Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ironman 70.3 UK

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.

Here, we profile Ironman UK 70.3 in Wimbleball, England.

Travel and Accommodation
Wimbleball Lake is located in the Exmoor National Park in the southwest of England. The lake is remote and access to the race requires a car; the nearest major town is Taunton approximately a 30-minute drive away. For international athletes flights from Europe to Exeter or Bristol may be available and Wimbleball is roughly a 90-minute drive, from further afield London will be the nearest hub with connecting journey times upward of three hours likely.

Access to Wimbleball is limited and on narrow roads you should allow plenty of time to get to the race venue around to visit the expo and on race day itself. Queueing is likely.

Accommodation for Wimbleball can also be challenging. There is a camp site available at the lake, otherwise there are many B&Bs in the region or hotels in the larger towns. If you are not camping you can generally expect to be staying at least a 20-minute drive away from the race venue at a minimum. B&Bs are the best option to get close to the venue and enjoy the quiet of the national park. If traveling for an extended period of time you might consider staying in a city like Bristol first.

Be aware that Wimbleball itself is a communications dead spot with very limited mobile signal available on site.

Pre-Race Workouts
Swimming in the lake is forbidden outside of designated practice sessions. Instead you will need to resort to local pools in larger towns. UK pools can present quite limited lane swimming options so it's important you check the timetable for any pool ahead of time. Bigger towns and cities will offer more options.

For bike and run practice there is paid parking available at the lake and you can easily take in a lap of the bike course from there. Roads are generally quiet. The run course is complicated and hard to replicate when not marked out, but there are paths and trails around the lake that can be used for run practice.

The British summer is best described as variable and you should be prepared for a range of conditions from warm and sunny through to cold and rainy. Come prepared for these conditions and put a spare layer in your transition bags in case race morning does not look good.

Race Morning
Set out to the race venue early. If you are not camping on site you can expect to queue for the race car park as all traffic is directed down a single small lane into the car park.

The lake is likely to be calm, but cold. I would advise you get in the water as late as you can while still allowing time to warm up and position yourself. The swim is a single lap in a clockwise direction -- roughly 800m to the first turn buoy, then 200m to the second and a straight line back to shore. There are two waves of athletes so if you are a slower swimmer in the first wave be prepared for some faster swimmers to come through later on.

On exit from the water there is a 400m run uphill to transition, it will raise the heart rate before transition.

The bike course consists of two hilly loops with almost 4000 feet of climbing in the 56-mile route. There are no long climbs, but the road is undulating and it can be very hard to settle into a rhythm and maintain a consistent effort. The course is not technical with only one sharp turn which is clearly marked and announced by volunteers far in advance. Road surfaces aren't bad by British standards, but watch out for potholes and bumps as these are always possible.

Although some prefer a road bike on this type of course a time trial setup is fine. None of the climbs are prolonged, but I'd recommend a 25/27 cog on the back to help deal with the steepest moments on the route; you will be doing plenty of climbing on the day. The constantly undulating nature of the route makes it vital you pace yourself and allow for the challenging run that follows.

The three-lap run weaves an undulating route along the lake taking in a mix of surfaces, but nothing that requires trail shoes. This is not a fast run course with plenty of twists, bumps and one steep climb per lap. Again, pacing yourself is important as all the climbing takes its toll by the end of the race.

After the race there are a number of food stalls on site, and you should be able to find a pub in a nearby village. As the race is on a Sunday options may be a little more limited and you may need to head further afield.

Russ Cox has raced the UK 70.3 three times, both qualifying for 70.3 World Champs and also recording his only DNF on the course.

Russ is a full-time triathlete and endurance coach who has raced and trained around the world. His CoachCox blog focuses on endurance triathlon training from an athlete's perspective, covering topics such as nutrition, training, psychological preparation and what to do during taper and recovery.

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