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Lesson learned: Sam Long on Chattanooga pain and 2021 review

Sam Long gives the full debrief on his Chattanooga DNF and reflects on his 2021.

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Sam Long said in the immediate aftermath of his DNF at IRONMAN Chattanooga that his body had ‘found its limit‘ – and he knows exactly why.

The 25-year-old American was forced to end his day early in Tennessee after experiencing significant pain and discomfort in the first half of the run. Britain’s Joe Skipper would go on to claim an impressive win from Lionel Sanders.

Long took on the challenge of a full-distance race in Chattanooga not only at the back end of a gruelling season – but just eight days after he had finished second at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in St George. He says it’s a double he will never again attempt.

Long ‘running on stilts’

‘The Big Unit’, speaking in a video on his YouTube channel, said he felt like he was “running on stilts”, admitting: “Lesson learned, I will never race an IRONMAN the week after a 70.3 World Championships, I will never ever do that again.”

Long said that going into Chattanooga he knew there was a chance things would not go well, reasoning: “My longest run since St George was 5 miles, I knew it was a case of either I’d just have it or I wouldn’t and I just didn’t.

“I ran about a mile with my legs feeling okay, and then it felt like I was running on stilts – my legs just had no sort of spring in them and no ability to absorb the shocks – so every step was just straight up the legs. It was quite painful, and all those little hip muscles were completely not recovered from last weekend.

“I knew it was a possibility, I don’t regret anything, I’m glad I gave it a try and it was still really fun, I got a lot of takes homes, I got to practice another swim, great swim, I got to practice another good bike, had a great bike.

“There is a limit, and limits are real – there is a physiological breaking point – and I could still be out there walking it, but I was probably a bit mentally drained as well when it got tough, mostly it was I didn’t want to do any damage, after 12 miles I literally couldn’t run. It wasn’t a nutritional thing, I just couldn’t run.”

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Sam classy in defeat

Long, as ever, was classy in defeat – handing out lavish praise to Skipper, Sanders and the third-place finisher Ben Hoffman.

“Huge hats off to Joe Skipper, 7:44 on this course – just amazing,” he said.

“Awesome to see Lionel come and get the IRONMAN sorted out and get second and Ben getting third – my biggest role model in this sport – was terrific.”

While there are some big races still to come in 2021 – notably IRONMAN California, IM Cozumel and CLASH Daytona – Long says he won’t be involved in any of them.

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‘Big Unit’ on to 2022

“That’s my season, I will not race again this year, time for a break, take two or three weeks very, very easy then it’s time for swim camp in Tucson with Aquabear and Lionel – hopefully me and Lionel can do some YouTube collabs.”

As Long reflects on a 2021 which saw him take on just about every possible challenge, he reasoned: “Admittedly, if I look at my whole season there was a few too many races that I tried to squeeze in after a lot of effort. I think I am really consistent except when I am tired and just don’t have it on the day.

“Going forward I just have to eliminate those days and predict the days I don’t have it – sometimes it is hard to know.”

Stuart Dick
Written by
Stuart Dick
Stuart is a graduate of the University of Sunderland with a masters' degree in Sports Journalism. He spends a lot of his time running and cycling around West Yorkshire, England.
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