Between road races, triathlons and a long distance swim I’ve done nine races this year. I’ll give you all the finer points of the races and rate them on a scale of 0-10 Jan Frodenos, which zero Jan Frodenos meaning avoid this race like the plague and 10 Jan Frodenos meaning you’ll love this race:
Tartan Trot 10k:
Location: Dunwoody, Georgia, USA
Date: February 6, 2016
Review: Because it’s in early February and in Georgia the temperature will be optimal for a PR. The only thing that could hold you back from a PR is this race is hilly. I swear the course kept going up and up and up. After 5-1/2 miles I was wondering if it was ever going to head back downhill.
Rating: 5 Jan Frodenos
Augusta Univeristy Half Marathon:
Location: Augusta, Georgia, USA
Date: February 28, 2016
Review: I signed up for this race because I thought it would be like the 70.3…flat and fast. For the first half of the race it’s flat, then suddenly it’s like you run into a continental divide with the two hills on the back half. The first is a massive hill followed by a slightly smaller hill. It sucks the energy right out of you. The scenery isn’t anything to write home about either; it’s hood, kinda reminiscent of the west side of Warren. There’s mostly a bunch of abandoned buildings and shitty chain restaurants until you get to Augusta National Golf Course (which walls itself off to the rest of society). The race is in late February, so it’ll be a good temperature to run at, just don’t expect a PR.
Rating: 3 Jan Frodenos
Oschner Ironman 70.3 New Orleans:
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Date: April 17, 2016
Review: I have a hard time endorsing this race. The roads are still in shit condition from Hurricane Katrina and the bumps & holes aren’t marked well (they use a flat orange and not flouscent spray paint). The bike and run are out & backs and the view sucked because if you’re not in the hood you’re in the swamp. The swim is an M dot course in the marina at Lake Ponchatrain which is about as exciting as a lecture from Al Gore on climate change. If you get shitty weather, like the 30 mph sustained winds I had on race day…you’re going to have a bad time. The only good thing about New Orleans is the French Quarter. The medal they give you should have been a representation of the Creole culture they have down there rather than a riverboat and NOLA skyline…can you even think of one building worth noting in NOLA besides the Superdome? However, it’s one of the early season races on the eastern half of the US so you don’t have many choices if you want to do one at that time of year. The swag they gave sucked. The backpack was completely useless and only fits on the back of a small child. This gets one extra Jan Frodeno in my rating because New Orleans doesn’t have any open container laws, so you can walk around drinking free post-race Abita without consequence. I asked them to fill up my 72 ounce “Huge Ass Beer” I got the day before in the French Quarter in an effort to conserve on their plastic cups (I’m all about sustainability).
Rating: 4 Jan Frodenos
Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga:
Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Date: May 22, 2016
Review: This is a pretty solid race. The weather can be awesome since it’s in mid-May and it’s been wetsuit legal each time thus far. If there’s a lot of rain in the region beforehand, you’ll get a nice current. The one year they pulled a dead body from the river the day before the IM and they say the flow rate was so fast even it would have beat the swim cut-off time. It’s not as hilly as you’d expect. The bike only had about 1,700 feet of elevation change, but watch out for mile 26 – it’s a hard left and straight uphill! The roads for the bike aren’t the greatest; there’s a lot of bumps and I’ve broke my arm pad on my aerobars here two years in a row. Also, the bike course is actually 57 miles long, so you get a bonus mile. They had to change the run course last minute this year and I didn’t know that until I was racing. They have aide stations about every mile on the run course and they’ve got you covered with cool sponges and cups of ice for when it heats up. The swag isn’t too bad, but the granola bars they give you aren’t even remotely healthy (what do you expect from a company that’s a subsidiary of Little Debbie?).
Rating: 8 Jan Frodenos
Chattanooga Rat Race 4.5 Mile Swim:
Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Date: June 11, 2016
Review: If you’re looking for something as a benchmark for an Ironman swim or just want to get your feet wet with a longer distance before trying marathon swimming – this is a good race. The cost is really low, it was only about $50, plus you need a USMS card to compete (if you don’t have one, you’ll need a one day pass). It’s a long distance swim, so obviously it’s not too exciting. Unfortunately, organizers don’t use neon sighting buoys; they use the dark green metal depth markers instead (which blend into the background so it’s not easy to see at times). Age group winners get a piece of original art! That was pretty awesome! Also, the post-race food was better than most of the Ironman brand races I’ve done this year.
Rating: 7 Jan Frodenos
Maytag Ironman 70.3 Steelhead:
Location: Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA
Date: August 14, 2016
Review: The swim is in Lake Michigan, so the conditions can be a crap shoot (It’s a Great Lake – don’t expect flat water). Luckily for me they weren’t too bad. 2016 was the first year it was ever non-wetsuit legal. Race officials said the day before the knew it would be a non-wetsuit legal race there would be no wetsuit strippers, which showed to me they lacked volunteers (it’s time to start paying people for their time, I know they don’t want to take a chunk out of their huge profit margins). The bike was scenic yet disappointing, and maybe remote is a better word to describe what it was like at times than scenic. They describe it on the website as going through “wine country,” yet you don’t see a single vineyard on the ride. You will see a bunch of old used cars for sale in people’s front yards though. On the course map you can see you ride on a long stretch of highway that runs parallel to the lake for about 35-40 miles of the race. That’s actually deceiving because you never can see a view of the lake except the first/last mile of the stretch – so I was disappointed. The run wasn’t extremely interesting; it felt more like “let’s maximize our profits and use the Whirlpool campus to use a little traffic control as possible – then have them do it twice!” By the time I was on the run the temperature worked its way into the upper 80’s and had about 70% humidity, so it was getting a little rough out there. There were a lot fewer run aid stations at this race than at other IM 70.3 races I’ve done. They had no ice or cold sponges. Matter of fact, only 1/3 of the time I wasn’t given water that wasn’t piss warm. Make sure you show up to check-in before 11 am because it was a fantastic shit-show after that. Seriously, the line was painfully long. The athlete village wasn’t anything special either. Make sure you book your hotel early, because it’s a small town and it’ll be tough to get one nearby if you wait too long. Lastly, this was the first IM brand race that post-race massages weren’t free at.
Rating: 5 Jan Frodenos
Location: Cambridge, Maryland, USA
Date: October 1, 2016
Review: Just don’t – you’ll regret every minute of it. First, good luck finding a close place to stay because there isn’t shit. Air BnB rooms are like price gouging at this race. Next, the only thing to do is go get crabs for lunch, and from the looks of this place you could leave with the other kind of crabs. This town feels like some down and out place Billy Joel would sing about. Forget about the race. This area is all low lying marshes (total elevation gain on 100 miles of cycling was 230 feet) and tidal flooding occurs every day all over the course. It’s pretty bad and it’ll ruin your day (assuming they didn’t cancel you swim already, if they did it just got worse). Special note for Gerry Boyle, two-thirds of an Ironman does not make you an Ironman; it makes you more like Lieutenant Dan.
Rating: One angry Lieutenant Dan screaming from the top of a mast during a hurricane
Atlanta Halloween Half Marathon
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Date: October 30, 2016
Review: It’s Atlanta, so if you wanted flat and fast you came to the wrong place. I had a pretty good time despite being out of shape. The first 10k of the race is a little rough, but then it flattens out.There’s a 1.5 mile stretch at the end that’s downhill on the BeltLine – then it’s home to the finish in the park. I’d probably do it again. It’s not a particularly big race, but worth doing if you’ve got nothing better to do.
Rating: 7 jan Frodenos