More Than a Race

2017 Sunbelt Bakery 70.3 IRONMAN Chattanooga presented by McKee Foods

For the third year in a row, the Chattanooga Sports Committee will be hosting the Sunbelt Bakery 70.3 IRONMAN Chattanooga presented by McKee Foods. This is part of a four-year contract with the IRONMAN organization.

This event features a point-to-point swim that is mostly downstream in the Tennessee River. Athletes will swim a short up-river section before making a turn and heading down the river to the transition area. The bike course features beautiful views of Lookout Mountain as riders travel 11 miles south of town to complete a 34-mile loop in Georgia. The day will conclude with a two-loop run around the Tennessee Riverwalk and Riverfront Parkway.

75 participants will have the chance to qualify for the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship set to take place on September 9-10, 2017 here in Chattanooga.

Additionally, this is a great opportunity for triathletes to get in shape for the full IRONMAN race which will take place in Chattanooga on September 24, 2017. That event holds 40 qualifying slots for the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

The 70.3 IRONMAN will bring in an estimate of 2500-3000 participants and an economic impact of $4,412,000. Hotels, restaurants and local businesses reap the benefits of having so many visitors in town. 

In turn, IRONMAN participants love coming to Chattanooga.  Chattanooga Sports Committee follows up with the hotels where they stay in town and according to hotel personnel they even plan to return the following year and want to reserve rooms before they leave.  The hotel personnel love having them as well, saying that “they are the perfect guests”.

With reviews like these, it’s no surprise that the 2016 Chattanooga IRONMAN 70.3 won Athlete’s Choice Awards in the following categories: first place for Best Race Venue Experience in the world, first place for Best Host City Experience in the world, first place for Best Restaurants in the World, a third-place tie for Best Overall Bike in the world and fourth-place tie for Best Overall Run in the world.

So what does it take for an athlete to train and prepare for a 70.3 IRONMAN race? We sat down with local Chattanoogan triathlete Justin Burd to get an inside look.

Chattanooga Sports Committee: Justin, thank you for talking with us. We want to give our readers the inside scoop on what it takes to compete in a 70.3 IRONMAN event. What is the training like?

Justin Burd: I run about three days a week. I try to do 25 miles a week if I can. For this event specifically, I road bike [between 50 and 75 a miles a week] but I prefer to do mountain biking rather than road biking.

CSC: Where do you train?

JB: I live in the North Shore so I have Stringer’s Ridge literally in my front yard. I feel really lucky to have that so I can use that as a training ground.

CSC: Where do you work on your swimming skills?

JB: In the wintertime, I swim at the Y. In the summertime, I’m always in the water. My first loves are white water kayaking and rock-climbing. I paddle all year long. I’m always in the water in the summer, whether it’s kayaking, standup paddle boarding or swimming.

CSC: How did you get into triathlons?

JB: My first IRONMAN was last year. I had always been into racing, I love to race. I do a lot of triathlons. In the outdoor scene you get a lot of triathlons where you’re whitewater kayaking in the river, you’re mountain biking and then you’re trail running. I do a lot of those throughout the year. I’m into road biking and road running, that interests me as well. I love to be active, I do a lot of races with my daughter. She’s 9-years-old, she’s a little racer. She’s into kayaking and rock climbing. She’s gotten a lot of exposure between me and my wife.

CSC: How do you prepare for racing these long distances from a nutrition standpoint?

JB: That’s definitely something to figure out. There are so many different things to train with and what your body will respond to and how you go about your nutrition on a daily basis when you’re not training. As far as I go, I’m probably like most athletes. I eat tons of whole foods and I have to have good protein. I try to eat a lot of clean food.

When I’m training, I like to use liquid nutrition type products while actually being active. I use a lot of Hammer Nutrition products and I also like CLIF BLOKS and SHOT BLOKS. I really like to use those, but as far as nutrition goes it plays a vital role in how you can perform especially in extended periods of time. Knowing how to train with it, knowing when to use it, knowing how to react to when your body is doing something. I always learn when I do long events or when I’m really blowing out the calories; temperature changes everything, sweat and cold, it’s an ongoing process of learning what your body is doing and how to react, and timing on when to put those things into your body.

If you talk to any triathlete that’s serious about it, they’re going to say the same things. It’s all about experience and spending time training with this specific product and how it reacts to your body. You can’t go into these events on something new because you don’t know how it’s going to work.

CSC: Talk about the course. How does it compare to other events you’ve competed in?

JB: I love the course. As far as IRONMAN goes, I don’t have any experience anywhere else in the country to compare it to. I love being able to race in my hometown. I think the course is awesome. I’ve read and I’ve heard that the Chattanooga course compared to other places is slightly easier.

CSC: What’s your favorite part of the race?

JB: The ride is probably my favorite part; you go out and get more into the rural side of things. You get the urban stuff with the swim, and [on] the run you’re in downtown Chattanooga. In the ride, you get into this kind of zone of scenery, it’s quiet, it’s just you and the course. It’s a different kind of energy out there. So for me in particular, the ride is my favorite part. I do love the energy that’s put on an in an IRONMAN event. It’s a big, positive ball of energy, and everybody is so fired up, [with] so much emotion going on mentally and physically. The volunteers work so freakin’ hard to make sure the participants have everything they need and having as easy of a time that they can have.

CSC: What’s the toughest part of the race?

JB: The swimming is probably my weakest link just because I don’t train enough technique. I can swim, but I don’t feel like I’m swimming perfectly throughout that time frame.

CSC: You competed in the Chattanooga IRONMAN (140.6 miles) last year. What is your mindset going into this year’s race? Does it make it easier knowing you’re working with half the distance?

JB: You never want to take any physical event for granted. I learned a lot from last year. Last year was extremely brutal. It was a brutal, hard day. I took a lot away from that day. I want to put that back towards this half coming up, what I learned and how I recognize what my body’s doing. I think that’s the biggest part of doing an IRONMAN, is recognizing what your body’s doing and how to remedy the situation. I never try to take anything for granted. Yes, it is half the distance. I kind of like the fact that it’s spring time and it’s a good way to break back into another long race.

CSC: What advice would give to someone who’s considering doing an IRONMAN event?

JB: What I see when it comes to doing these things is it’s a true mental test of will. If you go out there and you decide it’s something that’s important to you and it’s something you really want to do and achieve, you put that time in and that’s what it’s all about. I would say anybody that’s interested in wanting to do it, yeah, do it; but you’ve got to put your time in and make sure you do it the right way.

CSC: What’s your biggest takeaway from an IRONMAN event?

JB: It’s overwhelming how much energy [there is], especially at the finish line. It’s like everybody’s there to see everybody succeed…to me that’s the coolest part of it. Just the amount of positivity in one spot, people are out there for hours and hours and hours, and people just don’t quit. You don’t see that a lot these days. There’s so much negativity in everything you see. Everybody’s so wrapped up in everything. For me it’s about that day and it’s about that moment. It seems to be special for so many people that day. It’s more than just a race.

Justin Burd

Justin Burd