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Race Report: Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon

Posted Nov 20 2009 10:02pm
I did this race back in July, but just haven’t gotten around to writing a race report. In any case, it was much more a “chug-chug” than a “choo-choo.” I was hoping for a better performance because as a special qualifier for USAT’s age group nationals in August, I had something of a chance to make it. All of our local races are so small that I have to place first in my age group to qualify, but given the level of competition I have, that’s just not going to happen. As a special qualifier, the top 33% of each age group at Chattanooga would qualify. I checked times from the previous years, and it looked doable if I had a very good race. Unfortunately, I didn’t take into account that Chattanooga is in the mountains. Yeesh.

Swim 1500m – 29:03
T1 – 4:14 (I must have had breakfast)
Bike 42k (26+ miles) – 1:33:51 (damn mountains)
T2 – 2:13 (time warp…I thought I flew through this one)
Run 10k – 1:04:23 (totally not feeling the love anymore)
Total Time – 3:13:44

This was a time trial start as we crept down to a floating dock in the Tennessee River. Jumped in the water, paddled to the end of the dock, and went on the starter’s “go!” What a great swim. Point-to-point, downstream, with the current. Couldn’t have been easier. But it did seem weirdly long without having to navigate around turn buoys every several hundred meters. The only thing to watch out for, really, were the three bridges we swam under. I had my best 1500 meter swim, ever, and I felt like I worked it. It might have been easier and faster had I stayed a little closer to the buoys marking the course because, apparently, the current was bit stronger more toward the middle of the river. Whatever. I was just psyched when I realized that I swam under 30 minutes.

Up out of the water (I just let the volunteers lift me up…I figure I’m small so it’s easy), and then a long uphill jog to the transition area. Team Magic likes to control traffic in transition, so there was a bit of a maze to navigate to get to your rack. Once there, I realized that I had placed my stuff on the wrong side of my bike. I am so used to racking on my handlebars, but here everyone racked by their seat, so I didn’t want to be out of place, and I just didn’t think about it. So, basically, I had to climb under my bike to get my shoes and socks. I spent way too much time here, and I even sat down to put my shoes on. Bad.

As we drove into Chattanooga the day before, I realized that the bike ride was not going to be “flat and fast.” I decided that my time trial approach to riding the course would probably not be the best move, and changed my strategy to spinning up the hills and riding the downhills and flats as hard as I could. Had I not been distracted and frustrated by my aero bottle at the start of the ride, I might have executed that strategy and had a better ride time. Then again, maybe not. In any case, I had not properly secured my aero bottle, and I had put it in backwards (straw facing forward instead of toward me). Crap, crap, crap! It took me two stops to finally get it right, and by then, I was good and mad.

The bike course quickly left the downtown area and headed out for an out-and-back on the highway for the majority of the ride. It was a bit disconcerting as we rode in the left lane with cars going full speed in the right lane. This allowed us to have a nice turnaround in the median, but felt kind of squirrely to me as you still had to stay to the right of the lane unless you were passing. The cars were fast and close. Yikes.

The first hill felt slow, but I was passing people, so not too bad. The next hill of note was not necessarily steep but had to have been at least two miles long. I spun for sure, but after about eight minutes of spinning (in place it seemed), I had redlined and was nearly in tears. I crept the rest of the way up, just trying to stay upright. The remainder of the ride to the turnaround was rolling, and I felt like I started to gain some speed back (raced without my bike computer on, so really had no idea, which was just as well; I didn’t want to see 8 mph going uphill). I started feeling a little better, and the return trip didn’t seem as bad. Then, I got to the monster hill. Holy cow! I must have been going at least 40 mph as I bombed down that thing. It was terrifying, and I almost peed my pants. I got so nervous that I moved my hands from the aero bars to the bullhorns, so I could be near my breaks.

The course was advertised as 26 miles, but as we passed the 26 mile marker well before transition, I’m guessing it was a little longer than that. I should have timed how long it took me to get to the dismount line from there, and I would have had a good idea, but I called it 26.5.

Rate maze back to my rack. Much better transition, except for the fact that my neighbor had racked her bike on top of my shoes. Uhm. What’s up with that? Then, rate maze back out to the run.

Criminy! The first mile was uphill followed by stairs. It hurt, and I walked up the stairs because I am way too uncoordinated to attempt running up them. Then, it was downhill and onto the path that runs along the river. The rest of the run was a flat out-and-back on the path. Very nice (except for a couple of swampy, smelly spots). Water stops around every mile. And it started to rain lightly. It actually felt good, and we definitely had milder weather than it could have been for July in Chattanooga. I really should have been able to have a good run on this course, but I was cooked, and I spent too much time walking the water stops. I walked back down the stairs and then rolled the final downhill to the finish line.

I was okay with the results. Granted, I would have liked about 60 more people slower than me so I could have qualified for nationals, but it is what it is, and I was not quite as well prepared for that race as I should have been. Really. I should know there are mountains in Chattanooga.

Anyway, still chasing the 3-hour Olympic distance goal. Next shot is the Coastal Triathlon in Orange Beach, Alabama. Now, that will be a flat bike.
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