Volunteers key as Chattanooga hosts fourth Ironman event this year [photos]

Volunteers key as Chattanooga hosts fourth Ironman event this year [photos]

September 22nd, 2017 by Mark Pace in Local Regional News

Volunteers direct athletes up a ramp at Ross's Landing for the transition from swim to bike during the Ironman Triathlon on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. This marks the second year the triathlon has been held in Chattanooga.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Volunteers key as Chattanooga hosts fourth Ironman event this year

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Individual volunteers are still needed to help this weekend. Most shifts are filled, but volunteer coordinator Lisa Anderson still needs some volunteers to help the night of the race.

Those wishing to volunteer can show up the day of the event and go to the volunteer tent located near Ironman Village at Ross’s Landing. There will be coordinators at the tent who will assign jobs. Interested volunteers can also email chattanooga@ironmanvolunteers.com in advance.

Chattanooga's year of the Ironman comes to a close this weekend with another race Sunday, which means one more day thousands of volunteers are needed to coordinate the race, organize packets and do the hundreds of jobs required to run the event.

It also means another day of road closures, sold-out hotels and limited parking.

Organizers and racers alike understand the burden a city takes on when it hosts the events, and no city — outside of maybe Kona, Hawaii, which hosts the annual Ironman world championship and other events — has undertaken a year like this. This will be the fourth Ironman event this year in Chattanooga — an Ironman record.

"We understand that our races have a certain impact on the community," Ironman CEO Andrew Messick said during the Ironman 70.3 world championships earlier this month in Chattanooga. "We close roads, we inconvenience people, there's cyclists all over the place, and to have a community that is embracing of the benefits that Ironman brings makes a big difference for us."

The Scenic City has lived up to its state's nickname as no other city has turned out volunteers quite like Chattanooga.

The city set an Ironman record in 2015 when more than 4,700 volunteers helped at the event.

While it might sound excessive to some, Chattanooga volunteer coordinator Lisa Anderson said each one of those volunteers is needed.

"Volunteers make the race. If it wasn't for volunteers, we wouldn't be able to do it," Anderson said. "They do so much and there's something anyone and everyone can do."

For Sunday's event, it was more difficult than usual to get volunteers, Anderson said. The city hosted two world championship events two weeks ago in which thousands of volunteers were needed. But once again, the Volunteer State came through. Anderson and many others scrounged together more than 3,000 volunteers to help this week.


Kids aged 3-to-13 will have the chance to take on an Ironman event themselves.

Potential traithletes-to-be can compete in Ironkids, a half-mile or full-mile fun run. The run is $20, and children receive a t-shirt, race bib, gift bag and medal.

It will start at 9 a.m. at Ross’s Landing with a warmup beginning at 8:45. Professional triathletes will be there to lead the warmups.

The event is held to stem the growing problem of childhood obesity through exercise and healthy lifestyles, according to a release.

To register, visit ironkids.com.

One of those volunteers is Dr. David Bruce, an orthopedic surgeon at Erlanger who has volunteered since the event came to the city in 2014.

Bruce leads the medical team. He's seen thousands of people come through the medical tent for things such as dehydration, exhaustion and even seizures. It's an unpaid position that requires nearly 100 hours of work for him each race, he said.

The city and the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau gave Bruce a community service award this week for his volunteer work with Ironman.

"For me, I don't do this for Ironman. I do this for Chattanooga. Ironman has been a huge thing for Chattanooga," he said. "[The economic impact] gives us so many things that allow me to enjoy the city. I do it for the athletes, but I really do it for the city."

In order to receive an Ironman event, the host city has to have a physician in place to lead the medical team. A year before the first race came to the city, CVB president and CEO Bob Doak asked Bruce to do it. It was too much of a commitment. He passed.

"I sat and thought, 'Who the heck is going to do it if I don't do it?'" Bruce said.

He called Doak back, and he's directed the medical team ever since.

Volunteers don't have to have a medical background to help at Ironman. Many stations consist of handing out food, pointing athletes in the right direction and cheering on finishers. They also paint numbers on competitors, help them at transition points and pick up trash.

Many of the volunteer stations are made up of local groups.

The stations have coordinators who can fill the shifts on their own, have them filled by volunteers who sign up through Ironman or a combination. They're made up of church groups, high school bands and many others. One such group is the local Chattanooga Girls for Tri club headed by Katie Schumacher.

Schumacher moved to Chattanooga with her family from California after falling in love with the city when her son, Ryan, started at McCallie School. She has volunteered every year since 2015 and served in many roles. She's volunteered at feed stations, captained several groups and is leading the Ironkids event this weekend.

Her triathlon team is one group that likely will receive some of the $90,000 Ironman gives to groups that volunteer. The more those groups help, and the harder the job they do, the more money they get, Schumacher said.

"We all pick some way to give back, and this is what I do," she said.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.


Ironman is coming to Chattanooga this weekend, and with it comes heavy traffic and street closures.

The race starts early Sunday with the swim portion at 7:20 a.m., and athletes will be transitioning to the bike race from about 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Traffic will be stopped from crossing the cyclists’ lane when they are present between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Riverfront Parkway, West 20th Street, Broad Street, Market Street and Alton Park Boulevard. Runners will be on the Tennessee Riverwalk, Amnicola Highway, the Veterans Bridge, Barton Avenue, Hixson Pike and Riverview Road between 12:25 p.m. and 12 a.m.

The Tennessee River will be closed to recreational watercraft between Ross’s Landing and the Chickamauga Dam from 5 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Riverside Drive/Riverfront Parkway between Aquarium Way and Molly Street, Chestnut Street between Aquarium Way and Riverfront Parkway, and the southbound Veterans Bridge ramp to Riverside Drive will be closed from 9 a.m. today until 8 p.m. Monday.

The right eastbound lane of Riverfront Parkway between Molly Lane and Market Street, the right southbound lane of Market Street between West 20th Street and West 40th Street, West 40th Street between Alton Park Boulevard and Tennessee Avenue, and the Interstate 24 on-ramp and southbound off-ramp at Market Street will be closed and all streets crossing this route will be controlled by local officers.

The intersections of St. Elmo Avenue and Virginia Avenue at West 45th Street will be four-way stops from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday for the bike portion of the race. Cyclists will also be on Tennessee Avenue and St. Elmo Avenue to the state line, riding with traffic.

The right eastbound lane of Frazier Avenue between Forest Avenue and the Veterans Bridge, the right northbound lane of Barton Avenue between Frazier Avenue and Riverview Road, the right northbound lane of the Veterans Bridge between East Third Street and Barton Avenue, the right westbound lane of Amnicola Highway between Old Curtain Pole Road and Lindsay Street, Riverside Drive between Lindsay Street and Molly Lane, the Battery Place off-ramp from Riverside Drive, and Aquarium Way between Riverside Drive and Walnut Street will be closed. All streets crossing this route will be controlled by Chattanooga police officers to give right of way to the runners from 12:25 p.m. on Sunday until 12 a.m. Monday for the run portion.