Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report - Race Morning and Swim 2/4

My son is having some trouble recovering from the Ironman Chattanooga
My poor little munchkin came back from Tennessee with a severely sore throat. One side of his neck is so inflamed I can see the swollen glands from across our kitchen table. He hasn't been really able to eat for days and while I sent him to school the past two days he came home pretty early. Today we're back to the doctor to try and figure out what's wrong.

Back it up ... Back it up to the pre-race dinner
We ate at a local Italian restaurant the night before. My pre-race meal is pasta with meat sauce. So I ordered penne bolognese. But when it arrived it had a lot of cheese and milk in the meat sauce. It was much heavier than I expected. I considered sending it back for plain red sauce and I didn't do that. I scraped as much cheese as I could off the top. I think I paid a small price for this the next day.
This is Alleia where we at dinner. It is a beautiful restaurant but I think I want to make my own pre-Ironman dinners from now on.

The racing boys at dinner. Notice we're a bring your own water bottle crowd.

I have learned over the years that my stomach doesn't handle cheese and milk well before or during exercise. Not to be gross but I get gassy. And that night (much to the delight of my 8-year old son who loves all things fart related) I already was feeling the effects but I hoped it would pass during the night and be out of my system the next day.
A dinner selfie.
I didn't sleep all that much. Some to be sure but not a ton. I didn't worry though since I had gotten a good nights sleep (courtesy of Unisom) the 2-nights before. I actually was up before the 4:00 am alarm and quickly went through the paces of the morning. Pretty simple actually. Grab the bottles and snickers from the fridge. Get dressed. Shove food in my mouth. Go to the bathroom and head downstairs. I kissed my sleeping crew goodbye and asked my husband if I would see him after the swim. He sleepily grumbled, "yes."

This is a photo from our practice swim the day before.
Off to the start of Ironman Chattanooga
At breakfast we heard the non-wetsuit news. Some folks were agitated by this but I wasn't surprised. The pool I swim in is always 78. When I had done the practice swim I thought it was clearly warmer than the 78 I swim in several times a week so I didn't even practice in my wetsuit. I would have worn it if it was allowed but I wasn't surprised or worried by the decision. Different from in the past I was comfortable that I could do 2.4 miles in the water.

We took the Endurance Sports Travel shuttle to the race start. Once we got there we went to body marking. Immediately  after body marking Nicole realized that she had left her bottles for the bike in the fridge. AAACK! Luckily another team mate's wife had driven down and so we sent her back to get them. One pretty great thing about Chattanooga is everything is really close together. It's still only about 5:00 a.m.

Why were we there so early? To get into the swim start line.

This year the race was first come, first start at the swim start. I personally think this is the dumbest way to organize a race start. That's my opinion and plenty of others don't agree. But I just think that it's a race and there shouldn't be a "benefit" to just getting to the start early. I just don't get it. For this race the "benefit" was more potential time on the course and also a less congested t1 and bike course at the start.

We quickly made our way to the shuttles and got ourselves in line. The shuttles ran very smoothly. They were school busses and it's only about a 5 minute drive.

Once there we got in line. Then I walked up to the front and I asked somebody who was under a blanket and had a pillow what time they got there. They said 3:00 am. Which means among other things they didn't go to t1 at all to set up. I think that's a little crazy myself. So we rested as much as possible, ate our snacks and peed in the bushes while we waited. The staff periodically consolidated the line by removing spectators and having us group up.

The Start of Ironman Chattanooga
The swim line is in a park I think by the riverfront. You can't see anything while you are in the line except the trees around you. We could hear the announcements. We listened/sang to the national anthem and finally we heard the canon fire to send of the male pros, and then female pros.  

I was a ball of nerves. First it's an Ironman I knew I had a long hard day in front of me. Also, there was no way to warm up for this swim and I really like to swim a tiny bit before I start. Even though I'm cold I like to get in and get my face wet and I couldn't do that. So after the pros went off I intentionally did about 15 jumping jacks to get my heart rate up. Then I let it settle down. The only thing in my mind was to keep my pace slow at the start for warm up. Slow, very slow.

Then the line moved very quickly. We saw the coordinator from Endurance sports travel and then we were on the dock and splash into the water. In our group we had bunched by pace. First Frank, Nicole and Benji. Then me and Jim and then Doug and Alberto. I jumped in and saw Jim speed off. I thought well that's good he's feeling good but I'm doing my own thing. I took about 10 strokes saying slow, slow, slow to myself. Then I realized I had no idea where I was going. So I sighted until I saw the buoy and then kept going.
Alberto swimming in the practice swim.

I had clear water the whole swim. No contact at all. I was also able to do something I'd never done before successfully which was to find feet and follow them a few times. I was pretty proud of myself.

Once I was sure I had my rhythm and breathing I went ahead and started swimming harder. One of my goals was to improve my swim. So I was swimming not hard but a sustained effort.

The water was clear and sort of choppy. That might have just been from other swimmers. I have no idea. The only part of the current that I felt was that I had to work to keep in line with the buoys. I was being pushed to the right. 

It was a cloudy morning but I saw the sunrise over my shoulder as I was breathing. As we approached the island in the river it occurred to me that I should have paid more attention to the swim map because I had no idea where the island was in relation to the swim finish. I'm very bad at telling whether there is a current while I swim but I did feel that we had resistance right at the edge of the island. Makes sense because that's a pretty big shifting point in the river. So I zigged and then zagged and got through it. I jumped ahead of a few people here so I felt like I handled that right. Then I just kept swimming. It was cool to go under the three bridges. And then I saw the final bridge with the blue section. Then I turned at the buoy and swam into the steps.

If you breathe to the left this fountain is your signal that you are at the finish.
The steps were pretty small for a group this big and they had people to help lift us out. I reached for the steps and felt somebody yank my arm. I pulled back because they were pulling me into the steps instead of up. So then I just grabbed the bar and stepped up. I've heard of several boo-boos from this race where volunteers pulled the swimmers into the steps and one person whose knee was so hurt they couldn't continue. It's hard to fault the volunteers who are just trying to help but I'm thankful that I was aware enough to pull my hand back and just do it myself.

Tip for volunteer training: lift up and only from a shoulder - do not yank on a participants hand. 

I didn't see the swim clock so I didn't know my time until after the race. I think without a current I would have swum about 1:20 for 2.4 miles in open water. 57:12 was my time Sunday so that's quite an assist with the river.

All in all a good swim.

If you're interested in seeing more photos/videos of the swim visit  he has some videos of mostly the finish.

If you're interested in statistics about the swim visit he calculates that the current was actually about one minute faster than the IMNYC current a few years ago. Worth 15-20 minutes of swim time which is exactly what I feel too. I would have swam probably 1:20 and I came out at 57 minutes.

Questions I have about current assisted swims:
I do have a question for swimmers in the know. I suspect based on the results of our little group that a current actually benefits slower swimmers a little more than faster swimmers. I also suspect that larger swimmers (those who displace more water) would see more benefit. What do you think, am I crazy here?

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