Months ago it was mentioned on Facebook they would be doing a free training weekend in Chattanooga. Knowing that I am super Type A I decided that it would be money well spent to head down and get the chance to train on the course I will see in September. I felt that seeing and feeling the elevation would mean more to me than a map. Frankly on previous races I never spent much time looking at course maps so this is a first for me.
Day 1 Thursday
I borrowed a HUGE bike case and had Scottie taken apart and packed, we were supposed to fly to Charlotte but our flight got canceled due to storms so we headed to Atlanta. Scottie got on the first flight out but I ended up stuck at Laguardia for hours waiting for another flight. I finally landed in Atlanta, reunited with Scottie and then rented a car to drive 2 hours to Chattanooga. The drive was fairly uneventful other than periods of blinding rain! I arrived about 2am to my friend, Catherine's house.
Day 2 Friday
A noon ride of the course was on the menu but first Scottie needed to be put together so I located a bike shop downtown and headed over to have them reconstruct my bike. They did a pretty good job (the bike shop that took it apart made sure to put tape markings) however the aero bars were definitely not right but since I am not really used to them it didn't matter too much. I headed to the meet up point and luckily my new pal Melissa had a jug of water for me. We filled up our bottles and I hoped for the best as it was HOT and HUMID and I wasn't feeling so prepared for that. The group set off right at noon and I knew I was severely out gunned pretty quickly. I feel bad with the intention of just doing my own thing but at a stop light they waited for me and once I caught up I told them to just go ahead. At this point my heart rate was almost 190 and I was getting very overheated, sweating like a crazy and having some trouble breathing.
Once they went ahead and dropped me (about 5 miles in) I pulled to the side and texted coach who of course dropped some knowledge and then yelled at me to do my own thing. Unfortunately I had overdone it at the start so it was a little hard to get things back together but I ended up doing about 26 miles. I beat myself up the WHOLE time, I was frustrated, there were tears, and I was convinced I was going to let everyone down but I kept riding. Once I got the bike all back into the car I decided to think about the positives; the ucan worked like a charm with no issues even with the heat, I had gone down all the hills without needing to feather my brakes, I had ridden all alone in an unfamiliar place and hadn't just gone right back. Basically my bike confidence had actually improved even though it did not feel that way.
I went home, took a shower and promptly passed out on the bed in the deepest sleep of my life! I even still had the towel wrapped around my head, I am really surprised my friend did not take any photos. We went and picked up my packet for the swim Saturday and then had some yummy BBQ!
Day 3 Saturday
The morning started off with a 2.4 mile swim in the river and I was NERVOUS but I managed to not throw up which was pretty impressive. Luckily both Melissa and Ann were doing the swim so having people to hang out with on the little bus up to the start calmed me a bit. We started at a dock in front of a BEAUTIFUL house that overlooks the river but there was a delay in the start which did little to help my nerves and made me wish I had brought water. People were in wet suits but I had opted to go tri suit because I'm positive that IM chattanooga will not be wetsuit legal.
As people were jumping in the water I heard them complaining it was cold and someone had advised me the day before that it wasn't very clean. This is where I was reminded everything is relative. The water felt amazing on my skin since I am used to swimming in 58 degree water so far this year and I could not only see my own hands as I swam but I could see the feet of the people in front of me! The start was a little confusing but once I got into a nice groove (after some prompting from Ann) I felt great. My swim workouts have definitely improved my swim fitness and also my patience with the sport, for the first time I never checked my watch to see how long I had been in the water. I did not have a single panic attack and I never rolled to my back for the first race EVER. I did end up almost in the middle of the river and had to be prompted by a canoe guy to get back on course...oops. Towards the end I saw the finish and I decided to sprint which my left calf did not feel like doing and it completely cramped up but even then I did not freak and after some solo right leg kicks then no kicks I was able to get the cramp out enough to walk out. I ended up swimming 2.74 miles due to my little tour and the current was definitely on our side so I was very happy with my time even with the cramp. Note to self HYDRATE!!!
Day 4 Sunday
The ride went well and we averaged somewhere in the neighborhood of 15mph, one down hill I was up to 30mph! That one will be fun on race day although I am nervous about how crowded it might be with other bikes. For the most part cars were respectful but we had a few close calls on some of the smaller roads where cars didn't wait to have time to pass.
I am so happy I went down to see the course and after my mini meltdown the weekend provided me exactly what I wanted. I met people I will be racing with and formed friendships (including some that I have known online but never in person), I got to see and experience the course, I tested out my nutrition plan (now to make tweaks), I feel 100% more confident about the swim and I did another travel weekend alone including lugging around the huge bike case that caused me to get quite a few stares and people saying "That is such a huge case for a little girl." You should have seen their faces when I explained it was my bike and I was training for an ironman, so much for calling me a little girl...that's little bad ass to you thank you very much! :)