IM Chattanooga Recon Report

Race: IM Chattanooga
October 1, 2014 12:00 am  by 

I started writing my IM Chattanooga race report. I usually just type a lot of non-sense stuff and just let it flow. I would then go back to make it a little bit more politically correct. Those of you who’ve read my race reports know that it can be a bit raunchy and politically incorrect, but believe it or not, those were the stripped down version. You don’t want to read the editor’s uncut version 🙂

My race report are always filled with useless info. I do this because one can always find very useful course recon/race reports on any IM race on the internet. I prefer to entertain and insult folks with mine. It’s just how I roll.

Anyway, as I was writing my current race report, it got a bit too serious. It took on more of a useful angle than a non-sense angle. Instead of discarding it, I’ve decided to save it to the side and distribute it to folks that I know who will be doing the race either next year or in 2 years. I’m doing this because this year’s Ironman Chattanooga was a first year race and there aren’t that much reliable info on the net.

I want to paint as honest/realistic picture of what the course as I can. I want to help future years folks get some useful info from it. I have a few friends who are doing this race, next year. I want to play it forward and give out some useful info.

My official race report, with all the non-sense, will come out later.

Cliff notes version of my results:

Swim: 58:34 1:30/100m
Bike (116 miles): 5:33:07 20.9 mi/h
Run: 3:59:03 9:07/mi
Overall, including T1+ T2: 10:43:55

Things I would do differently as far as training is concerned.

1. Swim: A lot less of it. It’s no secret that it was a down river swim. I was lead to believe that the dam around the river would be shut off during the race so that the current wouldn’t be *that much* in play. I don’t know what the flow rate was, but suffice to say, it was strong enough to make The Vertical Swimmer go under an hour. The pros, I would guess, were 12-15 minutes faster than normal. This means that someone slow, like me, probably got a much bigger boost.

2. Bike:
I’d wouldn’t change a thing with my bike training. I was very pleased with my performance and how I felt on the saddle for the entire day. The course was 116 miles, but the RD said that they are looking to make it 112 next year. I will note that the rumor running around is that the rerouted course might be a bit more hilly. The counter-argument to this is that some folks considered this year’s bike course to be hilly and I chuckle at that notion.

The scouting reports before the race were that the course was hilly and that there were several sections where one may need to grind it out a bit. The posted elevation, depending on which Garmin file you looked at, had it somewhere between 4-5k worth of climbing.

The Ironman Vietnam course ( has 2,700 feet of climbing. I found that course to be quite challenging. I detest hills. The thought of 4-5k worth of climbing, with IM Vietnam as a reference point, did give me a lot of apprehensions. I took the climbing to heart and really concentrated on my bike this season. I don’t think that I’ve ever been more fit on the bike. Take what I’m about to say, with all those things in mind.

A. Absolutely nothing to be of concerned on the bike. Lots of rollers that allowed momentum to carry you up. If you live in the DC area and ride between the BP and the “T” in Potomac, imagine that the most “difficult” sections of Chattanooga were like that. The fast rollers part on Falls Rd produces the same type of speed and “climbs” as Chattanooga. The real climbs on Falls Rd will be 3-4x more difficult than anything that you will see at Chattanooga.

B. The two hills/sections that the recon from folks had warned about, presented zero issues for me. I rode aero on both of those sections during the first loop. I got out of aero and off the saddle on the second loop, mostly to stretch my legs. I could have stayed in aero or spin on the saddle without issues. I will say that some of those hills, on those 2 sections, looked a tiny bit intimidating from a distance, but once you’re on it, the momentum carries you up most of the way. I’d imagine that a strong cyclist wouldn’t burn any matches going up those hills on the bigger gears.

C. Course is wicked fast. I’ve done Sweden, Florida, Frankfurt, and Copenhagen. Pretty much all of those courses were either dead flat or mostly flat. I would rate this course faster than all of them. I’m not sure if it’s because I was in better bike shape or this was just a very fast course. The flat courses are very deceiving. On paper, they look easy and fast, but they would just kick your ass with relentless wind and break your will to continue … very mentally tough, at least for me. This bike course, not once during the day did it ever got to me.

D. I’m always so slow out of the water that I don’t normally see lots of people on the bike course during the first few miles after T-1. Even notorious courses like IMFL, which I’ve done 2x, I really never experienced blatant drafting. Chattanooga, I guess because I got out of the water so fast, had so much drafting and pack riding that it wasn’t even funny. You had guys riding 3 inch from each other like the TDF. They didn’t even try to pretend that they were trying to leave each other’s wheels. The first 10 miles of the bike, I had a sore throat from screaming, “on your left,” at people riding 3-4 abreast, 5-10 deep. It resembled a charity century ride.

E. I attribute the drafting and clusterf*k at the beginning to so many swimmers coming out of the water at the same, that normally wouldn’t, had there been zero current. After I had cleared mile marker 10, I spent a lot more time in solitude than all the other IMs that I’ve done.

3. Run:
Train on hills. Toughest run course of my 6 Ironman, by far. For the first 8-9 miles, the course tricks you into believing that the recon reports on the run course were over hyped. The next 3 miles were series of hills … hard steep climb, rewarded by strong downhill runs. It’s kind of like Boston. Do the math … 3 miles of rolling hills on each lap, bunched together in one continuous section. The rest of the course ain’t ALL dead flat either.

A. Your quads and hamstring will take some punishment. You find out how over hyped the course is, on the second lap, when the pounding/damage done on the first loop comes back to say hello.

B. This run course definitely rewards the strong fit runner and punishes the weak. Train on hills … lots of it. There are a few out and back sections where, as you’re running down, you can see the death look on the faces of folks trying to get up them. You don’t understand that death look until you’re on it a few miles later. Instead of enjoying the downhill run, I remember uttering to myself, “dear lord, please let this shit flatten out soon because I don’t want to have to run, this long, up this thing.”

C. For what it’s worth, I believe that I have the same level of run fitness, with better bike fitness, this year than I did last year when I ran a 3:45-ish at IM Sweden. Coming off the bike this year, I also felt more fresh. However, my run time was 15 minutes slower. I attribute this to cooler/less humid weather in Sweden, the hills of Chattanooga, and a few dumb mistakes with my nutrition during the run.

4. Overall:
It’s a fast, but fair, course. Any dividends/goodwill accumulated during the swim and bike will be given back on the run. We were blessed with overcast skies and 90 minutes of much welcome rain during the run. There were a bunch of exposed areas on the run course that were without shades. I would imagine that had the weather been like the day before (sunny and low/mid 80s), you’d see a lot more carnage. The overall time would be much slower on the bike and run.

If you did the race, feel free to add or dispute what I’ve said. The more info, the better.

If you have questions, ask away: