Ironman 70.3 California

Profile provided by Kevin Purcell, D.C.

Travel and Accommodations
San Diego has a full service international airport that is about 45 minutes south of the race site. San Diego county is one of the primary vacation destinations in America, so finding a place to stay will not be difficult. I prefer to use VBRO when I travel to races to find a home, but if you like nice hotels and are traveling with family that includes kids, you are in luck.

The West Inn & Suites in Carlsbad (minutes from the swim start) was recently named one of the best hotels in the world for family stays. It is rated number eight in the world and number four in America (as of 2013). There are others as well.

Pre-Race Workouts
The swim course is not available to swim prior to race day. Instead, I recommend hopping into the ocean near the pier in Oceanside. The water is typically high 50s to low 60s. Cold. There is surf at the beach but no surf race day in the protected harbor. However, there may be swells out near the turn around and the open mouth of the harbor. I suggest trying to get a visual of the swim course from the parking lots. It is surprisingly technical with turns and curves. Without proper sighting you can swim extra yardage and add significant unwanted time.

The bike course is on the Marine base of Camp Pendleton. Only the front half of the course is available to ride before the race unless you know somebody on base who will have you as a guest. If you do chose to ride the front half you will need a drivers license to get on base. Be a good guest and the Marines will be unbelievable hosts. More on this later.

The run is flat and fast on roads and side walk/boardwalk. Straight forward with only brief rollers, it is open to the public for pre-race use.

The Course
Click any image for a larger version
The picture to the right was taken by riding out toward the boat launch in the harbor. You are looking down the ramp you will use to walk into the water. Once waist deep, you take the plunge and wade out and to left of that small boat where you will line up to start in waves separated by five minutes. Get in early and get used to the water temperature so you will be able to breath over the first 50m of the race. The 5 freeway is right behind the trees in the background and the end trance to Camp Pendleton is between the water and the freeway. Transition is to the left of the boat ramp as you enter the water, to the right as you exit.

In the other direction is your first view as you pedal or run out of T1 and T2. On the bike (where you see distant cars) you will turn left toward the 5 freeway and Camp P. On the run you will go straight into Oceanside, the boardwalk and then residential roads.

Within three minutes of leaving transition, you pass Joe’s Crab Shack. It is the last thing you see before entering Camp Pendleton. This little hill doesn’t look like much from this angle. However, it’s the same rise that has on it’s front picture of the race. There, you’ll see riders out of the saddle to get up over this blip. Get into your small chainring and your smallest cog. I can’t get over this without putting out 430 watts in my 39/27.

After passing through the Del Mar Beach area on base you leave offices, barracks and buildings. You’ll pass behind the commissary, drop down a short hill on Vandegrift and turn left onto Stuart Mesa. Some athletes will be breathing too hard and will need to relax over this short gradual climb. The ocean water is cold and blood will still be in the upper body as you climb. Relax. Once over this rise, you will be able to get aero for a bit. The road then turns left out toward the ocean before you head up coast into what is usually a headwind/crosswind at about 10-15mph (typical). Stronger riders will be able to stay aero for most of the next 10 miles. Others will alternate up and down, using gears. I would control power spikes over the first hour of this course.

During this flat stage of the ride you will pass through parts of the base used for work and “play” by the men and women of the Marine Corps. I love those guys and appreciate access to the base each time I enter.

About 10 miles into the up coast ride you will come to Las Pulgas. The picture below is the road you will turn right onto for the 4-mile out and back part of the course. It is fast out with wind at your back and a bit slower with wind in your face coming back. Looking off in the distance you can see a dip in the hills. That is about eight miles out. If you rode all the way out there you would hit Basilone. Las Pulgas T-Bones Basilone and you will be at the spot you descend one of the back climbs and staring at another to your right. You won’t see that on the out and back as you only go half ay across; but fear not; you will see it later up close and personal.

Over my shoulder is this view that you see after coming back out of Las Pulgas. You turn right, go over that small rise and exit the camp down a short hill. Then take a hard right and head up coast again.

Going up the coast and after a short section of very bumpy road that makes New Zealand seem smooth, you’ll see this smooth Harrier landing strip. It is a false flat that has you riding into a breezy headwind. Your avg speed may drop 3-5mph here. Looking off in the distance about 10 miles is the first short steep climb (San Mateo). You will turn inland to get to it. It’s only .6 miles long or 1k but may require a spinning gear depending on your bike strength. At 195lbs with a FTP of 320 a 27 in back was handy.
On the right is a closer view of the first climb from the ocean side of the course. You will climb the other side of that ridge.

Before you get to one of the faster flatter sections of the course you get off the airstrip and go under a small bridge. It will be clean and smoothest if you ride where a tire would, not down the middle. Note the sign about tanks and tactical sh*t! Gotta love this course! That is the ocean on the other side of the bridge. Coming up is one of the beautiful parts of the course and coastline. California before Californication.
The State Park starts about two miles after the bridge and is fast & flat. It just keeps going like the shot below for longer than seems reasonable. It is pretty cool.

As you exit the park you will enter the San Onofre area. There are the two large energy buildings to your left and then one of the more famous surfing areas in the world pictured below — Trestles. Surfers from all over make their way here to what is a treasure.

The next pick is after the bike path up out of trestles. You turn right onto Christianitos, cross the freeway and ride inland to ward the first climb we saw earlier. The Christianitos gate onto the base is up and down this road about 6 miles inland. The picture is taken at mile 22 of the course. You will be at mile 31 when you hit the San Mateo climb. The next two climbs are a bit longer and not as steep. Then the course has some fast downhill rollers that take you out to helicopter landing area and Vandegrift road.
The intersection below is at the corner of Stuart Mesa to the left (one of the first pics and looking back up Vandegrift. So you are back near where you started via a large loop that went inland. From the helo-port out, Vandegrift is eight miles to transition. It is a bit of a wind tunnel formed by canyon walls as you head back to the coast. Save some gas for this part of the course or you will see major slowing and a dent put into your run plans. Strong, smart riders will make hay here on their competition — not because they out work them, but because they were smarter earlier and aren’t seeing falling watts/HRs.

This is one of the coolest destination races in the world. As well, it typically has one of the deepest fields despite being so early in the North American race season.

Categories: Half Iron

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