Well, finally, and officially, I AM AN IRONMAN! This journey and adventure has been a humbling one, one filled with amazing highs and incredibly painful lows. I think this picture sums up every ounce of my emotion when crossing that finish line.
First and foremost, I need to thank my husband and children. Having a family member train for an Ironman is so completely selfish and takes a lot of time and energy away from those relationships. My husband has been very patient, very selfless and incredibly supportive this entire journey.
A HUGE thank you to my coach, Bryan Kreitz, with TriDot, I don’t know where to even begin thanking someone that helps you cross that finish line, but I appreciate him so much. Bryan couldn’t be at the race, but I certainly felt supported the entire time. And John, another coach with TriDot was on hand for anything I needed, and was very helpful.
And a thank you to my training partner and friend, Amber, who also completed Ironman Chattanooga Sunday, but I will leave her story to tell up to her. 🙂 And of course, Dom, who stayed home with my daughters and makes it so easy that I don’t worry about how they are doing back home nearly as much. And, finally, I need to thank the rest of family and close friends, who also have been so supportive, upbeat and rooted me along the way the whole time!!!
Soooooooo…. here is the race recap!!!!
Race Morning: I slept relatively well, as the jitters haunt you even in your sleep and the anxiety really creeps in the night before. I woke around 4am, changed into my trikit, my TriMafia “Death Before DNF” t-shirt and sweats, and took my pre-race supplements. Bill is a saint and always drives me down to the race start, and we headed to the Ironman Village early as the transition opens at 4:30am. I added a few things to my bike, my run bag and my bike bag. Checked and re-checked my run special needs bag and my bike special needs bag. Then, because the swim is a straight shot, you have to be bused up the Tennessee River the 2.4 miles you are about to swim. You do sit there for quite some time, so having Amber there to chat with was nice. The gun for the pros goes off at 7:20am. And at 7:30am age groupers (me) enter the water. The water was 80 degrees race morning, making the race wetsuit optional. What this means though, is that everyone choosing to swim in their wetsuit must wait until everyone not wearing theirs to enter the water, I opted to wear mine. There is no rhyme or reason to how everyone enters the water, it’s not like 2 at a time or fastest to slowest, it’s kind of just a free-for-all. The non-wetsuit swimmers moved fairly quickly, and a tad after 8am, my time started as I entered the water.
Swim: This was the best swim that I have ever had!! To start this swim, you actually jump off a dock into the Tennessee River. The river was very foggy, which actually was somewhat calming. The warm water felt great. I was able to stay calm the entire race, which I have never been able to do, and my asthma didn’t give me any grief either. With the race being a straight shot, you can swim anywhere in the river, on either side of the buoys and it’s quite wide. Somewhere I read that it was shallow, which is not accurate, it’s very deep. Swimming under the three big bridges in Chattanooga was amazing. I focused on my breathing and simply just finishing the swim. My swim time was 1:05:18.
Transition One: Out of the water, climbing up the ladder, and over to the “wetsuit strippers”, where they pull your wetsuit off for you. Then you hustle up the hill to grab your Bike Gear Bag. I decided that I wanted to wear my cycling shorts rather than my tri shorts for the bike portions, so I completely changed in the Women’s Changing Tent. But my cycling kit/shorts are more comfortable with more padding in the seating area, and I wanted to start the ride in dry clothes. So my transition time was slow, but worth the time spent, at 10:15.
Bike: Chattanooga is a tad longer than a traditional full Ironman, the course is 116 miles instead of 112. The majority of the ride is actually in Georgia. It is mostly rolling hills, nothing super difficult to ride up, but having a few nice descents was nice. The roads are not in the best shape, you went over several railroad tracks and there were a lot of people’s water bottles and gear scattered all over because of the tracks/potholes knocking things around. Let me tell you what, Georgia LOVES church and there was a church about every two to three miles and they ALLLLLLL got out while the Ironman was in progress. The roads were not closed, so all of the traffic on the road, especially the narrow country roads, seemed to slow everyone down a touch. I focused hard on keeping a steady pace, taking in my nutrition and hydration as planned, and just making it off the bike. At Bike Special Needs I had an PBJ and gummy worms waiting, but both things made me ill to even think about eating. I think the humidity and the heat were beginning to wear on me and the food sounded disgusting. I increased my water intake as the day heated up, I think ultimately with a high of 87 and pretty humid, so I slowed down the last third or so. My final bike time was 7:15:52.
Transition Two: The “bike catchers” took my bike and I was off to grab my Run Gear Bag. As I entered the Women’s Changing Tent, my husband and mother-in-law were at transition. Seeing them, smiling and thrilled for me was just what I needed to perk me up! I again completely changed into comfortable, cool, and dry running clothes. I came out of the Women’s Changing Tent and was able to hug and kiss both Bill AND June!!! So again my transition time was slow, but again totally worth it, at 9:09.
Run: This is kind of where things got a little more difficult in my day. I was not feeling very good (again, I assume the heat and the humidity). The first aide station had ice water pools to soak a rag that came in our gear bags and soaked wet cold sponges, I used both and that seemed to help. But NOTHING food/nutrition wise was going to stay in my stomach. So I focused on drinking water and just moving forward, although slow. At the second aide station they had chicken broth, which was heavenly. At every aide station after that one I drank broth, and by the last 10 or so miles of the marathon, my stomach was feeling better, but I didn’t trust it with anything other than broth and some BASE BCAAs. The 26.2 mile course is somewhat hilly, crosses two bridges, has several miles along the highway, several through a few nice parks, and through several neighborhoods. The sun went down around 7:30 and it was dark quickly, but not cool! At around mile 20, I came up on a lady that was either in cardiac arrest, having a seizure or some other major medical issue. She was drooling, and shaking, but was breathing. I ran into the street and stopped traffic, they called 911, and within minutes medics were with her. I have no idea who she was, how she is doing or what happened to her, but I did see an amazing amount of support on the course within seconds. As I got closer to the end of the marathon, the realness of what was happening came pouring in. I was about to finish. I was going to be an Ironman. And although my marathon time was much, much longer than I had trained for, it suddenly made no difference. My marathon time was 6:03:49.
Finish Line: I can’t put into words how this part feels. It’s amazing. And hearing Mike Reilly, The Voice of Ironman yell out “Brandi Jeffries You Are An Ironman” is totally an unreal experience. Finishing at 14:44:23!
And standing there was my husband and my mother-in-law. Just full of happiness and smiles. It was amazing. They are amazing.
And just like that, I AM AN IRONMAN!