Course Review – Ironman Arizona
Ironman Arizona (“IMAZ”) has a unique place on the Ironman Circuit. It was originally an early season race that was held in April. Despite the flat’ish terrain, it was an absolute terror. Temperatures frequently soared into the high 90’s, winds howled and sand storms of haboob caliber were known to rise up on the Beeline highway.
Mercifully, the organizers moved the date to November and now it is a race of a different flavor. Rather than a sand encrusted death march, it now viewed as a great venue for your first assault on the distance or an opportunity to set a new PR.
But don’t for a minute think it is easy. It is still an Ironman and 140.6 miles is a long ways even in a car!
So with that as a backdrop, all of us at Coeur would like to give you our thoughts on the course.
Unless the dam breaks (no joke, it has before) the swim is in Tempe Town Lake. The lake is surprisingly cold, so bring your wetsuit. It’s also, how shall we say…a bit murky. .
The good news is that the one lap course is calm and very spectator friendly. Be aware that the swim start goes straight into the sun, so consider if you want tinted glasses.
It is a floating start, so keep in mind the fact that you’ll be treading water for a few minutes.
Even more so than the swim, the bike is very spectator friendly. It's three laps of 37'ish miles each and there are several places where you can see loved ones. While some folks think a three lap course can be a bit..how shall we say, numbing, we kinda like it. At least from our perspective, it sounds a bit more manageable and you get a pretty good feel fro the course. Personally, we like to break it down into 18 1/2 mile sections. 18 1/2 miles...that's not so bad..is it?
Some people have described the course as pancake flat but there is a bit of an incline to be aware of. The Beeline highway ascends going out of town, so be sure to ride within yourself. The grade is fairly mild (~2% to 3%) but you could do some damage to your legs if you overdo it.
In addition, it can be windy out in the desert, so you might have the double whammy of a climb with the wind in your face. The good news is that if you get both on the way out, you'll get the reverse on the way back.
One thing to keep in mind is that you can (if your back agrees) stay in the aero position for a lot of the race. An aeronautical engineer can confirm this but it is our understanding that you get more out of the aero position the faster you are going. In other words, being "aero" at 25 mph does you more good than it does at 15 mph. So, if you need to stretch out your back, do it on the inclines. Then hunker down for the descents!
Have we mentioned that IMAZ is spectator friendly?? We have? Good. It is! The run is now a two loop affair (thanks for the correction). It is overall, flat and fast but unlike the bike, there are a few short steep parts. Nothing crazy but the section on Curry Road through the park requires you to go up a semi-short but mean little hill. The good news is that you then descend into an aid station under the 202. By the way, speaking of aid stations, the ones here are fantastic!
We haven't studied this formally but our belief is that IMAZ has the most festive aid stations of any Ironman. Many of them have themes and they have even been known to set up a western town (Sheriff and Jail Cell included).
By the way, if you're of the speedier ilk (you know who you are) and will be finishing before the sun sets, be aware that the course isn't exactly tree-lined. Be sure to bring a hat or visor.
Well, that's our brief overview of the race. To be clear though, we're not coaches (and we don't even play coaches on TV), so don't let us convince you to change something that has worked for you in the past.
Finally, if you think about it, try to get a picture of yourself making the shape of a heart with your fingers during the race or at the finish. It's our unofficial symbol and we'd love to send you something if you can snap a picture.
Hope you all have a great race!