Sean Summers aka BetterMan’s 2017 Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga Race Report
May 21, 2017 Race Morning
Race morning came with a 4:05 wake up, expecting to see and hear rain and then mentally prepare for the day. Fortunately there wasn’t any rain and the streets were dry, unfortunately I went to bed the night before to thunderstorms and mentally didn’t know how I was feeling about the race. Funny enough, as I was staring out the window of the hotel, my amazing wife Kelly woke up and asked if it was raining, “no, and the streets are dry” was my exact response.
Honestly, by the time I got up, ate something and got some caffeine in me I still wasn’t sure how I felt about the race. I think the weather threw me for a loop and although I was prepared with my gear and knew that I could only control what I can control I still was in a very mediocre mental state. Ready to go but not feeling as amped up as I expected.
We walked to transition to pump tires, load nutrition and set up and all went as normal as normal is on race morning. The only thing that threw me off was the lending my pump out and then helping with getting someone’s tires pumped. It didn’t upset me but did throw me off my normal zoned out in my own world race morning routine. I left transition and proceeded to meet Kelly and a friend racing and we loaded onto the shuttle to go to the swim start. (side note: I wanted to meet the team but knew it would put too much pressure on me in the morning to rush to get done in transition).
Again, pretty normal wait for the swim start, hanging around and making small talk. I ate a little more food and drank some more water as we waited. With no in water warm up I tried to stretch some and get loose and or course had to pee, nowhere to go so I stepped to the side and christened the wetsuit, after that I was ready to get in the water!
Swim – 00:19:11 (shortened to 0.8 mile due to current)
I watched the pro women start and seeing how they appeared to struggle against the current it was no surprise when they delayed our start. Honestly, I understood why but I felt it take some of the wind out of my sail when I knew we wouldn’t be racing a full 70.3. With a strong current it would have been a disaster but I just get annoyed with shortened races. I reminded myself that I can only race the race in front of me and it could have been worse if the weather didn’t cooperate.
Once they got the buoys in place and started the age groupers it was the normal race line waddle to the start. I was actually pretty calm and ready to go. I jumped off the dock and began day. I probably swam a little hard at first and backed off some, wanting to stay in control and not get too amped up. I guess it worked but swimming is swimming and the heart rate always jumps up there. My full sleeve wet suit was o.k. at best, I definitely could feel it in my shoulders and just tried to block it out and keep moving (I have to figure out what to do about it, if it’s the suit or if it needs to get broken in or what). Overall the swim went well, I made it to the swim exit, got some help getting up and then made my way up the stairs. As I heard the volunteers say be careful of the last step I managed to trip over it and almost…almost eat it! I worked my wetsuit off of my shoulders and started jogging to transition. I hadn’t made up my mind about using the wetsuit strippers but as I approached them I decided yes, make my life easier. Down, stripped up and on to the bike.
T1 – 00:04:06
Nothing too eventful here, threw on my glasses, helmet and shoes grabbed my bike and started jogging to the mount line. I passed the mount line and got on the bike. As I clipped my left foot in I pushed the pedal down and got rolling so I could clip in my right foot and get to work.
Bike – 02:30:41 (Average Power: 187 watts (78% FTP), Normalized Power: 196 watts (82% FTP)
I tried to settle in the first few miles, get my wits about me and take in some fluid. The first part of the ride is rough in spots with a lot of turns.
I felt good and was ready to start cranking out the miles. As the ride started to take shape I had the privilege of being passed by multiple 70.3 worlds qualifier Estevan Price aka EManBoom, who gave me a “C’mon let’s go!” Very cool to have a teammate encouraging but I knew there was no way I was keeping up with him on the bike. I had my watch set to 8 mile laps with my lap normalized power and overall normalized power displayed. I was pushing higher watts to start (averaging the first few laps in the 204-206 normalized power) and knew I needed to stay in control and stick to the plan. Oh, and I also heard my Coach Slayer’s voice in my head “do not over bike and blow the run..it’s all about the run!” I didn’t want to blow the run and always looks forward to getting off the bike and having a fast run split.
I stayed in control and made sure to drink and eat enough but not too much. It was easy to keep myself occupied as I yelled at people in a pace line and people trying to draft off me. I have no shame. Losers. Anyways, a couple things on the bike that did happen:
On the straight and clear sections I tried to keep my head down longer while taking peaks up to make sure I wasn’t coming up on anyone or anything. Not sure if this is better or not but it made me feel faster.
With some of the dip wads out there I did get passed on the right as I was coming back over to the right from my pass. This caught me off guard, I cussed the guy and ended up hitting a rumble strip..bye bye base salt. Luckily I was immediately aware and made sure to get more Gatorade in me to make up some of the salt.
I knew I was having a fast bike and started to worry that I was going to blow the run so I paid attention on the way in and eased off a little to give my legs a chance to recover. In the final half mile I got my feet out of my shoes and prepared to dismount the bike. As I came up on the dismount line, I swung my right leg over, slowed down and did a pretty good flying dismount without issue (not my first time though).
Looking at my normalized power post race I learned I may have been able to reach even higher for the upper limit we discussed pre-race but really didn’t want to hurt my run. Coach and I may try this next 70.3.
T2 – 00:02:20
Running with the bike is always fun, shoes bouncing (and I’m anal about my stuff so I always have that thought of I’m beating up my shoes). I knew from racking my bike I was in the 3rd row at the playground and trailer. Well, being a little out of it I started towards the second row, which would have been fine since I could have crossed over at an aisle but noooo, I tried to correct to get to the third row (pushing the bike perpendicular to the wheels) and kicked banged my shin into the pedal. Awesome. I didn’t eat it, although the volunteer thought I was going to, and didn’t notice my beat up shin. Oh well.
Make it to my spot, rack my bike. Helmet off, socks on, shoes on, sip of water. I grabbed my visor and race belt and started running out of transition as I put on the visor and belt. Here we go..
Run – 01:32:18 (7:02/mi average) (Half Marathon PR!!!)
Coming out of transition the run course takes you along the spectators for maybe a quarter mile where you turn around and run back by them, closer this time. I can always hear Kelly when I am at a race and spot her within seconds. I heard her as I left T2, when I made the turnaround and started running back, closer to the spectators this time and I heard her again “yeah baby, looking good!” As I looked at the people on the side I saw her instantly, it always makes me smile and gives me a boost.
I made the turn down towards the river and was ready to see what I had in me, knowing I was coming up on the TriCoachGeorgia.com #EnergyWall tent full of lunatics. As I approached the tent at the first little hill I could see my Coach Slayer and hear him say with a big smile “You are having a great day!”. It felt good and gave me a little boost, but I knew I had to control it.
Up the little hill and on to the big hill, I knew what I felt I could do and knew what I wanted to do on the run but wanted to let it come to me (As is standard at most of my races, the first mile off the bike is pretty fast, but I think I did do a good job of keeping it in check.)
As I climbed the second hill out of transition I was keeping it under control and ready to settle in. I approached the first aid station and I’m not sure if I took a cup of water or not but it was for a quick sip if so. I continued on and was really feeling like I could have a great run, I was approaching the hurt locker and knew what was coming. One of the male pros passed me and I could tell he was suffering and I remember thinking, that’s right that’s what the last lap is supposed to be, leave it all out here.
I stayed comfortably uncomfortable and kept ticking the miles off, each mile that went by I checked my pace and knew I could keep it up, being mindful to keep it in check going up the hills. It just started to feel like one of those days you couldn’t wait to be over but you didn’t want to end. Pushing to the limit and then pushing some more. I could tell all the training was paying off. I stuck to my plan of a gu every 3-4 miles with water or Gatorade at the aid stations, sips and not slowing down too much. I also took ice twice and dumped it down my kit, wow that will wake you up but it cools you off.
This was the first longer race I did where I didn’t carry a water bottle and it went great, with aid stations every mile I didn’t feel I needed to carry it.
I remember some random things:
- At the big aid station “Kona-Nooga” I think, there were chocolate chip cookies. I told the woman on my first lap “those look good” and she smiled because I am so cute in my Reaper Wattie Kit (or at least I think that’s why-maybe it was because I am a dork).
- I always high 5 the kids! Power boost!
- As I crossed over the bridge to the other side of the river and the short uphill turnaround I was feeling good (relative) and as a spectator made eye contact and said keep it up I said with a smile “it’s starting to hurt now.” LOL
- I was in the hurt locker as I made my way up the hill at the start of the second lap and I remember thinking “there it is” and the Chris McCormack (I think) quote: “When your legs scream stop and your lungs are bursting, that’s when it starts, that’s the hurt locker. Winners love it in there.” And I embraced it and welcomed it, knowing I was going to suffer some on the last half and that is what I wanted.
- I kept seeing teammates and yelled at them “let’s go Reaper! Do your job!”
- When I passed someone else (a teammate I think) he put his fist out and fist bumped me and said keep going you are moving. It just felt amazing and gives you that boost you need to finish strong.
- Randomly some guy said as I was making a pass “speed coming through” I guess to let others know. I’m not trying to sound cocky it was just a first.
As I kept pushing through the last few miles of the race it was time to shine in the last couple miles. I made the turn for home and saw the TriCoachGeorgia #EnergyWall again, and Coach Slayer yells at me to GO! GO! Get Him (I think meaning pass the guy in front of me, which I did with a burst of speed) and I hear and see Kelly again. Goose bumps and an amazing feeling went through me as I surged down the chute.
As with every race I do I always think of my Dad and how I wonder what he would think or say but I know he is watching. I race through the finish line full gas. Done! A new Half Ironman PR (with a shortened and fast current swim) and a Half Marathon PR. Crazy.
The volunteers thought I needed medical but I told them I was o.k. just tired. They support me for a second, take my chip, give me water I get a couple pictures and I’m on my way to see Kelly.
Mile splits (Garmin 920XT): 6:55, 7:06, 7:08, 7:06, 7:20, 7:06, 7:06, 7:03, 7:07, 7:14, 7:25, 7:00 and 6:44
That’s why I love racing, I don’t think I would have seen those numbers (on the bike and run) in training.
Overall Time – 04:28:36 (Overall 143, Gender 131, Age Group 19)
All told, this was an epic day that makes me ready to keep pushing and digging to see what else I have in me. The weather cooperated and my bike and run splits were incredible, and all the dedicated consistent training is showing. The only disappointment is the shortened swim so the overall time is skewed but there will be another day and I raced the race set before me. There was a slight hope for a Ironman 70.3 Worlds spot with a roll down slot but it didn’t happen, but now, suddenly and surprisingly to most everyone but my Coach, I think I have it in me and just have to work harder for it.
Now I have to keep on the plan and continue to Do My Job! Hope to see you out training or on the race course everyone!