With the Boise Ironman 70.3 fast approaching, its time to be thinking about your final race preparations. In this weekly series, I take you all the way to race morning, with course tips, tricks, and local insight to my hometown Ironman 70.3.
This article focuses on giving you insight into the swim and bike segments of the course from a local’s perspective. For run course and transition tips specific to this race, check out my next weekly installment.
Boise Ironman 70.3 Weather:
What to expect!?
I wont even begin to predict the weather for race day. As the saying goes, “if you don’t like the weather in Boise, just wait 15 minutes…”
But I will say that early June in Boise will be somewhere on a spectrum between high 50’s and hail and low 90’s and piping hot with that dry desert heat that punctuates our summer. So come prepared, maybe even bring those arm warmers, and expect to just enjoy a roll of the dice on race morning.
A must do for race morning – buy a shuttle ticket. Right now. Here’s why:
The swim will be at Lucky Peak Reservoir, roughly 10 miles east of downtown Boise. You’ll need to check your bike the night before at T1 and drop off your T2 bag on race morning downtown, and then take a shuttle to the start. While you can drive yourself to the start, I don’t recommend it and neither will the race officials. Parking is beyond tight at the swim venue and no traffic will be let out until the very last swimmer is well on their way (impacting you if you’re spectating) and it might be a bit difficult to get back to the start line to retrieve your car after the race concludes. Do yourself a favor and buy a race day shuttle ticket – now – because they always sell out.
Boise Ironman 70.3 Swim Course:
The swim course itself is relatively self-explanatory. It’s a single clockwise loop that takes you into the middle of a very deep reservoir. This means that you’ll encounter some interesting chop out there if (by if, I mean when) the wind picks up. In my three years racing this course, there have been white caps in the water every year. This is because, simply, this is an afternoon race in a High-Step climate. So no calm morning water for you. Touch up on that bi-lateral breathing, too.
There will be either three or four buoys making a massive triangle or rectangle. Early waves tend to have the best water conditions with later waves getting the brunt of the chop – the area’s summer winds are predicable and the reservoirs’ unique geography in the foothills above Boise creates a wind tunnel effect that goes in one of two directions in the canyon leading out of T1 onto the bike course.
Depending on your wave, its entirely possible that you’ll have either still conditions out of T1, or a 20mp headwind.
This water is pure snowmelt and because of the heavy runoff this year, the Army Core of Engineers has been letting out quite a bit of (warmer) water to make room for the excess (colder) water still filling the reservoir. This means that you can expect a very, very cold swim. The water temp is unlikely to break 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Right now, it’s sitting at 52 degrees. You will absolutely need a full-sleeved wetsuit in my opinion, although I did see perhaps half a dozen sleeveless suits over the last few years. Poor souls. It’d be a great idea to invest in a neoprene cap, too.
Boise Ironman 70.3 Bike Course:
The Boise Ironman 70.3 bike course is a bit of a contradiction. It’s flat by most standards, yet when you’re out there, it really doesn’t feel that way. When flying into Boise, look down over the desert just south of town – this is where much of the bike course takes place. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly horizontal landscape, as this course is anything but. That’s not to say this is a climbing course – its not – but it is one that will challenge you with false flats, strong headwinds, and long, straight vistas, that will temp you to over-exert your bike split.
Coming out of T1, you are faced first with a steep decent. Do yourself a favor and don’t even think riding aggressively here. With no headwind, you will easily break 40mph. That’s especially dangerous when you’re still disoriented from the cold water. Remember, nobody ever wins an Ironman during the first mile on the bike.
Keep in mind though, that altogether despite a few small hills and false flats, this is actually quite a fast bike course.
Chris Lieto routinely averages well over 25mph on his splits here. For all of us mortals, this is a course that favors the aero athlete. Headwinds are truly a guarantee, and a way of life for us locals who train on these roads during the early summer months. So keep down in aero position and pack that aero helmet – you’ll be happy to be less exposed to the voracious winds that punctuate this geography.
This course is not very technical, and it doesn’t require much by way of strategic feathering of your brakes for tricky descents, hairpin turns, etc. Really, the biggest challenge on this course will be to not beat yourself up in the wind or get lulled into smashing your gears up a false flat.
Where are these fabled false flats I keep referring to? The first one is Pleasant Valley Rd., on your inbound leg (after the turn-around). The second one is Gowen Rd., and yes it is actually slightly uphill despite what it looks like, again on your inbound leg. You’re looking at a total of 7-8 miles of false flats that can be a trap for those who aren’t paying attention. Remember, don’t beat yourself up here. Keep a good pace and remember that after completing those, you have to turn due south and then due north, which means you are guaranteed to hit – you guessed – a head wind.
The good news is, that the last 10-15 miles are quite flat and more shielded from the wind.
Once you get onto Warm Springs Avenue, its basically clear sailing. You’ll be out of the muckety muck wind (mostly) and riding along the Boise River. There is a tiny hill that brings you back up to Federal Way, and then you are home free – iterally all downhill from there, the last 5 miles into T2.
One thing I’d like to point out – be aware of the traffic on Federal Way. You’ll be in coned-off lanes, but cars will be backed up for miles here, and Boise drivers are known to be somewhat impatient with cyclists at times. Also, beware of some rough road conditions from construction on Capital Blvd. on your last mile in. Be out of your aero bars and getting your shoes off here, almost as soon as you catch sight of the Idaho Capitol.
That’s it for this installment. Next up, more tips and tricks for the Boise Ironman 70.3 on June 11th, 2011 – course insight, local perspective.