Ironman Chattanooga in September 2016 was super hot and humid; I did a 10:50 here in 2015 and had set my sights on this being my Kona qualifying race. I tried to race it, and that was a huge mistake, leading to me cramping up and briefly loosing consciousness at mile 90 on the bike. I talked the medical tent personnel into letting me go on (my road ID bracelet says “Russians don’t give up”), but every attempt at anything faster than a power walk during the marathon resulted in severe cramps. It was my second worst Ironman time after my very first one at IM Wisconsin. I was very discouraged and sad. I am training so much, I was doing everything right, what is happening to me? After pouting a few weeks and numerous visits to the doctor I picked myself up and starting training for Rock N’ Roll New Orleans marathon that I run every year. I trained hard, putting in some super long runs, and a significant amount of tempo and speed work. I even had to forgo running my favorite First Light Marathon and run the half instead, so I could run a sub 3:15 in New Orleans. Two weeks prior to the race I developed a stress fracture on my left tibia. The race day was hot and my body betrayed me yet again, missing my goal by over 20 minutes.
So that was the mindset with which I went into IM Texas 2017. I had a little bit over two months of solid training under my belt. I felt good physically up until the day of Traditions Tri, when I woke up with a sore throat. (both of my kids have had a nasty cough for a few weeks). This developed into horrible bronchitis and pneumonia a week before the race. Going into race week, I was feeling better, although still felt a little breathless when swimming.
My pre-race days in the Woodlands were pretty uneventful, except for my usual checking and re-checking my bike and all my gear. I had a pretty good night’s sleep the night before and walked over to transition when it opened after my customary bagel with almond butter and banana and two cups of coffee. Got my nutrition (Bonk Breaker Bars and Vanilla Power Bars), and my hydration (I went with TriFuel as I think Infinit was giving me GI issues) on my bike. I slowly walked over to the swim start, put on my swim skin, and turned in my special needs and morning clothes bags. My mantra for the day would be “go easy” and “I am a machine”.
The swim was advertised a self –seeded time trial start. That was a lie. The swim start turned out to be a gaggle of self seeded athletes pouring into the water like shoppers pour into Wal-Mart on Black Friday. I made a mistake of entering on the left side near the buoys, which I quickly realized was wrong after I received a few ankle grabs, kicks, and slaps. I transferred to the right side of the swim to attempt a straight line till the turn buoy. I was sighting an electrical tour I noticed earlier that was in line with the course. The lake was dark and very choppy. I took it easy and steady on the swim, even in the canal, where it became increasingly crowded. I had a little prelude to a cramp developing in my right calf, and I did not want that to get worse. I got out of the swim felling confident and not tired.
Although my swim time was rather slow for me, 1:23:15, I stayed in control the whole time and swam straight, overshooting by only 50 yards.
T1: 9:13 , yeah need to work on that... Took two Hammer Endurolytes and a gel and off to the bike.
The bike took us through the Woodlands initially with multiple turns, finally bringing us to Hardy Toll Road, which goes to Houston. Basically miles and miles of highway exposed to the elements, two loops of that. On the first loop there was a mild crosswind with some head wind gusts, which miraculously turned into head wind on the way back. On the start of the second lop the wind picked up and was tail going there and head going back. Mile 60-80 I was flying, averaging 22-30 mph. I knew I was going to pay for that when we turned around. Mile 80-112 I could barely get up to 19 mph because of the wind. Throughout the bike I drank every 10 min and ate every 30 min. The second part of the bike I was getting really hungry before my allotted 30 min eating time and I started grabbing Gatorade endurance from the aide stations and chugging it. That was my undoing that set me up for GI problems on the marathon. At the end of the bike I felt pretty good, changed into my running shoes and a new top, took two more Endurolyes and trotted off.
Bike: 5:44:31 (ave power 143, normalized power 148, rpm 85; goal power was 140)
T2: 6:18, need to work on that too...
My run felt light and effortless. I started drinking Gatorade and water immediately at mile one and every station after that. I took Base Salts every mile as well, and a GU every 30 min. My first lap felt good, and my second did as well, maybe a little slower. Around mile 11 I started feeling the dreaded sloshing in my belly. I knew what that meant. I stopped drinking and just swished water and Gatorade in my mouth and spit it out. Around mile 17 the diarrhea started. I checked out every single port-a-potty on the course after that. My legs started to shut down and I started walking through aid stations. I usually can pull out a pretty good sprint the last 0.2 miles, but it did not happen today. I crossed the finish line with Mike Riley calling me an Ironman and after doing the medal and the pictures; I ducked down in the port-a-potty.
Total time 11:40:33
Post race I was able to hydrate well so did not need any medical help. I was happy with this race; I stayed in control the whole time. I think I pushed a little too much on the bike, which probably cost me on the marathon. I also need to review my nutrition on the bike and stick to my own concoctions, and stay away from Gatorade on the bike course. Another cause for my GI issues may have been the two weeks of antibiotics that I took prior to the race. I really liked the new bike course and the new time of the year for Ironman Texas. I will definitely be back.
On to training for IM Chattanooga! I need to spend much more time on the pool on the bike to get my speed up.
I received numerous compliments on my kit, even during the bike, and also from spectators and volunteers on the run. I am proud to be a part of our awesome team! Go WGCTT!!!!