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A few months ago, after I decided it was time to have a “season”, I set this event as an “A” race, and my first Olympic Triathlon. Well, I knew I was coming off Abaco Regatta and decide that regatta would count as taper. Mistake to be learned although predicted. Off I went and registered and booked my ticket into Atlanta to drive up to Chattanooga. I have many good friends in Chattanooga from my Baylor days, and some supplier factories I could visit, so I made this into an athletic/personal/business trip. An excuse for a(nother) vacation really!

I arrived on the Friday before the race, met my friend Hamish for lunch, and drove to Chattanooga. I went to check into my hotel and the reservation wasn’t there, it was moved to another hotel far out of town. An honest mistake, and not a big deal. I called Kendra to figure out what the evening plans were, and she kindly offered up her couch, where I ended up for the weekend! Funnily enough, she works at Baylor, so I stayed at my old boarding school, although it has been very much updated since I was there. We spent a good two nights catching up with friends such as Hannah, Katie, and Yasmine, and Hamish who came up from Atlanta and joined us as well.

Enough with the weekend niceties, on to the race!

Saturday we went to a delicious breakfast at the Blue Plate and that happened to end around noon when registration opened, so I got all setup right there and then. Registered, checked out the expo for a bit, then went to get my bike. Suck Creek Cycle was the only game in town that had a racing bike for rent that I could find. They were very friendly and set me up with a Fuji Newest 3.0 I believe. They added my tri bars, pedals, and seat for me. They were very friendly and let me know they were going to be on the race course the next day if I needed any help. I took the bike back downtown to the pre-race Q&A and then drove the bike course. This is where my nerves started kicking in, for those who saw my facebook post. The course is basically out and back along the highway, with constant massive hills. The only flat part is the top of each hill. 25 miles of this? Nerve-wracking to think about. I head back, take my bike for a ride, and find I can’t shift into the big ring. Not too much of an issue based on the hills, but would be nice to have them on the downhill. Nothing I could do about it then. Everything else seems good to go. I settle down and we head up Signal Mountain for dinner and a movie, and around midnight we’re back at Baylor and I’m prepping for transition which I probably should have done earlier!

Sunday morning came early (especially since BTC decided to release all text messages to me at 1:45am). 5:30am rise, some coffee, a clif bar and a banana, and Hamish and I were off to the race. He dropped me next to transition and went off to park. I ran into Kevin who had been waiting around for me to show up, guess we were a little later than he planned! Kevin helps me finds a bike mechanic and with a few turns of a few screws has me shifting into the big ring again, which would definitely help later. I mosied off to transition to get ready. TWICE the day before I had thought “I should go find my rack space” and TWICE I did not. So it took a minute to find it. I probably should have remembered where it was, which side I racked on, and how to get in and out too! I setup for transition and headed back out. Hamish and I walked up to the swim start instead of taking the bus. If you do this race, I’d recommend the walk, it warms you up and the sun rise over the river is nice, much better than tri sardines in a yellow can.

The swim for the event takes place in the Tennessee River, from the UTC crew dock to the transition area in downtown Chattanooga, 1.5km away. The swim start was by number, and done by your submitted swim time. I was bib # 139, with my submitted time of 1:30/100 I think. Interesting start: you line up by number, then slide into the water, ooch down the dock, and start by number. Much cleaner than a wave start. I ease into my swim, don’t push it because I know there’s a long race ahead, and the swim is only a small portion. I can’t see my watch in front of my face to read what time I started or how long I’ve been swimming, so I just swim. I tried to follow the bouys on the outside where most of the current was, although not much. I passed a few people and got passed by a few people, but overall there wasn’t much fighting, and the swim went smoothly. At the end of the swim there were volunteers pulling us out of the water onto a platform, then a run up the stairs and into transition.

I had been warned about this, and honestly it didn’t effect me, I had to stop myself skipping stairs and bouncing around, the swim hadn’t drained me at all. This was my first encounter with my awesome entourage, I saw Katie and, needless to say, heard Hannah. I also heard Hamish and saw him taking pictures. I should mention this is my official race photographer Hamish, who bounced around the course, especially the run. I entered into transition and apparently took my sweet time because 4 minutes later I was out of there, I think I should have been in the 2:30-3 range, but oh well. I hopped on the bike smoothly and headed out to the highway.

Quite literally, the highway. A short ride through town and then headed north on Highway 27. Even the bridges are sloped. Everything is a hill, meandering through the mountains. It actually turned out to be less evil than I had imagined, and once I got used to climbing hills and coasting rapidly down it was quiet fun. The mile markers started to pass by quickly. Towards the end of the race and up a climb, I think it was the one by Baylor, my chain did something funky and locked up, but working it back and forth I managed to get it together and start back up the hill again. I managed two guus and a bottle of water although I carried two. This would end up being my downfall.

I transitioned fairly well from the bike to the run, all things considered. I did manage to turn down the wrong lane, but realized my mistake, and corrected. Hamish would later point out I did this, and did it yet again when going to retrieve my bike after the race!

Coming out of the run I saw my growing entourage of friends and babies, and Katie acting as the perfect target for my cup of water to be disposed on (she’s lucky I noticed the camera and aimed low! sorry Katie!). What great motivation to see a Bahamian flag being held up on Independence Day! I felt good, started out a bit fast with all the adrenaline and race motivation, but dropped back as I hit the big first hill up the waterfront. I think I was initially holding about 10:30 miles which I was happy with. Made it up to the turnaround, while seeing Hamish leapfrog back and forth taking pictures, and started for home, feeling good. Until about mile 4, where I felt light headed, chills, and dizzyness. I slowed to a walk and made it to the next aid station and watered up, walked out to another large hill which I walked up and somewhere along there got a wet towel. With this I managed to run the last mile or so into the finish line.

It turns out that I was not the only one to experience such a problem. I have read several race reports online that have said the same thing. Some people would run for three or four minutes, and walk for 30 seconds, or a similar thing. Upon completing I also saw a few people hooked up to IV drips just after the finish line. I must say, I was pretty darn close! This is my first experience in “blowing up” (as its called in the tri world), and I have definitely learned from it.

But what a great finish to a race, down a hill, through the crowds and hearing my friends (and random strangers, which was initially confusing until I remembered my name is on my bib number!) cheering me on. I know I must have looked like a drugged tortoise! Immediately upon finishing I was stripped of my timing chip and handed a great ice cold bottle of water and a cold towel was placed on my head. Hamish practically carried me to a bench, where I had to sit for somewhere around a half hour getting cooled down and rehydrated. Then, the required beer. Funnily enough I had two free beers to get, and only got one. I must be getting old. Next year I’m moving up an age group!

I had planned on trying a half iron distance this fall, but I think I will hold off and get a few more Olympics under my belt. This race was definitely an eye-opener in terms of on course nutrition and hydration management, although basic, but I really need to practice it. I should have finished both waters on the bike, it definitely would have helped. Also, I think I will walk through the aid stations from now on, to give my body a small chance to cool off, especially in the longer, hotter races.

Many thanks to all my friends for the support in Tennessee! Especially to Hamish, my pre-race coach, on-the-course photographer, and race support! Thanks to Kendra for accomodations and great motivation, and to Hannah, Evan, Katie, Kevin and families throughout the weekend. Thanks to Jason and Yasmine for a wonderful post-race boat cruise and bbq night! Really, thanks to everyone over the past year or so for your support and motivation!

Here are the results:
Chattanooga Waterfront 2011 Results
Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon Official Website
Event photos by Kirk
Brightroom Photos

I hope to see a lot of the people reading this on September 25th, 2011!

1 Comment so far »

  1. by Kirk, on July 12 2011 @ 9:26 am


    Hi Lee,

    Congratulations on finishing the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon. I am a volunteer photographer for that event and every time I have the honor to shoot it I come away with more respect for those who can finish such a tough race.

    By the way, I have a couple of photos of you at the finish line. If you want them, they are absolutely free to you. (Please reference photos 8380 & 8381 when you write.) I’ll also be posting them on my site in the next day or two.(

    Anyway, nice job and congratulations on ALL of the races you have been competing in. (and on the 25 lbs you have lost!)

    Best Wishes,


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