“Everything that kills me makes me feel alive…”

2017 Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

11:36:41

 40/166 AG     254/1978 Overall

Sunday, September 24, 2017 – When the 3:30 a.m. alarms go off on race morning there’s no time to think about your lack of sleep the night before or what lies ahead.  I coated myself in Bodyglide, donned my trisuit, said goodbye to Leigh Anne and then headed to the lobby.  Danny Royce and I planned to meet there around 4 a.m., and I grabbed a cup of coffee and some instant oatmeal from the coffee bar, which was mercifully open at that hour.  Danny arrived as I finished up and looked somewhat shell-shocked.  He learned that his dog has died unexpectedly the night before and he had gotten no sleep.  That’s a tough start to a tough day, especially when he was already carrying the burden of trying to qualify for Kona again.  He’d already told me the day before that those expectations were weighing on him, so his dog dying was an unneeded gut punch.

After consoling him a bit, we hopped in my car and headed down to the race site.  We arrived at transition just before they opened the flood gates to the athletes, and we used Danny’s pump to inflate our tires after making it to our racks.  Danny and I parted ways at that point, and I wished him luck on his Kona attempt.  From there, the athletes had to hop on buses and take a short ride up river to the swim start.

The swim start is first-come-first-served, and whoever gets in line the earliest gets in the water first (after the pro women).  I got there about an hour and a half before go time, and the line was already a few hundred yards from the water.  Then began a long wait, where I interchanged between sitting on a towel and standing up to stay loose, throwing in a couple of trips to the nearby portapotties for good measure.  Leigh Anne ended up finding me in line about a half hour before the start, and that made the time go by a little quicker.

After what seemed like an eternity, the pro women took off, and then we began shuffling slowly forward to the water.  There was a timing mat on the dock, and your chip time would begin as soon as you crossed it.  I took one last look around me to take in the moment and the scenery at sunrise, and then headed out onto the dock.  The day would be long, but I was focused on breaking it into manageable parts.  First up, was the 2.4 mile swim in the Tennessee River.

Results Link

Garmin Data

Swim: 53:57   (1:24/100m)  (27/166 AG)

Swim Course Map

My goal for the day was to break 12 hours in good spirits and to avoid another trip to the medical tent after finishing.  My everything-goes-perfectly goal was 11:30, but I wasn’t going to shoot for that too hard and risk a meltdown.  I’d hoped to finish the swim in 1 hour, and that would be current-assisted due to the all-down-river swim.  Had the swim been an out and back in the river, I’d probably have been looking at trying to break 1:10.  The water temperature had been (barely) wetsuit legal on Friday morning, but the past two days of temperatures in the upper-80’s had warmed the water temperature by several degrees.  Thus, it was going to be a swim without the wetsuit, but I really wasn’t too upset about that since I hadn’t planned on the race being wetsuit legal.

The river had a couple of bends in it, so you couldn’t see the finish area from the starting dock.  After hopping in, I took off and did my best not too go out too hard.  I was afraid that the swim would be congested at the start, and there were plenty of people around me, but I was still able to find some clean water.  When possible, I would draft if I found someone swimming about my speed.

My heart rate stayed under control, but I found that the farther I swam, the more people were around me.  I felt like I was having a good swim, and the congestion was increasing since I was catching up to a lot of people who’d started before me.  I resisted the urge to look at my GPS and kept moving forward.

At the pre-race meeting, the announcer had indicated that the tip of the small island in the river marks the half-way point of the swim.  Even though I was feeling good, after a while I wondered if I would ever get to the island.  I finally found it, and then I remembered that I had to go under three bridges to find the finishing area.

I continued to swim well, and passed under the first and then the second bridge.  The swim finish was now in sight, but the river was getting even more congested.  It was at that point that I had my only problem in the swim.  As I passed someone on my right, his hand went forward under my goggle strap and ripped the right eyepiece away from my face.  I had to pull up and tread water to get it fixed, and you can see my heart rate jump up and my stroke rate go to zero around the 47:30 mark in my GPS data as I struggled to get myself together.

After getting my goggles re-situated, I only had about a quarter mile to the finish, which culminated with a climb up a short ladder.  Thankfully, they had volunteers helping fish people out of the water, which came in handy.  After getting onto dry land, I tried not to fall over from the immediate spell of lightheadedness that hit me, and then headed towards T1.  I finally looked at my GPS and saw that I’d finished the swim in under 54 minutes.  Dang, I didn’t expect that, even with the current assist!  I do think the current was moving a bit faster than it had in years past based upon my post-race review of the average swim times, but still, I felt like I had a really good swim.  That was reflected by the fact that I was 27/166 in my age group, and I felt good as I headed off to find my bike.

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Feeling well enough to ham it up for the camera.  The pain was still in the mail at that point.

T1 (5:37)

It was a long run into T1 from the water, and then I had to find my bike gear bag on the ground and run into the changing tent.  On went some additional Bodyglide, along with my shoes and my helmet.  I had a small fight with my helmet shield since it fell off when I slipped the helmet onto my head.  It took me a few seconds to snap it back in, and I think its a pretty poor design since its so temperamental.  After getting myself together in the changing tent, I then had to run all the way to the opposite end of the transition area to grab my bike and then hit the bike exit.  5:37 seems like a long time, but there was a fair amount of distance to cover.

Bike: 5:54:10   (19.7 mph)  (41/166 AG)

Bike Course Map

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My goal for the 116 mile bike course was 6 hours or less.  The course is a two loop “lollipop,” with the “stick” being the first 12 miles out of town.  Loop 1 is miles 13-58 and loop 2 is miles 59-104.  You then have about 12 miles back to the finish.  As you can see, the first 35 miles are mostly uphill, so I was very wary about going out too fast.  The plan was to take that portion fairly easy and to moderately increase my effort from there.

Things got off to a good start as I made my way away from the river and towards the outskirts of town.  I felt like I was barely pedaling, but I was making speed easily and my GPS was showing just under 20 miles per hour.  I figured that I might be pushing too hard to soon, but it really felt effortless.  I think the endorphins and adrenaline might have been working a bit too hard.

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Just out of T1 heading away from the river.

I knew that there were several sets of train tracks to cross as you leave town, and the carnage of ejected water bottles and other various items littered the road near the tracks.  I’d purchased a Gorilla cages for my rear hydration mount a few months earlier, and I reveled in my wisdom as my bottle stayed put.  The reveling was short lived.

Somewhere between miles 3 and 4 I crossed a small bridge and overtook a female rider.  As soon as I moved back to my right in front of her, I noticed a spare bike tube that someone had ejected in the road ahead of me.  There was no chance to avoid it, but I wasn’t really worried since it was a flat piece of tubing.  A few seconds later I began to smell something burning, and before my thoughts turned back to the tube I’d just run over, my rear wheel completely locked up and I started fishtailing.

The girl behind me started yelling and narrowly avoided running into the back of me.  I steered to my right and hopped of my bike – not knowing what had caused the malfunction.  I then saw the black tube wedged in between my rear wheel and my frame.  I tried to pull it out, but it was wedged tight, so I had to take the wheel off to get it out.  I didn’t see any other issues, but wouldn’t know for sure that I was in the clear until I took off again.  I got back on the road quickly, and the entire episode probably cost me 60 seconds.  I was a bit concerned for the next few miles that my rear tire might go flat, but it turned out to be okay.

Over the next few miles my emotions ran from shocked to angry to relieved, and I had to tell myself a few times to settle down and not to try to “make up” for the lost time.  I got back in a groove, and around the 12 mile mark I’d finished the out portion of the “lollipop stick” and headed onto the loop portion of the course for the first time.

The south portion of the loop was my least favorite part of the bike course, and is pretty much all uphill until you turn left onto Hog Jowl Road around mile 35 to head back north.  There are a lot of rolling hills, and the course was really crowded with bikers.  I did my best to avoid any illegal drafting, but with so many people in close quarters, its tough.  I saw officials on motorcycles all day long, but I never saw a drafting penalty handed out.  There were a few cyclists who seemed to be oblivious to the drafting rules, and they would pull up next to people and try to start a conversation instead of passing.  That got pretty obnoxious, particularly when I was stuck behind them and couldn’t pass.

Around mile 25, my chain began making a horrible squealing noise when I was in the small chain ring and mashing the pedals to climb hills.  I didn’t know if it was a lubrication issue or something related to my mishap near mile 3, but it was making me pretty nervous.  I had lubed my chain before racking my bike on Saturday, but it had rained overnight, so that might have caused the problem.  I hoped it would dissipate, and I got some looks from the other bikers when I was squealing uphill.

The famed climb just prior to turning left onto Hog Jowl Road finally made its appearance around mile 34, and it was much worse on the bike than it’d looked from my car on Friday morning.  It seemed to go on forever, and I was in the small chain ring and in the easiest gear, but making progress was still tough.  I squealed my way up the hill, and then there was a brief descent before the left turn to head back north.  You had to lay on the brakes pretty hard to make the sharp turn, and then began the the most fun part of the course – the trip back north to complete the loop.

The trip north was primarily downhill all the way to Chickamunga (around mile 54), which was where a lot of the spectators were hanging out.  There were some rolling hills, but you could pretty much maintain your speed on all of the uphill portions.  Unfortunately, the dead skunk that we’d seen on Friday was still in the road, so that made for an unpleasant smell.

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Northbound towards Chickamunga on loop 1.

As I made my way towards Chickamunga, the crowding on the course finally began to diminish a bit.  I made sure that I drank my Carbopro at 15 minute intervals, and I was taking a bottle of water for my aero bottle at every aid station.  I was feeling pretty good, but I was starting to feel the ramp up in the temperature.  It wasn’t a problem yet, but I knew it was getting warm.

I blew through Chickamunga since it was downhill and saw Leigh Anne for a brief moment.  The town had come out in full force, and it was a pretty neat stretch for about half a mile with both sides of the road lined with spectators.  You then head out of town, and then there was a grueling climb for about 2.5 miles.  It’s not super steep, but it goes on and on and will wear out your legs if you push too hard.  I squealed my way to the top, and then there was a mile-and-a-half screaming descent to complete loop 1.

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Chickamunga in loop 1.

As I screamed down the hill I actually sat up out of the aero position to slow myself down.  I didn’t feel like crashing out at 35-40 miles per hour, and I even tapped the brakes a few times due to some curves.  I got pretty nervous for a bit after hearing a weird “knocking” sound, and was worried that I was having a mechanical.  Thankfully, it turned out that the water in my aero bottle was sloshing rhythmically, so it was no big deal.  That had never happened before and it was very loud, so it sounded like something much worse.

After turning left to head south again, I had one of my worst stretches on the bike.  I felt like a wave of fatigue washed over me as I began my uphill trek again, and there was a 15-20 minute period where I didn’t feel very well.  That was coupled with increased squealing from my chain on the tougher uphill portions, and it got so bad that I pulled over and looked over my bike for a few seconds to see if anything was rubbing.  I couldn’t see any definitive problem, and the squealing was only happening when I mashed on the pedals in the small chain ring on the steepest hills.  It didn’t squeal when I sat and spun up the hills, so I decided to do that for the remainder of the ride.

I began to rally around mile 75, and would feel good for the remainder of the ride, but miles 60-75 had been tough.  A female rider and I began to ride together towards the bottom of loop 2, and we leapfrogged each other every few minutes.  We kept the mandatory 6 bike lengths between us to avoid a penalty, and soon enough, I was back at the climb just before turning left onto Hog Jowl Road.  I stayed in my seat and spun up it, and it seemed much easier the second time around.  I pulled ahead of the female rider for good on the climb and wouldn’t see her again.

I was feeling pretty good on the northerly part of the second loop, but by that point I was really beginning to feel the heat and humidity.  I continued to drink as much as possible, and took some salt tablets to supplement the ones that were already dissolved in my Carbopro.  By about mile 90 though, I was really getting tired of laying in the aero position, and my arms and shoulders were worn out from the effort of supporting my upper body for over 4.5 hours.  The ride through the spectators in Chickamunga was a nice pick-me-up, but I didn’t see Leigh Anne this time through.  The 100 mile marker came shortly thereafter – only 16 miles to go.

The 2.5 mile grind uphill followed, and I continued to sit and spin, which kept my chain from squealing.  The screaming descent to complete loop 2 followed, and there was no crazy knocking noise from my water bottle this time around.  When I came to the end of loop 2 I was very happy to be turning right to head back to Chattanooga instead of turning left for another loop.

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Somewhere on loop 2 around mile 85.

The ride back to town was slightly downhill and made for some good speed.  I was certainly ready to get off of my bike, but was feeling well considering that I was coming up on 116 miles and six hours in the saddle.  There were a couple of times that I made myself dial it back a bit, and kept reminding myself that I still had a marathon to run.

There were some twists and turns in the last few miles, and as I passed the site of my near-accident many hours before, it reminded me of just how quickly things can go bad on a bike.  I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t flat when I was so close to the finish, and started doing calculations in my head as to when it would be faster to push my bike to transition if I flatted instead of changing the tube.  Thankfully, the river soon appeared and I cruised the final half mile or so to give my legs a break.

The bike leg had been taxing and contained some minor drama, but I was feeling (relatively) good and was ready to run.  I didn’t think I’d overcooked the bike, and still came in under my six hour goal.  Only 26.2 miles to go.

T2 (7:24)

Ironman transitions just seem to take forever, but I really did try to hurry.  After dropping off my bike, I found my run gear bag and headed into the changing tent.  I put on my running shoes and asked a volunteer to spray me down with my sunscreen.  I reapplied Bodyglide pretty much everywhere and then decided against wearing my hydration belt.  Instead, I grabbed one of the bottles that I’d pre-filled and then headed out of the changing tent.  Before leaving transition, I hit the only portapotty of the day (on the course), and then got slathered with even more sunscreen by a volunteer.  I yelled to Leigh Anne about my near-crash around mile 3 on the bike, and then took off onto the run course.

Run: 4:35:53    (10:31 min/mile) (43/166 AG)

Run Course Map

And then there was the run.  Dear Lord…the run.  It was 87 degrees when I got off the bike and full on humid, so the heat index was over 90.  I knew that it was going to be hilly, and I knew that it was going to be hot.  Knowing and doing, however, are sometimes separated by a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon.  The heat hit me immediately, and I realized pretty quickly that it was going to be a long 26.2.  Sometimes you’re the nail and sometimes you’re the hammer.  Unfortunately, sometimes you’re the only nail in a room full of hammers.

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Just out of T2 with sunscreen running down my legs.

Coming into the race, my goal for the run was 4 hours and 22 minutes, which equates to 10 minutes per mile.  Based upon the forecast, Karen and I thought that might need to be amended upwards a little, and I was supposed to run 10:00 – 10:15 minute miles for the first three miles.  Heading out of transition, I was roughly 7 hours into the race, so a 4:30 marathon would put me right at my “everything goes perfect” goal time of 11 hours and 30 minutes.  It was hot, but I’d felt good when I finished the bike, so I thought there was a chance.

Miles 1-3 (10:03)(10:00)(9:59)

From reading Danny’s Race Report from his previous IMChoo race, I knew that there was a substantial hill coming out of transition.  The first mile took me along the river and then up a ramp…which I thought was the hill.  Not quite.  There was still a substantial climb ahead of me, and pretty much the entire first mile seemed like it was uphill.  I took note that the IMChoo run course takes it to you quickly.

The next two miles were on an unprotected stretch of highway that was blazing hot.  I made sure that I kept my pacing at 10:00 minutes per mile, and a lot of people were running past me.  As crappy as my own run would turn out, I’d pass many of them back later in the day.  There wasn’t much to see on this stretch of road, and there was no respite from the sunlight.  I knew that I’d be overheating quickly, and stopped at every aid station to drank some Gatorade, refill my water bottle and then dump some ice down my tri-suit.  I was feeling okay at that point, but my core temperature was definitely rising.

Miles 4-6 (10:05)(9:54)(10:25)

After mile 3, I was supposed to pick up the pace a little, but I was already aware of the fact that a 4:22 marathon was probably not going to be in the cards.  The outward-bound trip on the highway seemed to go on forever, but around mile 4 I finally got to turn left to head back towards downtown on the river walk.  This part of the course was eminently better than the four miles on the highway, but it was still only about 50% shaded.  There were also a few small hills thrown in for good measure.  Nothing like what was waiting on the opposite side of the river, but some hills nonetheless.

I kept trying to run some sub-10 minute miles, but I was losing too much time at the aid stations.  I knew that neglecting my hydration and nutrition needs would come back to haunt me later in the race, so I took my time at every aid station to try to stay hydrated and fueled.  By mile 6 I was feeling fair, but certainly not where I hoped to be with over 20 miles remaining.

Miles 7-9 (9:52)(10:40)(11:01)

Around mile 8 I made a right turn and then the first serious hill of the day came out of nowhere.  There was the carnage of many people walking up it ahead of me, and I told myself that I was going to take it easy and run all the way to the top without walking.  People started cheering for me since I was one of the few people running by the time that I got halfway up the hill, but soon enough I was forced to walk for a bit.  Even though I’d been feeling the wheels starting to come off for a few miles, I’d been holding it together physically and mentally.  This was the first part of the race where I started to go into a dark place.

Soon after cresting the hill I saw Leigh Anne for the first time on the run and she asked me how I was feeling.  All I could manage at that time was saying, “Its so hot…its so hot.”  After some words of encouragement, I kept on and took a right to cross Veteran’s Bridge to head to the hilly side of the course.  My pace for mile 8 crept up to 10:40, but there was 75 feet of elevation gain due to the aforementioned hill, so that was not unexpected.  It would be increasingly difficult to keep my pace near 10 minute miles as I continued on.

It was hot on the bridge in the direct sunlight, but that was nothing compared to what awaited on the far side.  Soon after reaching the end of the bridge, I hit the Barton Avenue hill for the first time.  In addition to being a soul crusher, its a quad and hamstring crusher as well.  I did my best to trot up the hill with minimal walking, but it was tough to keep moving forward without taking walk breaks.  The only saving grace was the multitude of spectators on both sides of the road cheering us on.

Miles 10-12 (9:42)(10:25)(10:58)

What goes up must come down, and after cresting Barton I headed back down the other side, which sounds easy in writing.  In reality, you’re crushing your quads with every step since its pretty steep, which comes back to bite you later in the race.  After reaching the bottom of Barton, I ran past the Italian restaurant that Leigh Anne and I had visited the night before.  There were people cheering from the parking lot, and I was wishing that I could stop and hang out with them for a while.  Shortly thereafter, there were some guys offering beers to shotgun, but I figured that might not be a good idea.

The next couple of miles were nothing but hills on a loop through a ritzy neighborhood, but there was much less crowd support there.  I did my best the glide down the hills to keep my pace respectable, but things were getting pretty bad and I was really deep in the well of pain by that point.  Around mile 11.5 I hit the bottom of Barton Avenue again and began making my way back to the top.

About halfway up Barton, I saw Danny running towards me in the opposite direction on his second loop.  He looked better than he apparently felt (based upon his race report), and gave me a few words of encouragement.  I finally reached the top of Barton for the second time a minute or two later, and was happy to begin my descent to complete the first loop of the run course.

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Halfway done with the run.

Miles 13-15 (10:17)(10:07)(10:09)

The course took me across the Walnut Street Bridge to complete loop one, and even the gradual incline of the bridge was taking its toll on me by that point.  I was hot and bothered and in a pretty sour mood.  After crossing the bridge, I took a left to head back up the highway of hell again.

Oddly, I had a Renaissance of sorts after getting back on the highway, and was able to turn in a couple of miles near the 10 minute mark.  I began thinking that I could keep the good times going for the second loop, and I began passing A LOT of people around that time.  It seemed like there were two people walking for every person running, and the heat was really taking its toll.  I remember passing several people in that stretch that had gone past me in the first few miles, and that helped lift my spirits a little.

Miles 16-18 (11:04)(10:57)(11:17)

The good times had to end at some point, and that was at mile 16.  Whatever second wind I’d gained at mile 13 moved out of town and left no forwarding address.  The trip up the highway continued to wear on me, and my state of mind went downhill for good.  I will say that the volunteers at the aid stations were great, but even their jubilance couldn’t bring me out of my funk.

I continued to plod along at about a 10 minute pace, but I was taking longer and longer at the aid stations, which was hurting my time.  First, I’d refill my water bottle, then I’d take some Gatorade, then some flat Coke and then some ice.  I was taking a half of a gel at every other aid station, but nothing was giving me any energy.  It was during this stretch that I was forced into a run-walk strategy because I just couldn’t keep running continuously.  I’d run about 200 yards and then walk for ten seconds.  Around mile 17 I finally got off the highway and back onto the river walk, but the change of scenery really didn’t help at all.

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Not a great picture for sure, but it pretty much sums up how I was feeling.

Miles 19-21 (10:52)(11:25)(11:23)

By mile 19 Chattanooga pretty much felt like the seventh level of Hell to me.  My walk breaks were becoming more frequent and I felt like even a 4:30 marathon was out of the question.  As hard as I was fading, I began to wonder if a 5:00 marathon was now in the cards.  My excitement of exceeding expectations on the swim and bike were quickly being replacement with a sense of abject failure.  I felt like I was failing my coaches, my family and myself by blowing up on the run.  It sounds stupid now since any expectations were really mine and mine alone, but I was deep in the well of pain and self-pity by that point.  Its amazing how high and low you can feel in a single Ironman race.

There was an aid station just before mile 20 and out of desperation, I took half of a Hot Shot.  Bad judgment.  The jalapeno taste nearly made me vomit, and then I was nauseous for the next half mile or so.  I’m pretty sure that the picture above was taken during that stretch.

I saw Leigh Anne shortly thereafter, and she seemed pretty concerned about me, as were Karen and Erin (whom she’d been texting throughout the day).  She asked me if I was okay, and I responded, “I see Blue…he looks glorious,” which is a Will Ferrell quote from the movie Old School after he gets the crap beat out of him.  Since I was still able to remember random movie quotes, the ladies knew that I was still in the game, and Leigh Anne gave some final words of encouragement before I headed back across Veteran’s Bridge to the hilly side of the course one more time.

Miles 22-24 (10:51)(11:32)(11:04)

Pain and anger.  Anger and pain.  That’s pretty much all I felt on the far side of the bridge.  Barton hit me once again and I think I ran half of it and walked half of it.  I remember a young kid handing me water at the mile 22 aid station and saying, “that’s high quality H2O” in a voice from The Waterboy and thinking to myself, “that’s funny, but I’m too hurt and angry to laugh.”

I then headed into the ritzy neighborhood loop again, and the walk breaks were coming more and more frequently.  As bad as I felt, I was still passing people, and very few people were passing me.  I remember being shocked by that, but the course and the heat were pretty much wrecking everybody.

Miles 25-26 (11:33)(10:48)

After finishing mile 24, I was back at the bottom of the Barton hill for the fourth and final time.  I kept telling myself that I just had one more hill to climb, but it was a beast.  To make matters worse, I’d developed a stabbing pain under my right rib cage around mile 23 and it just wouldn’t go away.  I trudged my way to the top of Barton, and then knew that it was mostly downhill to the finish from there.

I was determined to run the rest of the way, but the stabbing pain intensified as I ran down the far side of Barton.  I tried to run through it, but it was too much and I got to the bottom of the hill and had to walk some.

I finally got to the last bridge and even its minimal rise forced me to walk again.  After 11 hours and 30 minutes of racing, my body was in full-on revolt mode.  It felt bad to walk when the finish line was actually in sight off in the distance, but there was no way around it.  I reached the crest of the bridge and had about 3/4 of a mile to go and then told myself that I was done with walking and would run to the finish.

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Crossing the last bridge and looking at the finish line off to my right in the distance.

From that point, the last few minutes of the race were a flood of memories and emotions from the past few years.  I tried to take in the moment and revel in the fact that years of training and sacrifice were culminating in that final mile.  Not just for me, but for my family too.  I somehow escaped from the well of pain and my legs found new life.  Based upon my Garmin data, it wasn’t a whole lot of life, but it felt like it at the time.

I remember turning left and seeing the finishing chute about a quarter mile ahead of me.  Spectators were lining both sides of the chute and their cheers were intoxicating.  If you wonder why people subject themselves to 140+ miles of torture, run that last quarter mile and you will know.

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Leigh Anne is in the pink tank-top behind me, but I never saw her.

I ran with whatever was left in me and stuck my left hand out to get some high fives just before the finish line.  Apparently, I ran straight over to Leigh Anne and slapped her hand, but I had no idea until she told me later.  I guess I had tunnel vision.

I crossed the finish line in 11:36:41, well ahead of my 12 hour goal.  I was less than seven minutes shy of my “everything goes perfectly” goal, but considering that the heat index in the 90’s, it was a damn good day.

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Post Race

After Ironman Maryland, I had nearly collapsed a few minutes after the finish and ended up in the medical tent.  I was intent on avoiding that in 2017, and I knew that I needed calories and sugar asap, but there was no Coke at the finish line.  I had to go through the post-race photo area in order to get to the food, but I didn’t want to miss getting my picture taken.  The guy in front of me was taking multiple pictures with his family and I was getting weaker and dizzier by the minute.  He finally finished, I smiled for a couple of photos, and then staggered out of the finishing area.

I ran into Leigh Anne and she escorted me to the food, and I got a couple of pieces of pizza and a Coke.  We sat on the hill overlooking the river and I drank the Coke and tried to eat some pizza.  I was feeling bad, but I didn’t feel like I needed medical care.  Within about 5-10 minutes the sugar and calories had kicked in, and I was feeling well enough to get up and head back to transition to collect my things.

After packing up, we went back to the hotel so that I could wash the day’s stink off of me.  I sent a few text messages to confirm that I was still alive, and then Leigh Anne and I went out for a late dinner and a couple of beers.  I checked the AG results and saw that Danny had gotten third in our AG, and I crossed my fingers that we’d have three Kona slots so he could finally book his trip to Hawaii.  I found out the next morning that he’d made it, which was pretty exciting.

In looking, back, IMChoo was a completely different beast than IMMd.  Granted, the swim had been cancelled and the bike as shortened in Maryland, but there was really no comparing the two races.  I’d gotten into some dark times in Maryland around mile 20 of the run, but nothing compared to the well of pain I’d been in at Chattanooga – pretty much starting at mile 8 on the run.  I learned a lot about myself during the IMChoo run, and as bad as I felt, it was a really rewarding experience.

One of the most interesting things that I took away from the race was my AG placing on the run.  If you read my blog, you know by now that I swim OK, bike OK and then l slide down the AG standings on the run.  You can pretty much set your watch to that.  As shitty as I FELT my run was though, I was 41st in my AG on the bike but was still 43rd in my AG on the run.  That’s much less of a fall-off than normal.  Thus, the heat and hills seemed to affect the other age groupers more than me.  Maybe.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself at the moment.

So…years of training and preparation for a single day’s event were finally over, leaving me wondering what the future held.  I knew that a full Ironman was not in the cards for 2018, at least, not if I wanted to stay married.  Its not the race itself that makes an Ironman difficult on family life, its the months of training leading up to it.  Nevertheless, even before the soreness from the day’s effort reached a crescendo a few days later, I began to wonder, “can I go sub-11 hours in the next one?”  The Ironman bug is a terrible affliction.

cert

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