to run with her but it became evident very quickly that I was not going to be running that pace for another 10 miles, so I settled back down into my own rhythm. I knew that Barbara Riveros was behind me and quite capable of running 4+min faster than me. There are several little out and back sections on the run course, so it was around mile 8 that I saw where Barbara was on the course. “Ahhh, shit” was pretty much what I was thinking. At the next little out and back a mile later I tried to gauge how much of a gap I had- probably 60 seconds, although when you’re running in a race it’s very hard judge the gap or how fast each of you is moving. Then I started doing the math- 4 miles left, so she’d have to run 15 seconds faster per mile to catch me- I would never underestimate someone who came 5th at the Rio Olympics, so I continued to push as hard as I could. It was not until I reached the finish line carpet that I dared to look behind me- all clear! Not only had I secured another 4th place finish, I had finally achieved my goal that I set two years ago of running a 1hr25min half off a good bike. 😀
Thanks to everyone who has supported and cheered for me- I love it!
Rudy Project (ask me for a code if you want discounted gear)
I am continuing to focus my efforts on getting faster over the Olympic distance, so next up will be Escape from Philadelphia on June 25th.