This is a hard race report to write. Long story short, I did not finish (DNF) this race.
First of all, Chattanooga is wonderful. I think before I didn’t finish I would have wanted to come back to race here no matter the outcome. Now it’s absolutely necessary I go back and complete the full Ironman Chattanooga. I know what not to do, but I’ll get to those details later.
We left Thursday early evening and drove half way (3 hours) for us from Ohio. We stayed in London, KY and drove Friday morning the rest of the way. Getting to Chattanooga we first stopped for Mean Mug coffee, some food and headed to the Expo. This was one of 4-5 coffee stops we took so I’ll have coffee recommendations at the end of this saga as well. At least we have some good memories!
Once we parked, I went straight to Athlete Check-in at Ross’s landing. This small park area is along the river we swim in and gives a great view of the picturesque bridges and is next to many good restaurants, museums and an aquarium. Talk about a good venue for a family! I checked in, listened to the pro panel and then went for a run. I wanted to feel how hot it was and yep – it was quickly apparent-it was going to be a hot one. It didn’t really worry me. I don’t worry about heat, I worry about cold and hypothermia. So I just new it would be more uncomfortable – an Ironman is always uncomfortable so nothing new!
After the run I made it to an Athlete Briefing. Then we headed to the hotel that was within walking distance-which is always appreciated at a race venue. I wanted to lay out all of my things and organize myself but first I had to flush the legs a bit and swim. I swam in the hotel pool, not exactly a lap pool but it did the job. Once back to the room, I started organizing my things and made notes for what I needed to get at the Expo and what I needed to take with me the morning of the race.
Then we checked out another coffee shop: Cadence. This was fun because it was bike themed. I didn’t get coffee because I try to avoid caffeine in the afternoon. I wanted to be able to sleep well, so instead I had a great iced tea.
Then I was lucky enough to get to have dinner with my mom (Sherpa Samuel for this event!), my coach Drew Sapp (an amazing athlete & coach for Crew Racing & Rehab), his wife (also great athlete & other half of Crew Racing & Rehab) Caitlin Sapp, as well as their close friend, Melissa. We ate at Tony’s in the Historic Bluff Arts District. This was one of my favorite places we went to in Chattanooga. I had pasta with authentic Sicilian meatballs and it was delicious.
On Saturday I did a quick spin, went for coffee in the same Art District as we had dinner the night before. The coffee stop was Rembrandt’s. They have a full menu of food too. I highly recommend. I got fruit, granola and yogurt with my coffee. I also left with their “Chattanooga blend.” I always end up with coffee souvenirs… Once we got back to the hotel, I packed & repacked my transition bags and headed to rack my bike and tuck my bags in bed for the night. Now we just had to wait.
Another positive point about this race was my ability to ease my being star struck. Normally there are tears, embarrassing tears. This time I held real conversations with Matt Russell and Jim Lubinski. It was great. They are cool people and really inspired me! I hope to meet them again. Jim still owes me a race belt.
I got some avocado toast for lunch and then it was time for a little break before eating an early dinner. We hung around the hotel room and then headed to Stir for dinner. I ordered a glass of wine (great way to relax pre-race!). My mom and I shared French fries and also got entrées. I got a poke bowl which was awesome, almost like I’m in Kona. Almost. We got back to the hotel and turns out one of my favorite movies of all time was on: How to Lose a Guy in 10 days. That was a good omen. However, omens are trash.
My morning was honestly really smooth. I had my gear, my special needs bags and bottles for the bike. I got in line with the 1:00-1:11 swim time group, sat, ate a bagel, the raisins out of a raisin bran mini cereal box and drank some water. The time passed fairly quickly and before we knew it we were off. The water was warm, without a wet suit there was no adjustment needed. I started my watch, and jumped off the dock.
The swim was really smooth. I have no complaints for this. I PR’d by a lot (downstream swim and straight path to the end = FAST).
My swim time was 1:02:22.
I got to transition, dried off, grabbed my gear and nutrition and headed to my bike. Another awesome part of this race was I was on the very end of a bike rack. I was bib # 750 and it was so easy to find my bike. Once I crossed the mount line I took like 3 minutes to just get on my bike because no matter how many triathlons I do I am always reminded getting on my bike is a skill in and of itself. Once on my bike, I kept telling myself that the first 30 miles should be pretty easy feeling to warm up, get some fuel in and because there were a decent amount of false flats. A left turn at Hog Jowl Road started the net down hill where you could really pick up some speed. It was fun! It was truly rolling hills, most where you could build speed and use it to climb right back up. At about mile 65-70 I started getting warm and putting ice in my bike kit. I was wanting more water. But the problem was that my hydration was warm and my food was not appealing anymore. I tried to eat and I just couldn’t swallow anything. It felt like my body was on strike. I put a banana in my mouth and it fell out of my mouth like I had somehow lost control of my ability to chew and swallow. I needed salt but this wasn’t obvious to me yet. I got more and more down on the remainder of the bike. Less hydration and nutrition means the bike gets a lot harder, and your mood gets worse without calories. I managed to finish it in 7:29:33, a PR from my previous Ironman in Mont Tremblant by 2 minutes and 28 seconds. I’ll take it with the course being 4 extra miles.
I saw my mom coming out of the bike and was nearly in tears. I couldn’t eat and all I wanted was water. But I knew I had to try and I couldn’t quit like that. I would be so furious. I started power walking and knew it would be a close call if I had to walk the entire marathon. But I was willing to do it. I averaged 17:11 min/mile in the first 0.3 mi, then 15:27, 13:28, 15:31 and then 12:47 between miles 10.4 and 13.4. This is where Caitlin caught me on her second loop while I was on my first. She helped me so much. This was the best I felt the entire race, I honestly felt light on my feet and to have a friend and conversation was really welcome at this point. I waved her off as she told me to Always Find A Way. I love this phrase because I really try to do this. I am so disappointed that was not what I did that night.
I left her at the sunset over the Walnut Street bridge and turned for my second loop. It got dark and I kept drinking water. I was stumbling for a while and then I would feel better again. I got really really low and knew I would need to throw up soon. I kept walking and getting tunnel vision. I just kept trying to put each foot in front of the other on this line on the highway we were on. It worked for a while. But at one point I just kind of stopped and put my hands on the ground. A volunteer found me and then I think I was on my back and she put salt in my mouth. I got up but then I puked and the medical people put me on a golf cart. It didn’t hurt that much then but it hurts a lot right now. I remember asking, “Does this mean I can’t keep going?” and them saying “yeah you’re done.” It was mile 22 and some change. Less than 4 miles from home base. It makes my blood boil writing this. I don’t blame anyone but myself.
It’s hard to describe other than I just feel like I’m haunted by the fact that I could have just pulled myself together and said I’m good and ran off. It sounds really easy in hindsight. It hurts more because before this race I was ready for a break. I wasn’t going to stop doing tris, but I was thinking of not doing a full distance again for a while. Now all I can think about is getting back to Chattanooga. I have more fire than ever. And they always remind me how much I love them. I fall in love all over again. Ironman has given me a lot. It helped me regain my sense of self and even my ability to take care of myself and eat appropriately. Not to mention all of the positivity of a group of people challenging themselves physically and mentally. These races reinforce why the sport is so special to you: the community, the people, the volunteers, the feeling of overcoming a challenge but I didn’t over come the challenge and I feel like I got pinned to the bottom of a hill and I have to sit there for another year. AND I DIDN’T GET THE LITTLE DEBBIE HAT.
I was pretty light hearted about a DNF for a while because there are lot of logical reasons to be okay with it and I was pulled about 4 miles from the end. Ironic since the bike is 4 miles longer than it’s supposed to be. But as time passed I got really down about it. You put a lot into these events to ensure they go well. I don’t like unfinished business. I like to check boxes. I like to make goals and accomplish them. I like to see how far I can go because it reminds me that anything is possible.
Joking can be a great way to deal with something that’s difficult. It’s about having perspective: I am healthy, and recovering quite well (not much running = faster fresh legs–my back however…). I have my family, friends and pup. I am doing quite well. I have a lot to be thankful for. I appreciate and love all of the people in my life and thank you to anyone that reached out.
I realize this post makes it sound like I believe I have some sort of duty to report my feelings or that others care to read this. But I long ago realized race reports are a lot less about everyone else and a lot more about understanding yourself within the context of the event. Making them public feels good because you’re putting yourself out there. It feels better to pour a little bit of your truth out into the gauntlet. It’s like somehow you’re releasing a bit of the bad, a catharsis if you will. So here I am. It’s not about who reads it’s just about me writing it all out. I joked a lot. I put on a good face, logically realized that it just wasn’t my day and if Sarah True and Jim Lubinski and all these other people can DNF then maybe I can do it honorably too. But the thing is I have a fire in my eyes that burns really deep. I never understood what people said when they described themselves as being a little bit loony when it came to endurance events. I think I do now, maybe a screw or two is loose but I don’t particularly get fired up over feeling nauseous. What I do know is that I do not like not finishing something. In fact this theme has followed me in different ways and has been the seed to so much of what I start and finish. So in a way this just adds a little bit of depth to my desire to never stop trying. In the grand scheme of things, trying and failing is actually pretty trendy these days. But it’s also quite painful, especially when it feels like your body gave up before your mind did. But that’s also good: fix the infrastructure and you’ve got a road to completion.
I’m going to take this into the off-season and really dissect it. I gave myself time to sulk and some tears were had, actually a lot. I want to move on but I also want to remember so that I can troubleshoot and do better. I am going to keep putting myself out there, doing hard things and never not doing anything because I’m afraid of the outcome. Fear of failing is still within me but it’s important for me to remember that the fear of failing is hollow. At the end of the day I can always try again. I think that’s what I’ll do, I’ll try again.
The Camp House
Milk & Honey
& many more I didn’t get to
I rode with 80 calories*3 bottles of Skratch labs (240 total liquid calories with electrolytes…which I think would become key) but only really got down 120 calories of the scratch labs. I had 3 more scratch labs mixes with me and never considered using them…
Kashi bar (140 cals)
Luna bar (180 cals)
Kind bar (180 cals)
1 1/3 wild berry pop tart (~280 cals)
Chocolate chip kasha crunchy bars (180 cals)
This was all consumed in the first half of the bike ride and amounted to about 1,090 calories – overall (7.5 hrs riding) which means I was at about 145 calories per hour…when I practice for about 225-230 per hour
Missed nutrition (what I was carrying but could not swallow):
2/3 pop tart
a Clif bar
remaining Scratch labs
This amounted to about ~720 calories missed, making for what should have been a total of ~1,810 cals ingested in total. Adding this to the ride would have allowed me to meet my hopes and dreams of over 200 cals per hour. This will happen next time.
I was a bit stumped I will say on my bike ride becoming so dreadful. I have never felt that off, so much that I couldn’t keep eating. If you need me I’ll be studying.