In my usual style lets start this race report by setting out what my race plan and targets were for Chattanooga and then seeing how well i executed on them. With this being my first world championship race i didn’t really know what to expect apart from lots of ultrafast people….
I flew out a week early with my training buddy Evan and due to the weather we got stuck in Atlanta for the night which was not ideal. The next day we flew to Chattanooga and Delta decided to lose our bikes along with a few others as well! Apparently, with a number of athletes arriving at Chattanooga, there was a backlog of bikes which is why ours turned up late. Panic over!
We were staying about a kilometer from transition which meant that we could easily pop down to the Expo and transition area to register and rack!
The plan: SWIM
There was panic on most athletes faces that it would be a non-wetsuit swim but as the swim is one of my strengths i was hoping for this! I wasn’t prepared for it and didn’t have a skin suit so it was off to the Expo to be parted with some serious cash from Roka! 30 minutes later and i had a Roka Viper Elite for race day!
What was good was you were allowed a practice swim in the river the two days before the race and as there was a big running current most athletes used this to see how bad it was. My first swim saw me swimming nearly 3min/100m upstream and sub 1min/100m down! This i thought was going to be a hard day out, but as they say its the same for everyone so i wasn’t too bothered.
So my plan was to try and limit the loss of time from the water current and try and swim really hard up the current and ride it back down. By doing this it would take more time out of the poor swimmers (if there were any!) and gain me an extra few minutes for me! I was going to swim with my new Royal Marines tri suit underneath my new Roka swim skin and just rip off the swim-skin in transition and head off on the bike. I planned to get to the front of the start as we were going in right after the pro’s and i wanted to be at the front of the race and away from all of the uber bikers which i knew would put down some serious power.
The Plan: BIKE
Having raced a few times now i was pretty confident how i was going to perform on the bike. What i didn’t know was how everyone else was going to do. My “Best Bike Split” race prediction had me down for a 2:23min so anywhere close to that i thought had to be good. I had ridden the first 20km of the bike, including “The Mountain” a few days before so i knew what to expect and thought that it wasn’t much of a big deal after Mallorca.
I wanted to ride at threshold up the mountain @ about 320Watts and then finish up with a Normalised Power of 280Watts having taken it easy for the last 10km in preparation for the run. I was using my custom internal water bladder that i had designed fro my Cervelo P5X which had 6 energy gels inside and i had a pack of Blocks with me.
The Plan: RUN
Having ran just over 1hr 30mins (best 1:33min) this year i was hoping to nip under this for the world champs. I did a quick recce of the route a few days before and apart from the “big hill” i thought “game on”. Coach wanted me to take it sensible on the first lap and then leave it all out there on the last lap. Start just after the PRO’s i knew that i wouldn’t be running in the afternoon heat as i would be finished by lunchtime, so heat should not be a problem. The last 3 miles are all downhill so once your over the hill for the second time its fast back to the red carpet!
The Reality: SWIM
With nearly 500 athletes in my age category, i wanted to make sure that i didn’t get caught up in bike traffic so i decided to make sure that i got to the front of my swim start. I was the 3rd set of athletes to set off so i guess that was 18th ish.. I didn’t dive in as every time i have tried that before i have lost my googles so i jumped in and tied to get on the feet of the other athletes that i started with. As they had all dived in then this was easy and all i needed to do was to put a quick sprint in. Out to the first buoy wasn’t too difficult as long as you swam to the right as the river was flowing to the left. Then it was the turn into the tide and the hard swim up current 900 meters to the next turn. As it was i managed to find someone’s hip to swim off and so i kept my head down and hoped that they were keeping a good line! It took what seemed like an age to get to the top buoy and at this point i had averaged 1:38min/ 100m which was a lot faster than i had done in the two practice swims.
Once passed that buoy i knew that it would be fast back to the finish. I somehow managed to lose the person that i was swimming with and was all on my own. Heading to the 3rd buoy was actually tricky as the tide kep pushing you down stream and it was difficult to keep left and round the 3rd buoy. After this buoy, you could feel the water flowing you back to the final turn and from the second buoy to the finish line i averaged 1:19min / 100meters. My official swim time was 30mins 35 sec which i am fairly happy about especially as there was a current to swim against. I decided to keep my helmet and shoes in my transition bag and put them on as i was running up the steep walkway to transition. I think i managed to pass a few people in transition as they were sat down putting their kit on and i just flew past and chucked my bag at one of the helpers! Swim done…
The Reality: Bike
So with the plan to ride at threshold for the first part and up the hill i actually was a lot lower and by the time i got the top of the climb (31 mins) my NP was 281W and an average speed of 24km/hr. I’m not sure why i couldn’t put the power down, maybe i had swum too hard and it was affecting me but it just wasn’t there for now. So once over the hill, i decided to settle in and try and pick up some speed and stay as aero as possible. The next section was to the top of the second set of climbs (300 meters of climbing) which took me about 40 mins and i averaged 266W which is well below what i am capable of. Average speed for this section was 35.6Km/hr. Once at the top it was an amazing journey downhill, one that i have never experienced before. To have the roads all to myself and for there to be no dead turns like in Edinburgh was amazing with my max speed of 72km/hr with an average of 63km/hr!! 7km of pure fun.. and resting the legs 🙂
The final 45km was fairly flat with just a few short climbs to get over. I had settled into my rhythm now but still couldn’t push the power had my previous race so i had to just accept it wasn’t there on the day and get my head in gear. I started to struggle at about 70km and dropped off the back of a group but i kept my head and managed to catch up with a few in the last 10km. My power for the last 45km was a poor 246W with an average speed of 38km/hr. the last 10km i really let off the gas and thought as the power wasn’t there then lets ease off and get the legs ready for the run. My power for the last 10km was 227W. Just as i was coming into T2 the rider ahead of me diverted into the penalty tent! Not sure why, if it was drafting or something else as i didn’t see many ref’s during the day and didn’t see anyone get carded.
My final bike time was 2:31 which for a course with nearly 1000m of climb i guess i’m happy with but i knew that had i been able to keep to my power plan i would have been about 7-8 minutes quicker!
The Reality: RUN
T2 was fairly uneventful, ditch the bike with a volunteer pick up my bag off the floor and grab a chair to sit on. A quick sock, shoe shuffle and i was out on the run! As usual, the legs felt like led and as there was a short climb out of T2 they felt extra heavy and it wasn’t until i was over the climb that i could settle in and try and assess how my legs were going to feel. The first 2 miles i stuck to my plan of taking it easy and had a run speed of 7:49min/mile. The rest of the first lap i sped up and averaged about 7:20min/mile which was a little slower than i had hoped for but i wanted to keep it steady so i would not die too much on the second lap. The hill was actually harder than i thought it would be with it being longer than i thought. You had to climb up and over the top and run down to an aid station and back. Leg sapping hill for sure! By this time a few people had passed me and i knew that i was losing positions to the faster runners but there wasn’t much i could do. I had to just race my own race and hang on as much as i could. The support along the course was amazing and definitely made me keep my pace up.
The second lap came round quite quickly and it wasn’t long before i found myself climbing the hill again for the second time. This time i had to push out a short walk to recover the legs which actually worked and when i ran again it picked my pace up and refreshed me a little. Once over the hill for the last time it was a massive buzz as i knew that all i had to do was to run downhill for the last 3 miles and onto the red carpet! I Managed to pick my pace back up and made sure that i wasn’t passed again. Running over the wooden bridge for the last time was amazing and a feeling that i won’t forget knowing that i was heading to the red carpet and everyone else there was on their first lap! Once off the bridge, it was a left turn and down the hill that came out of T2 and onto the red carpet! Little did i know that my family and friends were watching it live at home and saw me come over the line! The noise was amazing and it was over in a flash.. i was done! Final run time was disappointing but i gave it what i had on the day and that is all i can ask of myself. Run time of 1:37 and a pace of 7:20min/mile to bring me over the line in 4:44:46 and 46th place in my AG.
Although i didn’t hit any of the numbers that i wanted to i have to take what i got and understand that that’s racing i guess. Sometimes its just not there and you have to work for it and be happy with what you get. It was a great experience and i learned lots just in that race alone. Its now time to recover as i am racing again in a weeks time in Weymouth!