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Chattanooga 70.3 – Half Ironman Race Report

31 May 2019
by Kathryn Taylor

Date: 5/19/19
Total Race Time = 4:43:06
Overall Female Place = 23/966
Age Group 25-29 = 4/72

This race was my second Half Ironman and second time racing in Chattanooga. First off and foremost, I love this course and the town. The volunteers are amazing and the town is so welcoming. We (my family and best friend) stayed in the Marriot Downtown which is about a mile from the ironman village and transition. It was a nice hotel and was a great location for us. It is close to a bunch of restaurants and shops and tons of other athletes stayed there so it was pretty quiet at night. The night before the race I was in bed by 8:30 but didn’t fall asleep until 10:30.

I had some prerace jitters going on but I will say last year was a lot worse. I don’t think I fell asleep until midnight and woke up constantly. Falling asleep around 10:30 was definitely an improvement. I also wore compression pants to bed. I only wear these the weekend of the race; they make my legs feel refreshed and ready to go!

My alarm went off at 4am and I got right up and prepared my breakfast; 2 hardboiled eggs, peanut butter toast, and diced sweet potatoes that I heated up in the microwave. I threw on my jolyn workout bikini top, all3 race kit, long sleeve tshirt and sneakers. I had packed everything I needed the night before in my workout bag and reusable grocery bag so I was ready to go by 4:30. I arrived at transition around 4:45 and made my way to my bike, which was chillin over on the rack at 1024. I let some air out of my tires when I checked my bike in since it was so hot out and I didn’t want my tubes to pop. I made my way with my bike over to the side of transition to get my tires pumped.

Since I had a disc wheel on the back of my bike I needed one of the mechanics to pump it up with a “crack pipe” (tool used to pump up discs tires). It took maybe 5-10 minutes to get my tires pumped since there was a little bit of a line. Made it back to my transition area and set up everything I needed for the day on top of my towel; helmet, bike shoes, race belt with bib attached to my visor, running shoes, socks and an extra pair, 2 Gus for the run and running shoes. After I was all set up, I grabbed my bag and made a mental note of where my bike was on the rack, which rack it was on, landmarks it was by and anything else that would make it easy to find my bike after the swim.

Made my way on to the bus to go over to the swim start around 5:40 and got to the swim start a little before 6. Plenty of time to make a bathroom stop and relax before the race. My best friend, Alex, and I made our way up to the beginning of the swim start. This is a self-seated swim with the first seated area 27 minutes and under. It was already super crowded but we were able to seat ourselves in the top 50. Around 6:30 my parents, boyfriend, and coach came by to give me a good luck hug and take my bag (thank goodness for Sherpas).

By this point Alex and I were extremely nervous but luckily we had each other to make jokes and mess around. We both got our wetsuits on and had a banana around 6:45 too nervous to eat anything else. Luckily, I had been sipping on water and Gatorade all morning to keep me hydrated. Unluckily, this made me have to pee so badly!! I’ll let everyone know right now I swam in college and have no shame in peeing in pools, lakes, oceans, or my wetsuit. Do what you gotta do!

Swim = 00:13:09

The swim course is about a 200 up river then cut over and the remaining swim is down river. But once the pro women went off, the officials decided to shorten the race because of how long it took them to make it upstream to the first buoy. Now, the entire swim race is downriver. Being a swimmer the upriver part is to my advantage and I wasn’t super pleased that it was cut but what are you going to do. I didn’t let this affect me, I was just happy the swim wasn’t cut completely. Then I definitely would’ve been thrown. One after the other people were jumping in, finally it was my turn. Alex and I high-fived each other and then I jumped in after her.

The swim is my element. It builds up my confidence for the rest of the race since obviously biking and running are rather new to me. The water felt great not too cold at all. I swam diagonal to the first buoy but tried to stay towards the center of the river for as long as I could, almost running into kayaks, so I could catch the strongest part of the current. I was passing people left and right never really running into them. I sighted every 3-5 strokes sometimes more but I don’t swim very straight to begin with. My strokes felt long and strong in the water breathing every other stroke occasionally switching sides. My goggles started to fog up with about a 300 to go.

This is one reason I don’t like to start out front on the swim because I like seeing people in front of me so I know where to go. I curved in to the shore at this point and could see the stairs where people were getting out. I swam up until my hand it a stair and one of the volunteers pulled me up. I ran up pasted the wet suit strippers to transition. My wet suit is an xterra sleeveless capri suit so no need for anyone to rip it off of me. Lots of people lined the way to transition cheering and taking pictures. It’s so fun! I saw my parents and boyfriend, Austin!! I ended up getting second overall out of men and women out of the water. If the swim was longer I would’ve caught the guy in front of me!

T1 = 00:04:00

This transition was little on the slow side but the run to T1 is rather long from the river. I threw my wetsuit off, got my socks, cycling shoes, and helmet on. My helmet was tight since I didn’t try it on with my braids during set up. So I learned my lesson on that one. My bike was fairly close to the entrance from the swim so I had to run it alllll the way down to the other side to start the bike. I held my bike by the seat (which I’ve been practicing) and it was an easy run to the mount line. I mounted my bike and off I went!

Bike = 02:41:28

My goal for the bike was to keep my heartrate between 152-158 rpm and to be faster than I was last year. This was my first race with my new aero helmet (White Giro Aerohead Mips) and race wheels (404 on the front and disc on the back). I was worried about the ventilation in the helmet because the first place to get hot and start sweating on my body is my head. No idea why, maybe because of swimming and you never really notice how much you sweat in the water. Also, I took the helmet out for a test ride the weekend before and it fogged up almost the whole time so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. Thankfully it was foggy for maybe 15 minutes around miles 10-15 and then was clear the rest of the way.

My heartrate was pretty high at the beginning of the bike with all the adrenalin from transition but I was able to settle in to around 160 for the first 5 miles, then I was able to get it below 158. It has always been a struggle for me on the bike to break that 160 threshold. Since, I started towards the front on the swim I knew tons of people were going to pass me and I didn’t want this to impact my race plan. I let them pass and thought to myself, “I would get them on the run”. Another reason to stay in that heartrate zone is because of how hot it ended up being that day. Maybe on a cooler day I could’ve pushed the envelope but I knew if I stayed above 160 it would make for a rough run. Other than going up hills I was able to stay below 158 and came out at the end with an average heartrate of 157.

The game plan for nutrition was to drink 2 bottles filled with water, a scoop of carbo pro, and 1.5 scoops of Gatorade endurance, 1 bottle of water, and grab bottles of water on the course to chug and splash on myself. I drank almost everything except half of the last water bottle. I ate a GU at mile 5, 15, 25, 40, and 50. I was supposed to eat a cliff zbar at mile 35 but only got a bite in before I dropped it, whoops! Luckily, I had an extra GU to eat at mile 50 so I didn’t let this bother me too much. Looking back on my nutrition I don’t think I drank enough, I didn’t have to pee at all on the bike or run. It felt like the first day of summer on this ride. I hadn’t been training in heat like this and my body knew it.

The ride is beautiful, rolling hills on the way out and super-fast on the way back. I enjoyed it and stayed positive throughout the whole ride. I like to ride with a high cadence around 95-105, not sure if this is the way to go but it’s what my legs do. When I hit mile 30 my body felt great and I was sticking to my plan. Around mile 45 I was ready to get off my bike and start the run. My body didn’t feel bad or anything just ready to move on. I averaged 21.14 miles/hr, fastest I’ve ever gone by myself and in a race! My time was 15 mins faster than last year and was 7th overall in my age group. This was a huge improvement but there is still a lot of work to be done.

T2 = 00:02:27

I was feelin’ T2. Before I got to my area, I forgot to stop my watch and tried to stop it as I was running with my bike. Probably not the smartest thing, since I almost ate it but I caught myself! Ran almost to the end to get to 1024 and quickly took off my shoes and helmet. Put on my calf sleeves, running shoes, and grabbed my visor (that had my race bib hooked to it) and 2 SIS gels. I like these gels for the run because you can easily get them down without water. They are more of liquid than a gel.

Run = 1:42:05

On the first mile of my run I saw my amazing coach Meg!!! She is one of the best cheerers I’ve ever heard. You’d never miss her. This is my first season with a coach and she has helped me grow so much. I was able to meet with her the week before this race and work out this race plan. So far I had stuck to it 100% and now I just needed to execute it on the run.

One word about this run, HOT! I knew it was going to be hot like last year and I mentally prepared myself. The plan was to stay in my Z3 160-167 no matter the weather. To stay in this zone, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run as fast as I wanted. Obviously everyone was facing the heat too; it wasn’t only me that needed to slow down to maintain a race plan. Unfortunately, I missed the first aid station. There were too many people around me and I couldn’t get to the volunteers quick enough. Next time, I knew if no one was ready for me I would just help myself at the tables.

However, I didn’t love this option. I didn’t want to slow down at all because once I stop or slow down I might not be able to start back up. At the remaining aid stations I grabbed water at every single one, coke and Gatorade at a few, and sponges on sponges on sponges. The cold sponges are my favorite! I literally grab as many as I can and stick them everywhere. I had my SIS gel at mile 4 and mile 9. I also took in salt around the same miles. I think this helped a lot, not that I cramp easily, but it was extremely hot out and I’m sure I was losing a lot of salt by the minute.

I honestly didn’t really think about how my body felt on the run. Mainly because I have been having some shin problems and if I gave it thought then it would become real. I tried to have fun and only focus on my heartrate. A girl in my age group passed me around mile 6 and I kept her in my view. I asked Austin what place I was in when I ran past and it was 4th. I thought to myself if I pass this girl I could get 3rd. Little did I know she started way behind me on the swim, so there was no way I could pass her (time wise). In my overheated state, I did not come to this conclusion. I caught up to her at mile 12 but she knew who I was and blew past me. It literally took everything I had to catch up to her but I couldn’t hold on. My last 2 miles ended up being my fastest splits which is all I could’ve asked for.

After crossing that finish line, I was so relieved, happy, exhausted, and a million other emotions. Thankfully, a volunteer dumped a bottle of water which was just what I needed. I ended up getting 6th in my AG on the run.

Final time = 4:43:06

I don’t think I could’ve had a better race, 4th AG, punched my ticket to worlds in Nice, France and got to race with my best friend who completed her first half ironman! There is no way I would’ve accomplished my goals without the help and support of the all3sports elite team, my Atlanta Triathlon Club family, my amazing coach Meg, and my family and boyfriend who have a heart attack every time I race.

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