The silent killer lurking on the Ironman Florida bike course: the pancake-flat route itself. With no hills and very few turns to encourage you to change positions on the bike, it's possible to ride the entire course completely in your aerobars.
Athletes over the years have commented that this lack of position changes can create back issues and other challenges late on the bike course and into the run. We HIGHLY recommend you use the aid stations as a reminder/opportunity to sit up, stretch, stand out of the saddle, etc. Your back will thank you!
OK, So What Is the Run Like?
The run course in Florida is an out-and-back affair with lots of turns. You work your way from the host hotel down towards St. Andrews State Park by crisscrossing Thomas Drive multiple times.
The wind you face at the end of the bike will be ever-present since most of the run is very close to the water. Also note that there is minimal shade, so being able to manage the heat is what will make or break your run.
While there is a solid amount of local support for the run, and the short nature of the course allows your family and friends to be in multiple places during the day, at some point you will have to face the quiet space of the State Park. Panama City in November means an early sunset, with the course being entirely in the dark as of 5:30 p.m. at the latest. In other words, the last finishers of the bike could very well run every step of the marathon at night.
What Can My Family Do on Race Day?
There is precious little to do other than watch the race and sit on the beach. There are a few kitschy museums, but most aren't open on Sunday regardless. Their best bet is to watch the swim, then get in a nice breakfast.
They can hang out on the beach for a few hours and maybe even catch a nap before you hit T2. Then it's time to do some serious run spectating. 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?
Aside from underestimating the importance of swimming well in the ocean, how you handle the first part of the bike is critical to your day. The flat nature of the ride combined with adrenaline-filled competition makes deciding to ride outside of your comfort zone incredibly easy.
We highly recommend that you commit yourself to cruising the swim and bike until you turn left onto Highway 388 / Bennett Road, just over 40 miles into your day. At that point you can dial things up to a steady effort and begin your day of racing.
If you think you are going too easy until that point, remember that you have 62 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of running to make up time.
What Is the Temperature Like on Race Day?
Temps for Florida have historically been in the upper 70s. This is not very hot, but the continued exposure over the course of your day can make even these mild temps seem quite toasty. Outlier days have seen the temps peek into the low 90s. You'll need to be ready for anything. It helps to remember that at the end of the day, everyone else has to race under the same conditions.
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.
2008 Wrap-Up: A Great Day for Comerford, Evans at Ford Ironman Florida
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