For the last couple of decades, Ironman has ruled the iron distance with a fist made of some sort of metal…copper maybe. They have made loads of money and have provided thousands of age groupers with a first rate race experience and hundreds of pros with a second rate paycheck.
My first official Ironman was at Lake Placid in 2013, and it was also where I lost my long course virginity. And just like the real thing, it lived up to expectations while at the same time it did not live up to expectations. It was fun, weird, and I finished with dozens of people cheering me on (I lost my virginity at a party). Furthermore, it lasted longer than I had hoped. That said, it truly was a well run race and would become the measuring stick to which I would hold all races moving forward. Lake Placid during Ironman week truly is a magical place, filled with crackling energy and $500 motel rooms.
I took my second crack at the distance at Challenge Atlantic City last summer. I was eager to try a different brand as I had already gotten sick of Ironman’s shit – rising entry fees, no race deferrals or refunds, pros treated like migrant workers. Plus, I had heard great things about the Challenge brand, including “The hill” at Challenge Roth where athletes surrounded by thousands of exuberant German fans drunk on sport and beer poured out of giant glass boots who cheered them on indiscriminately.
I had listened to the Atlantic City’s race directors constant spiel about how they were going to provide a first class race experience and pull out all of the stops to show Ironman who had the bigger dick (not their words). I also thought it was great that they had a prize purse that paid 10 deep, with the winner here getting twice as much as the winner of Lake Placid (how come the field was so shallow?).
Challenge AC Review
The swim course was shaped like the Star of David drawn by a 6 year old with Parkinson’s and it had I think maybe 4 buoys, one of them that magically followed you as you moved. I swam 13 minutes slower than Placid despite being in what I consider good shape as I had swam more than once a week for this race. There was a mild current at one point, but I suppose that is just Challenge’s way of separating the wheat from the chaff (I am the chaff apparently as there were plenty of sub 50 swims). The water was murkier than an episode of True Detective and it tasted like death.
Swim 3.5 out 5 stars.
The bike course was the highlight of the race for me, as I am quantifiably shitty at the other two sports. Ahletes left Atlantic City via the AC Expressway. We headed West for about 30 miles until we reached the exit for Hammonton where we would do two 20-something mile loops through the blueberry fields/dead body dumping grounds for the Mob of Hammonton. Coming off the Expressway to the “lollipop” that was the Hammonton loop, I saw a couple of motos with cameramen in tow and behind them came the front of the pro race.
Chris “Macca” McCormack, Thomas “Tommy Boy” Gerlach, Frederik “Frederik” Croneberg and others flew by just as I entered my first loop while they began their second. Challenge allowed for the stagger rule at this race which creates quite a legal draft so I dropped back a bit and settled in, staring at Macca’s ass that said “Macca” on it. This was a pretty big deal for me as he had won Kona for the second time at about the same time I was just getting into the sport. I have his Wheaties box on my desk, and I even go so far as to turn it around when I masturbate so as to avoid his judging eyes.
A moto filming the pro pack dropped back and the camera fixed itself on me for a while, presumably unaware that an age grouper who had no business being there had just injected himself into the pro race. I did not pay the camera any attention, because I’m cool as fuck.
After about 10 minutes the group came upon an aid station and I, jacked up on adrenaline from Macca’s ass and already topped off from the last station, decided to hammer past the group as they restocked. I took off and while probably riding way outside of my ability, rode at the front for a while expecting the train of pros to come flying back. After what felt like an eternity the camera moto zoomed past me with Macca eventually pulling up alongside me, the camera now fixed on these two legends of the sport.
I managed a cringe-worthy “Have a good race, mate” as I expected him to take off but instead he continued to ride next to me. He asked me why I had such a high bib number, did I register late? I said no, that I was probably the first person to register for this race. I later realized he thought that I was another pro, instead of just some guy on Twitter who claims he runs a handjob parlor with his secret family in Thailand.
In any case, we both eventually DNF’d. I imagine it was because he burned too many matches trying to ride away from the weird American who called him mate. Or maybe because that’s just what he does. Riders returned to AC by going back onto the expressway for 30 miles into a moderate headwind that made me question my sanity.
Bike 5 out 5 stars.
The run course was almost entirely on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, home of summer sweethearts, unwanted pregnancies, and many World Star videos. While it was great to have so many spectators on the run course, it was different from Placid in that most of these people were drunk, shirtless, and mad at me. Nobody understood there was a race going on as the 5 cones they had placed out for the marathon were probably not sufficient. Aloof tourists literally stood in front of the aid stations as if they were shitty buffets meant just for them.
I dodged many children, some of them successfully. Rinny ran past me at one point in her Kona kit which was neat. The end of my day came when I missed the turnaround at mile 15 and ran for a while in the opposite direction. It is my fault I missed it as I saw it the first time I passed it. It is up to the athlete to know the course, even if they change the course 3 times in the week leading up to the race. I did not have it in me to run 30 miles that day so I pulled out at what was for me mile 18. I consoled myself with some salt water taffy, tequila and a 10 minute massage from a nice old asian lady with soft hands. I think I saw Macca go in there too.
Run 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Handjob 4 out of 5 stars.
Challenge has potentially a very good race on its hands. They did a good job for a first year iron distance race, but have a lot to improve upon which I know they are aware of. First thing I would do is double the amount of cones on the boardwalk. There was also a lack of food at the finish line and from what I remember, they had promised a feast that would make Caligula blush. But bagels are cool, too.
I did not get one of their frisbee sized finishers medals, but I did literally get a frisbee. So I got that going for me. Plus, Challenge has added a half distance race for this year which I will be participating in.