This was my debut at the half Ironman Worlds, since the previous times I qualified for this event, it conflicted with my schedule and/or work. I was thrilled this event was also brought back to the U.S. after being held in Europe and Australia over the previous years. And with the location being Chattanooga, I could drive there, even though it was going to be a long haul from PA! Adding to the adventure, I stayed at a hotel en route that was being renovated, which was NOT advertised on the website.
The weather forecast looked absolutely fantastic for this race – no chance of rain and temps starting in the 60s and going to mid 70s. For TN, this was COOL. I had been to Chattanooga before for their full Ironnman, but for this race, they really went all out in making this a world-class event.
There still wasn’t much room in the transition area though, sadly. This is my bike with what looks like a lot of room on either side, but what you don’t know is that those spaces are for two other bikes on either side.
The start of this race would be slightly different that most 70.3 swims, as the WTC decided to make this a self-seeded swim start where a few people start at a time, time-trial style. Part of the swim was upstream in a fast-flowing river. I decided to start a few minutes back for the front, as I’m not a ‘first out of the water’ swimmer, but I also wanted to see if I could hang on some quick swimmers’ feet. In the end, this was a perfect spot for me and I was able to draft a little and also get some clean swimming in, away from chaos. The upstream part of the swim did not seem bad to me, despite my original expectations. (Swim Time: 32:42)
The first transition was a maze of chutes and turns lined with carpets, but some of the carpets were joined with duct tape and I slipped trying to run and down I went! I landed on my hip and wondered if that would come back to bite me later. I guess I’d find out! I didn’t drive any part of the bike course, although I knew from the maps the first climb would be pretty brutal, and it was! 3-Plus miles up to the top of Lookout Mountain. This was a small chain ring climb, but I paced myself and passed several ladies in just that section. I thought that was the only major climb of the ride, but there were other long drawn-out uphills. I passed a few more ladies and then found myself riding alone, for a long while. After some nice downhills and other rolling hills, I hit the flat section going back into town. One of the ladies I passed earlier came by me here as did another strong rider, but besides these two, I was again by myself. (Bike Time: 2:48)
Into T2, I felt good, but you never know until your feet hit the ground and once I got a mile in on the run, I felt a little fatigue and hoped the hills wouldn’t be bad. No luck there though – the first 6 miles had 2 two significant hills that made me feel like I wasn’t going anywhere up them. The only thing I could tell myself was to not work too hard since I’d have to do the same 2 hills again on the second lap! Once again, I found myself mostly alone on course, with a couple ladies going by me who were Professional. I made a couple passes of athletes I remembered from the bike, but other than them, I didn’t have much to set my focus on. But in the last mile, which was almost all flat or downhill, I saw one or two ladies not far in front. It was hard to judge the distance, but one was getting close to the finish area. I decided to floor it and see if I could catch them – and, shockingly, with everything I had, I went by them and then promptly lost whatever I drank on course across the finish!! It’s rare to have a race where you can really pace well and then still have enough to lay it down at the end, and this was one of them. I was thrilled to see later I finished 6th in my Age Group in a pretty amazing field athletes. It was a nice result after a lot of fitness gains on the bike and a challenging course. (Run Time: 1:39, Total time: 5:05)