Ironman Chattanooga 2023 – Race report

Let’s start at the beginning, I haven’t made a proper post since my first Iron distance race in 2020. Chattanooga was my 4th race like that. So I am really behind with posts. But will try my best to be better from now-on and give you frequent updates.

Here’s a quick recap:

ExtremMan Nagyatád 2020 – IM Texas 2022 – IM Texas 2023 and now Chattanooga 2023

Around a year ago, I was looking for ironman recommendations for this autumn. I have decided to challenge myself and try to do two this year. At that point I was already signed up for Texas, and lots of people were recommending Chattanooga, so this ended up being my second race of the year.


As always, I travelled to the States alone. I am definitely getting better at it. A few days before flying out I have borrowed a friend of mine’s BikeBoxAlan case. He always so lovely, and let me borrow it. I have flown with American Airlines and decided to do Premium economy, since that comes with 2 luggages, so won’t need to pay anything extra for my bike, and it’s also good to have extra legroom and comfort post race.

After booking the race, I have realised that there is no direct flight from Heathrow, so had to change planes at Charlotte which turned out to be great.

Check in and bib pick up:

Athlete check in and bib pick opened up at Mid day on Thursday. My hotel ( Holiday Inn ) was around 10 mins walk from the check in area / race village , so I had a really comfortable walk there.

Once again I have signed up with Nirvana , since I was travelling alone. They do offer different things for different budgets, but I was really happy with them in Texas so decided to use them again.

When I got to the athlete village I ended up buying a bunch of stuff. Since it was day one of the expo, they had plenty of stock. Got some stickers, water bottles and mug. After that I walked to the Nirvana tent.

I was so happy to see Janet and the guys there, they were the Nirvana staff in Texas too. So was good to see familiar faces, and had a quick catch up.

Walked to packet pick up with Janet, and got all my bits for the race. Bib number , backpack, bike stickers, transition bags, meal voucher etc.

When that was done, we walked back to the Nirvana tent, and I spoke with the mechanic and booked my bike in for a check up.

Pre race activities:

I’ll concentrate on the swim – bike – run kinda activities here. But will make a separate post for the little sightseeing things I have done, and will link it to here.

Chattanooga doesn’t offer an organised pre-race swim practice. I have made a post into our team group chat, and asked the others if someone was planning to go down to the dam and if they could give me a lift since I don’t drive. A few of us ended up going there at the end. This is why I love Base, there’s always someone else from the team who does the same race and they are always really helpful.

The practice swim went well, the water was definitely above 25 Celsius, I was only wearing my bikini and the water felt really hot.

One afternoon I also gone out for a solo 30 mins run, just to see how my legs feel post flight. On starturday morning the Team organised a short , 30mins, shakeout ride. Just to test the bikes out, and also to check out the crazy bumpy railroad tracks.

On Friday we also had a Team dinner. I’ve been part of Base since 2019, but because I live in England I don’t really meet others. Last year in Texas was the first time I have met with them. But have to say its a great bunch of people and everyone is always so friendly and helpful.

The day before the race:

There’s a mandatory bike check in and transition bags drop off the day before the race. Also this is when we pick up our timing chip. I went to see Janet at the Nirvana tent, and we have walked over to transition.

One of the Nirvana perks is that you do get a low bib number, so your bike is right by the transition exit, and also you can drop your bike & run bags on race day morning.

After leaving my bike behind, I always feel a bit sad and I’m full with worry. But tried to stay calm. On our way out I had to pick up my timing chip. And that was all for the day.

Race day:

OMG it’s race day, all that training in the last few months, and all that worry. Today is the big day. Have set my alarm for nice and early, it was for 3am. Had my usual morning coffee and porridge. Had to dress up and braid my hair. Got a text from Janet that it’ll be a wetsuit legal race, it was bang on the mark. So I have a feeling they were looking for a spot till they found a wetsuit legal water temperature. So I made sure to take my wetsuit with me. Then had a slow walk to transition.

Check my bike at transition, dropped my fluids off, and also spoke with the mechanic to see if things are okay with my bike. That’s another Nirvana perks, we do have our own mechanic, for transition, and pre race.

Dropped my bike and run bags off , with all my nutrition and made a slow walk to the buses. The swim start is 2.4 mile from the transition, so IM does have school busses for us.

I got to the swim start well early, found Bryan at the swim entry point. The time passed really quickly in the morning, bumped into a few Base mates, the we had our goodbyes and it was time to go.

The swim is a 2.4mile downriver swim. Because of that, it’s a fast swim. even if you don’t really put on effort in you’ll be out 90mins tops.

I came out of the water 50mins and a few secs after getting in, and I am usually a 1h45mins IM swimmer. But I’m not complaining. Since the bike ride is 116 miles, and not the usual 112 miles.

Spent a few minutes in transition, had my usual PBJ sandwich, and some drink. Then it was time to cycle 116 miles. Have to say the scenery of this route is definitely better then Texas. There was two loops and it had some rolling hills and false flats. Total elevation according to my Garmin was 1810m. I’ll be honest the first loops felt rather sluggish, I had no idea how far is to go to get back to the start of the loop, and didn’t know what to look out for, where to push harder where not. Second loop was much more enjoyable.

Managed to keep my HR at the 150 mark, and I’m well pleased with that. At the aid stations I’ve just done a grab and go, didn’t stop at all. The only time I stopped was at the end of the first loop, to use the loo, and the next time it was when I finished.

The nutrition was spot on, had a gel on every 60mins mark, and an energy bar on the 30mins mark. Also made sure to lick my base salt at every 5km, and hydrate at the same time.

Got back to transition, and it was time to run – walk – crawl. I made a mistake , not to take a bottle with me out of transition. That first mile was hard, and I couldn’t wait to get to the aid station and get some water and ice.

Was slowly plodding off the miles, and got closer and closer to that finish line. I have seen a few Base mates around, and made sure to cheer them on. When the sun went down ,the weatger got so much nicer and I didn’t feel that hot.

Really not sure why I fancy these crazy hot races, because there’s literally hardly any heat in England, so cannot train for it, Texas was crazy hot twice, and now can add Chattanooga to that list.

The last mile as downhill, and I was so happy to approach that finish line.

I crossed the finish line at the 15:05:01 mark. It is not crazy fast, but it is a finish and well under the cutoffs.

After crossing the finish line I met up with Janet, and she got me some food and drink. Also by this point they have dropped all my transition bags, and bike back to my hotel. Absolutely great perk for someone who’s travelling alone. And she kept hold of my backpack with my all comfortable clothes, and flip-flops. So had a nice chill out walk back to my hotel with my medal and food.

The day after:

I have no idea why, but I really cannot sleep after an Ironman. I was absolutely knackered, but still only had like 3hrs sleep.

Since my flight was later than normal , I had time to walk to athlete breakfast, and see the award ceremony and slot allocation for the World Champs.

They were giving out 60 spots for Nice , France for next year, and there was only 280 ladies. The guys are going to Kona for 2024, and they had 25 spots for it.

Base Performance ended up being the 5th place TriClub, and after the award ceremony they started to announce the slots for Nice.

I was well surprised that so many people didn’t take it, or they wasn’t there to take it. There was a few AG where noone took a spot, like in the 18-24 and also there was another one.

Some age groups had anything between 10-16 slots for Nice.

I have ended up for the last slot for my AG. I’ll be honest, when I’ve seen and heard the roll down, and how many slots wasn’t taken I was well surprised. Lots of ladies did say they not taking a slot because it’s not in Kona, and also for them it’s more expensive to travel to France.

I had my opportunity and I decided to say yes to it.

This is once in a lifetime kinda thing, and it know well it’s a roll-down slot, and I wasn’t finished in the top 3 in my AG.

France is so close to England , and it means that Niki and the gang can come and cheer on me. This will be the first race I’ll have family there.

I know well that I have lots of training to do, and it’ll be hard road ahead, but I’ll do my best.

I have made a few posts on FB and Instagram, and sadly a few people messaged me or commented my group post, saying I am an embarrassment to take a slot. Also finishing a race anything over 11hrs is an embarrassment . It made me feel sh.t in the last few days. But this is the downside of social media, I guess.

I made sure that I used the phrase of “roll down” in every post I made, and I also put out my finish time. So I thought I was well transparent with everything, But it clearly wasn’t enough.

I have tried to explain that there’s other ways to get a WC spot, like going down the legacy route or even raising money for IM Foundation. But some people do believe that someone only should go if the win the AG.

I know well, if I keep making training posts, I’ll get more grief from people, but I’ll try my best to just ignore it.

Thank you for reading and lots of love,

Gabi xx

6 Comments on “Ironman Chattanooga 2023 – Race report”

  1. Massive congrats on your result. I find you attitude inspirational and hope that more young women will follow your example.
    I also find it hard to read here that people would criticise you for taking a place in a forthcoming tri – that must be hard to accept but do your best to ignore them.
    Keep up the good work and continue to believe in yourself and roll on Nice!

    • Thank you 🙂

      It’s always the same or similar people. I’ve got some grief when I’ve done the Majors via charities. Was told I’m cheating my way around and that’s an easy way to do them.

      They didn’t see that hard work it takes to fundraise.

      They are just some said and jealous people.

      I’ll try to ignore them as much as I can , and train my butt off , and get to the finish line in Nice.

      • I don’t know how people manage to complete Ironmans. I’m an ex road cyclist (mainly road racing and some TTs/HCs) and have raced events up to 8 hours long which is very challenging (last one I did was in Italy, July 2019 in c. 38C sunshine!) I find it incredible that you race the same cycle distance, but between swims and runs of equal difficulty. To do that you need physical and mental resolve and some carefully planned training. Added to, you’ve got to find a route to enter these events, do admin and then get to them! Chapeau!

  2. If you received an invitation from Ironman to the World Championships based on your finishing a race then you are as deserving as anyone, no matter their finishing time, to that slot and should accept that slot with great pride. Many pros, who have no chance of a podium finish, have graciously accepted “roll-down” slots to the World Champs. I haven’t heard anyone calling them an embarrassment for taking a slot. 

    • Thank you.
      Probably normal people don’t know about that. Or they just turn a blind eye.

      Ive done some reading on Facebook , and seen that IM email so many people last year to take late Kona slots. And people commented that they did took them.

      Luckily it’s the minority of people who made those comments. They just seem to be sad or jealous.

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