I will start by apologizing for not having pictures from this race. I forgot to ask my brother to get some action shots.
Once again, I decided to open my season at Chattanooga 70.3. I had originally planned on starting the season earlier at a race such as Puerto Rico 70.3, but with the way our training camp fell in Vegas, I wanted to minimize flying as much as possible. This meant I was starting my season a little later than most pros, but I plan on racing as long into the fall/winter as possible.
Since I haven’t updated people in a long time, here’s a little synopsis of what’s been going on. The number one focus of the winter was getting healthy again. By the middle of last summer my body was completely rundown, and I struggled to even finish most races. The biggest change I made here was just eating more. While I wasn’t losing weight last year, my body was limiting production of other non-vital things such as testosterone and it was using the calories I was taking in to keep just keep up with minimums. This winter I gained a pound or two but I was able to train much more consistently and harder than what I was able to do in the summer last year.
This leads me into my training. For the most part, I put the run on the back burner eliminating nearly all “hard” runs and just focused on getting in the distance with a few short strides or hill sprints on the treadmill. This allowed me to put most of my intense workouts into the bike and a few swims each week. A typical week on the bike would include two 90 minute sessions (one with short high intensity intervals of less than 90s and one with longer intervals, but no longer than about 8 minutes), a long easy ride of about 3 hours, and a 3 hour ride that included more intervals in the 1-4 minute range.
Now onto race weekend.
My brother and I drove down to Chattanooga on Thursday which allowed for a few short workouts on the course both Friday and Saturday to get the body primed and ready to race Sunday.
Saturday there were a few groups out swimming in the river so I hopped in with them since there is always a bit more safety in numbers, and all everybody talked about was how strong the current was. They tried calming themselves by saying it was only because we were near the bridges and on race day the powers that be would lower the flow rate through the damn. You could tell though they were just trying to stay positive with some self-talk strategies as the panic crept into their voices.
The other hot topic of conversation on the event Facebook page and among the athletes and in the village was of the “100% chance” of thunderstorms and the nasty red weather radar. Sure enough at about 8 o’clock Saturday night the thunder and lightning started to rattle the roof of my hotel room.
Having lived in east Tennessee for a few years I knew the weather patterns here are highly unpredictable and can change in about 5 minutes. And so it came to pass. Come race morning we woke to wet roads but the rain had let up.
A quick sigh of relief until looking at the weather and once again the 100% chance of thunderstorms predicted for 7 o’clock, right in line with race start.
Having gone through a thunderstorm delay and eventual modification last year at Racine I had an idea of what to expect in the worst case. Come race morning, though, I always find it best to just stick to my normal routine as there’s nothing I can do to control these factors. So there’s no point in stressing about what I can’t control.
This next point is where things start to deviate from the perfect race set up.Pumping up my disc on race morning, I get it pumped up to my normal 90psi and when I remove the “crack pipe” from the valve all the air in the tube comes out with it.
SHIT! I tore the tube right where the valve attaches. This happened last year to Ang before Belwood, and I should have been prepared for this but I didn’t have any spares with me. So my transition set up started with me going to technical support for one of those slow butyl tubes.
With transition all set up my brother and I boarded the yellow school bus to drive ~1500m up river to the swim start. Sitting on the bus I have my second SHIT! moment. My brother asks what’s up and I tell him I forgot my timing chip. He asks if I need to go back to transition, and I reply “no I forgot it at the hotel.” I head to the swim start and Sportstats has an extra one for me. Whew!
With no opportunity to get in the water before the race I start a “dryland” warmup and go for a short run and do some drills to get everything moving. This is the third SHIT! moment –literally! My stomach had been really acting up the day before the race so I send my brother to stand in line for me at the port-o-john as I carefully try not to go in my trisuit.
Fast forward a bit and we finally get to get in the water 5 minutes before the gun is scheduled to go. I get in a few strokes and a few surges to get the heart rate up before we get called over to the starting line with 2 minutes until the gun.
This is when I realized it was going to be a tough swim. Last year we were able to scull forward and then float back to the starting line with the current. This year I actually had to put some effort into that sculling just to stay at the start line.
Good news: no one was false starting today!
The gun fires and off we go.
I feel my chip slide down calf and now it feels like I am towing a boat anchor into this current. My stroke feels like crap and I feel like I am just thrashing away in the water and going nowhere.I guess after seeing a lot of the pro males and females really struggling to swim upstream, race organisers decided to modify the age group swim and just let them jump in and shoot straight downstream to the finish.
If you go onto Slowtwitch there is a whole thread about the swim fiasco here, and a few pros say they didn’t notice the current. I don’t believe that at all. I’m estimating based on what the top age group swimmers did for just the downstream section, that my splits were probably about 8-9 minutes for the first ~350m and then 16-17 minutes for the next ~1600m.
Once we started to head downstream I found a bit of rhythm and some feet to sit on and cruise to the finish.
I exited the water a bit slower than last year, but with vastly different conditions, so who really knows? This year however, I was with a group of about 4 including Matt Russel, one of the pre-race favourites, so I just told myself “now the race is on” You’ve spent a lot of time on your STAC ZERO trainer and now is the time to use that fitness.” I was going to give everything I had to stay with that group.
After a slower than normal transition I knew I was going to have to work hard for the first few kms to settle into the group, and then probably work fairly hard for the first hour to hopefully stay with the same group and bridge up to the front. If we weren’t going to bridge by 60-90 minutes in it probably wasn’t going to happen. I mentally prepared myself for what was about to unfold.
Looking at my power file it turned out to be about 12 minutes of really hard riding with some hard surges as there are a few corners, a few hills, and a few rail road tracks all within the first few kms. My highest 5 min power occurred during this time where I averaged 250w from about 2-7 minutes into the race, and within that 12 minutes I had 9 spikes over 300w. To put this in perspective my goal was to be about 230w for the race.
After that things began to settle a bit as Matt pulled away. There were 4 of us left in the group as we picked one up along the way. I was sitting comfortable 3rd wheel. This is exactly where I wanted to be in the group. I had a safety net behind me, and even sitting back the legal distance you get a bit of a draft.
However, right around 30k things started to feel a little bit harder, and I made my first mistake on the bike. Being a weaker cyclist I was trying to stay right around the 12m behind mark, and we had a moto on us so I was trying to be extra careful. I know some people will say this is still drafting and isn’t fair, but I’m there to race and make money so I’m taking every advantage I’m offered within the rules.
On one of the downhills the guy in front of me reaches down to adjust his shoes. This sets off a series of events that leads to him opening up more than 12m to the rider in front of him, and moves me into his draft zone. I am now forced to make the pass or take a drafting penalty. I move over to the left as we aren’t allowed to sling shot, like in the age group race, and I put in a surge to go around him. I move back over to the right hand side of the road.
A few minutes later on a downhill, I didn’t have enough fat man speed to keep the gap consistent, so the rider re-passes and slots into the legal position. The onus is now on me to drop back to that 12m in 24 seconds.
This is where I got the penalty and it essentially ended my race.
On a rolling course like Chattanooga there is a lot of yo-yoing that occurs due to the terrain. The rider that passed me started the pass on the downhill, but didn’t get around me until the uphill. Stupid me! In the heat of the race I didn’t want to slow down too much on an uphill segment, and I think he eased off a bit as well so he wouldn’t go into the zone of the rider in front of him. This caused me to take a bit longer than acceptable to drop back.
I knew the moto was there, but I hoped he might give me a little leeway with the environment of the course at this point, but he stuck to the letter of the law. I heard the motorcycle rev up to come beside me and flash me the blue card.
One little hesitation on dropping back and my race was now essentially over. There are few people in this sport that can overcome a 5 minute penalty.
This was all at about 30k, and then the penalty tent wasn’t until about 55k. I tried to tell myself just stay in the group and ride with them until the tent, but a few momentary lapses in focus and motivation and then a small gap started to open.
At this point I decided I was no longer racing to race, but I was racing for redemption. I didn’t want to start this season the way the last one ended. I refocused and soldiered on to serve my penalty.
Five minutes is a REALLY long time to sit on the side of the road, and when you account for the time to slow down, unclip, start the watch, and speed back up it is probably closer to 6. I chit chatted with the volunteers in the tent as they asked me questions about the race, why I got a penalty etc. as I watched riders go past and checking the stop watch every 10 seconds. They marked my number on the bike with a big black slash of shame and sent me on my way.
The power dropped a bit over the last half of the course. Partially to fatigue, and I’m sure mental state played a big part, but I still managed to ride only about 90s slower than last year, and my average power was over 10w higher. So I can’t complain about that at all and shows that the hard work over the winter paid off.
The run was rather uneventful as I didn’t see anyone for about 15k. Crossing the bridge around 10k my brother said the guy up the road looked to be struggling so I found some extra motivation to dig a bit deeper. I reeled him in and at the same time caught sight of another athlete and that kept me going for the rest of the race.
Next up for me is Eagleman 70.3 in 2 weeks so the plan is to take this week a bit easier and get in some volume. Hit a few harder session on the weekend and early next week before heading to Maryland. Hopefully there I won’t be so naughty and still able to mix it up in the main field and in contention of the podium.
Big thanks for to all the sponsors that allow me to continue to race at this level. A super big thanks to a few in particular: STAC Performance, you have probably all heard of the sweet STAC Zero trainer, but keep your eyes open for the virtual wind tunnel; Franklin Terrazzo they have helped me from the beginning and if you want something cool and unique check them out: and Ziggy's Cycle for everything I need bike related.