published Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Ironman hopefuls excited for Chattanooga competition as event sells out within 3 minutes

Scott Wilhoit, left, and Joel Christensen run Wednesday afternoon across the Market Street Bridge while training for Ironman Florida, which takes place this November. The pair will continue training for Ironman Chattanooga.
Scott Wilhoit, left, and Joel Christensen run Wednesday afternoon across the Market Street Bridge while training for Ironman Florida, which takes place this November. The pair will continue training for Ironman Chattanooga.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
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What’s in triathlon

• 2.4-mile swim

• 112-mile bike ride

• 26.2-mile run

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And you thought finishing the Ironman triathlon was the hard part.

First you have to get in.

Shortly after registration for the inaugural Ironman Chattanooga event began at noon Wednesday, it was over.

World Triathlon Corp. CEO Andrew Messick tweeted about 12:20 p.m. that “Ironman Chattanooga just sold out. 3 minutes.”

And that’s with a minimum $650 entry fee and more than 2,000 athletes expected to compete.

Threads on endurance forums and websites quickly picked up the disappointment — and sometimes bitterness — from athletes who weren’t able to get in. Just as quickly, those who did get in were sharing information on the best places to get a room for the Sept. 28, 2014, event and just plain celebrating.

“Cool would not be the correct term,” David Storm, a Chattanooga resident, said Wednesday about competing in his hometown. “It’s unreal.”

Bruce Novkov, on the other hand, was rueful after not getting in.

He competed in the 1999 Hawaii Ironman and will never forget the announcer’s call at the finish line:

“Bruce Novkov … you’re an Ironman.”

“[It’s] the Master’s. It’s the Super Bowl. It’s the World Series,” said Novkov, now 52 and living on Signal Mountain.

“You line up on the same day with the best in the world,” he said.

Just finishing, just competing, is winning.

Next year in Chattanooga, Novkov will be watching from the sidelines.

“If my voice sounds like I’m a little bummed,” he said, “it’s because I am.”

He hoped being an Ironman alum and Chattanooga native would help him secure a spot in the 2014 event.

Missing the city’s first such event hurts, he said.

“There’ll only be one first one,” he said.

Storm looks forward to making a run at the competition. He is coming off a four-year-long weight loss spree.

The day of his first race a few years ago, he resorted to walking.

“But that was OK,” he said. “Triathlons are a race against yourself and how good you can be.”

They come from all over, too.

Greg Bell lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and is coming here next September to compete.

“I’m excited about the location,” he said. “A lot of people have really talked it up.”

It will be his first Ironman event. He was going to do the Florida race in 2014, but after reading about the Scenic City, he changed his mind.

He and several others were planning on competing, but a quick sell-out meant only Bell made the cut. Still, he’ll be in a party of about 10, and the others will watch and maybe volunteer.

“I don’t have any expectations right now,” Bell said. “I’m just going to try and finish.”

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 as a region business reporter. He is a native of Dayton, Tenn., located 35 miles north of Chattanooga, and he is a fifth-generation Dayton native. Alex came to the Times Free Press as an editorial intern in July 2013. He was previously a correspondent at The Herald-News, located in Dayton, through college and editor-in-chief of the Triangle, Bryan College's student-led media group. Alex was ...

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