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Chattanooga being my high school alma mater (Baylor 1999) makes a great excuse to go visit “old friends” and get a race in at the same time. Unfortunately, this race coincides with Regatta Time in Abaco (RTIA).  I decided that since I’ve done RTIA several (7?) years in a row I would skip this year all together (dehydration due in part to boozing after a partial regatta last year was the main reason for a total miss – see last years race report).  I flew into TN on the Tuesday before the race to get acclimatized to the extreme altitude and heat.  Ok it’s only 680 ft ASL but that’s still about 3 times higher than our largest hill in Cat Island.  The heat however was a factor, with record high temperatures being recorded the weeks before, with heat indexes in the 110’s.  Walking outdoors was like walking into a furnace – a blast of heat, albeit a bit dryer than our heat.  Still not fun – a warmup run, bike, and swim in the week before the event would prove how difficult it could get.

After seeing me and everyone else suffer last year, Kevin also decided to sign-up for this years event.  Seems logical!  It was great to have someone else in the race and I also stayed with him and Katie for the week I was there (many thanks!).

Traveling with a bike is not easy but it’s also not difficult. I had checked my bike through on AirTran – they were the same price as Delta to Atlanta but wanted $50 each way for the bike vs $150 each way on Delta! Proper packing of the bike is crucial, and one can even get things like shoes and a helmet in there to save on checked or carry-on luggage.  Upon checking into AirTran I had to explain to a few people what the case was and what I wanted to do with it.  They tried to stick me with the additional bag fee, the overweight fee, and the bicycle transportation fee but I was able to convince them it was a flat fee of $50 – so I purchased it round trip to prevent any further hassle upon return.  It then has to go down to oversize baggage, where the guy thought it had to be a unicycle because there was no way a bike could fit into the box.  After he scanned it he must have realized his error, because it showed up on the other end, hand delivered because it couldn’t fit on the baggage carousel.  Along the way several people asked me what was in the box – but surprisingly customs did not even open the box on my return, although I did have it pre-authorized to leave and return.  All in all not a bad experience and for $100 vs $50-100 for a rental, plus it was good to have my own bike there.  I also had it tuned and a basic fitting from HUB Endurance, a local bike tri-shop in North Chattanooga, while I was there.

Our pre-race week consisted of a 3 mile or so run, a 10 mile bike ride after the bikes were tuned, and a 20 minute or so swim in the very warm (and cooler in patches) lake water by the Chickamauga Dam.  The weather was a constant factor – the week of was hot, but the Sunday was showing slightly cooler temperatures starting out in the high 70’s in the morning gaining to the mid 80’s by noon.  Eating healthy was an after-thought as the restaurants in Chattanooga are very good, especially the newer “trendier” ones.  Lupis, Crust, Urban Stack, Taco Mamacitas, Terminal Brewhouse, Bluewater Grille, The Blue Plate & of course Waffle House are just a few that come to mind.  If you want to hear more about the local restaurants, I recommend taking the Chattanooga Ducks tour as the guide knows just about every restaurant in the downtown area!  You should take it anyways because it was fun and informative, the kids (young and old) loved it, and Brecken and I got to drive a dukw!

After the tour we headed down to the expo to pickup our race numbers and check in etc.  There was a shirt and water bottle in the bag but not much else save for advertisements.  For the entry fee I was a little disappointed.  We walked around the expo for a bit and I purchased a $24 running hat (ouch), which would become priceless after Katie and I were done with it!  If you notice in the run I am sporting a Bahamian flag – this was my craft project for the night.  Katie also managed to sew up an awesome Bahamian flag!  Such great support this race has!

OK fast forward to race morning – Kevin and I woke up around 5:30 for our coffee and breakfast, mine consisting of a peanut butter, banana, and honey on an everything bagel.  We had prepared everything the night before and we biked the 2 miles or so, mainly downhill, across the bridge to the waterfront.  We had a great location for transition – due to an error on people’s time trial swim entries we were ranked 43 (Kevin) and 54th out of about 1100 people for the swim start!  We were in the first row after the swim which made our racks easy to locate.  We walked up to the start around 7am, where we met Hamish just out and about on a 6 mile run (he was not participating in the tri). I mosied over to the portapotties and waited in line there for a good while, even considering the number of them they had.

The swim start was delayed until around 7:45 and then was a bit confusing because people who had erroneously entered their swim times wanted to be boosted up, so they had combined them under certain numbers and given them pink swim caps or something, but I think I started in the right time slot!  Upon walking down the plank to the dock we ran into Zach of Fast Break Athletics, a fellow class of ’99 that was volunteering.  The actual in-water swim start was a difficult concept for some, as the people in front of me didn’t go so I just started around them.  The swim down river was pleasant – I made sure to take my time, breathe regularly and bilaterally, and to extend my stroke out as long as possible.  I knew I could go faster here, but I opted for comfort, long strokes, and decent speed in order to save my energy for the rest of the race.  Kevin admitted to going out a bit fast here and had a great swim but it hurt him on the rest of the race.  I ended up completing the 1500m swim with a time of 22:42 which beat my time from last year, not bad considering the lack of swim training recently!

The transition from the swim takes you out of the water and up some stairs to the park.  I heard the crowd yelling and recognized a few voices and saw a few people I knew, and heard someone calling my name that I didn’t know!  I think it was one of the parental units on Kevin’s side.  As I was running into my aisle for transition I saw Kevin headed out, and then back in again, much to the race officials dismay, but he had forgot his gu and headed back out.  I had a decent T1 time of 2:58 – while I think I could be faster, I tend to take my time and put on socks, and make sure I have everything to start out the bike leg.

The 26.1 mile bike leg started out well – always nice when a $5000+ bike is right in front of you and can’t perform a running mount.  Not to say mine was pretty – but I was off and clipped in long before him.  Of course he passed me – along with just about everyone else.  Having a strong swim and a good start time is great, but demotivating on the bike portion – a common occurrence.  The bike leg seemed to go by faster than last year, probably because I knew the course and what to expect.  There are about 6 or 7 long uphills with long downhills.  I tried to hold aero and remain in my seat as much as possible, utilizing the gearing to keep me in the 70-90 cadence range.  Depending on the inclination, I would be from 7-12 mph on the uphill, and from 28-38 on the downhills.  As I got more comfortable with the downhills I started pedaling hard down and passing people, again only to get passed on the uphill!  I managed to successfully use my new tri-bar mounted water bottle as well as to refill it from my secondary bottle.  This year I managed to get a gu down and both bottles, this helped out on my run.

I had no mishaps until the very end, when on the last hill in the city I dropped the chain on the way down.  I fixed it, and went off again, only to drop it on the final gentle downhill into the finish – I decided to ride it out and coast to the finish.  I think I neither gained nor lost time with that decision.  I did confuse Katie quite a bit as she was waiting with the camera, but I was so slow at that point I had time to explain it!  I dismounted at the line and ran the bike in.  My bike time was 1:34:12, about a minute faster than the previous year – but I felt much better coming off the bike and into transition.

T2 was 1:22, a fairly fast transition time especially for me!  Coming out of transition I heard the crowd roar – about 15 people had gathered to cheer on Kevin and I (who had passed through about 10 minutes before me).  While extremely motivating and an awesome sight, it pumped me up so much that I took off too fast.  I felt the Achilles tendon in my left leg tighten and then shoot pain all around the area, and realized it was going to be one of two things: run it out or fall over trying.

Luckily it only took about 4 miles to ignore the pain!  I wanted to hold 9 minute miles and to walk through the water stops.  The aching Achilles was not having the 9 minute mile pace and I dropped to about 10 minute miles to accommodate it, being careful not to put too much strain on my good right tendon.  By this time the run was HOT. It must have been in the mid 90’s.  I was drenched with sweat before I started drenching myself with ice water.  The girl with the hose was a nice touch too – the mister system on the way back was a bit of a let-down.  The water stations were well staffed with volunteers, water, ice water, and Powerade (basically high fructose corn syrup!).  I ate a gel at one of the first water stations.

The first mile of the 6.2 mile course is tough – immediately leaving transition you start up a long not-so-gentle hill, which then goes down and hits some stairs to come up and over the same road you were just on to continue going uphill for a while to a steep down to the first mile marker.  After that the course is relatively flat with some ups and downs, until you reach back to the last mile or so.  Then its brutally back up that steep hill (ran first half, walked second) – thankfully there is a station with iced towels to help you at the top of the hill.  Then its back down the stairs (painful again) and up the hill and down the long slope to the finish.

I drudged along at my 10 min mile pace into the finish picking up a bit towards the end – then saw my crowd cheering and hollering and got that wave of energy and took it up a notch – I glanced down and the watch was reading a 7 something pace, but this wasn’t very far to the finish, a couple hundred meters at most.  A cold water was handed over and the timing chip stripped, and I wandered around looking for everyone.  There was no finish time displayed, I assume due to the time trial start, so I really had no idea what time I had completed the course in.  My run ended up being 1:04:30, which is about a 10 minute mile if you factor in walking through the 5 or 6 water stations. My run time was about 9 minutes faster than last year, which I was happy with, although I could have gone faster without the tendon issue.

My results, and comparing them to 2011:

2011 2012 Difference
bib number: 139 54
age: 29 30
gender: M M
location: Nassau Nassau
division place: 54 out of 62 62 out of 92
gender place: 634 out of 783 379 out of 618
time: 03:18:27 03:05:42 00:12:45
pace: 00:00:00 00:00:00 00:00:00
swim: 23:50:00 22:42:00 01:08:00
t1: 03:59:00 02:58:00 01:01:00
bike: 01:35:11 01:34:12 00:00:59
t2: 02:03:00 01:22:00 00:41:00
run: 01:13:27 01:04:30 00:08:57

I moved from being in the 19th percentile to the 39th percentile of the gentleman, so I was happy with that increase.  I would have liked to have been under 3 hours – but I guess that leaves me with a goal for 2013!

Overall a great race, well organized and supported.  The weather seems to be a consistent factor and it is a very tough course.  I overheard a guy on the run talking about how he had done a half-ironman a few weeks before, and because it was cooler and flatter, the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon was more difficult!  I look forward to next year, and to a freak bout of cool weather.  Perhaps next year we can convince Hamish and some others to get out there with us!

1 Comment so far »

  1. by Sage LaJoie, on July 12 2012 @ 8:30 pm


    Awesome job Lee, nice improvement over last year! Looks like a great race (I mean, for those people who actually do triathlons… not me!)
    So, just a couple of things stuck out to me… $50 each way for the bike on AirTran… that’s a bargain! Good to know (for if I ever do a triathlon again!) And peanut butter, banana, and honey on an EVERYTHING bagel?! That is truly disgusting! On whole wheat bread, on a plain bagel, even on an English muffin… but an everything bagel??? I think I just puked a little in my mouth.

    Congrats again on a great race!

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