2014 Ironman Chattanooga Course Review

2014 Ironman Chattanooga was supposed to have stories told about the bike and only the bike.  The other two sports, swim and run, were to be add-ons to the event that was going to be remembered as the day that the bike portion of an Ironman nearly buried everybody.  When the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race was announced it became about the elevation.  How the race was going to have 4,000 feet of elevation per loop for a total of 8,000 and everybody was worried.  Then when that rhetoric died down, WTC officials made a change to the course for safety reasons and it added 4 miles.  All the sudden all the nerves were frayed because we were no longer racing 112 miles and now would be racing 116.  All the worry and all the nerves was everywhere and to the point that I left the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga Facebook page.  This blog post is going to give you an idea about the race course and my thoughts about it.  As you may have guessed by now the race was not about the bike but really about the swim and the run.

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Swim

The swim is point to point and conducted in a fashion that is exactly like Ironman Louisville in which the athletes drop in off of a dock.  There is no mass swim start and that should help athletes with their anxiety on race morning. The temperature of the water at the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race was 77* which meant that it was wetsuit optional.  Those that chose to wear a wetsuit would have to wait until all those that did not entered the water.  The pros went off at 7:25 which is about 35 minutes later than normal which is due to the late sunrise later in the year and the sun having to peak out over the mountains. The river's current is controlled by the Tennessee Valley water authority and on this day it was moving, although slower than the practice swim the day before.  Trying to predict the flow rate would be pointless and instead focusing on your stroke and getting down the river as fast as you can would be better. Whether you are a strong swimmer or not the current and drop-in start will help alleviate any anxiety and more than likely allow you to PR at the Ironman distance swim. [caption id="attachment_9690" align="aligncenter" width="531"]2014 Ironman Chattanooga - Swim Course - Triathlon Follow the river and avoid the island is all you need to do.[/caption]

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Bike

As I mentioned the rage prior to the start of the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race was all about the bike.  As it turned out the bike was benign.  There are rollers and a couple of sections in which you had to drop to the small chain ring and spin up but if you did that and recovered on the downhill then stayed within yourself on the flats then this bike course is nothing more than a challenge and not impossible. There are a couple of sections where the turns are tight, like the left onto Hog Jowl Road, and having the ability to handle your bike will come into play.  The bike is a lollipop in which you leave the state of Tennessee and enter Georgia on a straight path.  Once you make the left onto Hog Jowl Road you are heading back and toward the special needs area which is at approximately Mile 52.  A few miles past the special needs area and you are making a left to start loop 2 or a right to head back toward the Ironman Village and where you will enter transition area. The roads on the bike course are extremely smooth with a few spots that are very well-marked but overall there is no need to worry about launching bottles once you are out on the course.  Where you need to concern yourself with these types of things is as you leave transition and then re-enter.  You will go over a few railroad track crossings that can cause bottles to launch if you hit them wrong. Other than the few sharp turns and the few train track scenarios this bike course is challenging but not impossible.  Whatever went up surely went down and there were plenty of flats with which you could regain the speed you may have lost climbing. [caption id="attachment_9689" align="aligncenter" width="531"]2014 Ironman Chattanooga - Bike Course Review - Triathlon The bike course is challenging but fair. Rollers with a few climbs but extremely smooth roads and lots of support.[/caption]

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Run

The 2014 Ironman Chattanooga run is downright nasty.  This was extremely challenging and forced you to consider your racing strategy.  This run course was not one in which you could just let the legs open and go because if you did you would pay for it.  When I discussed the run course I was told that it was 700 feet of elevation gain which is not that bad over 26.2 miles except that the conversation failed to mention that it was 650-700 feet of elevation gain on 13.1 miles and you had to do that twice which amounted to 1300 feet of elevation gain. The run course is split into two loops that you run twice.  The first 8 miles are fairly flat but the next 5 are extremely hilly.  When you leave transition you run 1 mile up a hill and then enter the swim park where you can run and gain a feeling for your legs coming off the bike and the hill.  What is on this portion of the course that I do not understand is an aid station that forces you to make a 90 degree left turn to run for 25 feet and then around a cone and back out for 25 feet where you make another sharp left turn and onto the river path.  I am sure that they could have extended the finish line past where it was 50 feet and avoided this section altogether.  Making athletes make 3 sharp turns on tired legs does not make much sense. When you leave the park you make a right turn onto the shoulder of a highway and it is lonely.  Car going by and nothing to look at until you come up to a bridge where you can see the aquarium.  This is a terrific sight, especially on loop 2, except it does not give you any idea as to what lays before you.  And what lays before you may make some people cry.  The following 5 miles are nothing more than a test of will and strength.  Run the elevation changes wisely and you will get through this without a problem.  Try to muscle through it and you will pay dearly for it on loop 2. The elevation changes are constant here with little to no flat sections.  If you think the downhills will help I suggest you rethink that concept since you will be pounding your quads and knees on the way down before making the right turn to go back up the hill.  That is how the 5 mile section unfolds.  That being said there are people all along the course in this section and the music is playing and the crowd is a huge pick me up. [caption id="attachment_9688" align="aligncenter" width="531"]2014 Ironman Chattanooga - Run Course Review - Triathlon An extremely challenging course on the back side where 5 miles may seem like 10 but the other 8 miles of each loop are very runable.[/caption]

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Race Course Overall Review

I found the 2014 Ironman Chattanooga race course to be challenging but fair.  There were no major sections, other than 3 miles on the run, that you were on your own.  With the staggered swim start there are athletes on the bike course everywhere and chatting is certainly an option.  The run course brings the pain but simultaneously it allows you to strategize and then execute. This race is one that I would recommend to all.  The weather was ideal this time of the year.  The roads on the bike course are like glass.  The swim is downstream and then the marathon brings you a challenge but it is not impossible to conquer. If you have questions about the course beyond what I described please do not hesitate to contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions.   [video width="856" height="480" mp4="http://cooktraineatrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/JasonBahamundi.mp4"][/video]
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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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