In mid-July, officials decided to cancel both Chattanooga's summer and fall Ironman competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By then, Christine Dominguez, 50, and her husband Jesus, 57, had been training nearly a year and a half for what would have been their first full Ironman, a goal they set after finishing the half Chattanooga Ironman in 2019.
"We fell in love with Chattanooga," says Christine, who lives in Statesboro, Georgia. "The town is absolutely beautiful. The spectators are extremely supportive. I [set a personal record] on the bike course — I think it's because it was rolling — and like I always say, 'with every up, there's a down.'"
The day the Dominguezes learned Chattanooga's Ironman had been canceled, Christine remembers, "I didn't boo-hoo or anything, but I got a little emotional. All of our tears and sweat went into this."
That night over dinner, the couple decided to finish what they had started. They began to plan an unofficial course in Statesboro: a 2.4-mile swim at their local pool, a 112-mile bicycle ride throughout the city and a 26.2-mile run around their neighborhood. Their daughter agreed to set up an aid station in their driveway; a nearby friend would set up another.
They plan to complete their first Ironman-distance event on Sept. 26, the same weekend they would have been competing in Chattanooga. Afterwards, Christine says, she and her husband will be able to tweak their training plan to better prepare for 2021.
"No ifs, ands or buts," Christine says, "we are coming back to Chattanooga."
Save the date
Chattanooga is scheduled to host 70.3 and full-distance Ironmans in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The full, originally scheduled for Sept. 27, will take place on Sept. 26, 2021. The half, already rescheduled for Aug. 23 this year, will ultimately not return until May 23, 2021.
>> $22.8 million, local economic loss of this year’s cancellations
Curious what other would-be competitors were planning in lieu of the September event, we made a post in a local Facebook Ironman group. "Complete this sentence," we wrote. "Now that Chattanooga Ironman has been canceled, instead of competing this September, I will..."
Here are a few of their responses.
Amy Shelby Fletcher, 52, West Lafayette, Indiana
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Completing Chattanooga Ironman 2016 in record heat.
Ironman events under her belt: 6 fulls; 12 halfs
"Recover from two foot surgeries."
Joanne Moss, 54, Asheville, North Carolina
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Running a marathon in all 50 states.
Ironman events under her belt: 0
"Continue to train as if [Chattanooga Ironman] was still happening and at least bike ride 116 miles that weekend. It would have been my first IM and I spent too much time training on my bike to just stop!"
Nika Bocharova, 44, Alva, Florida
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Not panicking while swimming in high waves after puking in the ocean.
Ironman events under her belt: 1 full; 4 halfs
"Start lifting heavy weights 3X a week and be able to donate blood."
Matthew Svajda, 40, Satellite Beach, Florida
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Completing the half Ironman in Oceanside, California, and a full marathon in Huntington Beach, California.
Ironman events under his belt: 1 half
"Take my Ironman sticker off the back of my car (with my tail between my legs). Unless of course the IM community thinks I'm worthy of keeping it on until Chatt 2021. Oh, and try not to gain back the 25 pounds I've already shed."
Jeff Frazier, 58, Louisville, Kentucky
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Cycling from Seattle to Maine.
Ironman events under his belt: 14 fulls; 14 halfs
"Try not to get fat."
Jamie Hayes, 26, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Being part of the NCAA Swim Team at Washington and Lee University for four years.
Ironman events under her belt: 3 full; 4 halfs
"Compete in Ironman Texas in October!!! Hopefully? Maybe? Probably not? I was already registered before [Ironman Chattanooga] got canceled."
Kimberly Dilts, 52, Bloomington, Indiana
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Completing the Umstead Ultra 100 in 2018, an endurance race in which only one-third of all participants finished. Or participating in Trailfest 2019 — three half marathons in three days throughout Utah — with 18-year-old daughter.
Ironman events under her belt: 3 fulls; 12 or more halfs
"Train for some fall ultra trail running events."
Conrad Schaffer, 54, Monroeville, New Jersey
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Winning a medal in my age group in the Philadelphia Marathon and the Atlantic City Ironman 70.3.
Ironman events under his belt: 4 fulls; 1 half
"Hike the Grand Canyon."
Teresa Jones, 60, Sumter, South Carolina
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Learning to swim at 51 and competing in full Chattanooga Ironman in 2017.
Ironman events under her belt: 1 full; 5 halfs
"Hike the [Appalachian Trail]."
Chris Tipps, 58, Frisco, Texas
Proudest athletic accomplishment: Commuting over 10,000 miles by bicycle in 2016 and losing over 80 pounds while doing it.
Ironman events under his belt: 1 full; 4 halfs
"Move to northwest South Carolina and get some hill repeats done to get ready for IM Chattanooga 2021!"