Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ironman Arizona bike recce

This post, like most of late is a little late in coming. I actually went out to Tempe at the beginning of May. The idea was to get a chance to ride the bike course and it was a good excuse to catch up with some Daily Mile friends; Thomas and Carl, both of are locals, Thomas is doing IMAZ in November and Carl the HITS Ironman a week later. It was going to be a bit of a drive out; Tempe lies a little East of Phoenix and so it was a 420 miles away. The plan being to get out of Dodge a little early Friday to miss the commuting traffic and try and get into town as quickly as possible.

Despite my best efforts I managed to get caught in some traffic making the drive a little longer than anticipated added to which, to be safe, an hours roadside nap meant I didn’t get to my hotel until the early hours. Alarm set and heads down!

The plan was to meet the guys early to avoid the heat, the forecast was for a warm day! I headed out and met with Thomas and Carl. First order of the day was to roll down to Tempe Town Lake to have a good look at the swim and transition area, it’s also the where the expo is the preceding days. I had seen it in many photos and felt like I had a pretty good lie of the land but to actually see it in person added a definite color to the area. After having a good look at the Swim entry and exit and the Bike out area we set out to ride the course.

Ironman Arizona’s bike is three loops of approximately 37 miles out toward the McDowell Mountains and back. not really three loops but as you go up one side of the road and down the other I suppose it is a loop albeit a very shallow one! The race is chosen by many, including myself, as a good race for first timers; a calm swim and relatively flat bike and run will chew you up and spit you out too much!


So once we got out of town it soon became apparent that it’s not a flat bike course. There is a steady shallow climb where you gain around 550’, the last section of less than half a mile of so kicks up a little more, then you roll over the top down for a quarter mile and you are at the turnaround. I wasn’t timing it per se but I hit the turnaround at around 1:23 and was firmly in between my guides. With such shallow descent I was pleasantly surprised at the pick up coming back it town and I was comfortably able to keep my speed up in the mid to high 20mph range.


Due to the nature of the course; through the open desert one of the challenges was the wind, while it wasn’t too bad at all during my visit but I have been warned that it can get gusty from any side, this will require me to think carefully about wheel choice, not that I have many to choose from but whether to run deep dish wheels or not will be the question. Another thing that Thomas warned me about was wild dogs roaming across the road and maybe even chasing bikers along the road!

After we arrived back at the cars it was a quickish change and a short run around the local park to finish off the 47 mile ride and 3 hour brick.

@thomaso @carlck and me post IMAZ loop ride and run Good people and good times Thomas, Carl and me…yes I need to drop a few pounds!

Based on this early reconnaissance I anticipate three possible challenges with the ride:

The first is the possible wind; it’s no fun having a headwind but even less fun than that is having a nice gusty side wind blowing at you and having experienced being blown straight across two lanes I can tell you this is no joke!

The second the temperature; despite starting nice and early (6:00am) it warmed up quickly especially the deeper you got into the desert, see the black line in the image above, temps in November should be cooler but they can go either way by a lot!

  • Average temperature: 64
  • Average high temperature: 76
  • Average low temperature: 53
  • Warmest ever: 96
  • Coldest ever: 35

The third will be maintaining an aero position for the maximum amount of time, given that I have 5 months to go I think this is less of an issue and the one that I do have control over, unlike the other two!

If you want to check out my Garmin data you can find it here.

So a great opportunity to see the lie of the land and combined with my weekend at St George soaking up the Ironman race day atmosphere it’s good experience points in the bank. I hope to get out to Tempe a few more times between now and November, more bike time and look at the run course but in the mean time a big thank you to the guys for guiding me around!

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