Ironman Chattanooga September 24, 2017
First, THANK YOU to my amazing husband, family, friends and ALAMO 180! I would be lost without your support and guidance.
Ironman Chattanooga here we come! We decided to drive to Tennessee and make a road trip out of our Ironman rather than fly. On September 18th, we headed out of SA and drove to Lafayett, Louisiana. Stayed the night and headed out again in the morning. Side note: my family has this crazy tradition of taking selfies at the state signs. 🙂
On Tuesday, we drove to Birmingham, AL and completed our bike and swim training. Wednesday, we ran in the morning and then headed out, passing through Georgia before getting to Tennessee.
We used the afternoon to drive the bike course which is an out and back with two loops. Thursday, we headed down to packet pick up, got a bike training in for the day. I decided to go swimming to get more time in the Tennessee River to help reduce my nerves. My parents had arrived in the afternoon and were an amazing help for being willing to baby sit our bikes while swimming. On Thursday, the current was very strong and felt like I was in an endless pool. I would start swimming and then look up and realize I was in the exact same spot. I started to swim again and a little while later, I looked up to see that I still hadn’t moved much at all. It was a very strange feeling. After a few attempts to make progress, I decided that I had had enough time “swimming” and getting exposed to the water for the day. On Friday, we swam and ran. Michael and I both got in the water on Friday and much to my surprise, we were moving upstream. It was amazing, because just the day before I went nowhere. Again getting exposure in the water was very important to calm my nerves. After the swim and run training, we headed back to the house where my good friends, Gabby and Emily showed up as a surprise!! We got dinner together and hung out that night. Saturday was a swim, bike and run training as well as full of race prep (food, beverages and transition bags). We hat to turn in our gear to bag check and our rack our bikes for the night. This is always a helpful yet nerve racking act…leaving your bike overnight and hoping it is there the next day. After turning in our stuff, Saturday night was all about eating, rolling out, stretching and going to bed early.
Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
“ I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Distance: 2.4 miles; Time: 1:10:44; Pace: 1:49/100 meters; Placement: 61/78
We got up around 3:30AM and headed to transition around 4:30AM. We dropped everything off at one transition spot, which was very nice.
After dropping everything off, we shuttled over to the swim start which was a first-come-first-serve line up rather than by age group and gender. We sat at the swim start for about 1 ½ hours until the race began.
While waiting we took a group photo, of course! These were the happy faces I would be looking for all day long! Mike and I had an amazing group of family and friends who traveled all the way to TN to cheer us on! After the race started, the line moved pretty fast. We started walking to the start and quickly made our way to the dock where you jump off into the water. I was worried about this swim start because I often feel like “they never stop coming” and “there are people everywhere” and then have anxiety that I have to work really hard to calm. This time getting into the water felt different, I think it was a combination of things for me. I think this reduction in anxiety was a result of: I was able to get into the water a couple times before the race; my parents and friends were able to be with us all the way until we jumped into the water before the race so I didn’t think about the start as much as normal; I prayed and my parents prayed; the first kayaker after I jumped in and started swimming was a sweet lady who encouraged me to swim to her and collect myself. She was an angel in disguise because after going over to her and talking with her a little, I felt like I was ready to take on the swim and conquer the part of the race I feared most. The current was not as strong as Thursday or Friday, but it was still significant. That morning, the river was just a bit too warm for wetsuits to be legal, so I wore my swim skin over my tri kit. The river was very wide and there is plenty of room for swimmers to spread out. Being a more nervous swimmer, I was pretty comfortable in the river with thousands of my “best friends”. As I was swimming, I keep an eye out for crazy people…..and it was a good thing. After a few hundred meters into the race and I noticed a swimmer behind me getting closer and closer. I stopped and started treaded water, then I realized this guy was going to swim straight over me. I knew he could see me and as I treaded water, I tried to move out of the way but was unable to get completely out of the way. It seemed like he was aiming straight for me. I had never had this happen so the only thing I could think of was to push him off of me as he got closer. As he proceeded to swim over me, I shoved his arms off and away from me. Taking a deep breath and collecting myself, I was so thankful I had been keeping an eye on what was going on behind me as I was turning to breath. The rest of the swim was less eventful thankfully. There were a few times I popped up, moved out of the way and treaded water while a swimmer passed by inside my “bubble”, but for the most part, it was an excellent swim! As always, the finish of the swim always gets tight and people get more aggressive but I was able to push the last hundred meters and finish strong and very happy with my swim.
Overall, I loved the swim. I tried to enjoy myself and having peace of mind that I would finish was so re-assuring. If you have ever been worried about the swim cut off, this is the race for you!! The volunteers are great, there were kayaks or boats every couple hundred meters so it is almost impossible to get off track and the swim is a nice wide open area! As I finished the swim, the volunteers just pulled me out of the water and onto my feet, before I could even realize what was happening. The swim went SO FAST!!! It was AMAZING!!!
T1 – Time: 9:06 minutes
The transition from swim to bike is a moderate distance. The changing tent was normal and busy but they have a lot of volunteers to help out. I changed out of the shorts I swam in and put nice cushy bike shorts on. In less than 10 minutes I was out of transition and onto my bike.
Distance: 116 miles; Time: 6:51:13; Pace: 16.34 miles/hour; Placement: 34/78
For the bike leg, it should be a manageable bike course if you train on hills of all lengths and gradients. The course is mainly rolling, but it has one larger hill climb. The elevation sounds scary, but Heart Break Hill is way worse than anything you will race on this course. The bike course is an out and back with two loops. The hardest part is the two loops that are continually rolling for about 50+ miles each loop. It is beautiful and very shaded (at least while I was on the bike course). At mile 56ish was special needs and I got to see my family and friends twice on the course which was so uplifting! Everything was going perfect, up until mile 80 on the bike. I was feeling good! No knee pain, which was a major concern, I was eating/drinking my nutrition like clockwork, but then all of a sudden around mile 80, I didn’t feel like eating anymore. My stomach was starting to feel unhappy and I got very nauseated. My legs felt great on the bike, my power output and speed was right on target, but I could not figure out why I felt so crummy. I continued to get my nutrition down and hydrate properly but could not shake the yucky feeling in my stomach. As I got closer to the end of the bike course, I was catching more and more people and getting so excited about almost being done with the swim and bike. Finally, I thought, I can get to the sport I love, running! Swimming, I have a love-hate relationship and biking is fun but after 116 miles I think most people would be ready to get off their bikes.
For the bike course, overall I loved it, but I have two complaints: (1) it gets packed early on during the course so be cautious because it is easy to get all bogged down and then ride too fast or too slow in the beginning and even on to the first loop; (2) special needs was confusing. Special needs is in ONE place. So when I rode in, I called out my number and they told me “You need to ride further down.” So I clipped back in and road past special needs….then I realized I was too far and had to ride backwards on the course (#dangerous!) but, I figured it out, got everything I needed and even got to see my family again!
WARNING: The reason I felt so crummy on the bike was because I sabotaged myself without thinking….so around mile 80, I started to feel nauseated and didn’t want to eat anything. My brain was telling me that I needed to eat and stay on my nutrition plan but, I didn’t feel good at all. I pushed through the bike, kept eating and hydrating properly and got to the run. It wasn’t until after the race did I figure out the huge mistake I made that day that cost me at least an hour of time.
Side Note : Between mile 30-40, I had used up all my hydration of Poweraid and water so I began taking the Gatorade Endurance along with water. In efforts to minimize my stops and have a faster bike time, rather than taking Poweraid or Skratch, which is what I had trained on, I decided to use Gatorade Endurance….which I had never trained on before. BIG mistake! This completely wrecked my system! But, keep reading……What I find frustrating is that it was a hydration (nutrition related) mistake and being a Dietitian, I know better than to make this mistake. You live and learn I guess, and I learned that my body despises Gatorade Endurance.
T2 – Time: 5:16 minutes
The transition from bike to run was pretty smooth. The changing tent was easy to find a spot to change out of my bike shorts and into more comfy Alamo 180 tri shorts. In less than 6 minutes I was on the run course for the last leg of this amazing race!
Distance: 26.2 miles; Time: 5:20:19; Pace: 12:13 miles/hour; Placement: 31/78
Running is what I LOVE to do; I always feel so alive and happy when I am running. This is not the case for today though. The run course was two laps so I knew I would be seeing family and friends along the course at least twice. Seeing family and friends is always so nice to pull you out of a dark place and make you put a smile on your face! Unfortunately, because I unknowingly sabotaged myself on the bike, as I started the run, I felt very nauseated. Not thinking clearly, I told myself it was nothing and that I just needed to focus on my pace. My legs felt strong and my muscles felt good. Knee pain continued to be nowhere in sight! I was so excited….this is where you stop reading my recap and go buy a POWER METER for your bike because that makes a world of difference!! They are amazing!
Anyways, as I got further on the run, around mile 4-5, I started feeling really sick. Throughout training, I got nauseated usually due to the heat and pushing hard, but I had never been this nauseated in my life on a run. Around mile 5, I stopped and peed, hoping that would fix everything. I was so confused….my nutrition was spot on, or so I thought, my muscles felt great, my legs were strong, but my insides were so MAD! Around mile 6, I began also feeling chaffed all around the seam of the chamois. Without realizing it would be an issue, I had been proactive in cooling myself by putting water on my head. Apparently, my tri shorts decided to chaff on every single seam line. So by miles 8-9 I was super nauseated and chaffed. Walking hurt just as bad as running did. The sport I love so much, running, was kicking my butt and I was mentally ready to be done before I even hit the halfway mark. On the back side of the first lap there are some massive hills! I mean MASSIVE…so note to self, train on HILLS!! I hit the hills and felt sick, but was managing. By mile 11, my whole run began to fall apart. While running up this huge hill, I saw Michael <3, I was so happy!! Getting a kiss and hearing that he was struggling too made me feel a little better but didn’t take the discomfort away. At the halfway point, I was so chaffed and nauseated, I didn’t know how I was going to be able to keep going or finish the race. All I could think about was that I HAD to hear “Krista Neugebauer, you are an Ironman” and nothing was going to stop me.
Usually, I make friends on the run and have a blast, but today, I was miserable and mad. I began my second lap and my Garmin said it had a low battery. Knowing I was only half way done with the marathon, I stopped my intervals, ran consistently and planned on just walking during aid stations. The possibility of my Garmin battery dying on the course, sure motivated me to speed up. But after trying to speed up, the nausea quickly slowed back down. I saw my family and friends on the run and tried to be cheerful but it was a battle. Gabby asked me how I was feeling and I said, “I have never been so sick and nauseated in my life.” She was supper encouraging and told me to keep going and that I looked strong! By mile 15 or so, my body was mad and hit “eject”. I felt terrible and wanted to be done with this race. My pace had now dropped way below what I was aiming for. I had started the run with hopes of keeping about a 10 minute average which is right where my training had put me. Now, at a 12 minute mile, I was filled with frustration and disappointment. After my second port-a-potty stop, my whole insides felt like they were moving UP and DOWN with every step. Around mile 16, I stopped taking in supplements. I knew that if I could not consume any nutrition that was going to be a problem, but I for sure was not going to quit. Again around mile 17 my body hit “eject”. I kept being hopeful that going to the bathroom would help and I would feel amazing afterwards. Frustrated, I stopped, went to the bathroom again and continued to feel very nauseated and chaffed.
Around mile 19 my Garmin died! Once my Garmin died, it was all about digging deep and relying on God to get me to the finish line. Needless to say, I did quite a bit of praying on the run. Those 7.2 miles took forever! The hills seemed unbeatable, but I kept pushing and telling myself what a little boy on the course had said earlier, “Every step forward is a step closer to the finish.” Frustrated that I felt physically strong, well prepared and like I should be killing the run, my body was rebelling and my insides were completely wrecked. Emotionally, I was all over the place….I was crying, sad, frustrated, angry, emotional….then I remembered something Michael had said to me on a training day. He told me that “Ironman don’t quit.” After crying some more, I began feeling proud, determined and confident. Along the way, I met a girl who also was feeling nausea and was walked what seemed like forever. We chatted and kept each other company until about mile 23. She started to fall back and I decided I had had enough of IMCHOO; I became determined to finish! As I got closer to the finish line, I was more and more excited. I have yet to personally introduce myself to Mike Rilley, but I got to see him and be in a group conversation the day before. I kept thinking, it would mean so much for him to say my name as I crossed the finish line. As I got closer and closer to finishing, I saw Gabby and Emily, they ran along the side and then said, “We will see you at the finish line!”. Oh my goodness…..that was so exciting to hear! As I entered the finishing shoot, I high-5ed the crowd and tried to soak it all in. Then I heard my name in Mike Riley’s voice, “Krista Neugebauer, you are an Ironman!” Hearing my name being announced by Mike Riley is an incredible feeling! Wow, what a long day full of unexpected trials, but I did it! As I finished, I had enough energy to jump into Michael’s arms for the hug I had so desperately needed. Just like that, I had finished my second full Ironman; I could not believe it was over. All the hard work and just like that in 13:36 hours, it was over. It sounds crazy, but the day flew by! When focusing on one discipline at a time, by the end of the race, it’s amazing how fast the day seems to have gone. Emotions were going crazy, I was mad, happy, in pain, waddling as I walked, hot, cold, proud, sad and disappointed all at the same time. What a day! At the finish line, my parents, Michael, Gabby, Emily, Ashton and Travis were all waiting for me with open arms and smiles. I can’t thank them enough for being there and supporting me all day long!
The run took me over an hour longer than anticipated. This race was a growing experience in the sport I felt most confident in, the run. I learned that Gatorade Endurance and I are not friends. I will probably never use that again, unless training my body to use that is necessary. Today, I chose to rely on God’s strength, dig deep, fight for the Ironman title and finish strong! All for His glory!
- Parking is expensive and you have to pay everywhere
- The run has crazy hills
- Swim is fast and down current!
- Spectator friendly (not quite as awesome as IMTX but great place to race)
- Beautiful course
- Well stocked support
- Shuttled are provide for athletes and spectators in the morning for the swim start. They even shuttle spectators for free to the halfway point on the bike and then back to the finish.
Overall, I would recommend this race….I might even do it again! 🙂