I went into Chattanooga 70.3 looking have fun with EMJ teammates and pull together a decent race. Having a good time in Chatt was big since normally I’m a total nerd when I go to races – uptight and super anal about everything. For this race, I wanted to prove to myself that I could be way more chill and still race pretty well.
In the end, I was able to do this. While I wasn’t getting crunk in the days prior, I definitely was more relaxed than normal and enjoyed hanging with teammates. The EMJ team house was dope (big ups to James DeFilippi for organizing) and scouting the 70.3 Worlds course made for some fun training in the days prior to the race.
Even with the more causal approach, I was able to clock my best 70.3 finish time. Well, at least on the bike. Unfortunately, the swim was shortened the morning of the race, so I can’t claim the overall time as a PB. That said, I’m confident that even with the full swim this would have been my fastest 70.3 by a good margin.
FINISH TIME 4:06:07 (Modified swim; 0.8mi instead of 1.2mi)
Swim 16:44 Bike 2:19:16 Run 1:24:16
8th M30-34, 16th Amateur
Good day of racing for me. Especially on the bike. I really pushed it. Swim was decent and run was pretty strong despite a hard ride.
Rankings in both AG and in amateur field weren’t my best, but I’ll take ‘em given that there were 12 EMJ guys racing, with 5 in M30-34. Only downside of rocking up to races with a mob of these fast MF’ers. (Boys took out 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th overall in amateur race…) Plenty of other speedy guys out there too. Continually impressed by the depth of talent in the AG ranks.
- HAVE FUN. April and May were pretty stressful with a number of things going on related to work and day-to-day life. Given that Puerto Rico 70.3 went well, I tried to go into this race without any time or placing goals. Just wanted to get back to the basics of having fun at a race, while also feeling like I left it all out there on the day.
- HAMMER THE BIKE. I’m still getting a feel for the 70.3 distance, especially on the bike. I can ride 112 miles very competitively in an Ironman, but have struggled to really push it across 56 miles. For this race, I’d be looking for good power and a strong bike split. While training hadn’t been perfect in build-up, I knew I had the fitness to put down a strong ride and was willing to take some risks to see how it might affect my ability to run off the bike.
Training in May was more rushed than normal and sleep was a bit scarcer. I knew this would be the case, so I really worked hard to put my control-freak nature aside and simply do what I could. Thanks to coach Justin Daerr, I made the most out of the time I had for training.
While training was a bit light in build-up (12hrs/week; usually 15-18hrs/week) and I had a big weekend in Dallas for a wedding a week out from the race (well worth it; this wedding was dope), January through mid-April were packed with great training and solid recovery. With that in mind, I knew I was showing up in Chattanooga in good shape. At this point, I just need to get to the start line rested.
I got into Chattanooga Thursday night around 7pm and hit up the YMCA for a swim to shake the full day of travel out of my system. By the time I got to the EMJ team house afterwards, I was smoked and had zero issues getting to sleep on the new time zone.
Friday morning was spent doing a mix of training and 70.3 Worlds recon – the 70.3 World Champs are in Chattanooga this year and the race has a different swim and bike course. (More on the 70.3 Worlds course at the end of the blog.) Friday afternoon we did race check-in and logged some time in Normatec boots sipping local craft beer (Chickbock and Hill City IPA are legit).
Saturday morning, we hit up the Chickamauga Dam for a swim and then a 30-minute shakeout ride immediately after. We wrapped this around 9am – always nice getting the training out of the way early the day prior to the race. The rest of the day was pretty chill; largely just relaxing and getting organized.
I woke up at 4am feeling pretty solid. I slept better than usual, which was probably due to the fact that I arrived in Chattanooga so tired from the weeks prior. I slept great every night that I was there despite being top bunk in a twin bed. That’s right, bunk beds. The room actually had two sets of them. Pretty legit actually. With 11 guys in the house, we had a mix of bunk beds, standard beds, and air mattress. All worked out really well and everyone seemed cool with their set-up. I definitely was.
After eating my go-to pre-race breakfast, I went through my gear while talking with the other guys in the house. Everyone was pretty relaxed and joking around. I enjoyed this vibe far more than my standard race day wake-up and prep in a hotel room solo.
We got to transition around 5:30am and I found everything to be in order with my bike despite some heavy rain and high winds that came during the night. I set up my gear and was off to swim start. I, along with a couple guys from the team, did a strong jog to swim start as a way to warm up since we wouldn’t have a chance to do so in the water.
We lined up by expected swim time – I really like this set-up as opposed to age group waves – and got ready for the start. First the male pros were off, then the female pros. A few minutes before our gun was set to go off, we noticed that the first turn buoy was being moved by the race officials in a boat. I thought it may have just come loose at first, but then started to hear that they were going to adjust the swim. Bummer. The heavy rain from the night prior meant that the dam had to be opened at some point, which increase the river’s current. With the first 200 meters of the swim being against the current, the officials decided to adjust to make the full swim with the current. I guess some of the female pros were swimming in place during that first 200m, causing the audible to a .8 mile swim instead of a 1.2 miler.
After tossing some Gronk-style high-fives at the realization that it’d now be an Ironman 69(.9), we refocused on the swim start, now 15 minutes delayed. (I was dying in my wetsuit at this point and had my swim cap off to cool down a bit. It was overcast but humidity was in full effect.)
When the gun sounded, we came down the boat ramp and I keyed two EMJ guys faster than me with the goal of getting on their feet. We jumped into the water, and I pushed hard trying to stick with them. I was on their feet for the first 3+ minutes, but then was hit by a wave and came off the back while going around the first buoy. I made a big push for about 100m to see if I could get back on, but it wasn’t happening. I then just settled into my own pace.
The current was rocking and the swim was very fast. I exited the water in 16:44, which is about 13 minutes faster than normal. I had no idea if this was fast or slow, but I figured I couldn’t be too far off the lead since stronger swimmers didn't have much runway to open a gap. Looking at it now, I see that I exited in 20th place in M30-34 and was about 3 minutes back on 1st.
Side note – I got my wetsuit off in record time thanks to an awesome volunteer who helped me with my strap and then the world’s strongest wetsuit stripper. Always go to the burly dude pulling the wetsuits off. I nearly did a backflip as this haus pulled my Roka suit off.
This ride mirrored what I imagine many pros experience out on the bike – a big effort for 25 miles until catching one of the lead groups, then an on-off mix of big surges and soft pedaling while either trying to pass or sit draft-legal (12 meters back from nearest rider) in a group. Normally I’m Steady Eddy out on the bike, keeping a close watch on power and trying to maintain an even output. Here I chose a more aggressive approach. I was curious to see how I’d feel during the last stretch of the ride and how I’d fair on the run.
I set out on the bike feeling alright and was damn pleased that it was overcast. 65 degrees and humid is way better than 85 and humid. (The days prior to the race were oppressively hot.) I quickly settled into a rhythm, riding by feel but occasionally glancing down at my Garmin to check power every so often.
I cruised through the first 15 miles riding solo for the most part and was pushing solid power. I felt OK, not great – legs definitely feeling the lactic acid build, but still just a dull pain at 40 minutes in.
Around this point in the race, as I was coming out of an aid station, a rider came by moving fast. He was the first person to pass me and I could tell he was pushing it. This is when my game plan switched to being more aggressive. Normally I’d let this guy go. But today I really wanted to push myself on the bike and I knew keeping this guy in sight would help. So, I said Fuck it and for the next 10 miles I really hit the gas chasing this rabbit.
25 miles in, still chasing this dude, we started coming up on a few larger single-file packs of riders. This is when the real surging started. Not wanting to get caught up in these groups (like in Kona…), I put down a few big efforts to get to the front and ride away. While these surges would definitely cost me, especially since many came on short rolling hills, I figured it was worth it. This pretty much continued for the remainder of the ride.
I rode into transition with my EMJ buddy Ryan Linden, and saw Kevin Denny and Jack McAfee exiting. All good signs that I was up near the front of the race.
While from the start I intended to ride by feel, I did hope to ride a Normalized Power of 215-220 watts. In the end, I had an NP of 211. Think 220 was doable; the lower power was really the race dynamics coming into play. Funny though since 211 has been my NP for all three 70.3s so far this year.
Given how the race unfolded, my NP was 220 for the first 26-27 miles. It then dropped to just 202 over the back half of the race -- this is when the on-off of surging and soft pedaling was going down. That can be seen by my VI of 1.07 over the last 30 miles. VI prior was 1.03, which is typically what I maintain throughout races when going Steady Eddy.
As I started running out of transition, it felt like all the blood in my body was in my quads. Pretty standard given the hard ride. I tried to open my stride a bit and relax into a decent pace. I saw teammate James DeFilippi in the first mile and tossed out a high-five and a No way! James had bike issues the day prior to the race that would keep him from being able to shift gears on race day. He sucked it up and raced anyway, having the mechanic put the bike in a middle gear that more-or-less suited the course profile. James rode the hell out of that one gear (54-17) and nearly bested my bike split on his single-speed. Legend! I caught him around mile 2, but given the many out-and-backs, we spent most of the run yelling Nice work! at one another. (He'd take 4th in M35-39...)
Soon after going by James, Ryan Linden zipped by me. Ryan, whose wife is Olympic marathoner Des Linden, is one hell of a runner himself. After he came by, I really focused on trying to keep him in sight for motivation. He was running about 6:00/mile pace and I was maybe 20 seconds per mile off that. Both he and James being nearby really helped dig deep.
This run course was a challenge. While I held it together for most of it, a hill on the backside of the two-loop course really kicked my ass on the second go-round. It’s 2-3% grade for a half mile. Doesn’t sound all that terrible, but at mile 11, it sucks. For most of the race I yo-yoed between 6:15-6:40/mile pace depending on it being up or down hill. For mile 11, the wheels came off a bit with a 7:07 mile. I had some good self-talk going at this point and was able to get my shit together and get back on pace. Ryan, who would end up running a 1:19, was long gone at this point so I just focused on the ground in front of me and reminded myself that there were just 2 miles left.
By the time I crossed the finish line I pretty shelled. While still overcast the humidity and challenging run course had taken its toll.
Run split was 1:24:16 (6:25/mi). Final time was 4:06:07.
I've got a pretty solid break from racing now, which I'm looking forward to. It's likely that I don't race again until back in Chattanooga for 70.3 Worlds in September. We'll see...
70.3 Worlds Recon
As I mentioned earlier, the 70.3 Worlds course in Chattanooga will be different than what we raced on May 21.
The swim course will be a lot more challenging since it will feature 860 meters AGAINST the current in the Tennessee River. While the current will likely not be as strong in September, this will still be a real challenge. Especially since only 420 meters will be truly with the current. Here's a diagram of the swim course.
As a note, I say that the current shouldn't be as strong for Worlds mostly because it doesn't rain as much in late August/ early September in Chatt. If it does rain in advance of the race and the dam needs to be opened again, this swim will be insanely difficult. My guess is they'd have to alter it. But again, it doesn't rain often in Chatt during this stretch of the year.
The bike course will be totally different. The key feature of the course is a climb up Lookout Mountain that comes at mile 6. This climb is legit. It's 2 miles at 7% or so, then 1 mile at 3.5%. Here's my file from the ride. (I pretty much only did the climb, so it'll be clear when looking at the file.) From there, you continue riding along the ridge and hit a couple rolling hills before descending down at mile 22 or so. From then on, the course is very flat. Here's the bike course map and elevation profile.
The run course is almost entirely the same. It looks like they found another 150 feet of elevation though -- Chatt 70.3 was listed as 820 ft (either my Garmin was off or it was actually less) and Worlds is listed at 975 ft. This will be a very honest run course, especially if it's a warm day. Here's the map and elevation profile for it.
As always, feel free to share any comments or questions below.
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