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Endless single-track, temperate weather and scenic vistas make Chattanooga, Tenn., an ideal training destination.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.
Nestled among the mountains along the Tennessee River, Chattanooga has built a reputation as an outdoor adventure hot spot. It offers kayaking, rock-climbing and stand-up paddle boarding, and has mild weather year round.
The best time of year to visit is the fall, says local Zach Winchester, a former pro triathlete who co-owns the running store Fast Break Athletics. “The hills are on fire with color and it’s gorgeous.” But local races take place throughout the summer and fall. Sign up for the Olympic-distance Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon (July 14, Team-magic.com), the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50K trail race (Oct. 5, Rockcreek.com), or the popular Chattanooga Chase 8K road race (May 18, Chattanoogatrackclub.org), now in its 46th year.
One of Chattanooga’s biggest draws is its epic single-track—hundreds of miles of both flat and technical trails within a short drive. “Trail running is just phenomenal in Chattanooga,” Winchester says. He recommends a scenic 16-mile trail loop around the TVA Reservoir on top of Raccoon Mountain.
If you want to stick to the roads, downtown Chattanooga also has great running routes. Winchester says that most people end up running a figure-8 shape from downtown incorporating the three pedestrian-friendly bridges that traverse the river as well as the Riverwalk, a path that parallels the south shore of the river.
The city hosted the time trial and road race portions of this year’s USA Cycling Professional National Championships (May 25–27, Usacycling.org). You could participate in a 15-, 30- or 60-mile charity ride before watching the time trial on May 25. For training rides, Winchester recommends the popular Lookout Valley and Sequatchie Valley, where you can go 40–75 miles and get in some awesome climbing and beautiful views.
Chattanooga isn’t lacking in good eats. For breakfast, head to Stone Cup Café (Stonecupcafe.com) and try the dark roast with an “eggel” (scrambled egg and cheddar on your choice of bagel). For dinner, try Taco Mamacita (Tacomamacita.com), located across the river from downtown in North Shore. It’s a contemporary twist on Mexican street tacos, featuring margaritas with fresh-squeezed lime juice and a separate vegan menu.
Join the standing Monday night open-water swim in the lake, just 6 miles from downtown, or the Wednesday night swim in the river, organized by the COWS (Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers).
While you’re in town, ride the Lookout Mountain’s incline railway, check out the Tennessee Aquarium (Tennis.org) or explore the area’s historical sites—one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War was fought on and around Lookout Mountain.
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