Saturday, October 13, 2018

Ironman Chattanooga Race Recap

So this blog is named "Mom Swim Bike Run" but there hasn't been much of that going on up in here lately.  I think following Tracey's (my BFF) training both terrified and inspired me.  Here is her story:

It all started with texts back and forth between Kelli and I last September.  The next thing I knew we were signed up for IM Chattanooga.  We were both so excited, but it seemed a long way off.  Fast forward a few months to February when I started swimming again and building up a base.  Our 20 week training plan started in May.  We decided to follow the intermediate plan of “Be Iron Fit”.  It is a plan that is based on heart rate and time instead of distance and consisted of training six days a week.  Over 20 weeks, I put in a lot of time swimming, biking and running.  The hardest part was working my schedule around my kids, especially during the summer.  There were a lot of very early mornings and later nights on the trainer, but somehow it all got done.  

The week of the race, I was a mess.  I was really, really nervous which really isn’t like me.  I don’t know if it was the idea of the distance, the fact that it was something my body had never done before, or that I put it all out there and didn’t want to let anyone down, especially Owen..  Everyone told me to trust my training, but I was still nervous.  Then Thursday came.  Kelli and I were leaving Thursday night.  Thursday afternoon we found out the swim was cancelled because of flooding and high levels of bacteria.  It was devastating.  All of those hours in the pool, the open water swims at Moraine, and we wouldn’t be able to swim.  We were both so upset.  That also made me anxious.  I couldn’t sleep or eat and that is what I needed to be doing.

We left for Chattanooga Thursday evening with Kelli’s husband Matt driving us through the pouring rain that had just made its way out of Tennessee.  We stopped halfway to stay overnight and finished the journey on Friday.  When we arrived Friday, we went to athlete check in and Ironman Village and stayed for the opening night ceremony.  Being around the other athletes eased my anxiety a little bit.

Saturday we went for a short 2 mile run and then rode our bikes a little to make sure they survived the journey okay.  Then we checked in our bikes and run bags for Sunday.  My family arrived Saturday afternoon with the best surprise ever- one of my best friends, Susan, came with them.  I was so happy to have her there with my family.  It meant the world to me that she put her life aside to be there (and endured the ten hour trip with my kids!).  Saturday night we all went out to dinner and dessert.  I tried to get to bed early, but I tossed and turned all night.  I truly don’t think I have ever been that anxious about anything.  Felling like that really took me by surprise.

Sunday morning Kelli and I got up at 5:30.  I forced down some oatmeal and a banana.  We got to the start around 7:00 and dropped off our special needs bags.  Special needs bags are bags you can pick up halfway through the bike and run.  You put things in it that you think you may need, but you don’t get them back, so you don’t want to put anything important in there.  In my bike bag I had an Uncrustable pb&j sandwich, a granola bar and goldfish pretzels.  In my run bag, I had a mini Snickers, some Pringles, gummy bears, a stick of gum and an extra pair of socks.  I wasn’t sure what I would want at that point.  

I was really nervous before the start.  Because the swim was cancelled, the race started at 8:00 with 17 pros starting one per minute.  At 8:25 the rest of the field started in number order (females first) with two athletes leaving every 5 seconds.  Numbers went from youngest to oldest, so Kelli got to start ahead of me.  I started around 8:55.  The bike is an 11 mile ride out, two 47 mile loops, and 11 miles back to make it 116 (a standard IM is 112, but Chattanooga has always been 116).  The bike ride was very enjoyable.  The majority of the ride was in northern Georgia and it was just so beautiful.  There were rolling hills but nothing too steep (compared to what we trained on).  

I did stop halfway for my special needs bag and I saw my family right past that and I got to wave to them.  Shortly after that I saw Kate and Anne (our awesome friends who were also there cheering us on). That gave me motivation to hit the second loop as hard as I pushed on the first.  The bike ride went extremely fast and I was just so relieved not to get a flat since I saw many people on the side of the road.  I love riding my bike, but 116 miles is far!  My total time for this segment was 6:45:49, averaging 17.09 which is pretty fast for me.  I even stopped twice to use the bathroom since I was drinking so much.  I was very happy with that time.  

Nutrition on the bike:
Mile 20- peanut butter and chocolate chip granola bar
Mile 40- Uncrustable PB&J
Mile 60- half a banana
Mile 80- Uncrustable PB&J
Mile 100- half a banana
I also snacked on handfuls of goldfish pretzels throughout the second half of the ride. I wanted to be fueled enough to run.  I drank a ton of water because it was getting hot.

I came into transition and saw my family right before I got off of the bike.  My youngest, Jenna, was holding a sign that said “I want to be you when I grow up”.  That totally melted my heart.  

I got off of my bike, handed it over to a volunteer and it took me a few minutes to stand up completely straight.  I grabbed my run transition bag and headed into the changing tent.  I decided to totally change to be more comfortable on the run and I wanted to wear my MDA shirt in support of Owen.  I also stopped to use the bathroom again and have the volunteers cover me in sunscreen.  My transition time was 12:07, but it was worth every minute.

When I started on the run, my family was there.  That gave me the motivation I needed to go.  So many people were walking the first hill, but I was determined not to.  It was 4 pm at this point, 83 degrees, sunny and very humid.  I quickly realized that this would be a matter of making it mile to mile.  So I came up with my plan to run from aid station to aid station.  

I stuck with this plan and it seemed to work for me.  I would run a mile, walk the aid station and then start running again.  I drank at every aid station- water and gatorade and I put ice down my top.  I did this until about mile 7 where I caught up with Kelli.  

We ran together for a bit and then I went ahead around mile 10.  When I got to the half, I saw my family again.  I picked up my special needs bag, but only took the gummy bears and my stick of gum (which was awesome!).  My feet were soaked from sweat and water, but I couldn’t imagine sitting down to change my socks.  So I kept plugging away.  

At the next aid station, I walked a little longer hoping Kelli would catch me, and she did.  We were able to run/walk the rest of the marathon together which was a lifesaver.  I don’t think I would  have run as much alone and finishing this with Kelli by my side meant so much to me.  We walked the hills and ran the downhills.  This course was HILLY.  We heard that, but thought it couldn’t be worse than Pittsburgh.  Well, we were wrong!  The worst part was we had to do the loop twice, so those hills were still there the second time around.  

We just kept going mile to mile and eventually we were so close to the finish line.  I could see the lights and hear the announcer and the crowds.  As we ran down the shoot, I was high fiving everyone who had their hands out.  We saw our families and I told Kelli to go ahead so we could both hear our names.  And then I heard it, “Tracey Smith, you are an Ironman!”  I was filled with so much emotion at that point.  I put up my hands and had a huge smile on my face.  It was a such a sense of accomplishment and relief that it was over.

Total run time: 5:06
Total race time: 12:04:40

Seeing my family and Susan after the race was so wonderful.  Everyone was really proud and I was so glad they could experience this with me.  After the race, I became very nauseous and had to lay down on the grass for a while.  I think I drank so much in fear of dehydrating and cramping.  I couldn’t eat on the run- just a few gummy bears and lots of fluids.  I told Nate that I never wanted to drink water again!  Just the thought of it at that point made me ill.  After, a while I felt better and we headed back to the house.  My shower that night felt so good (minus the surprise chaffing that I got!)

Overall, it is hard for me to find the words to express the feelings I have about this race.  I mostly loved it but I hated it at times.  I feel a huge sense of accomplishment that at 44 years old, I decided to train and compete in something that scared me. I feel proud that I set a goal that I stuck to and showed my kids to never give up.  I feel a little less helpless that I was able to do something so meaningful for Owen.  

But, I also feel an incompleteness because the full Ironman was not completed since the swim was cancelled.  So many emotions all wrapped up in my head and my heart.  The one that trumps them all though, is that I feel grateful.  I am grateful for my body to be able to do this.  I am grateful for my friends and family and the support that I received during training, during the race, and after.  I am grateful that I was able to raise $8,120.00 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  

I never in my wildest dreams thought the number would be that high.  So thank you.  Thank you to everyone who donated.  Thank you to everyone who supported and keep supporting Owen and I.   Thank you to my many friends who shared my training.  Thank you to Kelli, who shared this journey with me.  And thank you to my family, especially Nate, who endured my training and my schedule and my crabbiness and my hunger.  I could never do this without all of this support.  It is truly overwhelming and the words thank you don’t seem like enough.  I hope everyone knows how much I truly appreciate your love and support.

Now off to plan the next one.  You knew I couldn’t do just one!

Congratulations Tracey, you are truly an inspiration.  I'll join you on the next one!