Age-group athletes say Ironman 70.3 World Championship event a winner

Age-group athletes say Ironman 70.3 World Championship event a winner

September 10th, 2017 by Jim Tanner in Local Regional News

Abi Smith, right, and her brother Zac Smith, along with their grandparents Paul and Del Jacklin, cheer for their mother Kate Smith during the IcyHot Ironman 70.3 World Championship on Saturday, Sept. 9, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

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At 7:30 Saturday morning, elite women triathletes stepped to the edge of a dock at Ross's Landing and dove into the Tennessee River to begin the women's racing at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

As the cannon roared to signal the start, Chattanooga triathlete Molly Wiygul waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Well over an hour after the professionals hit the water — and long after eventual champion Daniela Ryf had finished the 1.2 mile swim and started the 56-mile bike route — Wiygul finally entered the water to begin her race.

"I hang out away from the water, so I don't watch anything," Wiygul said of how she manages the wait for her race to begin. "I just can't think about it."

With more than 1,500 women entered in the race, officials started age-group competitors in waves to manage the congestion of so many athletes as fairly as possible. It's a complex task that took almost an hour and a half to complete, but Saturday's women's race seemed to run smoothly from start to finish.

Wiygul, who competed in the 25-29 age group, finished with a time of five hours, 29 minutes and 23 seconds, and was relatively pleased after crossing the finish line. She was coming off an ankle injury last year and had to overcome cramping after losing her salt tablets before the bike portion, but she pushed through to the end with the help of the cheers from family and friends in her hometown.

"It was amazing because you know so many people on the course," she said. "Everyone's screaming out your name, and that really pumps you up a little bit."

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Even out-of-town competitors felt the support of the tens of thousands of fans lining the course Saturday.

"The volunteers are so awesome, and they have been out here all day thanking us for supporting all the towns we rode through," said Jillian Chaney, of San Clemente, Calif. "Honestly, it makes a huge difference especially when you're on your way back to town on the bike course. Just to have one person on the side of the road clapping for you makes a difference."

Chaney, who raced in the 35-39 age group, celebrated with friend and fellow competitor Adrienne Miller after Miller's 40-44 age-group finishers came across the line throughout the afternoon. Miller, from Amelia Island, Fla., was enjoying being out of the Sunshine State as Hurricane Irma began to make landfall in the Florida Keys.

"If you have to evacuate, this is a great way to do it," she said.

Competitors, Ironman officials and Chattanooga leaders seemed pleased with the first day of the two-day international event, even with a redesigned course adding more difficulty for the field of elite triathletes.

"It was a great course," Chaney said. "Honestly, I think it was really fair. The volunteers were fantastic. It was well put on and well supported.

"It was challenging, but it's the world championships."

Contact Jim Tanner at Follow him on Twitter @JFTanner.