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Thank you Chattanooga Ironman!

Naeth and Hanson Charge in Chattanooga

Taking their first IRONMAN Championship titles, Angela Naeth and Matt Hanson dominated at the inaugural Little Debbie IRONMAN Chattanooga to benefit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

by Kevin Mackinnon

Chattanooga IronmanThanks to a speedy downstream swim, all of the  2,327 competitors who started the inaugural Little Debbie IRONMAN Chattanooga to benefit the Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America finished the first leg of the race, setting up what turned out to be a fantastic day of racing that included first-time wins for the overall men’s and women’s champions.

Naeth dominates

In just her third full-distance event, Canadian Angela Naeth arrived in Chattanooga as the woman to beat thanks to her impressive record that includes almost a dozen IRONMAN 70.3 titles. Naeth narrowly missed qualifying for this year’s IRONMAN World Championship, so a big race here in Chattanooga would serve as a good start in her hunt for a spot on the Kona start line in 2015.

Naeth struggled early in the swim thanks to goggle issues, but there’s little chance that she would have kept up with super-swimmer Anna Cleaver, a New Zealand native who makes Chattanooga her home these days. Cleaver’s 39:56 swim (we did mention it was downstream, right?) put her 1:43 ahead of a group of that included Americans Kathryn Thomas, Christine Hammond, Kaitlin Anelauskas, Malaika Homo, Rebeccah and Laurel Wassner, along with Germany’s Nina Kraft.

Chattanooga IronmanNaeth was over five minutes back as she started the bike, but quickly moved towards the front. Cleaver lead for the first 70 miles, but Naeth would steadily gain time and, by the 75-mile timing point, was about 20 seconds ahead of the Kiwi. By the end of the bike the lead has grown to 12 minutes, making the race very much Naeth’s to lose.

The Canadian, who now lives in Las Vegas, has struggled with nutrition issues in her two previous full-distance efforts, but today there were none of those problems as she cruised through a 3:15 marathon for a sub-9 clocking of 8:54:55. Behind her there was an interesting battle for the rest of the podium as Ruth Brennan Murray, a former collegiate soccer player and marathon runner, flew through the run (3:02:55 split) to take second in 9:09:39, while Jennie Hansen ran her way to third. Laurel Wassner also managed to get past Cleaver, finishing fourth while the hometown hero had to settle with fifth.

Chattanooga Ironman2

Hanson handles the field

The men’s swim was dominated by Americans Barrett Brandon (38:06) and Eric Limkemann (38:10), who came out of the water 2:16 ahead of a huge group of 18. Limkemann would quickly pass Brandon on the bike and stay ahead of the rest of the field for the duration of the bike. Behind him a big group formed and only Canadian Trevor Wurtele was able to ride himself clear.

Limkemann was first to T2, starting the run just over six minutes ahead of Wurtele and about eight minutes up on a group of 10 that included the fast-running Hanson.

Hanson turned pro late in 2013—his first professional race was in Arizona last year, just over a month after he’d posted the fastest amateur run split at the IRONMAN World Championship (2:53). Since turning pro he’s set the marathon record at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas and IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene (2:41 and 2:42), so it came as no surprise that he would run his way towards the front of the race. Screaming through 5:45 miles through the first eight miles of the run, Hanson quickly passed Wurtele and Limkemann and never looked back thanks to his 2:47 marathon split on the hilly course here in Chattanooga.

IRONMAN Wisconsin champ Daniel Bretscher managed to run his way to the runner-up position, while Wurtele also got past Limkemann to round out the podium. After beating Limkemann out of the water, swim leader Brandon moved into fourth in the last mile, relegating Limkemann to fifth.

Photos: Nils Nilsen

Top 5 Pro Men

1 Matt Hanson USA 8:12:32
2 Daniel Bretscher USA 8:19:05
3 Trevor Wurtele CAN 8:22:00
4 Barrett Brandon USA 8:24:19
5 Eric Limkemann USA 8:25:50

Top 5 Pro Men

1 Angela Naeth CAN 8:54:55
2 Ruth Brennan Morrey USA 9:09:39
3 Jennie Hansen USA 9:12:37
4 Laurel Wassner USA 9:14:10
5 Anna Cleaver NZL 9:24:12