Friday, May 25, 2018

IRONMAN Chattanooga 70.3 - LESS IS MORE

Oh where to begin on this race report.  I guess I need to start with how I ended up at Chattanooga 70.3 just months after finishing the Full IM there. 

So the Tri Club I belong to, Metro Tri Club, also known as Team Godzilla, chose the 70.3 IM at Chattanooga as the team event for the 2018 season.  After finishing the full IM just months before, I was not sure I would race because I knew how miserable the hills were on the run.  So what changed my mind, you ask, well 2 things, first, my daughter China said she planned to do it as her first Half Ironman race.  I know what you are thinking, at least if you know China, she hadn’t run a Tri longer than a sprint and she is going to do a half…hahaha, I laughed too.  Now that she was committed to racing, I couldn’t let her do it alone, your first half can be scary.  I still didn’t really want to race, but after reviewing the course maps, I realized that in the Half you didn’t have to run those awful hills that almost killed me in the full IM. So I was in, and China swore she was going to train for it.  I even gave her a training plan for a first timer. 

Fast forward to 20 weeks before the race and the start of the training plan. The training plan assumes you have a base already down.  Of course China did not have a base, oh she had run a few times, swam once maybe and rode her bike on a few short easy rides.  So when the plan started, China did not, there was always a reason, she was tired, the weather was crappy, well that was true, but that doesn’t stop a real triathlete. Then she kept getting sick, she teaches in a pre-k class and caught everything the kids drug in to the class room. Still not a good enough reason not to be training. 

Fast forward again to 6 weeks before race day. China starts swimming once a week, of course her time is faster than mine on the very first swim. She runs once a week, sometimes twice, most runs between 2 and 6 miles, yes faster times than mine.  She rides once a week with the Cyclery Women’s ride, between 10 and 25 miles at a 15 mph or less, mostly less, average. 

Keep that remote in your hand, we have to fast forward again.  2 weeks out from the race, China rides 50 miles with a little over a 15 mph avg, without any problem.  Swims in lake in wetsuit one time and runs 3 miles on a hot day. That was about it.
Now it’s race week and China doesn’t seem to be nervous, she says, “well I can do the swim and the bike, and walk the run if I have to”.  Her only goal was to finish under the cutoff. 

The Crewe, that’s all the people I work out with, loads up the SUV’s with bikes, gear and food and heads out to Chattanooga.  The weather forecast shows severe thunderstorms the night before the race and all day on race day. We all hope for no rain on the bike, it would make the roads slick and dangerous, especially for a first timer. 
Friday night we pick up packets and sit in compression legs to relax a bit. We get dinner with the Crewe, running into teammates along the way.  Team Godzilla had 27 members at the race. It’s always so much more fun when there are lots of people you know at the race.

A Little Relaxation before the Big Race

Saturday, we drive the bike course, eat breakfast at an awesome diner, and then head to transition to drop off our bikes, hoping the thunderstorms don’t roll in.  China still seems pretty calm, it must have been youth because I would have been a mental wreck had I trained the small amount like she had.  We continuously joked about her “less is more” training plan.  She kept telling everyone that they were going to be jealous when she finished the race using “less is more”.  It gave us old people hope that we could still beat the kids because they took nothing seriously. 

China hasn't realize how hard this will be yet
Enjoying Ironman villiage

So we drove out to Ironman village and checked the bikes in. 

Zilla's racking bikes (photo credit: Jeanna Clark)

Oh and China asked me if I would come back out of the run course after I finished and help her finish the run, so there was some fear there, even if she wasn’t showing it. Then we all met at the team tent and got a group picture before dinner. 

Team Tent, ready for action (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

Team Godzilla, Locked and Loaded

Dinner was at the Big River Grill and it was fantastic, 14 of us were there and my niece Kayla and her husband Caleb came with us.  I have to give a big shout out here to Caleb, he was gracious enough to take our team photos and he is awesome at it. 
This was Kayla and Caleb’s first Ironman race and they were new at Ironfanning.  They did Awesome during the race, they were cheering us on at every transition and taking photos and video.

So I was feeling pretty good, but while sitting at dinner on Friday my back started hurting it just hit out of nowhere.  Saturday, I got a massage at Ironman village and it felt better, but by Sunday morning it was really hurting again, so much so that I couldn’t hold my arm over my head.  I had no idea how I was going to swim, or even put my arms in the aero bars during the bike. Pre-race always seems to have some malfunction for me. 

On Sunday,we were up early, China, John, Jeff and I headed to the transition to get our gear laid out and get on the bus, that would take us to the start of the race.  Traffic was awful and it took longer than expected to get there.  We were in a rush and I was worried about China’s gear, I wasn’t really paying enough attention to my gear setup, which would slow me down later when I realized what I had forgotten to do.  Of course I was on the verge of exploding and had to run to the Johnny, which caused us to loose each other in the crowd of 3000 athletes plus spectators. It took a while for us to find each other and head to the bus.  I was beginning to panic, I didn’t want China jumping into the river without me there watching her.  Once we were back together, China, John, Jeff, Kyle and I were all the bus and ready to get to the start. 

Zilla's ready to rock (photo credit: Jeanna Clark)

At the start we ran into more Zilla’s all in different places in the starting line. We had to line up based on our predicted swim time, so Jeff went right to the very front, but China, John, Bill, Kelly, Jeanna and I were all in the same group, so it was fun chatting before the gun went off.  I got my hug from Bill, I have raced Ironman with Bill so many times, If I don’t get hug from him, I’m not sure how I can finish the race.
The swim course takes you up river for about 200 meters then you cross the river and head down stream to the finish.  On Saturday we saw a guy trying to swim upstream and he wasn’t even moving, so of course we were all really worried about the upstream swim section. 

Swim Course

It wasn’t long and the pro’s were in the water and we could see them swimming by. 30 minutes later we were on the dock ready to jump in.  

I saw that China was nervous for the first time, she had tears in her eyes and I hugged her, told her to jump in, pull the neck of her wetsuit open to get some water in it and just take it slow and get into a good stroke pattern.  I said “stop and breast stroke for a while if you need to calm yourself down”.  She was working on being brave, but I could tell she was scared.  I had planned on trying to catch her on the bike and staying with her for the rest of the race, but I had not told her that.  I looked over at John and mouthed that I was going to stay with her during the race.  He gave me that “you are a good mom” nod. 
China and I jumped off the dock at the same time, but when I came back up to the surface, some guy jumps right on top of me.  He hit me hard in the arm, the good arm, I’m not sure if his knee hit me or his foot, but I really thought my arm may have been broken.  It knocked me deep under the water and I was fighting to get my head out of the water and away from the dock.  At that point, I was freaking out hoping China got off ok, as my head surfaced, I saw China already swimming quickly away from me. I just started swimming, thinking the whole time “how the heck am I going to finish this with my arm hurting so bad”.
What my arm looked like after the race

I took off and once I made it to the downstream section, I figured I could just float down if my arm kept hurting.  Funny, I didn’t even think about the bad arm, because the good arm hurt so much.  I swam under all three bridges all the while keeping an eye on all the kayaks in case China was hanging on to one of them, but I never saw her.  She was out of the water 6 minutes in front of me. 

Feeling relieved to be out of the water (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

I made it to the ladder, got swam over by a couple guys, I guess they really needed to get out of the water before me, but finally was out of the water.  Shout out to the volunteers on the ladders, they pulled me out unzipped my wetsuit and pulled it off my shoulders, in just a split second.  As I got out of the water I heard people cheering for me, I saw Jeff’s girls and then Kayla and Caleb.  I felt relieved that I had made it out of the water.  I ran straight to the wetsuit strippers and they had my suit off in seconds and I was running up the hill to transition.  That’s when I realized I forgot to hit my watch.  So when I looked at my watch I knew my swim time was wrong, but even so, it was still a good time for me.

Out of the Water (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)
I ran into transition following Jeanna Clark, Tim Holland was just behind us and Mike Gonski was at his bike already.  China’s bike was gone so I knew she made it out of the water and was already out on the bike.

Running into T1 (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

My plan to be out of transition quickly faded, I was in such a frenzy when I was setting up in the morning, worrying about China having all her stuff and then making a mad dash to the Johnny, that I forgot to load the beano bag on my bike with all my food, so I had to do it in transition, it went pretty quickly though.  I headed for the bike mount line stopping to get sprayed down with sunscreen, btw, the volunteers double teamed me and I was coated with spray, the volunteers were great. I quickly got on my bike and took off. 
Bike Course Map, check out the elevation

I knew that there were two sets of railroad tracks that could take me out of the game in the first 8 or so miles, so I was watching for them.  I made it across both sections without a blowout or a lost water bottle. There were others, not so lucky at both sets of tracks. There must have been 50 lost water bottles on the ground.
I was riding at a very comfortable pace, not taxing myself much, staying around 17.5 mph.  It’s a beautiful bike course and there were so many people on it, that I was able to chat with other racers most of the time.  I kept riding wondering if I would catch up with China.  I am a faster rider than her for long distances, but she can smoke me in the short stuff.  I was really hoping she took my advice, when I told her not to go out too fast, because she would regret it later.  

I thought I saw her in the distance around mile 18, but there were several hills, so I didn’t catch up until mile 20.  When I pulled up next to her she was eating some shot blocks, I was glad to see she remember the advice we had all given her, about feasting on the bike.   She was in a good mood, even after multiple hills. I rode next to her for about 5 minutes and she said, “Mom, go on, I know you can ride a lot faster”, I told her that I had planned to try and catch her and finish the race with her. I got a smile out of that.  

So we rode more hills and finally came to the steepest of the hills. You turn a corner and BAM… you are hit with about a 12% climb, it’s not terribly long, but long enough to be really hard.  We saw a few people walking up the hill, but we planned to ride it.  China took off like a bullet, I was the tortoise, slow and steady.  China got to the top and slowed down and waited for me.  I rolled over the top and said “what the heck got into you”. She replied “I just wanted to get over it as fast as I could” and she did.  

Next up another water stop, it was starting to get hot so I told China to throw off any half bottles and grab cold full bottles at the water station.  I took the water I had left before the water station and squirted it all down China’s neck and back to cool her down.  We rolled through the stop without incident, China also grabbed a banana, but couldn’t get the peeling off, so she handed it to me, I peeled it and it handed back to her. She kind of had a Sherpa for the whole race. 

It wasn’t long and we hit mile 40 heading into Chickamauga, as soon as you get through town there is a 2ish mile climb, it doesn’t look big, but it is a grind, the good part is, there is a screaming downhill for a couple miles after it.  I did my best to pull China up the hill, to my surprise she did extremely well on the hill, I didn’t hear one complaint.  We rode past a guy who asked if we were friends, because we had the same kit on, China said “no that’s my mom”, the guy says “that is awesome”. We felt pretty Awesome.  

Heading into T2, happy to be finished with the bike (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)
We killed the downhill, rolled through the last water station and made the turn for the last 11 miles back to transition.  China started to pick up the pace there and we rolled into transition in good time.  Just as we rolled up, we saw Kayla and Caleb and Caleb was getting some good shots of us.  Keith Timmins rolled up, just as we were dismounting our bikes and the three of us ran into transition together.  

We both have our tongues sticking out, total concentration (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)
We were pretty quick through transition, I even stopped at the Johnny while China was stretching her calf that had started to hurt.  We both got sprayed down with sunscreen again, and were out on the run in about 6 minutes.  

Run Course
Heading out of T2 to the Run course (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

Run Out (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

We came across our family and all our teammate’s families, all cheering for us and taking pictures.  It didn’t seem long before we hit the big uphill into the sun.  It was hot, way hotter than we had anticipated.  So I told China we would walk the hill, we walked, but for only about 30 seconds then started running again.  We were already in need of a water stop, the first stop seemed like it would never come.  We got to the stop, I grabbed ice and poured it down China’s sport bra and in her hat, then did the same for myself, we grabbed water and some food and headed back out. 

I have to stop here and tell you, I really thought that China’s run would be a death march, but she was running a slow, steady pace, and she never complained.  If you have ever run with China, when something is hard she complains and gets angry, she is mad at the world and doesn’t want you to speak to her or even look at her.  I was surprised to see how happy she seemed and never once did she get angry.  She may have cried a couple times during the run, but she just kept pushing.  I stayed about 2 or 3 feet in front of her and she just hung on.  There were some really proud moments for me during this race. 
We were clicking off the miles and of course posing every time we saw a photographer on the course, one guy asked us after we passed the course photographer, if we had posed for him.  China said “you bet we did”. We must have had 10 people ask if we were friends or on the same team, with China always answering “that’s my mom” and me always commenting “It’s China’s first Half IM”.  Everyone out there was so supportive, it was the most fun I have ever had racing. 

When we hit the bridge, China says, “let’s run for the next 3 light poles then walk” when we hit the third light pole, she said, “oh heck, let’s just run all the way over the bridge", so we did.  We walked right before the switch back and then ran to the next water stop.
So China had a system at the water stops and it wasn’t a fast system.  We would walk at the start, then get water, oranges, and potato chips. Sometimes she would just have the volunteer put the chips in her mouth, so she didn’t have to touch them with her sweaty hands.  She would stop and eat them in the middle of the stop, chatting with the volunteers, then she would get to the ice and have me or the volunteer poor it down the back and front of her sports bra and in her hat.  Then if she had to pee, she would stand on the side of the Johnny and pee, then pour water down her shorts.  

If you are reading this and you are not a triathlete, I know you are thinking how disgusting, but we do it all the time in races, we pee in the water, on our bikes and during the run.  There are bathrooms, but they are hot and stinky and too slow to get your shorts down and up. Funny China always thought it was gross hearing about it, but when she was out there, she just didn’t care.  

We spent on average 3 minutes in each water stop, if she could cut that down to one minute, with 15 water stops, she would have cut 30 minutes off her run without much effort.  She sees that now, but she was having way too much fun to drag her out of them faster than she wanted.  I just thought, let’s make this as fun as possible. 

So we ran across the pedestrian bridge, made the turn and started the second loop.  Funny, China started picking up the pace at least from mile 7 to 10, I guess she got a second wind.  As we ran we saw Zillas everywhere, so we started cheering.  We saw Ty, then Mike, then Donna, Zillas were all around us and it was fun cheering them on.  At the Kona water stop China was soaking up the excitement of just a 5k to go to the finish, by then she knew she was going to make it and get across the finish line far before the cutoff time.  

China was pretty happy, so we talked about the finish line, I told her to enjoy it, high five everyone on her way through the finish chute and I told her to run across the line in front of me, so she could have a good pic of her first finish.  It seems like in a just a blink we were running down the hill and onto the red carpet. 

Hitting the RED CARPET (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)
Heading to the finish line (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

We took our time, giving high fives along the way, we waved at our IRONFAM, and strolled through the finish line.  I hugged China, so very proud of her, and got our finisher hats and medals. We stopped to talk to the IRONFAM and Caleb got some shots of use together. 
We Did It (photo credit: Caleb Wylde)

We then went through the finish line wickets, pictures in front of the Ironman wall, then over to the food tent. None of us could really eat though, China tried, but only got about 2 bites down. China was starting to feel the after affects setting in and she had some blisters on her feet so she had John pull her shoes and socks off and I found a chair for her to sit in.

(photo credit: Finisher Pix)
Leading up to the race the Crewe gave China tons of tips on how to have a good race, but we may have forgotten one, don’t wear crappy socks. China told me a few times in the last few miles of the race that she was getting blisters, and she did, and no wonder, when John pulled her shoes off, he saw she was wearing crappy socks, he shook his head and said “these socks will peel the skin off your feet, you need some good socks” China said “they already peeled the skin off my feet”…. Hahaha. I know those two probably thought the crappy socks were somehow my fault, but I swear she owns swiftwick socks. 
China ran into her friend Cheyenne from McKendree and they chatted about the race, it was her first half also, but she had actually trained well for it and rocked the race course. 

Cheyenne & China
John and I went and got all China’s gear together for her and brought it out of transition. Then headed back to the hotel for a shower.  Chatting all the way about the race and everything that happened.  China was tired, but happy.  China had to go home after the race, due to work on Monday, so she rode home with Caleb and Kayla, I’m sure laying in the backseat the entire way. 

I have to give a big Thank You’s to so many people.  First to Team Godzilla for making this such a fun event, it was kind of like a family reunion wrapped around a workout.  To Rhonda Grammer for pushing me during our morning runs.  To the Crewe for always being there for me, no matter how early in the morning it is.  To all the Crewe families that were cheering us on all day long. To Bill Peterson for telling me how awesome it will be to race with my daughter, he said it will be a memory that would last forever and I’m sure it will. To all the family and friends that followed us online the entire race and texted, emailed and FB messaged us after.  Most of all to our IRONFAM, Kayla and Caleb, for cheering us on, taking awesome photos and dragging China’s butt back to Illinois after the race. 

The IronFam with their Athlete
One last note, I have looked at the pictures that finisher pix took, they are good, but none as good as the ones Caleb took of us. 

As for CHINA, will she do it again… I think that is a question she will have to answer. 

Will She Do It Again #LESSISMORE

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ironman Chattanooga 2017

Ironman Chattanooga 2017

This adventure started like all others, or at least, in my eyes. I was bullied into registering for the race.  You may wonder who the bully was, but it’s not just one bully, it’s many, they go by the moniker of “The Crewe”.  They make you believe that if you don’t do an event, you will miss out on so much fun, it will fill you with regret for the rest of your life.  They make Ironman sound so appealing and fun, I think they may all be marketing experts secretly working for the Ironman organization.    
I sometimes equate Ironman to having a baby, it’s so painful and the lead up to it, is at least 9 months. The cost is outrageous and it doesn’t stop, first there is the entry fee, USAT membership, hotel bill, travel cost, bike maintenance, running shoes, tri kits, nutrition and then all the finisher gear you can’t live without.  The event is an awesome accomplishment and something you never want to forget, but the pain makes you say, I will never do it again.  The memory of the pain fades over time and before you know it, you are thinking well maybe it wasn’t so bad. Then you get the constant questions, when will you do it again and how many do you plan to do.  See, exactly like having a baby. The difference is, you can’t adopt an Ironman finish, at least with a baby, you can skip the initial pain by adopting, you can’t do that in Ironman. I guess Ironman is actually worse than having a baby.

The memory of the pain fades - 3 kids later
After I completed Ironman Lake Placid in 2016 with my worst IM finish time ever, I proclaimed my retirement, but somehow, here I was training for my 5th Ironman event. This is how it all went down, I was sitting at the bar at the 54th Street Grill, with my belly full of food, sipping on a half alcohol Margarita, (BTW, one half alcohol margarita and I’m dancing on the bar) when Sketchy (A Crewe member) says I’m going to sign up for IM Chattanooga right now.  I said “no way you will do it and if you do, well I will too”.  Of course I did not believe he would really do it, but then he did…and then I did.
That brings us to today, two days after the finish of my 5th Ironman Race.
So there I was, signed up for a race that I had not done any research on.  I quickly went into research mode and found out that the bike course was rather hilly, not as bad as Lake Placid, but not an easy course by any means.  I also found out that the bike course was 116 miles, rather than 112 miles. All I could do at this point was to go into panic mode.  What was I thinking, how did I let myself do this… I just kept kicking myself.  Of course I did not purchase the insurance, so I couldn’t even fake an injury to get out of it.  I would not waste $850, even if it killed me, I was in.
We were already behind on the 42 week training plan, so we had to jump right in, but since Jeff Germer and the Godfather were training for IM Florida, it gave us people to train with.  We would soon find out that Jeff would transfer to Chatt due to a scheduling issue with a family wedding.  That was a good thing for me and Sketchy, but a bad thing for the Godfather.  Now Jeff would be on our schedule and keep us honest to our training plan.  Godfather was kind of on his own now, but heck, he has done 33 IM’s if anyone can do it without oversight, it’s him.
As for the training, it went surprisingly well, except for the swim, I just felt like I wasn’t swimming enough, although we had more lake swims than ever, at least 4 months of only swimming in the lake. I’m not even sure what the pool looks like anymore. We were lucky, not only did we have the race crew to workout with, but Ray always showed up to swim with us, no matter how early we started the workout, we were like the Mod Squad.
I was finishing all my training runs faster than I had planned and still felt pretty good at the end of the run.  My long runs consisted of loops at SIUE, just as they had in the past, but we kind of switched the loops up, we were running the upper side of campus.  We still started at the church, but ran uphill 2 miles to the east side of campus and just stayed on top for most of the run.  Having the Crewe helped a lot, Ray, Russ, Carolan, Carl, Rhonda and Kyle frequently joined us for runs, misery always loves company.
The training Crewe
My bike training was also going well, we were riding SIUE loops again, most of the time starting at 4am, so there wasn’t much traffic for the first couple hours of the ride.  The loops took us through multiple hill sections that we dreaded, but in the end I really think that all of the hills during training really helped me in the race.  The rolling hills in the race didn’t seem near as bad as I had expected and I have to attribute that to all the hills we trained on.  Again, I have to thank Ray, Mike, and Brandon for joining Jeff, Sketchy and me on those early morning rides.
Training Ride with the Crewe
For anyone reading this post, if you plan on doing IM Chatt, my tip is to train on as many hills as you can, even if you have to do hill repeats.  If you live in the area, two places other than SIUE that would be the perfect course are Jerusalem Rd from the end of the Hamel trail to the Hazel trail and Pocahontas Rd from the end of the Marine trail to the highway.  These are both very similar to the Chatt course.
Overall I put the training in and should have been absolutely confident at the start of the race.  If you know me though, you know I was not confident, in fact I couldn’t stop worrying.  The week before the race was nerve racking, I sometimes thought I might break into tears just thinking about it.
Thursday came and we were off to the race.  John, Jeff and I drove to Chatt together and discussed the course the entire way there, not that it made me feel any better, because it didn’t.  I have to give kudos to Jeff and John, they did their best to reassure me that I was ready. Of course I figured they were just being nice and they were really thinking, “I guess we will have to drag her dead body home after the race”.  I guess they were right (don’t ever tell them I said that), I must have been ready because I’m still alive.
We arrived in Chatt just in time to pick up our packets and get a pic at Ironman village.

Arriving in Chatt
On Friday we went to the pre-race meeting, looked at the swim course, and drove the bike course.  We also spent some time sitting in compression legs, oh and let me tell you, it felt so good.
Oh how good it feels

A lot of Vitality at Ironman
We did a short ride from the hotel, we wanted to do a flat ride, but we were in Chatt, there was no flat, so not only was it boiling hot, but we had to ride hills in traffic, it was not our best idea.
The Ironfans showed up on Friday, Pam coming in early and China and Brandon showing up later that night.  Now we had our support crew intact and ready to work on strategy that would give us the biggest boost while out on the course.  Pam had maps printed and an itinerary with times and places to cheer from. I have never met an Ironfan so prepared.  
We hit Ironman village Saturday morning to do our bike and bag drop and get some more time in the compression legs. Of course we had to hit the Ironman store and spend way more money than we make in a week.  We all needed to be Ironman branded before we headed home.
Bike Drop
Oh and we raced the big Hoka, get this, he stomped all of us.  It was a bit embarrassing, but we got a free towel for doing it.  I wish I had a video of it, but I don't.
Saturday night brought an early dinner at the Waffle House then early to bed. I slept surprisingly well, of course waking up each hour to check the clock, always afraid I would over sleep.
I was up early and headed out with the rest of the Crewe to the bike transition, it was 4am, but felt even earlier. We put air in our bike tires, dropped our special needs bags and hopped on a bus to the race start.  It was a 10 minute bus ride to the start of the race, and a two hour wait in line before the first person would even enter the water.  The good thing was, lots of porta potties, the bad thing was, a long walk to get to them.  We all laid on the ground and waited. About 30 minutes before the race started China and Brandon showed up, Pam had been with us all morning.  

Getting ready to start

It was a very long line

I'm smiling on the outside only
China had a big picture of my granddaughter Emersyn on a pole that said “Goooo Gram!”

Emersyn Cheering me on
The water temp was 77.1 so it was wetsuit optional.  Jeff swam without a wetsuit, but then again, he is a fish, so he went in the water pretty early.  John and I wore a wetsuit, so we were one of the last people in the water.  I’m glad that I did though, it gave me piece of mind at a time when I was internally freaking out.  It looked like 400-500 people chose to wear the wetsuit.  In case you don’t know, if it is wetsuit optional, you can wear the wetsuit, but are not eligible for an age group award or a Kona slot.  Since I am not and never will be fast enough to get either of those, it wasn’t really a decision for me, I was wearing a wetsuit.

Jumping in
So we were all in the water and heading to the bike transition.  I felt pretty good in the water, I did stop twice and try to fix my leaking goggles. After the second try, I just decided to swim with one eye full of water rather than to stop again and try to fix them.  It didn’t really bother me much, and I felt like I was moving along pretty fast.  I never really got kicked much, the rolling start helps, I jumped in with about 6 other people, not 100 other people.  A couple times I was squeezed between two swimmers, but was able to work myself out pretty quickly.  Before I knew it, I was passing the island, then swimming under the first of three bridges, it was actually pretty cool. 
A view of the swim from the bridge
When I saw the red buoys at the finish, I was happy, they came pretty quickly and getting out of the water was the first of my goals for the day. Then when I looked at my watch and saw 1:02, I thought either I’m not seeing it correctly or my watch must have stopped.  I ran to the wetsuit strippers, grabbed my wetsuit and ran for my bike bag.  My IronFans were there waiting and yelled, you did a 1:02, I couldn’t believe it, the time I saw was right, it was my fastest swim ever, and I felt good.

Running for Transition to the bike
I was a little slow through transition, but I wanted to make sure I had everything and was ready for the ride, coming out of the tent to the bike, I heard that John was only about 3 minutes in front of me.  I jumped on my bike and headed out, but I did have a fear of having a mechanical on the course.  I had to have my bottom bracket changed out just a week before the race.  A big Thanks goes to Matt and Justin at the Cyclery for getting my bike race ready without incident on the course. 

Heading out on the bike
Jeff heading out on the bike

John (Sketchy) heading out on the bike

The bike course was actually fun, it was like riding a roller coaster, I was pushing the heavy gears down the hills and spinning the low gears up.  The course was all hills, but if you rode it correctly, it wasn’t that hard.  I’m not saying it was easy, there were a few hills that really hurt, but they weren’t tearing me up.  And the fact that the course went in and out of the shade really helped, I would have never made it through in such good shape had I been in the sun the entire ride.
Coming through Chickamaunga on the first lap, I heard Pam yell go Robin, but I didn’t see her.  Knowing that she was out there gave me a boost. Our IronFans were the best support crew ever.
I spent the entire 7 hours regulating how much I ate and drank and how much salt I took in.  It kept my mind busy and away from falling into the “I’m so tired pity party in my head”. I felt pretty darn good and when I saw John in front of me at about mile 92, I had to smile, I needed someone to talk to for a while.  It took me a few miles to catch him, but when I did, we finished the 116 mile course bunny hopping each other.  We ended up riding into the chute together.  The IronFans were there cheering us on, and I stopped to get a much needed hug from China.

Getting a hug from China and a hand from Pam
While I was out on the bike, China and Brandon did some fun stuff, like rock climbing and visiting the aquarium.  Ironfan’s lives matter!

A little IronFan Fun

They continued to track all of us on the Iron Tracker app.  They were also tracking Charles McFarlin, another Metro Tri Club teammate, he was easy to spot because he was wearing the new MTC kit.

Charles Finishing
Into the tent I went and again, I was a little slow on the transition.  I headed out on the run to IronFan cheers and China ran up with her phone and my daughter Jade was on face time.  Jade told me I was doing great and to keep it up.  That was a needed surprise. I started up the hill and decided it was better to walk it.  I caught up to John again and we started running together at the top of the hill.  We were both suffering in the heat, and he pulled away.  The next 4 miles were brutal, it was open sun in the heat of the day.  This is when the demons came.  My mind was saying run and my legs were saying NO, I kept getting cramps in my left quad and would have to stop and walk.  I did the best I could until mile 6, then I started feeling sick.  After a stop at the porta potty and quick stop to puke, I knew for sure the rest of the race was going to be a death march.
The Crazy Hot Run
I went directly to Plan B, which was to power walk, do whatever it took to cross that finish line before the cutoff.  That’s what I did, I ran all the down hills and power walked everything else. What I didn’t know was starting at mile 8, I would encounter hills, that could have been called mountains, or at least in my mind that’s how they looked and felt.  All I could think was that whoever created the run course was evil. When I looked up the hill as far as I could see there were people walking. I didn’t see even one person running the up-hills in that section.  Coming out of the hills the sun was starting to set and the demons were taking over my thoughts.  I didn’t know how I was going to finish the second lap.
I came around the corner to start the second lap and there was China with my mom on Facetime, she told me I was doing great and to not give up.  That’s my mom, she raised me to never quit and never give up.  She used to say “when you think it can’t get worse it will, but you just pick yourself up and keep going”. She never sugar coated life for us kids, she told it like it was and taught us how to survive and be happy.  I live by that advice, and yes I knew it was going to get worse before it ended, but I was not going to stop.  China walked with me for a while then headed back and told me she would meet me around mile 20.  I was moving forward and thinking about my ultra-running friend Jim, he used to walk up hills next to me while I was running and would pass me. He gave me advice on power walking and told me to walk the uphill and I would get up it faster than running, I never thought it could be done, but I just kept passing runners as I walked. I made it to mile 20 and both Brandon and China walked with me for a while, they said I was killing the walk and China showed me a Facetime of my granddaughter Emmy, it was past her bedtime and she wasn’t much interested, but it was a pick me up, to see her. 
We got across the bridge back into the hills and the IronFans headed to the finish line, while I endured the next 4 miles of hills.  Plus the IronFans had made friends with another racer and they were busy passing text messages from him to his girlfriend. They were trying to get over to tell him she was there at the finish line waiting for him. It just amazes me how often China makes friends with random people.
I finally made it to the wooden bridge, the 25 mile mark, I headed across thinking that this was going to be my worst finish time ever, but that at least I would finish.  Then I started thinking how much I hate Ironman races and how I was going to retire as soon as I finished this race.
Coming into the finish line!
So I kept going, came around the corner on the other side of the bridge and headed downhill to the finish.  I ran through the finish chute, high fiving everyone along the fence.  I saw my IronFans and ran straight over and hugged them, then headed to the finish.

I made it
I did it… I’m a 5 time Ironman!  Get this, it was my fastest finish ever, it was 13 minutes slower than what I had predicted I would finish in, but I am still happy with the time.  I told everyone I was now retired from IM and they all said the same thing…. “yeah right”, I said “no, I mean it this time” and they just shook their heads and laughed.
The race was awesome, not the run, but the swim and bike were.  Had it been a little cooler I think the run would have gone much better.  I still ended up with my fastest Ironman time ever.
I think the Ironfans had a great time also.  I can’t say enough about the support we got from Pam, China, and Brandon. I’m not sure I would have finished without them there cheering me on.  I think they had a pretty good time also.  China and Brandon even got to play Mall Cop while at Ironman.  And Photo Credit goes to both China and Brandon.

Mall Cops

IronFans less Pam