I copied (with permission) from Jamie’s blog. I was happy to coach him for this race. Here it is:
When I met with Mike Hermanson last fall I shared with him my plan to do Chattanooga 70.3 with a goal of five and a half hours. That at the time felt like a pretty big leap. The only other time I’d attempted a 70.3 was in Austin, TX in 2016. I finished right at 5:30, but that was with a cancelled swim (due to fog) and one less transition. I estimated at the time that I would have been closer to 6:20 if we would have had the swim.
In December we tested my pace and endurance in the pool, my power on the bike and my pace on the run and Mike built a training plan. I don’t know exactly what went into the planning on his end, but the workouts seemed to target my weaknesses.
I quickly learned that I had never swam far enough, often enough or with enough intensity when I was training myself. It wasn’t long before I was much more comfortable in the pool and swimming much faster.
For as good of a runner that I thought I was, I learned that I had a lot of room for improvement. I saw gains in speed and endurance pretty quickly. My dialed back pace for most runs would have been my race pace a couple years ago!
For 6 months, I layered the workouts into my schedule wherever I could. Before work, during lunch, after work. Before and after church. It needs to be said that this can’t and probably shouldn’t be attempted without a supportive family.
Over the final weeks, Mike and I worked out a high level plan for the race. It boiled down to: average 170 watts on the bike so I have energy on the run, target a 7:30 pace on the run, fuel and stay hydrated.
To keep an eye on my wattage I set my Garmin Edge up on my bike so I could see it without having to constantly glance at my watch. I would set my watch to multi sport mode and capture the overall race data including transitions.
They say everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. It should follow that your response to that punch is key.
The Swim (27:36)
The first punch came almost as soon as I got into the water. It was pretty crowded in the river and wow did I get kicked…a lot! A couple of times pretty hard right in the ribs. The key to open water swimming in traffic is to stay calm and be like Dory. Just keep swimming!
Somehow in my nervousness before the race I hadn’t set my watch up correctly to multi sport mode. I only realized this when I got out of the water. This meant that I wouldn’t be able to capture my transition times and would have no idea of my total time. I would just have to be as quick as possible.
The Bike (2:54:26)
The 2nd punch came as soon as I got on the bike. My Garmin didn’t sync with my power meter. I would have no idea what my power was. This created a pretty interesting challenge. I could ride too hard and find myself walking 13.1 miles or dial it back, go by feel and make my best guess, which could end up leaving some time on the course if I didn’t go hard enough.
The course has a few climbs on it. I put an 11-32 cassette on the rear wheel before the race, which was very helpful in reducing the intensity of some of the climbs as well as allowing me to spend more time in the big ring up front while still keeping my cadence high.
I’ll never know what my power was, but based on my ride time and how the run turned out it must have been in the ballpark of the goal wattage.
The Run (1:54:32)
The third punch, and the only one I knew was coming, was the hilly run course. Over 800 ft of climbing was going to be tough on a normal day. This one also happened to be hot.
I decided in advance that I would carry a bottle of Infinit fuel on the run and take advantage of the aid stations to keep it icy and topped off. I stopped at every single aid station to grab some ice for my bottle and to tuck under my hat. This probably cost me 5-10 minutes total, but given the conditions I felt like it was important.
Aside from walking one particularly steep hill around mile 11, I was able to keep a pretty decent run pace . I finished the run in 1:54:32, which is a PR for me not only off the bike, but in a stand alone half marathon.
Official finish time was 5:24:05. Nearly 6 minutes faster than my goal!
Putting in the time and working with a coach was key to a big payoff. I’ve been asked if hiring a coach was worth it and for me it absolutely was. Just going through the testing showed me that I was capable of more than I realized and capable of more improvement than I thought. That in itself was a huge confidence builder. In the past I would have set the bar too low.
In looking at the final standings it’s clear that my biggest area for improvement is on the bike. Of the 55 people in my age group that finished ahead of me, I had a faster run than 19 of them. The gap is definitely on the bike leg.
Official Race Stats
Swim – 27:36
T1 – 4:11
Bike – 2:54:26
T2 – 3:21 (includes a bathroom break)
Run – 1:54:32
Total Time: 5:24:05