This race, along with 70.3 Galveston the same weekend, kicks off the North American racing season in a big way. As age group and pro competitors alike are chomping at the bit to get back out on course, it tends to bring out top notch competition. With a slightly challenging ocean swim, a rolling bike course with one significant climb, and a fairly fast run course with ocean views, it is a great test of early season fitness.
Oceanside sells out incredibly fast, so it’s important to get on top of early registration, and book accommodations simultaneously.
Oceanside is one of several smaller towns strung out from nearby San Diego, giving it that laid back SoCal vibe where surfing is prominent, and the people are generally very polite and friendly. The Ironman Village expo is set up right along the boardwalk, so staying in a hotel or Airbnb near there is ideal. Accommodations near Camp Pendleton are also nearby, but will require a short drive. Transition is about a mile down the road from the expo area, right along the Oceanside Harbor, where a good portion of the swim takes place. As far as logistics go, 70.3 Oceanside is one of the least stressful, which makes it much easier to bring along family/kids/significant others without having a full on triathlete meltdown (no one wants that!)
In typical SoCal fashion, the weather is fairly mild and almost always is around 70-80 degrees F (21-26 C) during the day in early April and much of the year. It can be a little chilly coming into T1 and out onto the bike initially, as the air temperature is about the same or slightly colder than the water temperature. After just a few minutes, that will subside as you warm up and the sun continues to rise. Many people are starting their year at this race after a long winter indoors, so it is definitely a bonus for many that you do not have to super prepared for extremely warm conditions.
In years past, the swim has taken place entirely in the Oceanside Harbor, with very calm conditions, and only a slight swell as you make the turn out by the mouth of the harbor. Last year in 2019, that was changed to a beach start into rather choppy conditions, and then a right turn around a buoy to head back into the harbor. With the new course, I would say that it is not as beginner friendly, but there is also no need to panic, as it is a small portion of the swim and overall race. I would just advise getting in and experiencing those initial waves so you can learn how to navigate that.
The bike is fairly rolling, and certainly not the fastest course. It is, however, very engaging with a number of turns as you flow in and out of Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps base that allows special access to competitors on race day. You are required to wear your race belt/number on the bike for this reason. There is one significant hill right around mile 30 that will take several minutes to get to the top. I recall it being named “Hell Hill” or something along those lines, which could be somewhat true depending on where you come from! After that notable point, there is a no passing speed limit zone at mile 39 with timing mats set up at the start and finish points of that section. The speed limit is 25mph for age group competitors, so make sure to have your speed reading displayed on your watch or bike computer! From there, it is mostly a flat stretch back to T2.
The run starts above the pier along The Strand AKA the boardwalk, and weaves through a neighborhood where the turnaround point is located on this two-loop course. It is one of the faster run courses I have experienced, and the only really notable “hilly” sections are the ramps taking you from beach level to street level and vice versa. Be cautious going down the ramps as you can gain some momentum pretty quickly and it can be tough to slow down from there! The ramps to street level are very short but also steep, and it is important not to try to rush to get up them to avoid heart rate spike and lactic buildup in the legs. Otherwise, pretty straightforward!
The finish is right on The Strand, with tons of spectators lining the red carpet. No matter the outcome on the day, it is one to soak in.
Now that the most difficult part is over, relaxing and getting quality time with family is not hard to do in Oceanside. Hello Betty Fish House, located very close to the finish line, has a great outdoor/rooftop seating area with food selections to accommodate everyone, and an extensive drink menu.
Spend some time at the beach or make your way over to one of the bigger cities like San Diego or LA if time allows, and your possibilities are endless. I’ve heard LegoLand in Carlsbad is quite the experience if you have kids!