Ironman 70.3 California Race Preview

After your run, get your wetsuit on and continue your warm-up by simply staying in motion. Swinging your arms, practicing your stroke in the air and simply running in place are great ways to make sure your body is ready for the swim ahead. They will have all the athletes corralled in an area near the start, and you can expect to stand there for at least 20 to 30 minutes—maybe longer!

By the time they tell you to step into the water, it will only be moments until your wave will start. You will need to get your face and body accustomed to the temperature of the water in order to avoid hyperventilation. Stick your head in the water, blowing air out, lifting up to get another breath, and repeat.

Once you feel like you've acclimated to the water temp, it will not be long before the horn will sound. Make sure you are in a starting position which is relative to your swim ability. This means faster swimmers to the front, and from the left (inside of the turns), to the middle. Slower swimmers should be at the back of the pack and more to the right (outside of the turns).

If you are a slower swimmer, you need to be aware that there may be fast swimmers in the age-group wave behind you. Don't necessarily swim to the left, alongside the buoys, just because most of the people from your wave are in front of you.

If you are worried about the cold water temperatures, you can always put on a silicone swim cap under the cap you must wear for the race. Silicone is great for keeping in heat from the head--much better than latex swim caps.

The Swim — 1.2 Miles

Click for a swim-course map.

Once the horn sounds, you will swim straight for a good distance, and then the course will veer left. All turns will be left, with the exception of the finish of the swim, where you will turn right and go up the boat ramp you came down at the beginning of the swim. Be sure to consult the map to understand the course fully.

The course is marked about every 100 meters with signs. If you breathe on your left side, you will see the markings on the buoys as you swim. If you are strictly a right-side breather, it would be a good idea to try a lot of bilateral breathing patterns before race day to prepare yourself to see these markings. Knowing where you are in the swim is a great tool. You can pace yourself, it helps with swimming straight, and you can use it to help recognize a turn coming soon.

If you are a right-side breather, then on the return trip of the loop, you will see all the fans standing alongside the shoreline, cheering the swimmers. You may think the course is about to end, but it's always further than you think it is! Check on your left side every now and then to see how much farther you have to go.

How fast should you go in a half-Iron swim? Really, there is not much difference between an Olympic-distance swim and a 70.3—only about 400 meters. Therefore, you probably should not swim any different than the pace you hold in an Olympic-distance race. Don't worry about burning out before the bike, the swim is really too short, and with a wetsuit in salt-water, it could very well be one of the best swims of your life! Also, the pace on the bike is slower than an Olympic-distance ride, so you will be fine.

The First Transition

Click for a map of the transition area.

The first transition means a long run! There will be approximately 300 meters of total running from the time you exit the water until you exit T1 with your bike. Be careful, because it is not uncommon to slip while running on some of the pavement sections, especially the turns. If there is a carpet or turf to run on, that will be much more comfortable for your feet than the pavement—and safer.

After exiting the water at the south end of the transition area, run all the way to the north entrance of the transition area. From there you will run to your transition spot and then exit at the south end.
Before the race, make sure you use some sort of landmark to gauge where your transition rack and spot is. Don't think when you come out of the water you'll be able to count racks or read signs for the racks.

Choose a landmark which is obvious and preferably not repeated. For example, there are two spots of port-o-johns in the transition area which are only in those two places and at different ends of the transition. In contrast, if you tried to use the white tents on the side, you might be thoroughly confused on where you're going, since the tents go on and on. The less thinking you have to do in the race, the better.

Make sure you have your number on! Once you exit T1, hop on your bike and get rolling.

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