70.3 Chattanooga 2024 Race Report

800 533 Patrick McCrann

Athlete Name: Jonathan Benson
Race Name: 70.3 Chattanooga
Year: 2024

Prepararion – Pretty closely aligned with the Half Bike Focused plan of 2023. 2024 plan debuted well into my preparation abd I didn’t review or make adjustments.

I did make a concerted effort to lose a few pounds. I started the build at 182-183 lbs and got into the 175-177 range making running fast feel easier.  I didn’t change much regarding diet but swapped pre-bed calories for a protein shake with water, protein power (Ascent from Costco) and PB Fit powder. 

I did strength training 2x per week until about 8 weeks out. that included mostly PT related items like lunges, core work, etc. I maintained plank work through the build but some weeks only got in 1 session. Individual for everybody but I focused on increasing total time in plank, side plant. my last session was 15′ total plus some left lifts, so nothing fancy but enough to stay engaged.

I did not ride outside at all for this build. I did not intentionally avoid it, just the stage of life I am in with family. I did sign up for the 2 week trial of FULGAZ to preview the course in my last Race Rehearsal. I was able to make a few mental notes about where specific items were on course which helped. I found that the FULGAZ experience was okay but  did notice it felt harder indoors in training than on race day outside which was nice.

Race Day –

Swim – Basically raced from my bed to race start. I got up before 4. Walked from the hotel to Transition (opened at 430) and was there by 4:45. The swim is long at 1.4+ miles. Set my bike up with fluid, tire pressure, etap batteries and then caught a bus to the Swim start up river where I used the restroom a couple times. With the high number of race participants, this race has been notorious for taking a long time to get everyone in the water. I wanted to be one of the first ones in regardless of my estimated race time. With the downstream nature of the course everything spread out really quickly anyway and no one ‘swam over’ me. Wetsuit legal. Showed up prepared. Every race distance swim that was assigned in training I added 300-400m. The flow in Chattanooga is not consistent and not always wetsuit legal. In the past has been very slow so I wanted to be prepared for both time being slow and distance being long. Swim time 30:30~. 52nd AG

Long Transition at 4-5 minutes. Not much to change unless I was to practice flying mounts…

Bike – First time riding outside in 9 months or more. I didn’t even have time/make time to test it. Kickr and FULGAZ served me well. I was prepared for the course with my mental queues. I have dropped a chain in the past due to exesive shifting which I limited on this course. I naturally ride low cadence very comfortable. 70-75. So in several instances rather than shift more I muscled my way over a hill to maintain momentum. It didn’t present any issues while on the bike, but it did on the run. In recent years I have adjusted the training plans with some low cadence high torque ‘strength’ work on the bike which I did not do this year which I think limited my endurance at the really low candences of sub-60 rpm. I bike just a little conservativeky. I allowed more coasting time than usual when at high speeds. I peed once on the bike on the downhill screamer at mile 45. Bike time 2:23~. 22nd AG

Run – Everyone talks about the first hill out of transition which I took easy. I jogged up it comfortably. During prep I took the time to re-watch several prior years of pro races at Chattanooga. The pros that gassed it out of T2 rarely had a kick at the end so I took the opposite route of easing into a finishing kick. First time in the run that I suffered from extreme muscular fatigue in my quads. The cramps I experienced in both legs were akin to the dreaded swimming foot arch cramps. I was able to run through them as they alternated from one quad to the other, but this was the limiter on the day. There were times I was running :20 slower than I wanted due to a pure inability due to my quads. This is also the first time on the run that I took significant calories through the race. ~600 calories of Maurten gels across the first 11 miles. Played a HUGE role my ability to push the last 2 miles to the limit, running sub 6 to 6:15 pace for the last 2 miles. Ran in the Saucony Endorphin Elite. Used an Omius headband. Both of which I would do again. Run time 1:33~. 17th AG

70.3s are a different beast than IM. I am working on finding that line between bike effort and run performance. This is the first time my run placing was better than my bike placing which is super pleasing! The illusive goal of a sub-430 finish remains intact. One year ago at Gulf Coast (arguably an easier course), I PR’d by 25′ with a time of 4:42. Finish time at Choo, 53 weeks later, was 4:35 (18th AG). Taking a week off and then back to the grind of laying bricks one day at a time. Thanks for reading.

Team comments

Brenda Ross – Wow Jonathan. Great day out there. Congratulations.

Joshua Green – Thanks for sharing. What a race. I really enjoyed following you on race day. I knew you were flying on the run, but with locked up quads? Stud!! Looking forward to seeing you break that 430 mark!

Alessia Polemi – Great race overall, and execution! Keep chasing your goal!

Brad Horncastle – Thank you for taking the time to describe your race in such detail. Interesting to read and very much appreciated. Congrats on a great performance. 

Vincent Sivirine – Great race and great report Jonathan Benson. Interesting how you never trained outside for this whole year. Do you have your tri bike on the trainer or road bike or do you alternate depending on the types of workouts (intensity vs. long week end rides)?

Dennis Cruff -mThanks for report Jonathan Benson .  It was good talking with you Monday.  I always learn alot

Derrek Sanks – Great recap and Congratulations again!  Well executed race and kudos on the new PR.  What brand/model treadmill do you have and do you run at a specific elevation percentage?

Jonathan Benson – Thanks for all the kind words. I appreciate the encouragement and support. 

Vincent Sivirine Derrek Sanks you both are going to be a little disappointed with how basic this is going to sound. 

I have owned 1 bike since 2016, a tri bike, and have not gotten a true fit since it was first built. Spends all of its time on a wahoo kickr. I got a slow leak flat in my only rear wheel at Gulf Coast in May of 2023 that didn’t affect my race then, but I didn’t change that flat tube until this week. I’m not a terrible bike handler, I’ve done IM builds with lots of outdoor riding so I am comfortable with eating, drinking, etc. From a position perspective, I start working on building aero time at 6 weeks out. otherwise, year round I am working on building the engine and power output. I don’t ever plan to ride above 300w (currently my 80%ish) for very long. I can hold higher on climbs as needed but don’t have the gear ratio to work above that on flat – specifically in an RPM range that is comfortable for me (70-80). 

I ran most of my dedicated run workouts in a beat up old treadmill at my office. I can DM you the brand and possibly the model if you want. I ran all brick or short transition runs off the bike outside. I don’t have a personal treadmill at home. Since I broke my hip, 2023 was about mostly building back volume. Leading in to my KQ race, I was averaging 100+ miles per month. Nothing truly note worthy, just consistency. So my focus for the last 12 months was really to get back to that volume mark first (still not quite there), then for this 10-12 week build for Choo I did the paces in the workouts. I basically took a similar approach to what I have in the past for the bike. Some days, like a 3×12(3) at z3, I would remove the rest entirely if I felt good. Then later as I got more fit. I may up the pace across the 36′ of work or even extend it to 40-45′. Then as that became manageable I would slowly back off pace for an additional 10′ where every minute I slowed .1 mph until I was back at an easy pace. 

Weekly approach in increasing workload, time under tension, work rest ratio and pushing harder on days I felt good. That mid week run was really my focus. I was getting some of this into the 10 mile range, and when paired with a second weekly run of 9-11 miles at the z2 pace, that volume plus a couple of T-runs of 3-4 miles was all I needed to ready myself for the 70.3. 

I think there is more in the tank. As I continue to distance myself from the hip incident, the volume will continue to do it’s thing and I just need to continue swimming to bridge that gap to the top guys in the AG, plus to get on a bike where the gearing isn’t the limiter. I’m not going to try and undo 10 years of learned habits and physiological development by riding at a higher cadence. I rode pretty steady at Choo but had a lot of coasting/soft pedaling time due to the descents.

Patrick McCrannSuch great detail!! Thanks Jonathan Benson for the great read!

Any and all pictures appreciated!!!