Sunday, 8 November 2015

Ironman Chattanooga -- Volunteer

It was most of the day driving for me to get to Chattanooga from the guidestones monument in Georgia.  Right away I was put off by the strange layout of Chattanooga's roads.  It took ages to find the hotel.  The city is bisected by a tall ridge.  The tunnel through the ridge to get from downtown to my hotel was closed for construction.  None of the gas stations where I stopped had a map of the city, and the attendants were entirely useless at giving directions.  The streets were busy, with little indication of being accessible by bike.

Heading to the water
The next day improved my feelings towards the city.  The downtown core has many bicycle routes marked. I followed one such southward, looking to follow the bike course.  Sadly, the expo had run out of guidebooks, so I didn't have maps or directions.  I came to the Georgia state line and was again disheartened.  I found it difficult to believe that they would cross out of Tennessee.  That was incorrect, with most of the bike course being in Georgia, down to the town of Chickamauga.  I ran one lap of what I remembered to be the run course, and got it roughly correct.  For my next year of training it will be in my head, like Wisconsin was all this summer.

The directive is to jump. No diving.
Race day I made it to the swim start before dawn.  The start is delayed to 7:30 because dawn comes later this time of year.  The time-trial start looked like a problem for those further back in line.  The line up went on for a long ways down the path through the park, so those towards the back half had some running to get to the start and onto the dock.  Your time starts when you get on the dock.  The day was mostly cloudy.  The water was 77 degrees, making it wetsuit optional.  It took until 7:55 to finish all of the non-wetsuit athletes.  They got to go first.  Then another 10 minutes for the wetsuit wearers.  I'm not going to wear mine. This is my big chance for a non-wetsuit race.

TT start, but still a mass of swimmers

Go that way! Over there!
Life is worth swimming
From the bridge, it was interesting to watch people's swim form.  Some of the slower swimmers had poor arm movement, not extending forward on entry, then bending their elbow for the propulsion stroke.  Can you do the iron swim using dog paddle?  Yes, there was a guy doing that.  He barely made his own headway at all, moving along largely due to the river current.  There was a competitor in the rescue boat.  Don't know what his story was, but that would suck to be out of the race before leaving the water. 

Slippery when wet. Wet. Slipping. Crashing. Hurting.
With everyone in the water, I biked back to the start.  The wooden bridge is slippery when wet, and my back wheel went out slamming me down to the walkway.  It left a bloody welt on my hip.  

Lunch was at Noodles and Company, a franchise that Noah I discovered in Chicago. You order and pay, then sit at a table where they will bring the food to you.  That feels so much nicer than standing in the McDonalds lobby.

I should have just started my volunteer shift, but after locating the station where I was to be on duty later, I headed off to Lookout Mountain by bike. The road is a moderate incline for six km, for a total gain of over 250 meters.  It was a tough ride, leaving me spent by the time I made the top.  Having enough of riding, I went for dinner at Five Guys, then to the aid station.  

Run aid #1.  My crew
The most requested item was ice.  Although overcast, the day was warm, and the runners struggled in the heat.  Some rain would have been nice to keep them cool.  

By nightfall, the runners had thinned, so I made a clean-up pass down the road.  Lots of Gu tabs.  Runners were coming out from special needs, so I found some strange items.  A couple shirts.  Cans of pop and energy drinks. A little hotel bottle of mouthwash.  A toothbrush -- because you want to brush your teeth during the race, right?  Cookies. Towel.  This one thing looked like a pair of socks on the road. I picked it up.  Nope -- dead squirrel.  I moaned for the next couple of runners to thank me for supporting them, because that was nasty and way beyond what I signed up for.  

I ended up selecting Chattanooga as this year's race because the lunar eclipse was happening at 9:30 that evening.  The moon came out for about a five minutes at 8:30, then it was cloudy for the rest of the night, so no joy there.  No blood moon over the race.

After the last runner, who stopped at our station and decided to abandon, I stayed on station cleaning and packing until the work was done and the captain said it was all over.  The trash was piled, and the cardboard recycle as well.  

By the light of the moon

I went down to the finish, but was too tired to stand there cheering.  They didn't have bleachers. On towards the midnight close, there were a few stragglers on course, and I hurried the one guy, yelling that he could still make it, but needed to run for it.  He found the speed, and ran the last minute to the line, crossing just as the clock ticked off midnight.  It seems like everyone who managed to finish was recorded an official time, as if the customary midnight cut-off didn't apply. The book still says that you get 17 hours, so maybe midnight doesn't matter here.  

Wanting to get out of town early, I didn't go back in the morning to buy my ticket.  It shouldn't sell out for weeks.  I signed up online when I got home.  Ironman 2016 I'm back to Chattanooga.