Last weekend was the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga and also my third race at the distance. Up until this race I would have suggested anyone looking for a great half iron distance race to consider Augusta. After racing Chattanooga I’d have to defer to this one! (Not that Augusta doesn’t remain an awesome race) The town itself is perfect for the race. There are a ton of good hotel options that are walkable to the Ironman village and transition. There are also a lot of restaurants in the downtown area that make dining easy in the days leading up to the race. I had some delicious BBQ on the Friday I arrived.
The swim was great! There was really no current to speak of in the river that day so I mostly just had to swim under my own power. I have been so focused over the past year of not really getting faster at the swim but just more efficient. (I have been very successful at not getting faster) The swim start was a rolling start, which was new to me, and just meant we walked lemming-style into the water over the course of an hour. It was basically a continuous flow of people into the water. It wasn’t a mass start but it had a similar feel since you were always surrounded by swimmers. It was nice to not have a wave start since I got to start with my friends for a change. When I got out of the water, for the first race I can remember, I was not horribly out of breath and I think that really helped me over the rest of the race.
This was, by far, my favorite part of the race. Normally I would not enjoy riding my bike in the rain but there was light to moderate drizzle falling the whole time which actually added some beautiful sights to the course. Chattanooga is pretty hilly and some of the moutains we were riding around had mist rolling around, hiding the tops. There were a few visages early on which really were breathtaking. The rain did keep me from accelerating on some of the downhills since I didn’t want to test my brakes on the slick roads but I think reigning myself in slightly actually helped me have a more successful race overall.
I did have a funny moment at mile 24 at a truely evil part of the course that has you transition from a fast downhill, around a hairpin turn and immediately up the toughest ascent of the day. I was so surprised by it that I got caught in the absolutely wrong gear. Since my hands were on my wide handles coming out of the turn I couldn’t easily shift and actually nearly fell over. I barely got unclipped in time to prevent it. I was literally stuck on the side of the hill and had to walk the bike up to the top. I did see someone behind me fall over because she did what I did. I was chuckling most of the way up since it was a bit embarassing!
Even with losing a few minutes there and the fact that the bike course was about 1km long, I still had my fastest half iron bike split yet and really, more importantely, one of the most enjoyable bike rides I’ve ever been on. It was slightly challenging but even with no hill riding at all leading up to this race, I was really well prepared for the bike and didn’t suffer for a moment.
Ok, the run was really hard. I loved the 2 loop course since it went over a couple bridges over the river and through a park on a wooden bridge for like a mile and had awesome crowd support along most of the course. But like the bike it was very hill and while I’ve been on some hilly courses lately, the run did beat me. I had a full on bonk at mile 4.5 (my Garmin file shows it really well…) and my dreams of a sub-6 hour race evaporated with it.
I knew it was going to be hard when the first mile was uphill. Around mile 5/10 there was a monster hill that I could barely walk up at that point. I’d say the only part of the run that I didn’t enjoy was when I hit the end of the first lap. The second lap went back uphill and the path to the end was downhill. So it wasn’t easy heading back out onto the course knowing I was going to have to really slog my way through! (But slog I did…)
Ironman really put on another world class event in Chattanooga and the locals were just awesome and welcoming. Everyone was friendly and seemed to love us being there. Everyone I went up with all seemed to feel the same way. (Poor Hugo though can’t catch a break…) I would recommend this race as both a great first time half iron or just a fun one to do in general. I’ll be back here…I still have to beat this run.