** via Team Endurance Nation

With mere weeks left before race day, athletes preparing for Ironman Arizona in Tempe, AZ, are starved for any information to help them prep for this late-season race. After months and months of training and enduring multiple seasonal changes, race day is looming and it’s time to get focused.

Formerly an April event, IMAZ moved to November in 2008 because of the intense heat and challenges associated with racing at that time of year. The “new” race day, quite close to Thanksgiving, means a slightly lower chance of heat, but the day will not be any easier. In addition to an urban location, the race consists of two 3-loop bike and run courses, presenting significant mental challenge for all of the competitors.

Here is a quick review of the top questions inside Endurance Nation about racing Ironman Arizona. In addition to these race specific tips, please download our free race execution guide, read by over 3800 Ironman athletes, to help you manage the overall picture of racing as well. Travel safely and best of luck on race day!

What is the swim like?

Tempe Town Lake is really a euphemism for the collection of run off water from the area desert / mountains. As a result, the water has a high level of silt and is incredibly murky. Do not be surprised if you can’t see your hand in front of your face as you swim! Once you get over the water quality, you are left with a very straightforward single loop swim. The lake is really no more than 500 meters wide at any given point, and as such will be quite flat for your swim. You will have to contend with the sun being up early and directly in your line of sight on the way out. Athletes have had equal success with tinted goggles and using the lakefront landscape as a marker for forward progress.

Looking at the map, there seems to be a pretty decent climb. I thought Tempe was supposed to be flat?!?!

The bike course actually is very flat; part of the nature of the map is that the three loop course is actually quite short (only 37 miles per loop instead of 56 miles). In reality the first 8 miles as you wind your way out of downtown Tempe is very flat, with the last 10.5 miles on the Beeline Hwy having a slight upward grade. There are a few rollers here, but they mostly help you use different muscles and will give some character to the otherwise flat course.

Your real challenge on the day will be the wind, which has historically ranged from 5-10mph steady to crazy days of 25mph+ gusts. There is precious little cover on the bike; everyone should be prepared to stay aero and focused into the wind, and then use the sections with a tailwind to make up the lost time. To be clear, this is all accomplished by riding at a steady effort, there is no surging. So while a steady 18mph effort becomes 12mph into a fierce headwind, it transforms you into a 24mph bullet on the return. Trust in this knowledge and don’t early overachieve on the bike relative to your fitness!

How is transition? Is there anything special I need to know about?

How you exit Tempe Town Lake is actually the hardest part of your day. You’ll have to move quickly from swimming horizontally to climbing up and out of the lake on either stairs or a giant boat ramp. Either way it’s up, and it’s not easy. Be sure to relaxing the last few meters of your swim and prepare for the quick changeover. Once you are on terra firma, it’s through the wetsuit strippers and off to find your bag. They are lined up in rows on the ground, and you would be well-served to somehow distinguish your bag from the others. Colored tap, liberal marker usage, etc, is encouraged.
What is the run like?

The run course is three loops around Tempe Town Lake with multiple bridge crossings and some slight hills in and around Papago Park. The vast majority of your day will be spent running on the concrete sidewalk that encircles the lake. It’s not forgiving, is somewhat rolling and even a bit twisty at times.

Like the three-loop bike, the longer you are running the more people there are sharing the course with you. It can become quite crowded at times, so do your best to be considerate of your fellow competitors.

There is minimal shade and the run course is entirely exposed to the wind — particularly the bridge sections. If you plan on wearing a hat, you’ll want to make sure that it’s quite snug on your head otherwise it will be long gone! While the run course is small at only 8.8 miles per loop, it is spread out just enough such that few spectators venture out of the transition area to support the runners. Plan on some quality solo time, as well as dealing with passing the finishline area twice before actually earning the right to turn in yourself.

What Can My Family Do on Race Day?

There is a very small retail and restaurant area on Mill Street, which is a short walk from the transition area. Your family have several placed to eat (even shop!) while you are suffering. Most don’t however, as the three loops on the bike and run combine to put you through the race area very frequently. Instead of trying to see you at every opportunity, it’s worthwhile for your family to take a mental break at some point, doing a proper sit down meal before returning to push you to the finish line. Just like you, they’ll need to be prepared for the heat, the sun, and the early evening (it can get chilly).
What’s the Biggest Mistake I Could Make?

Without a doubt, handling the winds on the bike and monitoring your effort on the 10 mile false flat on the Beeline are crucial to your day. Riding “just a little too hard” up a 10.5 mile false flat x 3 can ruin your day, not to mention that the winds pick up on each lap as well. The net is that the Beeline is full of athletes sitting up in the bars, and into the wind, on the second and third laps, having overcooked themselves on this false flat. Our advice: ignore the people flying by you on the first and second lap, and do your best to remain in the aerobars when the winds pick up.

What is the Temperature Like on Race Day?

Temps for Arizona have historically been in the low 80s, but even in November things can be quite hot. It’s a dry heat from the desert, and you’ll become quickly dehydrated should you fall off your nutritional schedule. Set a timer to keep you on top of your game and be ready to carry / consume up to 1000mgs of sodium an hour across all of your nutrition sources should the temperature really start to peak.

As you approach race day, remember to relax and enjoy the journey. Don’t ruin the next few weeks – or your race experience – by geeking out. Focus on what matters, take care of your supporters and remember to race with a smile!

Endurance Nation is the world’s only 400 person long course triathlon team, with 25-35 athletes in every US Ironman this season. Download the Endurance Nation Ironman Race Kit, FREE! The Kit includes: The Four Keys to Ironman Execution eBook, 6 x 30′ preview videos of our Ironman Course Talks, and the Ironman Transition Training Plan eBook, a comprehensive guide for the “what now” questions rattling around in your head post race!


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