Onwards... Chattanooga 70.3

While not as tricky as the infamous back-to-back weekends, two 70.3s within two weeks is another type of adventure in itself. Now add in a 15-hour training weekend between the two and you've got yourself set up with a pretty solid three week block.

The start of my 2017 season has been all about patience and trusting the process. It has been really, really, really hard—not going to lie. For starters, I did myself a huge disservice by not training at all this past winter. And then life at altitude has seen me just throw all paces and power out of the door and just start anew. I spend a good amount of time swimming and riding with much better athletes than me and wonder if I too will ever get there.

But these days I'm truly approaching training in a way that I haven't yet during my entire six year career in triathlon—and it's frustrating and inspiring and exhausting all at the same time. 

While the amount of quality, focused training I have put in since coming back on March 1st has been solid, when you're in the thick of training and on little rest, the glimmers of light from behind the clouds are there—but still quite faint. Some days things come easy and I feel stronger than ever and almost like I'm on the cusp of something amazing. And then literally the very next day I find myself in the very last seat on the struggle bus, wondering whether this is all worth it.

I was running in the pouring rain yesterday (yes - two days after a race still calls for a 9-mile run immediately following a hard swim, apparently) and this guy just shook his head and smiled as I splashed past in the puddles. I decided to save him the trouble: "I know, I know—I'm CRAZY!" I yelled as I ran past, hands gesturing wildly, grinning ear to ear.

These days I'm trying to push the sub-optimal races and workouts to the back on my mind and instead spend my energy trusting that there is method to the madness and that it will indeed pay off.

One of these days I know it will. Going into Chattanooga without a taper and on solidly tired legs, I knew the chances of that happening were slim. But, still, it would be nice to have an okay race and not thoroughly embarrass myself by slogging through the run. 

So without further ado, my 2017 Chattanooga 70.3 race recap:

They got us in the water a reasonable five minutes before the start, when the pro men went off. It was perfect temps, no wetsuit and only felt like a minimal current as we warmed up. Without much advance notice, they instructed us to the start, and there were still women swimming up to the start line when they called 30-seconds to go. No count-down, no creeping up on the start line—just the cannon and a send-off to our day. It was a bit startling without any advance notice, but also very sensible—in a weird way, I liked it. 

Apparently, the pro women "struggled" with the upstream swim so they ended up sending off all of the age groupers downstream instead of the short upstream portion. I actually didn't notice anything unique about the current, other than the first 300m upstream took a little longer than normal—that's about it. 

I stuck with the first main pack up until the first upstream buoy and then when we turned to head downstream—BAM! They were gone. And then I spent the next 1500m swimming solo trying to find the group that had better buoy-turning skills than I did. 

The good news is that staying with the group to the turn was sustainable and easy. The bad news is I don't know what happened that they shot away from me so quickly after that first turn to head downstream. Maybe I need more open water practice? I dunno.

Onto the bike, the first hour or so felt surprisingly easy. I found another female pro setting a good pace and tried to keep her in my sights, though she was often 200m+ up the road. Still, that carrot was good and kept me honest about a strong, steady effort. Once we got into some of the punchier climbs, however, I realized my power was a little too unsustainable and that I was more holding on for dear life than using her as an effective pace setter.

So I dropped back and settled into my own rhythm. 

Somewhere around the 20-25 mile mark, Kim Schwabenbauer came by and, again, I tried to go with—but that was just not happening. I did keep her in my sights for a good 10-15 minutes or so though and also watched a certain ITU female pro have the same idea as me—but it actually worked for her and she latched on... hard. Literally. An invisible 1m bungee cord. 

Normally I just roll my eyes at drafters but this was some of the most blatant drafting I've ever witnessed. So I tried to wave an official up the road as to the situation but pretty sure nothing happened because of it. Oh well. (also to be clear, Kim had nothing to do with it.)

I also witnessed the FOP AG/EMJ train roll by just before Chickamauga, which was hilarious and made me thankful that I no longer race the draft-fest that is age group racing and gave me a good group to chase for a few minutes before, yet again, I got dropped. 

I'm getting really good at getting dropped by faster athletes, y'all. 

Came in a little too hot into T2, but that's pretty standard.

Onto the run, the first three miles felt weirdly good. And HR was in a good place. Knocked out low 7s for the first three miles, no big deal or effort required. Granted, some of those were downhill, but still. I was cruising and crushing it.

Until I suddenly wasn't.

I imploded. It was not pretty by any means. I don't know if it was the fatigue in my legs from training through this race or the lack of taper or just the lack of fitness in general but it was UGLY. Like hang-my-head-in-shame ugly.

However, I stuck with it and pumped my body full of (terrible for you) red bull and coke, hoping things would turn around. Spoiler alert: they did not. Every so often I would feel better, or I did get a great second wind around the 10-mile mark, but ultimately it was just a downhill spiral of a run. Melt-down on melt-down on melt-down.

But, I stuck with it. And finished with an okay but not great mental attitude and then rode 60 miles the very next day because that's what we do. I'll get to strugglebus through Ironman Boulder in three more weeks after another solid block of tough training and then it's onto Ironman Canada where I PRAY all of this comes to something productive because, honestly, it's getting a touch discouraging.

I'm not going to lie, it SUCKS to have two 1:4X half-marathons next to my name in the results. I want to dial up Ironman and say, "GUYS, can I please have an asterisk next to my run split here? I wasn't tapered and I ran hard two days before the race. Something!" And of course that's just ridiculous.

But also 70.3 racing isn't my forte to begin with so hopefully all of these racing-training days will pay off when it comes to the longer stuff—though I'm scared about potentially having to slog through a full 26.2 miles without any pep in my step, versus only 13. Hopefully it will not come to that. 

So that was my Chattanooga 70.3 race report. I hope you enjoyed it—though I'm sure you did, because reading a bunch of silly nonsense has to be more way enjoyable than flogging yourself to close to five hours straight when you're already dead tired. Finally, don't get me wrong - I love it, but I would love to be actually crushing it instead of just surviving. Soon enough.

Peace out, y'all.