Less than a week after the Boulder 70.3 race, Lucas and I packed up and flew to Tennessee. Some time ago I had been asked by Eddie Ferrel, manager of the X3 Endurance training group, to help out/talk/attend a triathlon training camp in Chattanooga, TN, home of one of the newest Ironman (brand) races. In fact, Lucas and I are signed up to race it on September 28th. This was a great opportunity to contribute to the triathlon community, meet some new athletes, and get to experience the Ironman course there that I will race on in September!
We arrived in Nashville on Thursday evening, where Lucas’ sweet and excited mom, Teresa, picked us up from the airport. We picked up drinks, snacks, and Teresa’s husband Darrell and headed out to a nearby lake on their boat. It was about 96 degrees and very humid. Riding in the boat with the wind blowing on my face reminded me of many times on my own family’s ski boat in California. We spent so many hot summer evenings and weekends riding around on our boat, skiing, tubing, and picnicking on the local lake beaches. My dad taught so many of my friends to ski…but I think our favorite thing was riding the inner tube and trying not to fly off!! Great times… For Lucas, old times at the lake included jumping off some three-story cliffs into the deep water below. Teresa said she had done it, too, back when Lucas and his brother were in high school!! It was fun to watch Lucas climb up and jump off a few times – he was happy like a little boy!
On Friday, we drove a couple hours to Chattanooga, a very outdoorsy and fun city. There has apparently been much rebuilding in the recent years, to make it a more enjoyable city for outdoors-people to come and stay and play. There is fabulous climbing, riding, kayaking, miles and miles of running trails, and more.
We met up with the training group at a 3-year-old hostel called The Crash Pad — such a cool place! Very thoughtfully and sustainably built, and a perfect place to rent out for a group of about 20 athletes for the weekend. Most of the athletes were out of Nashville, but some were from other nearby cities and even neighboring states. Everyone had some experience training for and racing triathlons of varying distances, but for many of these athletes the Sept 28th race will be their very first Ironman.
Early Friday afternoon a medium group (not everyone was there yet) of us headed out to a dam (not the site of where the race swim will actually be) where we did a short open-water swim, followed by a hard run. After a 3-mile warm-up loop, each of us had to predict our 5k times and the one to get closest to their predicted time would win a prize (and they had good prizes!). It didn’t matter if you ran slow, medium, or fast, you just had to accurately predict my time. (I actually ran faster than I predicted, and I was nowhere near winning the prize for accuracy! The winner was only 3 seconds off her predicted time; now that is knowing your pace!)
Friday evening we barbecued and hung out at The Crash Pad, talking and doing some Q&A among the athletes and a couple X3 coaches that were there, myself, and another past-pro/now elite running coach Ryan Bolton.
Saturday was our big ride – we rode the entire IM course. It was hilly and challenging and I LOVED it! We rode in several different groups, and my group included some VERY strong riders. I was particularly impressed by two gals, Vicki and Miranda. They are gonna kick butt at this race! It was hot (high 90s) and humid again, which made it even more challenging. I had a great time with the athletes and riding all around a new territory. Most of us did a short brick run on our own once we got back from the ride. We all needed some down-time to eat and rest for a while before dinner. We all went downtown to a restaurant together and had a great time! More talking, asking questions, sharing stories of success and often-funny failures (“opportunities for growth”)
Sunday morning, most of us did another short open-water swim, this time in the Tennessee River right near where the IM swim course would be (we couldn’t get directly in the spot where we’d start and end on race day; close enough to get the experience of the -warm- water though!). After that was a quick deck-change (prize for fastest Transition – guess who came in last on that one??!) and then out onto the actual run course to run one loop (13.1 miles). Much of the first half is on paved running path and is fairly flat. The second 5 miles or so is in neighborhoods and is VERY hilly. Again, I loved it. It has great variety and will be challenging to race.
After we cleaned up and checked out of the hostel, we met up with Lucas’ dad Rusty and step-mom Mary Ann. They had driven to spend most of the weekend in Chattanooga, too, mostly doing their own training and meeting up with us occasionally. All four of us drove up the nearby famous Lookout Mountain for a little Southern history lesson…I won’t go into it all here, but it was very interesting! The South does have a very deeeeeeep history. I can see why them Southerna’s are so proud!
This was a wonderful opportunity to go across the country to preview a course AND meet other athletes who are pursuing their athletic passions just as I am, with all the interesting variety that life has to offer each of us. Most people who were there to train have full-time jobs, families, children, other obligations. And everyone has passion, motivation, and willingness to work hard. It was a great group and I am thankful for the experience. Thanks for inviting me, Eddie! All the best to each one of you, X3 Endurance athletes! I’ll be out there on the course with you in September, pulling for you all to have a great experience, no matter what your time or place. Rock on!
Whitney Garcia McCain