“The most powerful weapon on Earth is a Soul on Fire”
2.4mi Swim, 116mi Bike, 26.2mi Run
Chattanooga was my first race to go into healthy and uninjured. After coming off a fractured wrist and elbow one month prior to Ironman Texas in May, to say I was nervous heading into this race was an understatement. Race preparation leading into the big day was very simple and straight forward. I hit early morning workout sessions and focused on my diet and recovery like it was my job. I pre-loaded with Skratch hydration and added in EAS Hydrate for extra sodium, I drank one can of Beet Performer a day, and kept meals familiar and low in fiber leading in to the race.
My alarm went off and I remember thinking, “This is IT!” I ate my typical pre-race Ironman breakfast 3.5 hours prior to swim start and then made my way to transition to go over things one more time. My Trek Speed Concept was ready to roll, my new Challenge Tires were looking good, and my Stages Powermeter was synced and calibrated. It’s time to race!
The 2.4 mile swim began upriver where a bus shuttled all the athletes to the swim start for the 7:30am start time. The water temperature was 77.1, meaning it was not wetsuit legal. Once the cannon went off, the line began to quickly move, I shared a great short prayer with Pastor Paul, someone I had just met while I was waiting in line for the swim to start, and then we began to make our way to the dock..it was go time! I jumped in and immediately began fighting my way through the crowds of swimmers. After about halfway through, I was able to get some clear water and really pushed it to the swim exit to make up for lost time. I had no idea if my time was fast or slow but never thought twice about it. On to the bike!
Swim Time- 54:42 (1:24/100m); 5th in age group
I quickly grabbed my helmet, stuffed my second half of nutrition in my back pocket of my Castelli Kit, and decided to put on my tri shoes before heading out and calling out to the volunteer for my bike number,
Heading out of T1 I had no idea what place I was in but I knew I needed to be aggressive during the ride today, attack the hills and pushing the pace on the downhills. The course was absolutely beautiful. It takes you through a small part of Tennessee before doing the majority of the ride in Northern Georgia. A typical Ironman consist of a 112 mile bike ride but for safety reasons, our course was 116 miles. On the way out I hit a couple of railroad tracks pretty hard. The first set of tracks threw my rear water bottle onto the road, the second did the same thing to my front bottle plus ejecting half my nutrition. Whoops! I decided to stop and grab what remained but my water bottle was completely split open and I couldn’t find any of my nutrition. Something always goes wrong during an Ironman, so I was hoping that that was it for the day. That being said, I took in on-course nutrition at every age station and focused on my power numbers throughout. I knew I was falling behind on my calories as I was starting to see a downward trend of my heart rate and eventually power along the second loop of the course. Looking back, I realized I was very much under my nutritional goals for the day, and have a lot of room to improve if I want to be able to hang with the top in my age group but that’s what offseason is for!
Bike time- 5:45:46 20.14mi/h; 4,400ft gain. 5th in Age group
I dismounted my bike and was a bit excited to head out onto the run- my favorite part! I love the feeling of getting off the bike, legs felt like jello and heavy bricks at the same time. I quickly grabbed my transition bag, ran to the changing tent and was getting ready to run! This race I tried out my new Zoot Ultra TT 7.0, great for sockless running. I put on my visor, glasses, ate my banana, put on my Ironman deodorant (an ongoing joke that has become a ritual), grabbed my handheld bottle of nutrition and was off!
Transition time- 2:28:00
As I headed out of transition onto the run course, I heard I was in 5th place in my age group. My plan was to take advantage of the flatter section of the south loop, before crossing over the Veterans bridge to the “hillier” section. I ran with another guy who was clicking off the same paces as me. We ran a full 10 miles together, it was great to just be next to someone else during a race even though neither us said a word. We continued to push each other until we made our way up Barton Avenue, which is where I decided to push myself up and down each hill irregardless of heart rate. After the first loop, I knew I had passed a couple of girls in my age group and I was closing the gap on another girl named Holli, who I raced against at Ironman Texas. I refilled my nutrition at run special needs before making my way for another 13.1 miles of fun!
On the second loop, I continued to mimic other people’s cadences and try to focus on form. Miles 13-21 seemed to go on forever but as I made my way up the short steep hill onto Veterans bridge, I knew I had a little bit more in me to push through. I saw my friends one last time and they told me “I had to go.. no slowing down.” I was in third place. If I wanted a shot at Kona I not only had to beat Holli- who was absolutely killing it- but I had to beat her by over 2 minutes. This was my motivator. My ‘how’. My ‘why’ if you will. I elongated my stride and went for it. I guess I passed her with about 4 miles to go and I never looked back. I was too scared too actually. I made my way up the last hill and climbed the pedestrian bridge one last time before turning the corner into the longest finish chute in human history. I crossed the finish line, immediately split my timex watch and began walking slowly watching and waiting for two minutes to pass.
As the two-minute mark clicked, I knew I had given it my all. I cried in disbelief, hugged all the volunteers around me then made my way to all my friends who had taken time out of their day to come cheer me on. I had done it. I was an Ironman… x5. With a new personal record on a very challenging course.
Run Time- 3:51:56; 8:51 min/mi, 1700ft gain per Timex watch, 2nd in Age Group
Total Time- 10:38:52; 12th overall female amateur
I love competing against great athletes and Holli is definitely one of those girls who brought out the best of me and hopefully I did to her as well. I wish her nothing but the best in her next Ironman to come.. I know I will be seeing her on the big Island one day, no doubt!
“Being a great competitor means that you are able to use the other competitors to help you go fast, not to hinder you. The sole purpose of everyone else in the race is to help you go faster. The person in front of you is simply showing you what is possible. They are saying, “You can do this!”‘ -Stan Beechan
With one spot guaranteed in each age group, it was time to wait and see what slots were allocate to which age groups on Monday morning! The morning breakfast couldn’t have come any sooner. I saw the posted slot allocation sheet, looked at my age group and saw the number 1 next to it. My heart filled with disappointment and I was pretty broken down. That ‘one’ stood for only one slot allotted to Female 25-29. I messaged my friends and family, encouraging notes came flooding through. I knew I had given it everything out there but it was hard to see that it wasn’t enough.
Female 25-29 Age Group Awards.
Awards were handed out and I was able to see my friends, Holli and Katie Spotz. We all placed 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place in our age group respectively and it was great to catch up with each of them after awards and hear how their day went.
Before I knew it, it was time for Ironman World Championship roll down! They called out the male/female age groups then announced how many spots were allotted for that particular group. That’s when I heard it..”female 25-29…. TWO SPOTS.” What?! Seriously? I was in shock. I was shaking. Katie gave me a huge hug, I looked at my buddy, Scott, in complete disbelief and walked up to the stage as the announcer called out my name. “Elyse Gallegos, YOU are going to KONA.” Trevor Wurtele was handing out the lei’s and I couldn’t have been more ecstatic to finally say that I punched my ticket to the 2016 Ironman World Championship.
I immediately messaged my husband, coach, and friends and couldn’t stop shaking.. this was happening. All the hard work, dedication, time, commitment.. it all has finally paid off. WE did it!
I later came to find out that the slot reallocation was done after taking out all the athletes who chose to wear wetsuits. This gave my age group one extra spot to the big Island of Kona! It was totally a God thing and am super thankful that the odds and all the hard work had finally paid off.
From L to R: Food from ‘Betsy’s Pantry’; Scott and I at awards; Picking up more food from Betsy after a long day of workouts!
Charles and I celebrating post race at Gigi’s Cupcakes!!
I would like to thank my dear, sweet husband for his patience as well as my family for keeping me motivated and being supportive for every crazy race I do. HUGE thanks to all my Knoxville friends, seeing you guys out on course was an instant motivator!! Kelly, Betsy, Charles, John Temple, Andy, and Beecher.. y’all are the best! Sarah, Jen, and all the rest of Rocky Top thank you for the awesome signs! Of course, thanks to my work family at the NICU for all those shifts you guys have switched and covered for me, and to Eddie at the Health Shoppe for all your knowledge and advice throughout my journey. I can’t thank Betsy and Chef David, from Betsy’s Nutritional Counseling, for all the healthy meals prepared for me on a weekly basis. Not thinking or prepping saved me so much time for this time crunched triathlete!
I would also like to thank Knoxville Track Club for selecting me for their post-collegiant scholarship and helping me to follow my dreams!
And HUGE THANKS to my Sponsors:
Timex Multisport Team, EAS Brand Supplements, and First Bourn for all your continuous support as well as the following below:
AND MY COACH- Nick Brodnicki… You are the bomb.com Could not have done this without you!
Until next blog.. Keep dreaming- ALOHA!