I just read a post about someone calling Ironman Chattanooga “easy,” so I thought I would set the record straight.

2014 Ironman Winner, Chris McDonald, collapses at finish line. Photo: www.courier-journal.com

About one year ago I was not-so-gracefully recovering from Ironman Louisville.  Everything was fine until Mile One of the run when some mysterious being shoveled me into a coal furnace.  It was extremely hot.  Unbearable.  105 heat index.  I was genuinely concerned I may not finish the race, and rightly so. I’ve heard as many as 300 didn’t finish Louisville, which is a huge percentage of DNF’s at an Ironman.

A few weeks later I went to spectate Chattanooga.  There were rumblings that the river current would be shut off, but I stood with wide eyes watching hundreds of swimmers get out of the water in less than an hour.  I wondered how the extra four miles of the bike might affect people, and seemingly it didn’t.  The weather barely crept into the 70’s with a glorious overcast sky.  Just about the time people started running a light mist fell onto the athletes to cool them down. Everything lined up, and so did the times.

I’m in the 50-54 age group and 10th place at Chattanooga raced a 10:17.  Tenth place at Louisville was 10:51.

But, the reason I’m writing this is because I have a very bad feeling that the fortunes will be reversed this year.  Louisville in October will be 60-70 degrees, while Chattanooga is bound to have a silly hot streak in the 80’s.  I’m banking on it.

If Ironman Louisville didn’t move to October, I would have done it again.  I loved the challenge of that race in the heat, but sadly we’ll never know if I could have conquered it.

SWIM, BIKE, RUN Comparisons

If the current is like it was last year, Chattanooga’s swim is indeed “easier.”  But in fairness, Louisville has a lot of downstream on the swim, too, but there’s still about 800 yards (400 in a crowded channel) upstream.

I’ve ridden one loop of Chattanooga’s bike course and honestly don’t remember any hills that had me swearing.  Louisville definitely has some, so overall, I’d say it’s a little tougher.  But Chattanooga is 116 miles, and I know it’s not a huge deal, but it’s STILL 116 miles on a bike and doing one loop was more than enough for me a few weeks ago.

Chattanooga’s run course is definitely harder from an elevation stand point.  At least 8 miles of legitimate hills versus zero hills at Louisville.

Although I did the race last year, I can’t even really comment on the Louisville run because I was genuinely in a daze.  If anything it was the most difficult run I’ve ever had from a psychological perspective.  It’s more or less one, seemingly endless street that looks and feels the same the entire way.  For that reason alone it is brutal.

I actually like hills, so the change of pace is “sorta” welcome at Chattanooga.  I say that biting my tongue, of course, because I know I will be cursing myself for most of the run.

In the end, Chattanooga is every bit as challenging as Louisville in its own way.  It comes down to the weather.  If it’s hot, there will be unending carnage.  If we get another day blessed from the Misting Fairies, things will go a lot smoother.

Ironman Chattanooga Tribute Video
Ironman Louisville Tribute Video
Ironman Louisville Tribute 2013 


Ironman Chattanooga 2014 – Smiles and Clouds



Ironman Louisville Vs. Chattanooga



2 thoughts on “Ironman Louisville Vs. Chattanooga

  • September 2, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    I saw that “easy” thread yesterday and laughed. Leave it to triathletes to take one of the hardest athletic events that an average person will probably ever attempt and call it “easy.” I disagree. I don’t think any 140.6 race could ever be considered easy. Thinking like that got my butt kicked at the Goosepond Half (and yours too, if I remember correctly). You have to respect the distance, no matter how fast the course might be. Additionally, I figured that any advantage I had due to the swim current was negated by the extra four miles on the bike, so my overall time was probably about right. The run is no joke though, especially the second time around. And you’re correct, weather played a huge role in how generous the times were. I know for me it was, as I wilt like a delicate flower in the heat. I hope you all are as lucky with the weather as we were last year. Good luck!

    • October 1, 2015 at 9:27 am

      Hey Kristine! For some reason I wasn’t seeing these comments, but thanks for this… yes… that race is NOT easy… now confirmed first hand. They also slowed the current a little more and I definitely struggled a bit… even on a downstream swim… yes… 4 miles definitely matters as well. It’s all effort…

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