Chris Bertotelli

24 May, 2017

This has never happened… a DNF?? We ALL can have a bad day – here is a mental performance exercise in making an intelligent decision without letting emotions cloud my next steps! A race report to the race itself.

Dear Ironman Chattanooga 70.3,
Thank you so much for the hospitality and the wonder of your course! What I found in you was a much different race experience than I had expected but most of all… I found your “tell”. While many of your courses boast of challenging swims, hilly or technical bike courses and/or difficult runs (yes, you boasted the hilly bike and run), I have come to realize that your biggest boast was not something that you openly claimed. It was your ability to identify any weakness in an athlete and capitalize on it without mercy or hesitation and I can truly appreciate that! My “weakness” that you so patiently waited for the right opportunity to exploit was a nagging case of bronchitis that afflicted me a week before I met you. Coupled with the dehydrating effects of strong antibiotics you presented your position firmly and revealed your true potential as a race course. Here’s how I came to this conclusion on discovering your “tell”.


You started us with a swim that was not supposed to have “that” much current or congestion. However, you obviously had a pleading conversation with your friends that influence the weather. A few thunderstorms and rain events later, you strengthened the current in your river and so the course was adjusted on race morning. This made the first buoy turn into a matter of survival to the athletes that bottlenecked it. But most of all it was your sudden drop in water temperature that initially provoked my breathing to become almost spasmodic. I relied on my mental performance to settle into a zone and swim through it with a 26-minute swim. I thought it was good, not realizing that you were just moving a pawn in your intricate chess match to find my particular weakness.

I exited the swim and was steady in T1 as I prepared to tackle and conquer you on the bike. You threw a little wind and some hills at me. The hill on Andrews was particularly sneaky, especially since you presented it immediately after slowing down enough to make the turn from W. Cove. Not good enough, my friend. I stuck to the plan! My heart rate never spiked and I easily made it to the top. I stuck to my plan to hold a little back knowing that your next attempt to claim another athlete was your hilly run and so I finished with a 2:43 bike split. Coming into T2, I found myself comfortable to start my run. I was prepared for your hills as well as confident that you could not throw me off from my plan. What happened next was NOT… I say again NOT by your design – but you capitalized on it since nothing else you did could stop me.


As I exited T2, I found my breathing quickly became very labored and shallow. I slowed my pace and tried to recover but I found none. No recovery, no air. Here’s where you showed you tell. You threw out whatever you could and it was all to no avail. But when you saw the upper respiratory infection rear it’s ugly head, you quickly befriended it and now you had me. I pushed on, changing my cadence and stride length – nothing… I dumped water, sponges and ice on myself everywhere (EVERYwhere!) and still nothing. I had one last effort to not be claimed by you… I voluntarily stopped.


It was a great introduction to you and I am thankful for the opportunity to exercise my humility and restraint. You may claim my DNF as a victory but that is truly your mistake! Now I have seen all your cards as well as your truest “tell” and if not for your new alliance with my illness, you would have bent to MY will! I am a good sport and congratulate you in your play. Enjoy it for the next year. However, I will return next year and will let you know now… I WILL hold you by the throat and make you yield what I want…. A 4:30!
See you soon!

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  • Erin Freel May 24, 2017

    Great job buddy! #brave


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