Ironman Florida Course Review
Ironman Florida Course Review
The race has been on the Ironman circuit for a long time, so it is incredibly well organized. It’s no surprise that it consistently has one of the highest percentages of Ironvirgins as it is mostly flat, falls at the end of the season and, for the most part, has some great weather.
The race is in very touristy Panama City Beach, so there is no shortage of places to stay. My favorite is Laketown Wharf. These are spacious, updated, ocean view condos that are within walking distance from the race start/finish and the Ironman Village. There is a Walmart just a few miles away where you can stock up on food and anything else you need during your stay.
This is important to mention. Although the weather is typically pretty nice this time of year, It can (and has) gotten pretty chilly. So, be prepared and pack some warm weather clothing/gear for race day.
The IMFL swim is fantastic! Even though the weather could get chilly, the ocean stays somewhere in the mid 70’s and it is nice and clear. On the clearest days, you can see to the bottom of the ocean all the way to the turn around.
The swim is a beach start. Hopefully, you have prepared for this ocean swim and have practiced your surf entries. There is a ton of space at the start, so you have plenty of options on where you can seed yourself. This is a two loop swim where you exit the water and run a bit down the beach to start your second loop. There will be some drinking water on your way to do your second loop. Once you finish loop two, you head over to the wetsuit strippers and rinse stations and grab your bike bag on your way into the change tent.
The swim can be a bit choppy, so if you get sea sick easily, take a little something that calms your stomach.
If the weather is chilly on race day, swim in your sports bra and put your tri tank on in T1. This way, you’re starting the bike in a dry top.
If you’re nervous about getting run over in the swim, start a little farther to the right (with the buoys on your left) and work your way closer to the buoys as you swim. By the time you start your second loop, there should be less congestion and you can start closer to the buoys.
There is not sugar coating this…this out and back bike loop is BORING. The course is known for being flat, but there are some decent rollers on the back side of the course. For the most part, the roads are in good condition. The only area where the roads aren’t so great is the road that takes you to bike special needs. That road is full of cracks and is really bumpy. There is not a lot you can do about it, but at least this is the only section that it is like this.
As you head back to T2, you’ll be heading towards the water, so be prepared for a bit of a headwind. Once you get into town, spin those legs and get ready for your marathon!
Check the screws on your bottle cages and make sure your bottles are secure. The bumpy road to bike special needs can loosen things up.
Bike special needs is not a place to spread out an entire picnic and call your friends and family to let them know how your Ironman is going (Ive seen this happen).
Avoid the draft packs. There are quite a few on this course.
This two loop run course is spectator friendly, fun and FLAT. There is a wild section in a back alley that will energize you each of the four times you pass through it. Tons of spectators (in costumes), lots of music and lots of cheering! The last mile is lined with spectators, so get ready for some high fiving, get that finishers smile on your face and make sure your number is visible as you cross that finish line!
The sun sets early, so be prepared to do some of your run in the dark. The turnaround on the back end is through a park and some of the surface may be a little uneven.
Put a long sleeve in your run special needs in case it gets chilly after sunset.
Congratulations!! You’re an Ironman! Unfortunately, you’ll have to hobble over to pick up your bags and your bike.
If you can manage, try to get down to the race finish just before midnight to cheer on those final finishers. The energy is amazing!
If you have another day or two in the area, hop in the car and head to the next town over called Seaside. It’s a charming small town with a beautiful beach and fantastic Gulf Coast food.