Ironman Arizona - What you need to know
Fun race, and very (VERY) spectator friendly. The swim is fast and easy to navigate.The three looped bike course is mostly flat with a slight incline at the end, and while it can get pretty crowded during the last loop, it allows spectators to see their athletes multiple times. The run is probably the funnest part of the course. Mostly flat with some rollers, the run will take you around Tempe's salt river, and give your crew enough chances to cheer you on. Overall, I would recommend this course to anyone looking for a PB, or loves having constant support (who doesn't?!).
Ironman Arizona is located in Tempe, about 20 minutes away from Phoenix airport, with easy access to hotels, Airbnb, and other accommodations. My family and I decided to go to an Airbnb since we were a large crew, and sharing the space made more sense than a hotel. While we lost a little of the convenience of being closer to the venue (about a 20 minute drive), the house was huge! This meant we had to drive to the start line, however, this wasn't a big issue. The start line and venue were close to downtown, and there were multiple parking options.
The village was also a big plus. It's probably one of the biggest villages I've seen. There were various vendor options, nearby restaurants, and it's right next to the swim and run. There was something about Tempe that made it very appealing. The low key atmosphere, and friendly people took the nerves out of race day.
I have to admit, we got LUCKY. Ironman Arizona can be a hit or miss when it comes to weather late November. The days prior to the race there was a system that brought temperatures down from the 70s to mid 40s with heavy rains. Had that happened during the race, it would have made this a very challenging course. However, we got nearly perfect weather conditions. Race morning was cool (about 50 degrees), and wind only picked up halfway through the bike course. During the run, the temperature never got warmer than high 60s. I would suggest to layer up during the first lap of the bike, and be ready to shed some layers as the day progresses. Also, try to get warm as soon as you are done with the race as temperatures drop quickly when the sun goes down due to the dry weather conditions.
The swim was pretty straight forward. The rolling start means you no longer have to sit in the water waiting to start, and there is less pre-race anxiety due to a lack of mass starts. The swim course has been modified to reduce the amount of time you spend facing the sun which definitely improves visibility. However, some still choose tinted or mirrored glasses, but I found that clear goggles
improved overall visibility. The swim was spectator friendly, there were multiple buoys that made navigating easy, and water temperature was cool (60s) which made it wetsuit legal. However, water visibility is limited, and you can find yourself bumping into other athletes inadvertently.
TRANSITION AREAS 5/5:
I'm giving transition areas 5/5 because of all the amazing volunteers that help you along the way. Because of the new swim orientation, T1 was about a half mile away from the bike bags and tent. However, as soon as you got out of the water, you were greeted by cheering spectators. Once you picked up your bag, you would enter a tent that was a little dark, but heated! I didn't really think the additional heat was needed, but some found it welcoming. T2 was more straightforward. You gave your bike to one of the volunteers and made your way to your running bag, all of which was very close to the run course.
BIKE 2/5: Some Rollers, Windy on the way out
The bike was a three out and back loop that takes you from downtown Tempe up to the highway towards the desert and back. The course was not technical, with some 90 degree turns, but mostly straight. On your way out, you will encounter some headwinds that get stronger during the second and third laps, but you will more than make up the time on your way back. Basically, the way out is a slight uphill with headwinds, and the return is a downhill with a massive tailwind. Just be patient on the way up, and really enjoy the way back, but without overdoing it. Road conditions were good, though you have to be careful on some of the turns. My score on the bike course is due to the following reasons. First, it is not the most scenic route. Don't expect to be blown away by the views. Second, while overall road conditions were good, some of the turns were sketchy, and you had to be on the lookout for potholes. Lastly, the three loop course means that, inevitably, you will encounter heavy bicycle traffic. Try to be on the aero position as long as possible, but pay special attention to other athletes on course.
RUN 5/5: Flat with some inclines
Besides the swim, this was probably one of my favorite parts of the race. Once you leave T2, you are greeted by hundreds of spectators cheering you on, and making the pain seem less obvious. The two loop run course isn't too bad. There are some rollers with a low grade uphill about halfway and at the end of the run. Aid stations are well supplied with water, nutrition, and hydration. This year, both the bike and the run had Gatorade. If you are like me, I would advise to take your own nutrition, and avoid the overly sweet taste of these products (but that's just me).
Of course, you are an Ironman! The feeling never gets old, and all the cheering and clapping make you feel like a rockstar. When I got to the finish line though, it felt as if though things were not fully set up yet. Food was out, but partially limited (where is my chicken broth!?), and medical tent didn't have the emergency blankets out yet. My family was amazing though. They brought some broth in an insulated bottle (I guess they learned from experience!), and I changed as soon as I could. If possible, don't stop moving! I made the mistake of sitting down only to notice that my body cooled down really fast.
Overall 4/5: Yes, I would do this race again :-)
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