Jordan, Sass Capture Waterfront Triathlon Titles
By John Hunt
It was hot and humid and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but that didn’t keep a large number of folks from gathering in downtown Chattanooga on Sunday morning for the annual Waterfront Triathlon.
Someone joked that at least it wasn’t as hot as last weekend, but it was still warmer than comfortable as Tyler Jordan and Kirsten Sass walked away with overall wins.
The event included a 1.5K (.93 mile) swim from the barges at Scrappy Moore Field to Ross’s Landing, followed by a 42K (26 miles) bike ride from there out Corridor J almost Highway 153 and back before finishing with a 10K (6.2 miles) run out and back on the Chattanooga Riverwalk.
The race started with the first swimmer taking off about 7:40 a.m. with swimmers entering the water every four seconds in numerical order. That makes the finish results a mystery, but it prevents the potential for disaster that happens when everyone starts at the same time.
The race was directed by Jenny Berz and Sherilyn Johnson of the Chattanooga Track Club in partnership with Team Magic, a dynamite organization from Birmingham that specializes in events like this.
Jordan was the first individual across the finish line with a sparkling time of two hours, seven minutes and seven seconds while Sass wasn’t far behind, taking the sixth overall spot with a time of 2:10:57.
Eric Cross was the male runner-up in 2:08:33 while Bruce Gennari was third overall in 2:10:01.
Deanna Newman was the female runner-up in 2:17:33 while Megan Degan was third in 2:19:59.
Cullom Boyd was the first person to finish as he was part of a relay team named Team Hub Endurance. They were saddled with a two-minute penalty, but still had the best time of the day with a 2:01:10, which included Boyd’s run split of 39:28.
“It was a good run, although I got sick on the way back up Battery Place,” Boyd said. “It’s hot today,” he added, noting that Andy Sweet and Anders Swanson were the other members of his team.
Jordan is a 24-year-old gentleman from Jasper, Georgia who earns his living working at a bike shop. He spent several minutes under cover in the medical tent when he finished, but he was still smiling as he thought back over what he had just done.
Jordan’s splits included a 21:20 for the swim, 1:03:10 for the bike and 40:01 for the run while Sass had impressive splits of 21:23, 1:05:09 and 41:37.
“The run was awful as I was dieing by the first mile,” Jordan began.
“Those stairs were rough and the bike course was hard with all of those climbs. But I’m about 95 percent sure that I won today,” he concluded.
Cross is a 41-year-old electrical engineer from Alpharetta, Georgia who was the overall male master’s winner last year. He had specific goals for each of the three legs and he came really close to reaching those goals.
“I felt good the whole time. I don’t know the results yet, so it’s a waiting game now. My goal was to average 25 miles an hour on the bike and I had 24.5. I wanted to keep a 6:30 pace on the run and I had a 6:32, so I was close.
“I knew the run would be the slowest segment. With the heat, it makes it feel like it’s uphill the whole way. This is my fifth time to do this race and I like the hills on the bike ride. I’m happy with the way things turned out,” he added.
Sass will celebrate her 33rd birthday on July 15. She’s a physician’s assistant from McKenzie, Tennessee and she’s been a participant in Chattanooga triathlons for many years. She did not compete here last year after giving birth to her second child, but she was more than ready for the challenge this year.
“I’ve been competing here a long time and I love this race. Running along the river is really nice. I started toward the back (her number was 922) so it was plenty hot out there.
“My goal was to beat last year’s winning time and I did as I got a personal record on this course, but not at this distance. I had no idea what my time was, so I just went with what I could do. The downhills were fantastic,” she added.
Sass is currently training for Ironman New York on August 11. She has a PR of 10:26 at that distance.
Atlanta’s Jack McAfee had the honor of being number one and he was happy after finishing eighth overall in 2:11:43. The operations supervisor at the Atlanta airport had lived in Chattanooga for the last five years before going south about six months ago.
“I’m just thankful it wasn’t as hot today as it was last year,” he began. “I’ve been training a lot on the bike and I left it all on the course. I felt strong at the start of the run, but I quickly faded.
“Heat and cramps got me at the end, but my results are the best I could do and I’m happy with it,” McAfee added.
Degan is a 22-year-old student at Life University in Marietta. She managed to finish third among the females, despite a minor crash at the 23-mile mark of the bike segment.
“I’m glad I wasn’t going too fast, but I guess I just wasn’t paying attention and hit a cone. It’s still a really good race,” she added with a smile.
Most of Sunday’s field included competitors from outside Chattanooga. However, there are always those local folks who take part and do extremely well.
Marshall Horton, Eric Clarke, Riley Young, Paula Cooper and Delaney Miller are five such individuals.
Horton is a 58-year-old gastroenterologist who had a horrible bike crash in 1999 and spent more time than he cares to remember after getting his hip rebuilt. He finished 167th overall with an outstanding time of 2:39:42.
“I felt pretty good and it was hot as usual,” Horton said while resting under the tent where the awards ceremony took place.
“My hip didn’t bother me. It always seems to feel hotter than the year before, but at least I’ve learned a little bit about pace in all my years competing,” he said, noting that he runs about 20 miles per week in addition to biking 120 and swimming about 6,000 yards.
Clarke is a 54-year-old orthopedic surgeon who was a real stud in younger years. His time of 2:38:49 proved that he still has the ability to go much faster than most people his age.
“I lost it on the run as I’m just not in shape. The bike part wasn’t as hard as I thought, but this was my first triathlon in about seven or eight years. I had surgery on my Achilles tendon in September and it may not be completely healed.
“I like the climbing on the bike. People passed me going downhill while I would pass them going up,” Clarke explained.
Young is a 22-year-old senior at Ole Miss who was a standout at McCallie in cross country and track before graduating in 2009. Sunday was his first experience doing a triathlon.
“It was fun, but brutal, as I had done no training at all other than running. Once I finally got out of the water, I realized I was in a race. The bike part wasn’t bad on the way out, but it was hard on the way back. I was in my comfort zone when we finally started running,” Young explained.
Riley finished 152nd overall in 2:38:10 and enjoyed bragging rights with his father Blake, who was a ways back in 2:57:37.
“I started 10 minutes ahead of him and finish 20 minutes behind him, so you do the math. He is a lot younger and that may be a key,” the father laughed.
Cooper is a 57-year-old TVA employee who did her first triathlon last year in this race. She was an outstanding runner back in the 80s, so adding biking and swimming just make it a more enjoyable experience.
“It was a hard race, but I felt pretty good until the last mile of the run. I think it was hotter today than last year. My goal was to just finish without getting hurt. The bike is my worst event, but I’m glad I did it. I’m going home now as I’ve had a good day,” Cooper nodded.
Miller is another first timer who did extremely well, finishing 367th overall in 2:54:24. She’s a 16-year-old rising junior at Collegedale Academy who has been a big part of the Ooltewah Tidal Waves in the Chattanooga Area Swim League this summer.
“I’ve never done this distance before, but I really liked it. I run about six days a week and I bike about once per week. I was going all out on the run. I thought I might have to walk, but I didn’t,” Miller suggested.
Johnson and Berz were the co-race directors and they always do an impressive job organizing and coordinating all the people whose contributions make it an overwhelming success from year to year.
“It takes teamwork and we all work together to make it possible,” Johnson told the large gathering as the awards ceremony began.
“We couldn’t do it without Team Magic and more than 400 volunteers,” added Berz.
While there were many volunteers involved the entire weekend, there were also several large groups involved, including the Central High School band boosters and the Tyner Academy girls basketball team.
Central’s people had the difficult and hot job of dismantling the bike racks while the Lady Rams were in charge of one of the many water stations on the run course.
DICK DILLARD was honored with the Calder Willingham Award. Willingham and his wife Betsy were the first directors of the Waterfront Triathlon and Calder loved being a participant long before he became a director. He did his first Ironman at age 60 and had his personal best of 13:26 at age 64.
Unfortunately for his family and all of the triathlon community, his life was cut short a couple of years ago by Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS.
“It’s always an honor to present this award to someone who is committed to a goal, supports others in their attempts, shows a total joy for life and gives back to the community. There’s nobody that does that more than Dick Dillard,” Betsy said in making the presentation.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)