Friday, January 29, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Boulder

Drawing on Endurance Corner's collective years of experience and access to an extended network of some of the most knowledgeable racers, we wanted to provide our best recommendations for approaching some of the biggest races around the world.

Travel and Accommodation
Boulder is situated to the northwest of Denver and is only a 45-to-60-minute drive from Denver International Airport. DIA is the hub for Frontier Airlines which does not charge extra for bikes so I strongly suggest using them. Outside of that, you have plenty of airlines with direct flights into DIA from around the country. If you are renting a car, I would suggest using the 470 Toll Road that will bypass Denver and drop you onto highway 36 just south of Boulder.

Hotel accommodations range from reasonable to luxury in the Boulder city limits depending on your needs. You can find a wide range of prices on any search engine. If you are willing to drive a bit, you can look into staying in nearby Louisville, Lafayette or Superior. They will likely have slightly cheaper rates.

Pre-Race Workouts
Training before the race is quite easy. If you arrive early in the week and want an open water swim on Tuesday or Thursday, you can drop into a Boulder Area Masters (BAM) open water workout from 6:15-7:45 a.m. ( Drop in fees are $15. You cannot swim in the Boulder Reservoir on your own, so any other times won’t work for open water swimming prior to race day. However, Boulder has five public pools (Scott Carpenter, Spruce and the North, South, and East Boulder Rec Centers). Do a quick Google search to get lap times and expect to pay $6 to $7 for a swim. The rec centers will likely have the smallest crowds as they are indoors, while the outdoor pools can be rather crowded at peak hours.

The bike and run courses can be previewed easily before the race. The bike route includes popular cycling routes as does the run course. Just keep in mind that it costs money to run and park in the reservoir, but you can park outside of it at various trailheads and access the run course that way.

The weather in Boulder in mid June is usually warm, with a possibility of it becoming very warm. However, temperatures will likely be more temperate than year's past when the race took place in August.The mornings can be on the cooler side, so depending on your start time, you might not feel the warmth until later in the race. Boulder always has the possibility of being windy with a fair amount variability in direction. Boulder is a high desert so expect humidity levels to be low while temps will likely peak in the high 80s to low 90s with abundant (and strong!) sunshine.

Race Morning
The reservoir has one entrance and has plenty of space for parking. They do a really good job of organizing the parking arrangements and even the furthest spots are close to transition. The line to get into the Reservoir can be very long in the morning, so I suggest arriving early or arriving from the north by taking Monarch road to 55th. If your hotel/homestay is close, I recommend riding your bike to the start (I do every year). I have been told that the race may be requiring athletes to check in their bikes the day before so riding in may no longer be an option.

The swim in the reservoir heads northeast to start, so sighting is easier than the former start that headed due east. The course is essentially triangular shaped, but you will not finish exactly where you started. Since the race has been moved to early summer, you'll likely be encountered with a comfortable wetsuit swim.

A new course was introduced in 2013 at Boulder 70.3, which changed the route from a double loop to a single loop that heads further to the north. This was a great improvement as the congestion on the course was quite noticeable in the past years. The course starts with a false flat on Jay Road and the first part of Hwy 36 before rolling and eventually descending down to Hwy 66. From here you will have flat to rolling terrain as long as you head north. When you start to head back south on the course you will encounter a series of significant rollers that you will definitely notice. After you make your way through this section the course is mostly flat with some short (and sometimes steep) risers on the way back to the reservoir.

The road conditions on this course are generally good to very good. While some of the course is chip sealed it is all recent and in good condition. Many of the roads have been resurfaced in recent years.

While no climb on this course is very long, they are somewhat steep, so be prepared with the proper gearing to handle that. In terms of wheel choice, I would go with the most aero setup possible as power:weight will not be a major factor on this course.

The run is two loops around the Boulder Reservoir and more than 80% of each loop is on dirt roads. The first half of each loop features a couple good climbs, while the second half is flatter with a downhill finish at the conclusion of each loop. The quality of the dirt on the dirt roads is typically hardpack and closer to pavement-like traction, while the back half of the course has slightly looser and rockier footing (though not bad by any means). As you come to the conclusion of each loop you will run on asphalt for a short period of time (including both of the downhill sections).

If you stick around post-race, you will find a lot of things to do in Boulder. Soak in the Boulder Creek after the race to help the sore legs, then go eat and hang out on Pearl Street.

Justin Daerr lives in Boulder, Co., and has a personal best of 3:55 on this course.

Justin is a professional triathlete and co-owner of Endurance Corner. You can follow him on Twitter @justindaerr.

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