Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2014 – Mont Tremblant (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run)

Date: Sunday, September 7, 2014

Total Time: 5:05:40

Age Group Place (F 25-30): 43/86

Gender Place: 232/?

Overall Place: 1294/?

Disclaimer: I apologize for the length in advance! Hunker down and get comfortable for this one…

Preface: Secretly, I had grandiose plans of qualifying for Worlds in 2015 to race in Zell am See, Austria. This season was all about learning, growing, and getting a full Ironman under my belt as the pinnacle of the season. My performance in Raleigh, however, sped up this plan and landed me a spot in this year’s race! Despite it’s relative close timing to Chattanooga without being planned into the training schedule (nor budgeted into balance sheet), I had to sign up and participate in this potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience! Moreover, my coach also qualified, providing me the rare opportunity to hang out and race with him! I was stoked.

Goals were (in jest) to not finish last, and in reality, to finish >50% of my age group. I had an epiphany (link) a few weeks prior, leading to a breakthrough in my swim. A bit optimistic, I thought this would automatically translate to the open water during a race (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). I would let myself bike as I felt, but then take it easy on the run and practice pacing for the looming full Ironman, rather than blow up like I did at Raleigh and Augusta.

PreRace: In true procrastinator form, I took my bike to Podium Multisport for a tune up and a much-needed wash the day prior to TriBike Transport. My vision shifters were on the fritz, so they replaced them with new ones. Without time to test ‘em out, I shipped the bike out with confidence that the Podium guys took good care of Flashy. Race week, I got my first ever sports massage from Christopher Hunt, as my legs definitely felt the beating from the high volume training. I may have made a massage monster of myself, cause I noticed an immediate difference and felt lighter and looser!

Friday: Typical WTC protocol requires you to spend an exorbitant amount of money, so athlete check in was 4pm on Friday for a Sunday race so that you would have plenty of time to throw down cash in the merchandise store and in town. But I need to keep my job!! Logistically, Mont Tremblant isn’t the easiest nor the cheapest to get to. It does have a small airport with very limited number (and very expensive) selection of flights—none of which would have gotten me in on time. So, I flew into Montreal (still not very cheap) with a 10:00am arrival and rented a car to make the two-hour trip to Mont Tremblant, hoping Canada doesn’t have the construction schedule Germany does.

By the time we found check in (they did not print the address on the athlete guide—would have been very helpful), three pm had arrived and the line was long (but apparently much shorter than earlier in the afternoon). This wasn’t the first rodeo for all of the athletes participating, so most people casually waited to check in rather than frantically bust down the door in the morning, like many newbies do. They had me originally listed in the 40-45 age group, so I had to get that straightened out (I jokingly wanted to stay thinking I might have a shot of placing, but I still would have landed 36th in that age group, as it turns out).

As I exited forty-five minutes later, I was surprised to be greeted by Coach Chris Rotelli himself and his wife, Julie, and kids! He escorted me to pick up the iconic Ironman backpack, and find my bike at TBT. After a long day of travel, Topher and I made it back to the great house Julie, unofficial travel agent extraordinaire, had landed for us. Mont Tremblant is an awesome ski resort town, not dissimilar to Steamboat Springs, CO. Per coach’s recommendations, Topher and I journeyed a bit down the road for dinner to the cute neighboring town, Saint Jovit, which has plenty of shops and restaurants. Swung through the grocery store on the way home to find the peanut butter and banana shelves nearly barren. Yep, there must be a race in town.

Saturday: Awoke early to swim in the lake behind the house with Coach and Eric, another athlete/friend of Chris’ who was also racing. It took a good bit of mental prowess to exit the cozy cabin into the dank rainy day, but we trudged ahead. The water felt great. While the swim was to be “easy”, I found myself picking up the tempo, so as to not get totally lost behind those two speedsters. I was very pleased to notice that my new swim form stuck in the open water, and I gained confidence for race day.

The rain thwarted plans of riding my bike to check out the shifters (nothing new on race day? Bah! Doesn’t scare this girl!), so I went for a jog with Topher to shake out the legs, flipped the gears a few times in the house, and arranged the bike and gear bags for check in. Headed to transition, and as I suspected, my belongings were stacked with the 40-45 year olds, and I, again, verified that I was registered in the correct age group. I may have gotten distracted by shiny things at the expo and picked up another pair of 110% Flat Out Sox (my favorite!) and a new pair of calf sleeves (pre-race tradition!).

To stay off my feet, I watched a horrible VHS video stashed in the house (remember rewinding?!) and ended up sleeping through a good bit of it. Tohper and I went to the house where John, Bethany, Tim, Ann, Sarah, Dusty and some other friends were staying. Dusty had prepared an amazing pasta dinner with homemade sauce, which showcased his potential as a personal chef to the athletes… They put me on the spot inquiring what my time goals were. Time goals?! I honestly hadn’t put numbers down on paper. In my defense, I did say I wasn’t ready to throw out numbers and I knee-jerk threw out 28 min as my swim time (HAHA!!). I think I said a 2:40 bike and 1:50ish run? It ended up being around 5:10, so I settled on a legitimate goal to beat my PR of 5:09 from Augusta (a very easy course). I honestly can’t remember, but I believe Bethany has it written down… She’ll keep ya accountable for sure!

Came home to consume my new no-longer-so-secret weapon: Osmo Nutrition PreLoad Hydration. Each small scoop is chock full of over 1200 mg of sodium delight! I mix it with some juice, so it doesn’t taste like a salt stick, and, oh boy, with your fluids stick with ya! This was the first time I’ve tried it for a race, in an attempt to ward of the muscle cramps that have plagued my prior races. Early to bed with dreams of PRs dancing in my head.

RACEDAY!!! I slept like a rock, cause I swear my alarm sounded the minute my head hit the pillow. I dawdled in bed for awhile and Coach came down essentially ready to go. Guess I could have given myself a little more time! (Maybe constantly waking up too late helps my transition times?) Just needed to fill bottles, grab the stuff I had laid out, and eat the breakfast of champs: oatmeal with banana and peanut butter. With a healthy-sized cup of joe, of course.

Hopped in the car with Coach with Julie behind the wheel and their troopers-of-kids strapped in and ready to sherpa. We intended to arrive on the later side, but between no traffic and landing an awesome parking spot, we ended up arriving relatively early. Once again, ain’t these folks’ first rodeo, so people tended to wait to show up. Outfitted my bike, successfully dropped a bit of weight in the porta pot, and caught up with the ATCers before the race to hang out. Caught Coach who reminded me of the strategy we discussed previously, “take the uphills easy and hammer the downhills. And go BALLISTIC on the bike!!!”

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Warm Up

Weather predictions called for 40-degrees race morning, so the balmy 50 was a pleasant surprise. Despite plenty of layers (including pretty spectacular socks [pic]), I was shivering. I did all I could to stop so as to not waste all my racing energy in a feeble attempt to maintain core body temperature. Come on, sun! Come out!! Shivering counts as a warm up, right? The start was awesome with pyrotechnics and jet fly bys! Very cool. People kept asking how I felt. I honestly had no idea. Some blend of intimidation, excitement, uncertainty with only a hint of nervousness, as I intentionally framed my mind to participate in and enjoy this race without expectations!

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I had to pee really bad, which I discussed with Dane. While it’s common (and sometimes necessary) to pee your wetsuit during the swim, Dane admitted that he’s peed standing up on land in mid sentence with other folks. I teased him for this, but by the time I was lined up on shore for the beach start, I couldn’t wait any longer (wish it were a water start!). I made nervous chatter with the girl standing next to me and let ‘er rip, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go once I got moving. For the record, Dane, it does drip out noticeably from the bottom of the wetsuit.

Nutrition: forgot to bring a snack for the long wait! Luckily Ironman planted a Red Bull in my bag, which I downed for some empty calories and a jolt to survive the swim.

Swim

For the first time ever, I think, my wave was not the very last to start, but the fourth-to-last. Luckily 20-24s were grouped with 25-29s, so I had Ellen to keep me company and keep my nerves at bay. She is wiser than I and placed herself wide, while I went in the middle figuring that it would be the shortest distance. Well, as can be expected at Worlds, the swim was quite physical. I’ve gotten used to being banged around for the first few hundred, but I felt like I was getting grabbed and jerked around during the whole shebang. Despite my best efforts to stay calm, my heart rate was jacked through the roof. I’m sure the Red Bull didn’t help. I fell back into old bad stroke habits, breathing every stroke with a strong left pull and a very inefficient right. I successfully found a pair of feet and focused on staying on them through the beating. I could tell that other people were trying to encroach, but I held my ground.

The first turn buoy came pretty quick, and I definitely lost time trying to navigate around it through the crowd. The short distance between the two turns felt very long for some reason. Having lost my reliable feet, I looked for others, but found myself in between packs of swimmers. I figured it would bottleneck at the next buoy, so I trudged along.

Sure enough, the second (and final) turn buoy was just as crowded as the first, and I, once again, fumbled around it through the pack. I found a draft but learned that it’s super annoying to try to swim behind a heavy kicker. I kept getting splashed in the face when I tried to breathe, couldn’t sight (was looking into the sun at this point anyway, though), and the turbulent water made my already bad stroke all kinds of messed up. I tried to find someone else, but couldn’t. I remembered someone (I think Bethany) commenting on how the Kona swim is tough because everyone is about the same pace. This was definitely the case. With maybe ¼ of the swim to go, the orange caps from the wave behind me caught up. Ooh they’re fast! Tried to hold on to someone’s feet, but once again, unsuccessful. I could see the blue arch ahead and the sounds of the crowds became louder.

With maybe 200 meters to go, I got to the point that I wanted the swim to end, which was significantly later than prior races–I call that a win. Overall, I think I had a solid swim and shaved off two minutes from Raleigh, but certainly have room for improvement in this arena.

Swim Time: 33:43    Pace: 1:44/100M    http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/587033598

T1:

Holy crap! I was told T1 was a long transition but had no idea. The strippers lined up almost immediately past the water, and I was just as disoriented as ever emerging from the water. Luckily they unzipped me and stripped me with the efficiency of a formula 1 pit crew. Best strippers I’ve encountered yet!! I then embarked on the nearly ½ mile journey along red carpets to the transition tent. When does it end?!? I asked myself several times along the trek. I found the tent, easily spotted my transition bag nestled amongst the 40-year-olds (darn! I hoped they would have started before me!) and found a chair.

I had procrastinated (note a theme?) taking the stickers off my helmet from Challenge Roth until the night before the race. The stickers left a residue, which I didn’t think much about at the time, but acted as super glue securing my helmet and the contents behind it to the plastic. I think I spent a good 90 seconds just getting my belongings out of the bag. Ugh! But I stayed calm and carried on.

Shoes on, helmet on. I brought arm warmers anticipating a chilly ride and was only able to get them on my wrists. Ran to the racks, grabbed my bike, mounted, and fumbled to get my visor positioned. Heard shouts from the ATC support crew!

T1 Time: 6:13 – seriously?!

Bike:

Without having studied the course much, I basically knew that (a) the first and last ten miles were fast, (b) that it was a double-out-and-back configuration, and (c) there was one giant climb and lots of other hills. I had no true game plan, except to keep power under control and maintain a high cadence.

OH BOY was it windy out there! Good God, way windier than I’ve experienced. As per usual, the first stretch was crowded, and I learned that certain (presumably well-worn) tri shorts become see-through when wet. I saw at least two cracks that I wish I hadn’t. We turned onto Route 117 and I left behind any familiarity with the course.

After a few miles, I found myself behind a gentleman wearing this year’s race kit (which by Kelly Kids’ music festival rules, at least, is a big faux paux. “Rule number 1: NEVER wear the festival t-shirt AT the festival!!”). He must have weighed a good 250+ pounds and I could help but get sucked into the powerful vortex of his draft. I tried passing, but was immediately knocked back by the brick wall headwind, which made it feel like riding through quicksand. And he would pass again, and I would get sucked into his wheel again. After a few rounds of pass and get passed, I hung back a bit. Riders were already coming back on the opposite side of the road and I spotted a massive peleton of 50+ cyclists blatantly drafting one another like a swarm of wheeled bees. Like absolutely shameless. A few minutes later, another swarm barreled through. At that point, I was jealous that I wasn’t surrounded by enough people to form a pack. So I may have stopped fighting my friend’s draft. In my defense, I did try to NOT draft–at first. Not sure how long I held on–maybe 10 minutes or so, but I probably pushed it a little longer than I should have… and my guilty conscience caught up. I let him go and hunkered down with no one near me—or so I thought.

I got to the turn around to find a large group packed in behind me. I kinda hoped they would catch up and swoop me up into a big draft ball. But I forged ahead regularly glancing at power and cadence. Power? Check! Cadence? Check! I passed the penalty box and was shocked to find it empty. They hadn’t busted anyone for shameless drafting?! This is the championship!

This stretch was FAST! I felt great. The course turned back onto Montee Ryan toward transition, and my Garmin had me under two hours. Uh I know I’m having a good day but, what?! I was averaging just over 21 mph at this point, and I tried to do the math in my head. Wait a tic! That can’t be right… I had forgotten about the other out and back that was on the other side of transition. A bit of a tease to pass by the finish. Especially since that other part was HARD!

The climbs were short, but STEEP! And incessant. The kind where you have no choice but to grind it out of the saddle. It just kept going steep up and kinda down and steep up and kinda down for 20 kilometers. Gol-ly! Enough to make a girl seasick! For perspective, those 20 kilometers alone dropped my overall average speed from 21.7-ish (mph) to 20. My legs started burning and I got nervous about the run. At some point in this part, Dan caught me and I congratulated him on a great bike split! He was movin! I finally reached the turn around and enjoyed a BLAZING FAST 10 kilometers to T2!

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Nutrition: The cool temps kept me from wanting to drink much. I had two bottles of osmo in my cages and water in my aero bottle. I made myself suck down the water and some of the osmo before the first aide station, where I grabbed a water. While I had planned to eat at one hour, I waited until after the turn around, and grabbed another water and a banana, which I proceeded to smash in my face followed by a larabar. I downed the rest of one bottle of osmo. It wasn’t until I got to the second out-and-back that I got really nervous about the nutrition still sitting in my bento. I went specifically against coach’s advice and triple salt margarita chomps during the last ten miles as well as half the second bottle of osmo—quite a feat for that kind of terrain. (Luckily, I have a bad habit of stuffing my face with a small village’s worth of peanut butter pretzels immediately prior to working out, so my stomach is accustomed to this sort of abuse. Those are no longer allowed in my house.) Will this be enough?!?

Bike Time: 2:42:05   Pace: 20.73 mph    http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/587033602

T2:

Bike catchers lined both sides of the bike-in chute. If they were smarter they would all be on the right side, as everyone stays to the left of the bike opposite the crank. I awkwardly handed my bike to a guy on the left and easily found my bag once again. My stuff came out without a hitch this time… Hemet off, shoes off. Socks and shoes on, visor on. I threw sunglasses in at the last minute even though I haven’t been using them in awhile. I put them on my visor in case I needed them—I didn’t. Exited with race belt in hand only to find my arm warmers were still on. DARN! Ditched them in the trash (in hindsight, I should have at least tried to throw them in the bushes or something to retrieve them later). Dan and I ran out of transition together and I asked what kind of pace he was going to keep. Oh, I’m startin’ slow. Maybe 9s. And I thought, perfect! But he made a pit stop, and I went on ahead.

T2 Time: 1:40 – muuuucchhh better!

Run:

Things I knew about the run included: (1) it was two loops (2) essentially no flats (3) one massive hill you run twice and (4) the first mile is fast.

While I intended on practicing full-ironman pace off the bike (9 minute miles these days), my legs felt great! Unlike any transition run or race I had ever experienced. Since Coach said the first mile was fast, I let myself run as I felt. I looked down to find this was <7 minute miles (well, at first)! Ok, you’re allowed to keep it up until that Garmin dings one mile. Meanwhile, people were FLYING by me. In droves. Like, lightning speed! Dang, these people are FAST!!

Coach had drilled into me to go easy up the hills and let loose on the downhills. My mantra became “Easy up, Hammer down!” My watch rang in one mile as I approached a formidable climb, so I put the plan into action. I made sure to keep my heart rate low and my strides short. I glanced at my watch, surprised to find that my “easy” uphill pace was around 8:15. I crested the hill and paid no mind to my watch on the way down.

And this is how I proceeded through the whole run—admittedly paying more attention to the “easy up” part and less to the “hammer down” part. I just made sure to open up my stride and allow gravity to help me pick up the pace on the descents. I tried to ignore the thousands of people passing me, but the out-and-back course shared the same lane, and it was narrow and crowded. Run your own race, Susie! I remembered Raleigh and how I started out too fast. Had I calmed down and had slower splits, but maintained through the whole race, I would have had at least a second place finish. Stay solid!

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I passed by John and Dane, who’s cheers gave me a boost! The turn-around came relatively fast, and I still felt good. Luckily coach came barreling from the other direction on his second loop and managed to spot me despite his blurring speed. “PATIENCEEE!!!” he hollered at me. Just in time, too, cause I probably would have gotten anxious and picked up the pace! I was on a false flat, and let myself settle into a what seemed like a crawl so that I wouldn’t get busted red-handed by Coach for going too fast ha! It seemed to take a long time for him to catch me, but he did and, again, reminded me to be patient. “Easy up, Coach! Got it!” He blew by me and I think I literally felt a gust of wind. And he was very soon out of sight.

I pressed on through an awkward offshoot through a dirt parking lot and then through a scenic cycling/running path. I found John again, who asked how I was feeling. “I feel pretty good?” I said, almost inquisitively. Mostly surprised, I think. Then there was a short but steep hill that I conquered without too much trouble (thanks to TNR!), but I dreaded repeating it on the second loop. To my delight, I heard shouts of “Hup! Hup! Hup!” and reminisced about Challenge Roth. Plenty of “c’est bon!”s as well! An awesome crowd gathered outside a spa blaring music and dancing in robes. And a gentleman dressed in a button down and a tie racing who’s class outdoes even Michael Oyler’s (time to step it up, bro).

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At this point, my stupid bunion on my left foot flared up (thanks for nothin, Grandmas). Every step felt like a dagger into my first MTP joint. I conscientiously tried to force a heel strike (I’m a mid-forefoot striker) trying to forget what it might do to my knees. I discovered that if I scrunched my big toe inside my shoe, it took the pressure off for a second and kinda helped. So with each uphill and each downhill (i.e. the whole course), I kept scrunching that toe in my shoe, hoping my foot wouldn’t cramp. Whelp that hill wasn’t the one they were talking about. The course takes you into town through a narrow chute on a steep cobblestone road. It would have been horrible had it not been for the amazing spectator support akin to the famous solar berg of Challenge Roth. I found myself grinning ear-to-ear as I shuffled easy up!

The course turned nearly 180 degrees and after a steep descent, you, once again, had to pass the finish in order to start the second loop. Teased again!! I shook my legs out and set out. I kept a good clip and remembered that this stretch was fast. Deja vou set in as I told myself, “Ok, you’re allowed to keep it up until that Garmin dings one mile” followed by “easy up! Hammer down!” and “PATIENCE!!!”

Got a psychological lift from John and Dane again, and trudged along. This time, however, I noticed I wasn’t caught in the wind of fasties smoking by me (mostly because they had all finished at that point). Nope! In fact, I was picking people off—slowly albeit, but still felt good! While I kept feeling the urge to pick up the pace, I made a mental note to wait until I hit ten miles. I also didn’t let myself look at the total time, reminding myself that three miles of walking would throw any PR into the toilet. I didn’t want to psych myself out.

I reached the turn around, and reined it in on that false flat. I let loose on the path that I knew was fast. Then came the dreaded steep hill before the cobblestone climb. Dane greeted me there shouting, “there’s cold beer and boyfriends at the finish!!” which made me laugh all the way up the hill and into town. The second ascent up the cobblestone climb was much less exciting than the first. I even contemplated walking it, but shuffled along knowing that the finish waited just beyond the peak. I was on the verge of going to a negative place, when I saw a wheelchair racer struggling to turn his wheels. I’ve got such respect for these athlete! I couldn’t begin to imagine climbing that monster in a wheelchair, and I channeled that potentially negative energy into cheers for him. It still boggles my mind that he was able to make it up. Defies physics for sure.

Our hard work up the hill was rewarded with that steep descent into a gentle downhill finish. I couldn’t stop the momentum, so I was “that girl” who passed at least two people in the finisher’s chute. Maybe three… I knew I had a great race, but I waited until I crossed the finish to stop and look at my Garmin (hope your happy, Oyler). 5:05!!! 5:05!!! OMG!! No joke, I cried a little.

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Nutrition: Worried that I was undernourished, I made it a point to take advantage of every aide station. For whatever reason, I decided to go for coke from the get-go. I took in water-coke-water at the first few stations, which devolved into just water-coke and toward the end 100% pure coca cola. I walked the stations to ensure I actually took in enough, which was new to me. I used to try and jog and end up aspirating and wearing more fluid than I consumed. I swear I must have drank a whole two liters of coke during those 13 miles. But, whatever. It worked!! Coca cola is definitely the elixir of the gods. And I only felt mildly bloated and only started to develop a tinge of a side stitch at one point, haha. I had put a bag of salt sticks in my pocket during the bike, but never used any.

Run Time: 1:41:59   Pace: 7:47 min/mile   http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/587033607

Post Race: I stood in line for food even though I felt a bit nauseated. You know you’ve left America when post-race includes fresh salad and quinoa and fruit and other deliciously nutritious options fare than pizza and baked goods. I grabbed a banana and an apple and headed out to find Topher. We had a 5:50pm flight out of Montreal all Sunday evening, so there was no time to waste! I ended up finding Dane scarfing down bacon cheeseburger poutine, which would have been amazing on any other occasion, but there was no way I was “pou-tine” that in my mouth! (Thanks Alexandra! Haha). It took awhile to find Topher, but eventually we connected, took the shuttle to a satellite lot where he parked so we wouldn’t get trapped in on closed roads, and headed to Montreal. We got to the airport and rushed through security and customs (I did find time, however, to stop to pick up sandwiches. I was so hungry my head hurt and I couldn’t see straight!) arriving at the gate just in time for them to announce that the flight was delayed. Ugh! Whelp, we noshed on our sandwiches, glad to have made it (although I wouldn’t have been disappointed to stay in Mont Tremblant another night—or week, for that matter!). You will note, that I didn’t mention a shower. Nope! Changed clothes in the car and washed my face in the airport bathroom. Sorry, fellow passengers.

Overall Experience: THIS RACE WAS AWESOME!!!

Personally, I was elated to have put together a solid race in all disciplines for the first time!! I beat Raleigh’s swim time by two minutes (Augusta doesn’t count), tied it to the second on the bike (when I looked back at the data, I realized I definitely didn’t reach “ballistic” potential on the bike. I should have held ~200 watts NP, when I ended up around 185—but who knows if I would have had legs to run…), and PRed the run by ~11 minutes (only two minutes off my open half marathon PR!!). Ha, despite my personal achievements, this placed me only 43rd in my age group, just barely eeking out my goal of placing top 50%. I noticed that I approached this race with more maturity, and the patience that Coach preached worked! Outstanding coaching played a major role, as did the perfect climate. And definitely my socks race morning. I’m attributing ZERO muscle cramps to Osmo preload, although it was likely the cool temperatures. I’ll also give credit to Christopher’s pre-race massage and, of course, Dane’s perfectly timed comedic relief. Thanks, guys!

It was so great to be a part of the World Championship! So much energy. Aside from failure to print address of athlete check-in, the race was very well run. All volunteers were super helpful! Athlete check-in did take awhile, but went off without a hitch. The course was challenging, but so beautiful that you almost forgot! Officiating on the course was essentially nonexistent, which is pretty bad for such a high-stakes race. Or maybe they focused on those who were in the running for loot.

Love, love, loved Mont Tremblant! Definitely allow yourself more time than I did—not only to lower stress levels while traveling, but also to enjoy the amazing scenery! So much to do! Summertime and wintertime—anytime! The French Canadians are a friendly bunch, for sure (Jovial Jerome is a good representative). The only drawback is that they tax on tax and then tax again. But small price to pay (literally) for such a great town. I will definitely be back!

Now it’s time to recoup and get back at it and hopefully put together a great race at Ironman Chattanooga!!