IronMan Was Cancelled: So They Created ‘IronTate’

Friends and family gather at the Navy Yard waterfront, where Courtney has just finished his full IronTate. Photo: Fight Guy Photography.

COVID 19 did not stop Hill athlete Courtney Tate from realizing his dream. Despite the cancellation of the IronMan race in Maryland Sept. 19 for which he had trained and was registered, Courtney ran a solo race through the Washington DC metro area which he called ‘IronTate’ on a course he and his wife created.

“My husband started the swim Sunday morning Sept 6 (his birthday weekend) at National Harbor. He finally crossed the finish line looking strong more than 14 hours later across the Navy Yard pier bridge, just blocks from our Capitol Hill home,” said Johanna Elsemore, Courtney’s wife.

IronTate was not just a DC version of the IronMan. Courtney and Johanna turned the solo athletic race into a COVID-safe community experience. Johanna organized 25 aid stations where she recruited volunteers to hand out food and water to Courtney on the course. “We really started planning for our event in mid-August,” said Courtney. “A lot was organized using social media platforms. We communicated on Facebook and Instagram.”

The couple also turned the race into a charitable fundraiser. “We raised $2,040 for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation,” said Courtney. “The Foundation is technically separate from CDC, but it works in concert with it. The money is designated for COVID research and vaccine development.” Courtney’s original goal was $1,000.

Courtney, 36, livestreamed the entire event using a GoPro strapped to his chest. “We had 30-40 people along the race course or at the finish line. Many more people watched the live stream at home,” said Johanna. “His parents drove from Georgia and my family was watching in Spain.”

Courtney, who is a chemical engineer, has a background in swimming and running. He said he got into cycling a few years ago. He completed two half Ironmans (a 70.3 miler) in Austin Texas and in Cambridge Md.

“I love the challenge of endurance racing. It has always appealed to me to challenge my mind and body. Running an IronMan has been a dream of mine for several years now.”

He was hoping the race in Maryland would still be held and be safe but ultimately officials started canceling races throughout the year in other places so it wasn’t a surprise when Maryland followed suit. He was still disappointed.

His start time was 7:39 a.m. It took him 14 hours and 19 minutes. Courtney met his goal to finish.

It might have taken Courtney a bit longer because he stopped and asked people how they were doing at every station along the route. “I knew someone at every one. I could also thank people during the course of the event. I wanted to give a special shout-out to those who donated. I wanted it to be about community, not about just me.”

Courtney had two people swimming with him. He had an“Ironman Sherpa,”a five-time Ironman who swam and biked some of the way with him. Courtney also had a lifeguard in a kayak shadowing him the whole swim.

He swam 2.4 miles in a circle at National Harbor in Alexandria, then he transitioned to a bike for 112 miles on a path that crisscrossed across Maryland and Virginia. The Sherpa did first 30 miles. Friends and family in vehicles shadowed him between stations.

Courtney is taking some down time since the race and is working on uploading the livestream video. He and his wife did go on a bike ride and did an outdoor boot camp at the Arboretum. When I asked him if another IronTate is in their future Courtney said he won’t rule it out and noted, “Johanna rolled her eyes.”

He’s already signed up for the IronMan Maryland in September 2021.

If you have questions for Courtney or want a link to the video, email him at:

Pattie Cinelli is a health and fitness professional who has been writing her column for more than 20 years. She focuses on non-traditional ways to stay healthy and get well. Please email her with questions or column suggestions