Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ironman 70.3 World Championship

This is not my race report but more an overview of the 70.3 World Championship venue, format and overall experience.  Race report to come later.

Chattanooga is a very cool town!  I have been to Nashville, love it and to Knoxville, back in college and arrived in Chatty with minimal expectations.  Its a beautiful town, rolling or extreme steep mountains hills, lots of green and the river right down the middle.  The downtown area is clean, walkable and a offers a great venue for a race. Clearly the city knows how to do this with an Ironman and 70.3 already held at this venue.  

We stayed at the Springfield Suites, .4 miles from the Village, and this was ideal for a few reasons. Modern accommodations with a fridge and microwave and small sitting area works well for a race.  Free breakfast was helpful for the coffee, oatmeal and fruit.  The rest of the offerings did not fit my pre- race diet - ie: powdered eggs, fruit loops and donuts but did offer a variety for all.   The location was not downtown which made getting in and out easy.  The traffic in Chatty is horrible, so when we needed to drive anyplace, Whole Foods twice a day,  it was relatively easy.  

This is the first year Ironman split the men's and women's race.  Women only raced on Saturday and Men on Sunday.  We arrived Wed after a long day of travel- no direct flights. But we there in time to hit WF and settle in.  
92 countries 

Thur AM we walked to the practice swim and it was chilly 59 degrees,  The river was moving reasonably well and the 600M course was 65% faster down river.  I was excited for this for race day!   Water was warm, no wetsuit and really comfortable.  
Turns out by race day the turned the current  off, or at least 95% of it and must have tested the water with and ice pack.  So the promised "challenging" swim was now more like a lake and wetsuit legal. Shame on you Ironman, dumbing down the swim.   When do they ever make the run course easier?   The argument was they wanted everyone to make the cut off...really?  this is a World Championship!   My #1 complaint.  The swim start was by age group but self seeded by time within the wave. Every 10 seconds 10 went off.  Interesting start and while I prefer a mass start I was informed logistically by @ceoironman that was challenging as we only had 300 meters to the first buoy, not enough room to spread out.  400 athletes in the bigger waves and 300 meters to get to the buoy = cluster fck.   The idea of the wave, staggered starts was also to spread out the course.   Personally I saw a fair amount of drafting but was quite happy to see the 2 worst offenders around me get nailed.  @CEO says 50 drafting penalties for the women's race, not sure about the men.   

On that subject WHY not make it a 10 min penalty at a World Championship?  

A few 35-39 yo guys on the plane said "massive packs", there was no way around it.  He was telling me he was going 24mph at 150 watts for over 10 miles, claims he did NOT want to draft but could not hammer around 20 guys, Hard to say....but that is his story.  I have since reported him - ok not really but I did publicly shame him on FB after I recoreded the conversation, ok not really but that would have been funny. 

Registration was packed even on day 2 at 11am.  30+ minute wait but the volunteers were great and it was reasonably painless. Another $400 backpack and we were ready to roll.  

Racing on Saturday with women was fine, personally I like to mix it up.  I am old school, lets do mass starts and deal with the masses on the bikes.  I know a lot of women really enjoyed the "female" only race day.  I liked it for 2 reasons - 1: female pros got their own race, without the fastest AG men coming up on them and 2- it was great to watch the men's race on Sunday.

I understand the format is going to stay this way, so I suppose I need to accept it. But so help me if they do this in Kona..... 

The bike course was not the same as the 70.3 or the Ironman and it was tough!  At mile 3 you start a steep 3 mile climb, it was steep and tough!  the rollers and a few more steep climbs through mile 22. Somewhere along that portion you cross into Georgia.   The course was challenging and beautiful. My complaint is the open roads, we had cars along the course, both directions and a few times I was stuck behind a slow car who was stuck behind cyclists.  It was dangerous and I saw a few women pass the car on the left, crossing the center line and risking oncoming traffic.  I was floored the roads were not closed.  Although I learned on Sunday the roads were in fact closed, so there you have it- Impossible to manage all the small side streets and turn offs.   I am thankful no one was hit.   I had a few encounters with some unhappy locals that involved the finger ( on their part). 

Run, so this was brutally hard especially since my legs did not show up.  But it was fair and a great course for spectating and crowd support.   The course stared up hill  and then went down along the river, through neighborhoods, across the river, up and down and up and down and back over the river and again.  

Finish line was a nice down hill and epic!  World Championship red carpet, 92 countries flags flying, jumbo tron and the music to make you smile even if you were barely moving.  Great finishers area with good food options  Piggy Mac (shredded pork covered in mac-n-cheese- welcome to the South), Fajita tacos or Pizza and Beer.   Large grass area and great area to hang out.   Training Peaks had a booth and you could get instant results with your stats- nice touch.  

Finally a very cool finisher hat- Boco Technical trucker hat and another ugly shirt, which Les and I decided is on purpose to push people to buy more merchandise.  Another medal, personally I'd prefer a nice water bottle but I maybe in the minority there too.  

Final thoughts....

- Chatty is great venue for an Ironman- would definitely consider the full or the 70.3
- Great town but you are not in So Cal and the 2 times we dined out that was apparent BUT there is a Whole Foods minutes away so that levels the playing field. But you can get almost anything chicken friend, even at WF "chicken fried tofu"
- Nicest people, 99% of the people we met were friendly, appreciate the race and wished us good luck
- The Tennessee River is really nice
- Ironman knows how to put on a top notch race
- No Southwest or Alaska flights to bikes are expensive- instead of paying American $300 I paid TBT $350 and that is a seamless way to go
- Check your connection, flying through Charlotte to San Diego IS NOT the most direct route home 
- watching the men's bike out-  my PSA is that if you are not 100% efficient at mounting your bike with shoes clipped in, and you cannot seamlessly slip your feet in, DONT do it.  We say 2 crashes from guys weaving trying to look at their feet, get their feet in and took out another biker and themselves.  Watching Javier Gomez run at a faster pace than I raced with one had on his saddle and leap onto his bike and pedal off, was amazing!!!    Most of the men I watched with shoes attached were slower pedaling out and getting their feet in than those running in bike shoes and hopping on. 
- Transition practice may not have helped at this race unless you practiced exiting the water, stripping wetsuit, running across grass field, up a ramp with slippery tape, up a hill and into T1, but something to consider. 
- they needed signs in T2 like they have in Kona, "peeing in a chair will result in penalty" I opted to transition standing up after seeing 5 chairs with pee puddles.   Seriously, pee on your bike or use the giant blue structures in T2
- Racing with 2 of my athletes and friends was amazing and fun!  Seems 1/2 of San Diego was there.
- FINALLY a tracker that works!! It was great to see someone go into T2, see the tracker update bike split, and then see the T2 split and know I would see them .5k later.  
- I now know how to property spell Chattanooga 

Cheers... race report up next, once I have courage to review my stats.