After a solid performance all day Matt Hanson's 2:47:40 run allowed him to win the inaugural Little Debbie Ironman Chattanooga and with it - his first Ironman win. That Hanson only ran 2:47:40 is a sign that this run course is reasonably tough with fairly hilly sections. Hanson ran 2:41:37 at Ironman Texas earlier this year, and 2:42:07 at Ironman Coeur D'Alene. Angela Naeth's race best 4:50:03 bike split also helped her to the first Ironman title, and likely made her forget her not so great day at the 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant. But she had to work hard for it.
Barrett Brandon and Eric Limkemann pulled away from the other Pros in the fast Tennessee waters and came out in an astounding 38:06 and 38:10 respectively. About 2 minutes behind them a massive pack of athletes climbed out of the water and jumped on their bikes.
Limkemann pulled away from Brandon and was alone up front for the remainder of the 116 mile bike segment. Around 20 athletes were in the chase pack behind Limkemann, but they did not manage to pull time back. German Per Bittner tried to jump across to Limkemann but ended stuck in the middle, and before too long he was swallowed up again by the group who appeared to be riding fair and correctly spaced. During the second loop as the Pros started to lap age groupers, a few folks dropped out from that group and fell back, and among them was Brandon. Pedro Gomes reportedly hit the deck hard with only a few miles left to go and ended up pulling out and in need of medical attention. Limkemann reached the bike-run transition first with a race best 4:34:16 bike split, and that gave him a 5 minute plus advantage over Trevor Wurtele who pulled away late from that group.
Derek Garcia was the first guy out of transition of that chasing bunch, but the hard running Matt Hanson with an 5:30 opening soon pulled past him and chased down Wurtele before the 4 mile mark. The next target was Limkemann, and the tall Richmond, VA resident obliged. Once Hanson caught Limkemann it was over and out and no one could stop Hanson from taking his first big win. A race best 2:47:40 run effort brought the former wrestler to the finish in 8:12:32. Daniel Bretscher who won Ironman Wisconsin quietly moved himself into second place and Trevor Wurtele hung on to third place. Barrett Brandon clawed his way back to fourth place, even though on the bike it appeared that he was slowly dropping back. Limkemann in the end finished fifth.
"I am really excited about my first win. Looking at the field before the race, I knew I was going to have to have a great day to come out on top," said Hanson to slowtwitch. "I had a great race plan. With this many in the field, I guessed it was going to come down to the run and knew I needed to swim and bike hard enough to stay in the mix. Everything came together for me today and I am thrilled with the result."
As many had predicted, New Zealand born Chattanooga resident Anna Cleaver was first out of the water in a very swift 39:57, helped of course also by the very swift water. Kathryn Thomas, Christine Hammond, Kaitlin Anelauskas and Malaika Homo were next with mid 41 swims. Angela Naeth lost over 5 minutes to Cleaver in the water, but the day was still young.
On the rolling 2 lap course through Tennessee and Georgia Cleaver pushed hard to stay at bay, but Naeth inched closer and closer and caught the Kiwi near the 70 mile mark. In the final 46 miles Naeth steadily pulled away and by the time the Canadian reached T2 she had a 12 minute advantage over Cleaver and the gap to the other competitors was even more significant. Naeth recorded a race best 4:50:03 bike split on a relatively mild day in the Tennessee Valley. Locals actually call the area where the bike loops took place Triathlon Valley, because it is the only reasonably flat course that can be ridden from Chattanooga without having to crest a big mountain.
Naeth looked completely in control as she started the run, and never appeared to be in trouble. Ruth Brennan-Morey had the quickest run among the women with a very fine 3:02:55, and that allowed her to move into second place, after a 47:48 swim and a 5:13:43 bike split, but Naeth was well out of sight and cruised to the finish with a 3:15:15 marathon time and a final time of 8:54:55. Jennie Hansen also ran well with a 3:07:26 time, and grabbed the final podium spot. Laurel Wassner who raced near the front too, managed to finish fourth. Cleaver dropped back to 5th place.
Little Debbie Ironman Chattanooga
Chattanooga, TN / 09-28-2014
2.4m swim / 116m bike / 26.2m run
1. Matt Hanson (USA) 8:12:32
2. Daniel Bretscher (USA) 8:19:05
3. Trevor Wurtele (CAN) 8:22:00
4. Barrett Brandon (USA) 8:24:19
5. Eric Limkemann (USA) 8:25:50
6. Swen Sundberg (GER) 8:28:39
7. Chad Holderbaum (USA) 8:30:47
8. Per Bittner (GER) 8:30:59
9. Andrew Drobeck (USA) 8:34:08
10. Adam Otstot (USA) 8:39:32
1. Angela Naeth (CAN) 8:54:55 53
2. Ruth Brennan Morrey (USA) 9:09:39
3. Jennie Hansen (USA) 9:12:37
4. Laurel Wassner (USA) 9:14:10
5. Anna Cleaver (NZL) 9:24:12
6. Malaika Homo (USA) 9:33:54
7. Kaitlin Anelauskas (USA) 9:33:56
8. Kathryn Thomas (USA) 9:44:15
9. Christine Hammond (USA) 9:44:19
10. Whitney Garcia McCain (USA) 9:47:04