Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ironman Arizona IMAZ Course and Race Preview

Ironman Arizona (IMAZ) is a very popular and highly demanded late season Ironman. It is late season in the sense that it is mostly already fall time for most of North America but in a sense it is one of the earliest qualifiers for Kona 2015 so look at it how you will. Formerly held in April this is the 9th running of a very successful Ironman course and location. This years event features the debut of Olympic triathlete Brent McMahon and former hockey player Heather Jackson.

As is common for these events expect that most of the competitors won't be getting much sleep tonight. Today will be spent either registering, or in transition doing final gear checks. If you arrived after Thursday you've missed the traditional underpants run.

Swim (Cool & Murky):
Expect a crowded swim start as is typical at these events. In most cases the starting line for this event will be spread out enough that most athletes can avoid getting beaten up too badly. Hopefully everyone remembers that foot massages are not always welcome and the swimmers can spread out without too much difficulty. Weaker swimmers generally seed to the back of the pack but there is always a shuffle between the stronger and weaker swimmers. With cool 65 degree water wetsuits will be legal and are recommended for helping reduce those swim times. Tinted goggles are a must swimming into a rising sun. There were a few reports last year of record breaking swims making some wonder if the course is short or if there is an unreported lake current that is helping. The water does have poor visibility. Watch your footing on the way out aluminum stair have been know to break toes (like my coaches big toe at Ironman Texas for example)!

Bike (Flat & Fast):
The bike course starts with three out and back loops making for congested roadways and mental havoc as competitors have to avoid other racers and keep track of their location. As with most things that are repetitive keeping focused may prove difficult for some. The elevation profile for this course makes a perfect pyramid three times for each out and back. This course is tempting for an all out hammering of the hills with time to recover on the back side, for most who attempt this will also be a reminder of just how far 112 miles really is. This course is gorgeous by the way, if you've never been to Arizona or Utah before expect to be blown away. By midday there could be the additional factor of a rising wind as the course heats up, worst case here would be a crosswind otherwise a tailwind will help more than hinder. Because the course the pretty much flat(ish) and the road is in perfect condition these factors will highly favor those able to hold an aero position comfortably the longest.

Run (Rough & Dry): 
This is a fairly flat course and possibly one of the reasons for IMAZ's reputation of being beginner friendly. That being said it is still a full marathon and deserves all the respect it is due. Rumors of poor surface conditions continue to dog optimists like me. Most competitors will enjoy looping back to greet friends and family a number of times. Anyone who was seeded over from Ironman Lake Tahoe will be taking a huge break on this leg (not to mention the bike to be honest)! There is a hill, also known as 'the hill,' most won't be sprinting it even though it is relatively short.