Saturday, September 24, 2016

9/27/15: Ironman Chattanooga Race Report and the days leading up to it.

Race Report – Ironman Chattanooga 2015

Disclaimer: I wrote this after the race last year, and for the sake of time and getting this out before the race tomorrow, I haven't re-read the whole thing. My apologies for bad spelling/grammar or if it doesn't seem as well put together. Thanks for reading!

Thursday: Woke up Thursday morning, feeling good, ready, and excited for the weekend ahead. Loaded up the car, making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I then headed over to Neomonde to meet up with DeGaulle (D) before heading to Chattanooga. Arriving at 9am, I waited for a little while, started creating a play list on my ipod for the long drive ahead. When D pulled up, SURPRISE, he had Fred with him! This increased my excitement level another couple of notches, as I was hoping he would decide to come. We helped D load up what he needed from the bakery and by 10am we were on our way. Along the way we stopped a few times, mainly for food. About half way through the drive, I started hearing a squealing under my hood, great. The next stop we made was to a Cookout where we were going to eat, but they didn’t have any inside seating or bathrooms, so we walked next door to Chic-fil-A to get lunch and use the restroom. We were at least trying to eat somewhat good food. We went in search of a post office next, so D could send out a birthday card for his son that he meant to leave back home. When we stopped, Fred took a look under my hood, and concluded that it was indeed my belt making the squealing noise, but couldn’t see any major problems with it. Things like this make me glad I was caravanning out with someone, just in case anything were to happen. I called Chris to fill him in, and he just said that if the belt goes, I’ll lose power steering and all the lights on the dash will come on, at which time I should pull over. Fingers were crossed the rest of the drive. Thankfully, aside from the horrible squealing noise, we make it to Chattanooga without any issues. By the time we arrived though, it was around 6 pm, so too late to check in for the race. Instead, we did a quick change and went out for a bike ride on the run course. It was great taking it easy and just enjoying the scenery and good company. We saw an amazing sunset on the way back, just beautiful! By the time we got back to the hotel it was dark, so we went to go get some dinner at the Big River Grille & Brewing Works, then hung out at the hotel for a bit unwinding. Since the hotel room I had for that night was an HIE about 15 min away, I left around 11 or so, doing a quick drive past the other HIE about a mile away, that I had booked for the rest of the stay. I was a bit concerned whether the neighborhood was good or not after reading some reviews online, but it seemed fine, really quite actually, so I decided to go with it and cancel the other room for Fri-Sun. When I got to the hotel, turns out they didn’t have me in the system until Friday night, but thankfully they were able to get me in at the government rate. The woman that checked me in said that as long as I let them know before 6pm Friday that I wanted to cancel, that I wouldn’t be charged for that night. Sounded good to me, but I should have cancelled then; story on that to come later. It started to rain as I was bringing my stuff into the room for the night. I didn’t completely unpack as I wasn’t planning on staying there more than one night. I left my bike in D’s room, since it was already in there and it was right near the Ironman Village. All in all the room wasn’t bad, but getting in bed around midnight was a little later than I was hoping. We had decided to meet up around 730 am to go swim in the reservoir, so that wasn’t allowing me for much sleep. Oh well, to bed I went!

Friday: Wake up, don’t remember what time exactly, but probably around 630 or so. I packed up what I needed for the day and headed over to DeGaulle and Fred’s room. Unfortunately, I missed the exit, and had to go who knows how many miles out of the way before I could turn around and go back. Called Fred to fill him in and had him text me the address of the reservoir so I could meet them there. It was chilly and raining, but as long as there’s no lightning, the swim is a go. Found the entrance to the park okay, but took me some time to find the spot we were going to swim at. I still beat Fred and D there. I wasn’t sure if we the other IOS members were going to swim with us or not, turns out not. It was so cold walking down to the water in the rain wearing just a swim suit, burr. The water felt great though, so the swim was actually really nice and enjoyable. We swam for about 20-30 min, then I made the run, in sandals, back to the car, since it was still pretty cold out. I wrapped up in my towel and sat in my car for a bit before doing somewhat of a deck change in my car into some dry pants, commando, and a hoodie over my swim top. Fred came across some other people he knew, so he swam a bit more with them while I stayed warm in my car. Blasted a little “Come on ride the train” in my car, in honor of IMCHOO! After leaving the reservoir, we headed back to breakfast with the rest of the IOSTC crew. The entire way there my car was squealing super loud. Then all of a sudden, it stopped. Thank goodness. Well, unfortunately, the next turn we made I realized I didn’t have power steering anymore, F***! Thankfully, we were right in front of the hotel I had booked for the rest of the stay, so I called the guys quick to let them know what was going on and pulled my car into the lot and parked it. The guys came back to pick me up so we could get to breakfast. It was still raining and, being 98% sure that it was my belt that went, we headed to breakfast and decided to check the car later. We ate at the City Diner, same place I grabbed dinner last year when I volunteered. It was fun hanging with everyone and eating some good food. The music there is all oldies too, which is great and always puts me in a good mood. From there, D and I finally got to go check in for the race and pick up our swag! The ground was sopping and super muddy from all the rain. Good thing I was wearing sandals because my feet were sinking into the mud quite a bit. Thankfully, the gear tent was relatively dry, so I picked up a few things, which of course wasn’t cheap. After that, we headed back to D and Fred’s room to grab a shower and change into dry clothes. By the time we were all showered and had gone through our swag bags and all that, it was time for lunch. We just went to Mellow Mushroom and got a pizza and appetizer, nothing fancy, but it was good and familiar. After lunch, we Fred and I dropped D off at the hotel and went to check on my car. Sure enough, the belt was toast. Called Chris to get his input and decided to go get a belt and tensioner tool to replace it with. I quickly checked into the hotel, before we headed over to my other hotel to check out. We got there around 430 or so, turns out I needed to let them know by 2 pm if I didn’t want the room, so I ended up getting charged for a night in a room that I didn’t need. Goodie! Loaded up the rest of my stuff in the truck, then we headed to O’Reilly auto parts to get what we needed. That took FOREVER. We had to have been there for at least 30 min just waiting in line. It was ridiculous. While we were waiting, Kim and company arrived at the hotel, so they had to sit tight until we got back. We finally got what we needed and made it back to the hotel. I said a quick hi to Kim, Kyleigh and Mrs. Patricia, gave them a room key, before going back over to my car to help Fred. Turns out it wasn’t just the belt. The tensioner pulley was seized up, great. Well, couldn’t replace that part ourselves, so I’d have to take it to a shop somewhere. Fred attempted to take the stuff back, but they needed my credit card, so I’d have to do that later. Great, that’s just what I needed. At this point, the race is going to be the least stressful part of the trip! After Fred left to join the others for dinner, I took the rest of my stuff up to the room and visited with the girls for a bit before dinner. We just went to a restaurant near the Ironman Village, since it was quick and close. After dinner, we went back to the hotel so I could get my gear bags all set and ready to go for Saturday. That’s a process, but one I started before I left Raleigh, so it wasn’t terrible. The biggest thing was figuring out what to put in my special needs bags. The plan was for me to try to get to bed early Friday night to be sure I got a good night’s sleep. Well, I think it was 930 or 1000 pm before I finally got into bed, and I probably didn’t fall asleep until after 11 pm. Oh well, roll with the punches.
The broken belt.
Saturday:  Hotel breakfast, not great but better than nothing. I get some food in my belly then try to figure out a timeline for the day. I grab all my gear bags and head over to the guys’ hotel. We plan a trip over to Walmart to grab a few last minute things, one being garbage bags. With all the rain, best to double bag so that the sneakers, bike shoes, and all the other stuff really, doesn’t get soaked. We also pick up a few things for the special needs bags. Kim and company continue shopping, so I go with D and Fred back the hotel to finish getting our gear bags together to take down to the transition area. Both D and I want to get a quick ride and run in before we check our bikes and gear in, which has to be done by 3pm. We run first, as D’s bike is getting checked over. We quick pick his bike up after the run then go for a quick ride over to my hotel to pick up a few things. Finally, we rode back to his hotel, finished putting our shoes in their respective bags, make sure we have everything then take it all down to transition. The whole drop off process goes really smoothly, and I remember to let some air out of my tires, not that it probably mattered much, but no point in taking the risk. It was a big weight off having that all taken care of. I called Kim to see what they were up to and if they wanted to grab lunch, but they had recently eaten, so the three of us went to a local place a few blocks from the hotel to grab lunch. At this point the tiredness really hit me for the first time since we got there. I really wanted a nap more than anything, and the situation with my car was still stressing me out. I still had to find a place to take it, and a way to get it there. Thankfully, Chris added me to his Allstate policy, so they were going to take care of the tow, but I couldn’t call them until I was within a half an hour of being at my car. Since we wanted to take a drive of the bike course, I had to wait. More to come on that later. Lunch was actually really good, and once I got some food and water into my system, I felt much better. We found out that the place we were eating at was closing for good the next day. I think it was called Sugar’s. That’s kind of sad, but I guess the owner has a couple other restaurants, so it’s not completely terrible. After leaving the restaurant, we head back to the truck and hit the road. Shortly after we start the drive it starts raining again, and we get behind some slow person. Go figure, we want to get the drive done so we can go rest and take care of other things, but we get stuck behind slow people. Oh well. The drive was very beneficial, and I’m glad we went, but by the end I was starting to get a bit car sick, which doesn’t normally happen, but hey, those are the breaks. About 15 min or so from the hotel I call Allstate back, and they send some guys out to tow my car. I decided to take my car to the National Tire and Battery about 10-15 min away, since they are open until 7pm, but also open Sunday to work on it so it would be ready Monday morning. I have 30 min or so to rest in the hotel room before the guys show up. When you think of getting your car towed, you think tow truck. Well, what pulled up was two guys in a small white truck with a tow dolly behind it. I was thinking to myself “WTF, hopefully that thing can get my car where it needs to go without it coming off.” I will say, the guys were nice, but they were not, based on looks alone, men that I would just get into a car with alone. Thankfully Kim and her mom were there to take me in their car and follow the guys over the NTB. I was surprised that they were able to get my car there, but we got there right around 7, and NTB was still open.  Went in and dropped my car keys off while the guys unhooked my car. I thanked them for their help and we headed back to the hotel. By this time, I really didn’t feel like eating much, so I had some Vitamin Water and a Fig Bar, not much more. Thankfully, D let me use the room he got for his son to sleep in the night before the race, since it was so close to the Village and easy to meet up in the morning. I grabbed all my stuff and Kim dropped me off at the hotel so I could get settled in. When Fred and D got back from dinner, I went down to finalize the timeline for the morning, then headed back to my room for bed. I slept so well, my only gripe was I wish I had slept longer.

Sunday (Race Day):  I will start by saying that this was a great day because I no longer had to think or worry about my car. Today would be less stressful than anything else I’d dealt with over the past few days. So, with that in mind, here’s the plan and how everything went. The plan nutrition wise is to have two servings of CytoCarb on the bike, and one on the run. The rest will come from cliff bars (2 big or 4 small on the bike and 2 small on the run), bananas (1 whole one throughout the bike courses), stinger waffles (1 on the bike), and whatever I could manage on the run (pretzles, oranges, chicken broth). In addition, I’d be taking my Base Salt every 5 miles on the bike and every one mile on the run. So I made sure I had everything I needed to carry with me, and everything else I’d get on the course. I had even packed an extra tube and CO2 cartridge in my bike sn bag, just in case. My biggest concern for the day was making sure I made it through the bike course without any major incidents, once I was through that I knew I’d make it. So here’s how I approached the race, and this had been my plan from the beginning. Go out for a nice warm up swim in the river, change into my bike gear and go for a nice, long, scenic bike ride through Georgia. Finally, survive the marathon. See, even with all the training I’d done, I had still only maxed out at 101 miles on the bike at one time, and 15ish miles running at one time. That means that this race would contain two of the longest distances I had ever done, and they would be back-to-back. I actually enjoyed the challenge, and felt ready for it. Okay, back to the timeline. Wake up call, 4 am. I had laid out my breakfast goods and got my bottles ready the night before. No microwave in the room, so I went down to the café in the hotel and got a couple of disposable bowls and some hot water to make my oatmeal and cream of wheat. I had some vitamin water with breakfast, but no coffee or tea; I didn’t want to have to pee too much. I gathered all my water bottles, my bike pump, and my special needs bags and headed down to meet up with Fred and D around 440am. Word came back that the swim was wetsuit optional, which I had figured would be the case, so I left my wetsuit in D’s room, rather than carry it in my morning clothes bag for no reason. I decided just to wear my old Aquablade swim suit from college, with my sports bra underneath, since that bitch is impossible to get on while wet.  We made our way out of the hotel before 5am. We got our body marking done, dropped off our special needs bags, then made our way to the bikes to put air in our tires and load up the water bottles. For the bike, I had two bottles with CytoCarb in them and an empty slot for plain water at the first aid station. Next, we went through the transition area to put any last minute items in our gear bags. I put my hand held water bottle with the CytoCarb mix in it inside my run gear bag. From there, I put my bike pump in the IOSTC tent. All that was left now was to board the bus that would take us to the swim start. I just want to say that I am so thankful that D was doing this race with me. It was great having a friend to ride the bus with and talk to race morning. The bus ride was fairly short, and we weren’t terribly far from the swim start when we got there. Now, we wait. We had about 1.5-2 hours to wait at the start. A period of thought and relaxation, and trying to make my body want to use the bathroom before the lines at the porta john’s got too long. I relaxed for about 30 min or so, then decided to at least go try. FYI, this is a TMI part. I peed, and pooped a little, but knew it wasn’t sufficient for the day ahead. Oh well, what can I do? Nothing. Went back to my spot in line and just relaxed. As the sun started to come up, everyone got up and the line started moving a bit. We could hear the pro’s go off at 720 and 725. Our start was at 730. It only took about 5 min or so to make our way to the water. Gave D a quick fist bump and away we went!  I jumped in the water, feet first as was required for safety purposes and started my journey down the river. Now, given that the swim was down river, and we knew there was going to be at least a little current, I will say that I couldn’t feel it. The only “current” I felt was a push toward shore that I had to fight against. Even still, I was steadily passing folks and sighting fairly well. My Garmin is always overestimating swim distances, so I knew that it wasn’t totally accurate, but I still laughed to myself a bit when it buzzed for the first mile, and I was still several buoys away from the first orange one (the first half were yellow, second half orange). The swim was relatively pleasant and went by pretty quick. I came out of the water in around 52 min (my Garmin estimated 2.8 miles). There was definitely a current, but not as strong as last year for sure. The jog from the water exit to transition went quick. I tried to find Kim and Patricia in the crowd, but there were so many people it was nearly impossible. I found my bike gear bag pretty easily and made my way into the changing tent. There were only a couple other women in the tent when I got there, so that was nice. One of the volunteers helped me find a spot and get stuff out of my bag. I warned her I was about to get naked, just so she wasn’t too surprised, then proceeded to take the swim suit off. Since I go commando in bike shorts, and that’s what I was wearing for the bike section, I was exposed for a bit of time, as bike shorts are almost as hard as my sports bra to get on while wet, even though I dried off as much as I could. I finally got them on, put my tri top on, bike shoes, helmet, gloves, etc. I made sure I wasn’t forgetting anything then headed out of the tent. Now go figure, I had to pee again. I really need to learn to pee while I’m swimming, but since I’ve never liked the thought of someone peeing in front of me, I never had a desire to learn the skill. Still, it would have come in handy, as it took me an extra 2-3 min at least to go, since again I had to lower the bike shorts and get them back on again. Done, now I can finally make my way to my bike. I found it pretty easily, grabbed it off the rack and headed out of transition. I was sure not to mount before the mount line then made my way out on the course. Now having driven the course the day before, I knew there were a bunch of RR Tracks to deal with, but regardless my bike supply cage still came off after going over one of the bumps. I had to stop and get it or I’d have worried the whole time about getting a flat and having nothing. Luckily that only took about 30 seconds to get and start riding again. Thankfully, that ended up being the only problem I had on the bike course. I saw Mike go by me around mile 23, then Julie PP around mile 40. It was nice seeing teammates along the way. It reminded me to have fun and enjoy myself. A few of the hills were not what I would consider rollers, but they weren’t Lystra, so I got through them alright. At mile 55, still on the first loop, I reached the bike special needs. A volunteer had my bag ready and waiting, so I stopped and made sure that I didn’t need anything. The only thing I grabbed was my Advil that I packed. My legs had been achy the whole ride, so I decided to take the Advil so it would subside before the run. Whether it worked or not I can’t remember, but I made it through the second loop and back without any major problems, so that’s all that I cared about. Along the ride there were many funny signs, but the only ones I remember were a series of 3; the first (“What’s the water temperature?”), the second (“Wait, the bike course is 116 miles?!”), and lastly (“is the run course hilly?”). They made me laugh, so it was nice. The other Julie passed me around mile 65 or so, and she’s the last teammate I saw until the last few miles when Ramiro went by. There were a couple fun downhill sections, and Fred was a bike pointer on the biggest one, so I was always smiling when I went by him. So, remember when I said I didn’t think I had pooped sufficiently before the race? Well, by the time I got off the bike, I definitely had to go. I dismounted and handed my bike off to a bike catcher then headed to grab my run gear bag. Got to the changing tent, and again, there weren’t a lot of women in there. I changed out of my bike shorts and put underwear and regular running shorts on. Put my HR monitor on and made sure I had everything I needed before heading out of the tent. Now, on to the porta-potty.  At least this time I didn’t have to deal with bike shorts, however number 2 takes much longer than 1. While I was doing my business, I heard the first pros coming into the finish. It sounded exciting and I was thankful I at least go to hear it. On the other hand, I was thinking to myself “They are finishing before I even start my run.” Crazy! I finally finished and headed for the sunscreen applicators.  This was the station I volunteered at last year, and was thankful for their help this year. They were quick about getting me coated and I was on my way. Then I heard my name, and surprise, I see Kim, Kyleigh, and Mrs. Patricia waving to me. I smile and wave, then stop and go over to say hi and give a quick hug and kiss to Kyleigh. It was so good to see them and I’m thankful they were there. I finally get out on the run course. It’s around 3 pm and I’m about 8 hours into the race. At this point I know that, unless I bonk or something crazy happens, I will finish and be an Ironman before midnight! Right off the bat there’s a hill. My plan is to walk the uphills and run the flats and downhills. That’s just what I did. Steady as she goes I made my way through the run course. I walked through the aid stations every mile to get water and ice, oranges and pretzels and to take my Base Salt. It was hot out, well, not terribly hot, but humid for sure. I saw some people who were on their second lap, and they were dripping wet. At that point I was glad that I had several days during my training where it was hot and/or humid and I knew how to deal with it. The first several miles went by pretty fast. There were a lot of funny signs along the way, and great volunteers and spectators. That always makes the race more fun. Before I knew it I was crossing the river to the “hilly” section of the course. Again, I walked the uphills and through the aid stations, and ran the flats and downhills. It wasn’t bad at all, mainly because I had those walking sections. As I was on my way back up Barton, I saw D on his way down. It was nice to see him, so we high fived and went on our separate ways. The bridge back across the river is different than the other one. It’s a pedestrian bridge, mainly made of wood, whereas the other one was a road. It was a bit of an uphill, so I walked some, then downhill the second half and to the halfway point of the race. At 13 miles we hit the run special needs station. I had put a number of things in the bag, but the only thing I grabbed was the gum. It was great! Looking back, I probably should have taken the salt and vinegar almonds too, but they weren’t easy to carry, so I didn’t. I thought for sure I would hit a wall on the second loop. I kept waiting, and waiting, but it never came. I surprised myself how I was able to keep running. My legs started to get tight, but I could still run. It was a great personal accomplishment for me to make it past 20 miles and still not hit a wall. I knew I’d make it to the finish. The only issue I had on the second loop was that, despite drinking what I though was more than enough water, I was starting to dehydrate. I could tell because I was having a hard time eating anything solid. The only solid I could get down was pretzels, and that was because I softened them with water in my mouth so I could get them down. At this point I was just hoping that everything I had eaten to that point, and oranges and base salt, would be enough to get me to the finish. I even tried the chicken broth, which was great, but that was around mile 24, so a bit late in the game. Regardless, it was good. I ran and walked with another girl for a bit between miles 22 and 25, but when that last bridge uphill came, she looked back and I said “Go get it girl!” and she kept on running. I walked that part, mainly because I wanted to be able to run from the crest to the finish, and it was uphill, so walking was the plan. It had gotten dart several miles back, and actually most of the second loop for me was done in the dark. At some point a volunteer had given me a glow necklace, not sure when exactly, but it was cool. I had a head lamp on me, but didn’t end up using it since the course was lit pretty well. About a half mile from the finish line I almost cried just thinking about how I was going to be and Ironman, and all the hard work paid off. I kept it together though. As I hit the home stretch, I high-fived as many people as I could, it was great! I dropped off my water bottle and headlamp near the IOSTC tent before I hit the shoot, since I didn’t really want those in the pictures. The finishers shoot it unreal. I heard the announcer call my name, completely butcher the last name, but announce me nonetheless. First time Ironman. “Kathleen, you are an Ironman!” And I am, forever. It’s a great feeling. There wasn’t anyone right behind me coming down the finisher's shoot, so as I hit the timing mat archway I walked through it and soaked in the moment. All smiles, it was a great feeling to cross that finish line. The catchers were there, of course, but I didn’t need to be caught. I felt good, legs were sore and so were my bicepts (I have no idea why) but otherwise I felt pretty good. I made my way to the picture area. I saw Fred, then Kim and it was amazing! Took several pictures to capture the moment then went to the IOSTC tent to grab my gear that I had set aside. Said hi to everyone quick, then went back over to the hotel to shower and change so I could make it back to the finish for DeGaulle. I got a few pictures with Kim and Kyleigh in the lobby of the hotel, then let them go back and rest while I got cleaned up. The shower felt great! Clean, dry clothes were also pretty nice. By the time I got back to the tent, I was ready to eat, and knew I needed to. Mike helped me find the pizza tent, so I grabbed a couple slices and 2 bottles of water. It was nice to sit and eat, relaxing with friends and talking about the race while we waited for D. It was great watching him finish, and afterward I got a couple more slices of pizza and helped Fred get him back to the room. In hindsight, we should have had him go to the medical tent, which he ended up at eventually, but he was alright after an IV to help him get re-hydrated. Once I knew he was gonna be ok, I called Kim to pick me up. I grabbed just the things I would need for the night and left the rest in the room, since I’d be meeting the guys in the morning to follow them back. Fred was awesome and got all my gear bags and bike for me. He even brought my bike pump back up to the room. It was so nice to have that already taken care of. I know Fred had a long day out on the course, and he still was helping us all out after he finished his shift. Kim and I made a quick stop at Five Guys for some fries and pickles, just in case I got hungry during the night then went back to our hotel. I was beat, but wanted to talk, and could have for awhile, but sleep prevailed. I didn’t wake up hungry during the night, but I did eat one hell of a breakfast the next morning! Pictures below!

Swim Exit
Swim Exit

Smiling because I was having fun, and because I saw the photographer.
Cruising Right Along!
Again with the photographer thing!
Soaking up the finish!
Kim and I at the finish line.
The Goddaughter and I after the race.

Mrs. Tricia and I!


  1. Paragraphs. Paragraphs are your friend for these things.

    Still proud of the day you had! Congratulations Ironman, you earned it. And nobody can ever take that away.

    1. Thanks! And thanks for all the coaching and advice!