I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but I was one of the lucky ones to get into Ironman Chattanooga. The race is September 28, 2014.
Our plan was to drive to Wilmington, NC for Beach to Battleship then to Knoxville to visit friends and then cruise over to Chattanooga to preview the course and head home. It sounded simple enough on paper, but once we hit the road we realized we had just planned a vacation that included 5 days in the car driving through 11 states.
I was hoping for a nice, sunny day but TN prefers I ride in the rain (Rev3 Knoxville) so the forecast was for 55 degrees with a light rain. We drove to the swim start to see that and then drove out of town to the Bi-Lo grocery store so I could avoid the downtown traffic. My plan was to ride out, do one loop, and ride back which was about 60 miles. Courtney drove back into town and toured the aquarium while I was riding.
The bike route. It's a "lollipop" (even though it looks more like a knife). You bike out, do two loops and then ride back. Each loop is 44 miles. A good chunk of the loop is actually in Georgia so this course covers two states.
Based on the comments I've read online, I was anticipating a very hilly course but it's not that bad. There's a fair amount of climbing overall (4000-4500 feet for 112 miles) but a lot of it is long, gradual climbs that feel more like a false flat. The way out is mostly climbing, but there weren't that many hills, just a few rollers with one longer climb right at the turn around (if you happen to find this post prior to riding the loop, the left turn onto Hog Jowl Road is right after the climb so be prepared or you'll overshoot the corner). I was in the big ring most of the time so gearing wasn't an issue.
The way back is net downhill but it felt like there were more rollers than the way out. Again, I was aero and in the big ring most of the time. Even though it's net downhill, there wasn't much coasting. I don't know if it was the conditions (light rain) or the gear I was wearing (vest stuffed in back pocket, road helmet, etc) but the course was slower than I expected.
The elevation profile from my ride. You can see the one climb in the middle before the turn onto Hog Jowl. There was one more on the way back, but it wasn't bad either. Otherwise, just rollers.
Compared to IMWI, this course is easier. It has fewer hills, no tough climbs, very few turns, no tricky descents. So it's easier, but it's not necessarily faster. There are a lot of false flats and enough rollers to slow you down.
The course wasn't as scenic as I expected (the rain didn't help). Mainly, you're just biking past old farm houses getting chased by dogs with the occasional view of the mountains. The southern point of the loop is the most scenic. The roads were in pretty good shape, and I don't remember seeing any potholes so compared to IMWI the roads are a lot better. There were a lot of RR tracks - I think there are 6 sets on the way to the loop, 3 on the loop so you'll hit those twice, and then 6 more on the way back. Some of them are pretty rough.
Most of the course is on a road with no shoulder and I rode alone and felt safe the whole time. I encountered very little traffic and the cars I did see gave me plenty of room. I'd recommend not listening to music while riding this route so you can hear the dogs coming. There were no places to stop for water on the course.
Courtney was waiting for me at the Bi-Lo and we drove the run course and then started our trip home.
The run course. Two loops.
The Run Course:
Everyone is worked up about the elevation of the bike course, but it's the run course they should be worried about. There aren't any really big, steep, intimidating climbs but there are lots of rollers and long, gradual climbs that are going to be very tough during an Ironman. Compared to IMWI, the run course is much hillier.
The section north of the river was the hilliest with the steepest climbs. South of the river was flatter, but there were some long, gradual climbs that will definitely be challenging coming off 112 miles on the bike. Since I just drove the run course and didn't run it, it's hard to comment much on what it's actually like. I'm hoping to make it down to Chattanooga again before race day to ride/run the course.
Overall I think this will be a good course. It's challenging, but not brutal. The run will be the toughest part for sure. I'm really glad we made it to Chattanooga so I could see the course before winter. I have a better idea how I want to train for this race now, and it was nice to see the venue beforehand.
I've been planning on doing Rev3 Knoxville again and then heading to Chattanooga again after the race to train on the course for a day or two and then heading back home. Rev3 Knoxville is May 18 so it's the same weekend. Right now, I'm undecided. The training weekend sounds fun, but I really want to do Knoxville again. I really wish Rev3 hadn't moved the race back. It seems like there are a lot of races on that weekend.
Coming up - I still have several race reports to write up.