In the words of our very own Vixen with the magic touch, Mrs. Virginia Lee of Hands on Healing Massage Therapy, “The Vixens owned IronMan Chattanooga 70.3”. We truly were everywhere. From Virginia herself in the massage tent, keeping the energy high among the volunteers who helped to take the edge off overworked and abused muscles on one sweaty body after another, to Lisa Walser-Anderson who organized all of the 2,000 plus volunteers, including many Vixens, without Lisa this event would not have been possible. We had Vixens running one of the bike aid stations and others all over the course.We did a wonderful job of representing our nonprofit organization.
Kim Humphries came in 6th in her age group with an impressive sub-8 minute mile pace, for her first three run splits. In case ya’ll forgot, that’s after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56. For Beth Lofgren, having a half IronMan in Chattanooga inspired her to learn how to swim. Beth beat me at the Pick Your Poison mountain bike race, after completing her first cyclocross race the day before (which was a muddy mess for 50 miles); she has become my hero. She completed the IronMan swim in a mere 40 minutes 48 seconds, I am truly convinced she can do anything she sets her mind to. Did I mention she’s a mother of two, as well?!
I feel lucky to have been on the course with all of these ladies who finished Chattanooga’s first half IronMan, and I feel that my performance is a testament to what I like to call lifestyle training. I wasn’t sure how it would work out for me, but I decided that instead of following a regimented training schedule, I would simply try to swim, bike, and run at least once during the work week and gradually build up to longer rides and runs on the weekends. Bricks of biking and running back to back were also key. Sometimes work, weather, travel, or sickness got in my way, but I tried not to stress out about it. I did most of my runs on Stringer’s Ride because I have more fun on trail, and sometimes I substituted mountain bike rides for road. I also like to think of biking to work on my heavy steel commuter, often loaded down with groceries, as weight training.
One of the major benefits of lifestyle training was that it kept me from burning out. Perhaps I’ve blocked it out of my memory, but I never remember feeling like I HAD to go for a run or dreading my workout. It was all fun. Sure, getting bit by a dog while riding the back roads of Walker County was a pain in the butt, well actually the calf, but I still have good memories from that ride.
A big part of those good memories was the great ladies I had to train with. My main training buddy was Brenna Kelly. She’s not a Vixen yet, but I’m working on it. I met her through the Trips for Kids program, which she runs as part of the Southeast Conservation Corps, where kids earn bikes for completing a series of mountain bike classes and environmental service projects. We recruited two St. Elmo Vixens, Katie Jackson and Hannah Thatcher, to ride the course with us on the weekends. It was very convenient to pick them up on our way as we headed south. Their company made the rides a hundred times more enjoyable.
So how did lifestyle training work out for me? I thought that it would probably take me about 6.5 hours. I ended up finishing in the top third of all athletes with a time of 5:34:45. I’m most proud of how I did on the bike. I took great pleasure in charging up the rolling hills and passing people in aero helmets, on tri bikes, and with IronMan tattoos, on my Lynskey road bike. I held just under a 20 mph pace, which was faster than any of my training rides. As Alan Outlaw, of Fast Break Athletics, likes to say, “Train slow, race fast!”
Before I leave you with the wrong impression I should probably explain that this wasn’t a couch to half IronMan event for me. I’ve done at least one Olympic distance triathlon every year for the past five years, and I had a good base fitness level to start with. I’m also not trying to knock training by the books or with a coach. I just knew that I wouldn’t be able to follow a strict schedule with my work, home, and social life. So if you feel the same way, don’t let it stop you from entering that race you’ve been dreaming of.