Ironman 70.3 Boulder

Ironman 70.3 Boulder

Course_ProfileDrawing on Endurance Corner’s collective years of experience and access to an extended network of some of the most knowledgeable racers, we wanted to provide our best recommendations for approaching some of the biggest races around the world.

Travel and Accommodation
Boulder is situated to the northwest of Denver and is only a 45-to-60-minute drive from Denver International Airport. There are plenty of airlines with direct flights into DIA from around the country, but be sure to check their fees for bike bags before booking. If you are renting a car, I would suggest using the 470 Toll Road that will bypass Denver and drop you onto highway 36 just south of Boulder.

Hotel accommodations range from reasonable to luxury in the Boulder city limits depending on your needs. You can find a wide range of prices on any search engine. If you are willing to drive a bit, you can look into staying in nearby Louisville, Lafayette or Superior. They will likely have slightly cheaper rates.

Pre-Race Workouts
Training before the race is quite easy. If you arrive early in the week and want an open water swim on Tuesday or Thursday, you can drop into a Boulder Area Masters (BAM) open water workout from 6:10-7:40 a.m. ( Drop in fees are $15. You cannot swim in the Boulder Reservoir on your own, so any other times won’t work for open water swimming prior to race day. However, Boulder has five public pools (Scott Carpenter, Spruce and the North, South, and East Boulder Rec Centers). Do a quick Google search to get lap times and expect to pay $6 to $7 for a swim. The rec centers will likely have the smallest crowds as they are indoors, while the outdoor pools can be rather crowded at peak hours.

The bike and run courses can be previewed easily before the race. The bike route includes popular cycling routes as does the run course. Just keep in mind that it costs money to run and park in the reservoir, but you can park outside of it at various trailheads and access the run course that way.

The weather in Boulder in mid June is usually warm, with a possibility of it becoming very warm. However, temperatures will likely be more temperate than past years when the race took place in August. The mornings can be on the cooler side, so depending on your start time, you might not feel the warmth until later in the race. Boulder always has the possibility of being windy with a fair amount variability in direction. Boulder is a high desert so expect humidity levels to be low while temps will likely peak in the high 80s to low 90s with abundant (and strong!) sunshine. Wear sunscreen.

Race Morning
The reservoir has one entrance and has plenty of space for parking. They do a really good job of organizing the parking arrangements and even the furthest spots are close to transition. The line to get into the Reservoir can be very long in the morning, so I suggest arriving early or arriving from the north by taking Monarch road to 55th.

The swim in the reservoir heads northeast to start, so sighting is easier than the former start that headed due east. The course is essentially rectangular shaped, but you will not finish exactly where you started. Since the race has been moved to early summer, you will likely encounter a comfortable wetsuit swim.

Boulder 70.3 introduced a new bike course for the 2016 edition. For starters, the race will now exit and enter the Boulder Reservoir from the Diagonal Highway as opposed to using 51st like all the years in the past.

The bike course begins with a loop on the Diagonal Highway that uses bike paths as turnarounds that go underneath the highway. These will be short, slow no-pass zones that you will have to use briefly to access the opposite sides of the course. This section along the Diagonol has some of the flattest sections of the course, but you will find yourself feeling a bit slower on the way back as it has a gradual rise when heading back to Boulder.

From there, you will come back to where you started and proceed to the second (and different) loop of the bike course that closely resembles the current Ironman Boulder course. For this section, we have broken it down into five sections:

  1. Jay Rd to Neva Rd: This section features a long gradual uphill to the corner of Jay/36 and Broadway, followed by a rolling/flat couple miles until the Neva turn. The opening miles on Jay Rd (turns into Hwy 36) often makes athletes “feel” that they should be going faster than they are. The uphill gradient becomes more apparent as get further west, but initially it can be easy to ride this section much harder than you might want. It’s a good place to hold back.
  2. Neva and 63rd: As you turn east off Hwy 36, you will encounter a fast downhill section followed by a longer gradual downhill until you reach 63rd St. You then turn north on 63rd and are faced with several miles of rollers, but still with an overall net loss of elevation. This is great section to conserve energy as it leads into the most challenging section of the first loop: Nelson Road.
  3. The Nelson Road Climb: After you leave 63rd St., you will turn west on Nelson Road taking you back up to 36, gaining back all the elevation you just lost. Before writing this course profile, I rode this particular climb several times as I’ve never really given it much thought before. This climb is a little over four miles long and it rises in a two-tier stair stepper fashion, rising around 600 feet. There are two steep pitches that are both followed by gradual false flats, making any overly hard efforts difficult to recover from. I suggest pre-riding this part of the course if possible to get a better understanding of what I believe will be a key section.
  4. Highway 36 to Highway 66, Highway 66 to 75th St.: After you turn on Hwy 36 from Nelson Road, you will continue to gain a slight amount of elevation before entering a long rolling descent to Hwy 66. This is a great opportunity to eat, drink and regroup. At the end of Highway 36, you will turn east on a flat, fast section of Hwy 66 taking you to the town of Hygiene.
  5. Hygiene, 75th, Diagonal: This section features flat and rolling terrain and rides a little more consistently than all the previous sections which are either generally slow or fast. The final couple miles along the Diagonal Hwy begin to ride more slowly as you make your way back to transition, so do not be surprised to see the speed start to ease up.

The run is two loops around the Boulder Reservoir and more than 80% of each loop is on dirt roads. The first half of each loop features a couple good climbs, while the second half is flatter with a downhill finish at the conclusion of each loop. The quality of the dirt on the dirt roads is typically hardpack and closer to pavement-like traction, while the back half of the course has slightly looser and rockier footing (though not bad by any means). As you come to the conclusion of each loop you will run on asphalt for a short period of time (including both of the downhill sections).

If you stick around post-race, you will find a lot of things to do in Boulder. Soak in the Boulder Creek after the race to help the sore legs, then go eat and hang out on Pearl Street. You can find me post-race having a beer at Sanitas Brewing.

Justin Daerr lives in Boulder, Co., and has a personal best of 3:55 at this race.

Categories: Half Iron

About Author

Justin Daerr

Justin Daerr is a professional triathlete. You can follow him on Twitter @justindaerr.