Race Report | Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga

Non photography related personal post coming up. As most people know, when not photographing sports, I like to compete in triathlons and Half Ironman races. My brother and sister also do tri’s… its big family affair. Anyway, here is a race report from my most recent Ironman 70.3 finish in Chattanooga, TN.

Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 Race Report


In the finish chute at the end of the 2018 Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga.


After the mess that was Boulder 70.3 ended last year, my sister and I immediately began to search for a race for her redemption. She lives in Florida so we wanted something sort of close that she could drive to and eventually decided on Chattanooga. It was about 7 hours from her house and I had never been to Tennessee before. The biggest selling point for us was the down river swim and the relevantly flat bike (only 2200 feet of gain over 56 miles).

I am so glad we chose this race. It is by far the best Ironman race I’ve ever done. Probably my favorite triathlon, period. After deciding to race-cation to Tennessee, I talked a couple of my triathlon friends, Emily and Elizabeth into joining us. We found a sweet AirBnB just a half a mile from the race site/downtown Chattanooga and made our reservations.

Pre Race

Traveling was pretty uneventful this time around. No flight delays or baggage issues. All the bikes made it without any missing pieces. Jenn and Emily and I flew into Nashville, rented a truck, loaded up the bikes and drove a couple hours down I-24. Typically, I travel to a Sunday race on a Friday but this time we decided to go on Thursday. This turned out to be a great idea. It made the entire weekend much more relaxing. Thursday night we hit up a BBQ joint down the street and went to the grocery store to get some essentials. Amazingly, this would be the only time we ate out the entire time in Chattanooga.

On Friday we woke up early and all did a nice slow group run around the city on parts of the race run course and got a lay of the land. This is the first time we noticed that southern heat and humidity! Later that afternoon we went to the Ironman village to check in and pickup packets and to shop the store. Doing this on Friday was brilliant. No waiting in lines and not a ton of people in the village yet. After collecting all of our swag Emily, Elizabeth, Jenn and I drove the bike course to check it out. This was also a really good idea. I had a great idea of what the hills looked like, where on the course the difficult sections were and where the aid stations would be. This helped me plan the ride out in my head and gave me a lot of confidence going into the bike ride. After that we headed over to the grocery store again to get more food (turns out a house full of triathletes eat a lot of food) and most importantly, a birthday cake for Emily. That night we grilled chicken and burgers and my coach Terry and his wife Ann-Marie joined us for dinner and we all just hung out relaxing. It was a lot of fun.

Our Chattanooga crew Friday morning run. Love the pedestrian bridge in downtown!

Our Chattanooga crew Friday morning run. Love the pedestrian bridge in downtown!

The crew at packet pickup.

The crew at packet pickup.

Saturday we started the day off by watching the royal wedding and then when for a short swim in the river and a short bike ride to test all the gears and get the legs going a little. Then we went back to the village and checked the bikes into transition. A very low stress and fun day. By 2:30 we were back at the house relaxing and doing nothing. We turned on the Timbers match and it was a little strange watching a home game on TV and not being there to shoot it, but I knew my assistant Sam had everything covered back at home. The Timbers won so I was in an extra good mood. The rest of the day was spent laying out all the things we’d need for the race, getting packed up and ready for the next morning, prepping breakfast and going to bed super early. I think I was asleep by 8pm. We all felt super relaxed, rested and ready to race!

Emily, Elizabeth and I before our final swim workout.

Emily, Elizabeth and I before our final swim workout.

Bike racked and ready to roll.

Bike racked and ready to roll.


Race Day

 The plan was to leave at 4:30am. So I set an alarm for 4am, but by 3:30am everyone was already up. A combo of going to bed really early and being super excited for the race had us all ready to roll. We all got down to the race site around 4:45 and setup our transitions. The swim start was a mile up river so they had shuttle busses to take athletes over to the start. This is different than a typical race and I really liked it. For some reason it had a calming effect on the starting line. Instead of rushing to get transition setup and get your wetsuit on, you just casually setup and got on the bus with your swim gear. No rush. I liked that. The buses dropped us off at the swim start and we had about an hour before our wave would jump in. More relaxing. While waiting with our wave for the start Terry found us. We put our wetsuits on about 20-30 minutes before the start and took some group photos. Terry and Emily went with the fast swimmers in the 30:00 group, Elizabeth and I were a few waves back in the 35:00-40:00 minute group and Ali dropped back to the 50:00 group.

Pre Race team photo with Emily, Ali, Me and Elizabeth.

Pre Race team photo with Emily, Ali, Me and Elizabeth.


It seemed to take forever to get to the starting dock. Makes sense because there were 2500 athletes racing. Once Elizabeth and I began the walk down to the dock I put my goggles on and SNAP. The band broke! I’m about a minute from walking over the timing mat and jumping into the river and my goggles are busted. Great. I quickly tied them in a knot and hoped they’d hold. I put them on my face just in time to jump in. The first part of the race was up river against the current, so I decided I’d power through this short part as hard as I could and then recover a little on the turn and let the current help me out. It felt like I got to that first buoy pretty quick and didn’t burn too much gas so I turned the corner and kept a steady pace going, helped by the current in the river. The swim goes under a couple of bridges. After the first bridge the buoys changed color indicating the halfway point of the swim. I looked at my watch and it had only been about 17 minutes. I was cruising. I let the current continue to do its thing and tried to swim in a straight line. I sort of succeeded. After the second bridge we turned the corner around the marina and there was a ladder at the dock for us to climb out of the water. I crossed the mat in 35:29. A PR on a 70.3 swim for me by 9+ minutes!

Jumping off the dock and into the river.

Jumping off the dock and into the river.


 The run from the water to transition was pretty far. Up a hill, loop around the huge transition area and then run to my bike which was in the middle of transition. I ripped off my wetsuit and sprayed sunscreen all of myself. Popped my shoes on, grabbed my bike and headed out. As I was leaving a volunteer ran next to me spraying me with more sunscreen. I can’t say enough about how awesome the volunteers were at this race. In Boulder, people seemed annoyed the Ironman was there. In Chattanooga, the entire city comes out for the race and half of them volunteer. It is awesome. I got out of T1 in 5:37. A couple minutes slower than I’d like but I’ll blame the long run to and from.


Transition was HUGE. My spot was somewhere in the middle.

Transition was HUGE. My spot was somewhere in the middle.


This is where I knew I’d be my best. The bike course on this race is beautiful. The first 9-10 miles take you through town past some neighborhoods and over a couple of sets of railroad tracks, but once out of the city you loop through the mountains of northern Georgia. The course is mostly rollers and up hill for the first 26 miles and then mostly downhill and smaller rollers on the second 26 miles and then flat-ish and the final segment. I had a plan for the bike. My coach told me to break up the race in 14 mile segments. The first 14 don’t go to hard just keep the cadence up and get out of town. The second 14 work hard on the hills but don’t implode. After driving the course a couple of days before, I modified the plan a little – just keep a good speed until mile 26. At mile 26 there was  sharp left turn and the biggest hill on the course. So my plan was that if I could get to that hill in 1:30 then I’d have descents on the backside and would be able to recover and have something left for the run. I had my nutrition dialed, I had my plan dialed and I hit that mile 26 hill faster than I thought I would. The funny thing about that hill…I turned the corner and as I started going up, it wasn’t even hard. I was kind of laughing to myself as I was going up and people were getting off their bikes and walking up the hill. The hill going up to my house that I finish every single ride with back home was much longer and much steeper. I guess hill repeats do work! At the top of that climb I let gravity do its thing. I passed so many people. Turns out a fat kid on a downhill works really well for the fat kid. I hit 39MPH and just enjoyed the view. The next 20 miles went by pretty quick, some rolling hills but mostly downhill. I told myself anytime the hill was letting me go over 23-24MPH to stop pedaling so I could rest the legs. Around mile 40 we go through this little town called Chickamauga, which is completely shutdown for the race and everyone is out cheering you on as you fly through town. From 42-45 there is another climb, but it wasn’t too terrible. At the top there is another huge descent and then you’re almost home. As I crossed back into Tennessee there were people lining the road and one lady shouted at me “welcome back to Tennessee! Want a beer!?!” That was pretty funny. At the end of the bike I looked at my watch and it said the ride was 56.8, almost a mile longer dang it. I had a bike goal of 3:30 and come into T2 in 3:13.

The bike course was my favorite part. So scenic and perfect about of hills.

The bike course was my favorite part. So scenic and perfect amount of hills.



As I ran my bike into transition another volunteer followed me and sun screened me up again. These guys were on it! I racked my bike and put on my running shoes and as I was leaving, yet another guy sprayed my bald head with more sunscreen. Couldn’t have enough sunscreen. I felt pretty good, but then my legs got a little tight and I was a litte worried. I headed out to the run course in 4:31.


I looked at my watch as I was leaving T2 and it was at 4 hours and some change. My goal the entire time was to finish in under 7 hours. So I told myself all I had to do was run a sub 3 hour half marathon. Shouldn’t be an issue. I saw Jenn at the half mile mark and it always makes me happy when I see her. My legs were cramping a bit from coming off the bike so I stopped and stretched and headed on my way. Then the first hill came. I walked up it. Most of the first mile was up hill so I walked a bit, jogged a bit just to get past it. That’s when it all fell apart. That’s when the heat kicked in. And the heat came with a vengeance. It was HOT. It was about 96 at the beginning of the run and 100+ at the end of it. And the humidity was about 80%. It was about as miserable as it sounds. I tried to run and it just wasn’t working. I was sllllooowwwww. About mile 5 I decided to just run when I could and walk when I couldn’t. I’d soak myself in ice and ice water each aid station and just tried to survive the run. About mile 9 I saw sister on the course. It was awesome to see her and know she was going to finish this time. There was a turnaround point which was mile 4 for her and mile 10 for me and just gave her the biggest hug and said see ya at the finish! I don’t have much else to say about the run other than the aid stations were frequent and the volunteers manning them were awesome. There were spectators all over the course and it made it go by faster than it was. The run through the city had people in bars cheering from the sidewalks, people in houses sitting on their lawns having parties, beautiful views over the cities bridges and path along the river. It was a hilly and hot run but it was a great course. At mile 10 or 11 I looked at my watch and still had a chance for that sub 3 half marathon, but to get it I’d need to run 10:30 miles for the next 5k and I tried for minute but it just wasn’t gonna happen. The heat got me. No way to prepare for that living in Portland. I crossed the finish line in 7:13:24.


Riding the struggle bus over the bridge at about mile 6 or 7.


Post Race

I was disappointed I didn’t hit my goal, but got over it real quick and started focusing on Ali. Like in Boulder, after I was done, all I cared about was her finish. She came across about an hour or so later and I gave her another huge hug and cried like a freaking baby. She had her redemption. About 5 minutes after she finished, a crazy thunderstorm came in and they closed the course and cancelled the rest of the race events. We had to bust ass to get our bikes and gear out of transition and right as we loaded the car it this crazy storm rolled through. We got out just in time. We all went back to the house, showered and relived our day. The next morning we packed up and headed to Nashville to be tourists, which was also cool. Overall this was one of my favorite trips ever. Tennessee is gorgeous and I can’t wait to come back again. Next time, I’ll be ready for those hills and heat and get that sub 7.

Ali finished! and I'm crying like a baby.

Ali finished! I’m crying like a baby.

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