cycling, running, triathlon

Comparing 4 Tennessee Olympic Triathlons

No Comments 05 June 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 10.23.25 AM

Tennessee is home to a some great races, from sprints to iron distance.  With a love of triathlon but without the time to train for something longer, I’ve decided to race four of the biggest Olympic tris in the state.  In case you want to try one or all of them, here’s a lot at four of the biggest- Challenge Knoxville (formerly Rev3) in May, Chattanooga Waterfront in June, Music City in July, and Riverbluff (formerly Nashvegas) in August.  (Note: Memphis is May is a classic and an obvious 5th option- would have have made for a very cool 5 races Olympic logo symmetry- but with some changes going on with the race and location, it was hard to do course comparisons. Hopefully next year.)

To start, here they are by the basics and numbers, but I’ll also get into the background and a few stories for these great races.


Knoxville- wetsuit-legal, 2/3 downriver
Chattanooga- generally non-wetsuit, 100% downriver
Music City- generally non-wetsuit, circle swim
Riverbluff- generally  non-wetsuit, circle swim
(note: wet-suit notes are based on general water temp)


Knoxville- 1640 feet of climb, 1 cat 5 climb
Chattanooga Waterfront- 578 feet of climb, 1 cat 5 climb
Music City- 676 feet of climb
Riverbluff – 698 feet of climb


Knoxville- 190 feet
Chattanooga- 173 feet
Music City- 339 feet
Riverbluff- 41 feet

With a look at the basics, Chattanooga looks to be the easiest in the swim, followed by Knoxville.

On the bike, the elevation changes are virtually the same for the the June to August races, with Knoxville being vastly more difficult.  One year I stumbled across the finished line and happened to come across pro Matty Reed, who had won an hour earlier and was waiting for the awards ceremony.  I said hello and followed that up by saying, “Wow, that’s pretty hilly!” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well…rolling.”

On the run, even with the change of moving the 6.2 miles to a flatter course instead of running up and down hills in downtown Nashville, Music City still clocks in as the most difficult.

Challenge Knoxville Challenge Knoxville (formerly Rev3), May 17, 2015

Personally, I love this race.  With pros racing, it has a big feel to it. The finish line is great, the support is great, and the fact that it is so family friendly is huge.  This was my first ‘big’ race.  Until then, my wife wasn’t very much on board with the whole triathlon thing.  But when the kids got to do a scavenger hunt and then run down the finish with me at the end, something clicked.  She said, “Hey, let’s do this one every year.”  And for the most part, we have.  There are Challenge logos on the clothes and signage, but it’s still very much a Rev3 event, which is a good thing.  The hills on the bike are difficult- I actually do better on road by than tri bike for this one- but to me, that just adds to it.  I’ve really enjoyed meeting several pros there, listening in on the pro Q&A, and getting to a fan.  All in all, it’s certainly a favorite.  With the addition of Challenge, it’s nice to be connected to the “other” global triathlon race series.  (Note: There is also a half iron distance for you over-achievers.)

Screen shot 2015-06-05 at 2.35.47 PM  Chattanooga Waterfront- June 28, 2015

Every year I want to do this race, and every year something comes up.  So far, we’re in the clear this year, and I’m excited about racing it for the first time. Although I’m not a fan of time trial starts for open-water events, I am very excited about the downriver swim, the relatively flat bike and the flat run.  If I’m getting a PR this summer, it’s likely going to be here.  From a family perspective, it’s hard to get better than Chattanooga.  While you’re off on the bike, your family can check out the amazing Tennessee Aquarium or hop the trolley for free to get back and forth from your hotel.  Team Magic always puts on a great race, so I’m expecting good things!


Screen shot 2015-06-05 at 2.35.29 PMMusic City Triathlon- July 26, 2015

Pop quiz- Which race is older than Escape from Alcatraz, Wildflower, and Challenge Roth? It’s the Music City triathlon.  The race began in 1979, just a year after the Ironman Hawaii, and is one of the oldest continuous triathlons in the world.  The course has moved around the city several times but has found a downtown right on the river.  This was my first Olympic distance race, and therefore is stuck in my head as crazy difficult, but if you’re racing in the south in the middle of the summer, you’ve got to expect some heat.  Doing well in such an historic race is certainly something to talk about with your friends, and a must on your Tennessee triathlon bucket list.  (Note: There is also a sprint option, which is a lot of fun, too.)

Screen shot 2015-06-05 at 2.49.16 PM Riverbluff Triathlon (formerly Nashvegas)- August 8, 2015

The newest of the bunch, Riverbluff is great for scenery if you prefer the outdoors to the big city. Says Kat Williams of Start2Finish, “The venue is beautiful – Lake front with the post race party under a grove of trees. You can also camp at the race site. The bike course is hot, hilly and hard (especially the half). If you’ve ever heard of the Wildflower triathlon in California, the future of this race is inspired by that one.”  For me, it’s been a good race to close out the season.  With the move from early September to early August, it promises to be hot and challenging, but still keep the great atmosphere.  (Note: There is a sprint option.  There’s also normally a half as well, but due to road construction, the half is taking a year off.)

Out of these or others, which is your favorite Tennessee Olympic race?  Comment below!

I’m excited to try all of these races, and I hope you’re inspired to race one or more as well.

Why Older Triathletes Are Freaks

The Triathletes Secret Weapon At Work




cycling, triathlon

Why Older Triathletes Are Freaks

5 Comments 29 July 2014

Screen shot 2014-07-29 at 9.23.11 AMI’ve come to realize that ‘older’ triathletes (no good PC term comes to mind) are freaks. I’m in my 30s and work at an office in which almost everyone is younger than me, so almost everyone I know in their 50s and 60s are triathletes. In my mind, it’s normal that some 54-year-old woman has extremely defined calf muscles that you glimpse briefly as she flies by you up a 15% incline hill, or some 62-year-old guy has a resting heart rate of lower than his age and still races ironman triathlons in under 12 hours.

Then I went on our first cruise with my family this month. Let’s just say this cruise skewed older. Out of 1,600 passengers on board, only 18 were kids under the age of 12, so this cruise was certainly not catering to people with young families. For the first time in a long time, I was surrounded by 50- and 60-year-olds who weren’t predominantly endurance athletes. They didn’t spend Saturday mornings cranking out 50 miles on the bike, and then getting in a dozen miles more on the run on Sunday before church. They weren’t hitting the pool at 5AM for 100 repeats and getting in a quick 5K run at lunch.

In a word, these people on the cruise were…normal.

They were rounder, softer, and just seemed to look older and less healthy. It’s nothing against them for choosing that particular non-triathlete lifestyle, but it made me appreciate what these people I know have chosen to be and become. It’s kind of like watching basketball on TV. Those point guards seem so short compared to other basketball players on the court. Then you you meet an NBA point guard in person, and you’re like, “Wow. 6’5 is tall!”

I realized that triathletes have skewed my perception of what ‘normal’ is. It’s not normal to keep in shape, to still be an athlete, to have people 20s and 30s wish they could look like someone in their 50s and 60s. That drive and determination are the exception, not the rule. So, to you older triathletes, I salute you, and I hope I can be just like you when I grow up!

Has an older triathlete ever been an inspiration to you?  Comment below!

Speaking of living a different type of life, check out my interview with Chrissie Wellington. She’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever interviewed, and she retired having never lost a single ironman race!

READ: How Robin Williams Secretly Used His Movies and Events To Help The Homeless


cycling, faith

How To Make It Through Your Trials Successfully

No Comments 03 April 2013

Have you ever raced a cycling time trial?  Last year, some cyclists-turned-triathletes put the word out that the Tennessee State Time Trial Championships would right outside of Nashville, and that it was only $25 to enter.  No swimming, no running- just 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) of pure cycling on a straight out and back course.

I’d never done a bike-only event, so I thought I’d give it a shot.  I borrowed a friend’s aero helmet (are those weird or what?), and headed out.  When I arrived, I asked one of our resident uber-cyclists, Lisa Starmer, for any tips she might have for a first timer.  The main thing, she said, was to get rid of everything that was unnecessary. Now as a triathlete, you’re used to having a loaded bike, because you have to be prepared for a lot, and you need to be able to fuel (eat and drink) to be able to run a 10K or a half marathon afterward.  Not so here.  Lisa proceeded to point out everything I needed to remove.  “You need to get rid of every ounce of extra weight you have.  No Bento (food) box, no second water bottle, and no tire repair kit.  If you get a flat, you’re done.  They’ll just come and pick you up.”  Thanks to Lisa’s advice, I did a lot better than I thought I would.

This got me to start thinking about what else in life we might be able to streamline.  What can we remove to make our lives lighter, so that we can endure our own trials, and be able to focus on doing what we need to do best?  One of my favorite verses helps in summing this up:

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

What’s one unnecessary thing can you remove from your life that is holding you back?  What is one thing you’ve removed in the past that helped make you better?

cycling, running, triathlon

GearBuzz – The Groupon for Triathletes, Runners and Cyclists

No Comments 18 November 2011

It’s about time, but it looks like we finally have a ‘Groupon’ all to ourselves.  GearBuzz, brought to you by Competitor Group- the same folks of Rock N’ Roll Marathon Series, Triathlete Magazine and Muddy Buddy fame- will offer deals on products and services for the endurance community starting November 21.

I’m excited about it.  I’ve always been a fan of, but adding the groupon mentality to it makes it a bit more fun- and we’ll probably have 24 hours or more to decide rather than Bonktown’s 30 minutes.  Happy shopping!

cycling, missions, triathlon

What You Need To Get Me For My Birthday

No Comments 18 August 2011

I know how you’re feeling right now.  Terrible.  You forgot to get me a present for my birthday and its killing you.  You have this urge to make up for being such an awful friend.  But how?

You have two choices of what to get me.

 Specialized S-Works Venge DA
The Tour de France bike of phenom Mark Cavendish and Team HTC-Highroad. 11r carbon frame plus Pro Tour-proven Shimano Dura-Ace components. Ultralight Roval Rapide SL 45 wheelset with carbon/alloy hybrid rims for low aerodynamic drag with the reliability of an alloy brake track, Specialized S-Works FACT carbon crankset with OSBB, removable carbon spider, and ceramic bearings, plus legendary Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed shifters ultralight, smooth performance.

Just $9,200 (plus tax, but who’s counting?)


Donate $10* to help me BRING BACK THE CHICKEN

My good friend Rob co-founded this awesome non-profit in Santiago, Dominican Republic. In a nutshell, this past year, Servants Heart Ministry‘s donations were down, so they had a tough decision- do they A) still serve chicken, rice, and beans for their meals, but stop feeding as many kids or B) feed as many kids, but cut out the chicken. Rob told me the story of the time he had to be the person at the end of the food line, and had the difficult job of telling a grandmother that they didn’t have enough food for her grandchild- basically, that they had to turn her away and the child would have to go hungry.  So the decision was made- the kids would lose the chicken, but at least the same number of kids would have something until donations came back up.

So, I’ve set a goal of raising $2,675 (the cost of chicken for one month for the kids in the program), so all the kids can have chicken (and the much needed protein it provides) for December- sort of a Christmas present.  So, you get this for me as a birthday present, and it doubles as a Christmas present for the kids.  How awesome is that?!?!

*You can also donate either A) how old you think I look, or B) how old you think I act.

cycling, triathlon

What A View!

No Comments 15 August 2011

Photo: Daniel C. White

What a great picture by Daniel White!  Yes, this is a real picture, taken by Daniel while our group stopped for a break on top of a massive hill/small mountain at 6:30AM on a ride through the Tennessee countryside.  Gotta love being a cyclist sometimes!

armstrong, cycling, harpeth, lance

Riding With Lance Armstrong Tomorrow

No Comments 10 June 2011

Non-Tour de France winner on left

OK, OK, so I’m not going out on a one on one bike ride with Lance tomorrow, stopping off at Sonic for a sweet tea mid-ride, chatting about our various athletic exploits.  But, sort of last minute, I am taking off with 1,499 other cyclists, led out by Lance Armstrong and some of his fellow Team Radio Shack riders, out on a 100 kilometer (62 mile) ride through the Tennessee countryside in the Harpeth River Ride.  I’ll even be tweeting about it during ride breaks @premierebrian.

How did this come about?  Late one night last week, Krista saw on twitter that it had been announced that Lance Armstrong, who shares a Harpeth River Ride sponsor in Nissan, had committed to leading out the ride.  I’d done the shortened version of the HRR last year, but hadn’t planned on doing it this year.  But suddenly, Krista was not only informing me of the Ride, but trying to talk me into doing it.  What’s this?  Krista trying to get me to sign up for an endurance event, even though it would mean she’d have the kids all by herself for several hours on Saturday?  What’s going on here?  Then it dawned on me- her husband riding in the same event would make excellent blog fodder for her 1,000 weekly readers (and my 13-15 weekly readers :).  Apparently a good blog trumps daddy-daughter time on Saturday mornings.  Before I knew it, she’d signed me up for a 62 mile bike tour, which is more than double the longest distance I’ve ridden this year (25 miles).

Speaking of Lance Armstrong, this actually won’t be my first encounter.  I’ve booked him to speak before, and even went to one of the events (hence the picture above).  Very nice guy in person.  In the lobby, I’d said hello to his manager, who’d I talked to a few times.  Then up walked the Tour de France champ and said, “Hi, I’m Lance.”  He did a great job with the presentation, inspired the audience, and got a surprise (even to the event staff) donation of a generous amount, from the rather unpredictable CEO, to the LiveStrong Foundation. Lance said, “I know you might not think this, but if you run a non-profit, and you get a surprise donation of $XXX,XXX to fight cancer, its a really good day.” Great event.

Back to the Harpeth River Ride- I’m a combination of excited and nervous- especially about one thing.  I’ve never done a metric century before (a ‘century ride’ is the term for a 100-mile ride.  a ‘metric century’ ride is 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, for pansies like me who don’t have the courage to sign up for the true ‘century’ ride.), but I think I can handle the distance, especially if I’m able to draft off other riders. You get rest stops in there, where they’ve got drinks, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a variety of goodies. The temperature won’t be too bad. It’ll be 71 degrees at the 7AM start, and then ‘only’ up to 89 by noon, when I hope to finish.

What scares me a little happens on mile 33, the dreaded/famed Pulltight Hill.  Its one of the highest places in Middle Tennessee, a hill that basically goes 400 feet up in a very short amount of time, the hill that I’ve heard other cyclists talk about with fear and respect for the 2 years I’ve been into cycling.  I’ll have to tackle this big hill for the first time after riding farther than I’ve ridden all year, and then ride 29 miles back.

There are 2 or 3 rest stops, and I’ll make sure to twitter (reception allowing) from each one with an update.

cycling, racing weight, swimming, triathlon

Nervously awaiting my own (time) trials

No Comments 24 May 2010

Following the guidelines of ‘Racing Weight’, I have my first time trials today and tomorrow.  The goal of the book isn’t so much to lose weight, it is to lose weight to affect performance.  When you start, you take down your body fat and weight, and do a specific distance in your particular area of racing (i.e. a time trial).  A month later, you take the same measurements, and complete the same time trials to see if being at a lower weight and body fat is positively affecting your performance.  I’ve weighed in this morning, and will be doing my 400 meter swim time trial at lunch today, and my 10 mike bike time trial tomorrow morning.

Week of April 26: Weight: 194.6. Body fat: 20.4%.
Swim time trial: 400 meters- 10:09
Bike time trial: 10 miles- 33:57

Week of May 24: Weight: 186.8. Body fat: 19.4%
Swim time trial: (today at lunch)- ???
Bike time trial: (tomorrow AM)- ???
5/25- My swim time trial result: 9:52, an improvement of 17 seconds, or 2.87%.  The bike time trial result: 32:57, an improvement of 60 seconds, or 3.03%.  It looks like in my case, dropping 1% body fat made me about 3% faster.  If I can lose my goal of 5% body fat, will that make me 15% faster?  Time will tell.

cycling, sports

A Babe on a Bike

No Comments 20 May 2010

Babe Ruth – 1930 – Sports Figures On Bicycles – Photos –

In honor of National Bike To Work Week, here is a slide show of athletes on bikes. If the weather is good, I plan to bike to work on Friday.

cycling, quiz, sports

2 Wheeled Bike Quiz

No Comments 06 May 2010

In honor of National Bike Month, Mental Floss has a fun bike quiz.

A Two-Wheeled Quiz

Score: 100% (11 out of 11)

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