Wiedmer: Sunbelt Bakery Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga was full of worthy weekend warriors

Cyclists ride up Riverfront Parkway to begin the bike portion of the Sunbelt Bakery Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga on Sunday morning.
photo Mark Wiedmer

Until 8:39 Sunday morning, Chris Watson had rarely put much more than a big toe into an open-water venue. He'd certainly never attempted to swim 1.2 miles in water as swift and strong as the Tennessee River.

But the 39-year-old systems engineer from Louisville, Kentucky, was recently found to have a fatty liver. Though he'd sometimes embraced distance running, entering and completing 11 or 12 half marathons over the past decade, he decided he needed to do more than that to get healthy, both through exercise and diet.

"I do better in making lifestyle changes if I have a goal," Watson explained. "Competing in the Chattanooga Ironman (70.3) became my goal."

So a little more than 10 months ago, he started biking and running in preparation for the 56-mile bike ride and the 13.1-mile