Whoops. Totally dropped the ball on this post, but better late than never, right?
Well, after sitting on it for two weeks, here are my final thoughts on the Ironman Miami 70.3 course as a whole (you can check out my original race recap HERE). Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
Ironman Miami 70.3 takes place in the heart of downtown Miami. Personally, I thought it was kind of cool to set-up transition right in the middle of all the large surrounding buildings. It was definitely a little different than the middle-of-nowhere-out-in-the-country triathlons I’m used to.
We stayed at the Doubletree about 2 miles from the race site. The morning of the race we opted to drive to the race site (we did seriously consider walking there for a hot minute) and thankfully didn’t have a problem finding a parking spot. There were plenty of public lots opened with a generous fee attached to them (having to pay for parking is always a major downside when a race takes place downtown anywhere).
The expo really impressed me. It was outside, so it was a bit on the warm side (okay, a LOT on the warm side), but it also meant there was a ton of room to move around and there was a decent amount of vendors to say hello to.
The registration process was quick and painless. All we needed were our IDs and the volunteers shuttled us through the different stations without a problem. We were there around 1:30ish on Saturday and the whole registration process maybe took us 5 minutes?
However, be warned that if you want to buy any of the official Ironman gear, there will be a wait on Saturday. My siblings and I waited well over an hour in the un-airconditioned tent to purchase shirts, race belts, and other gear in the tent. My sister-in-law visited the merchandise tent while we were racing the next day and there wasn’t a line at all. So if you want official gear, have one of your spectators purchase it during the race, while the crowds are low.
We also made the mistake of not bringing our bikes with us for check-in. We weren’t sure how the check-in process would go, so we left them in our cars, which were parked about 1/2 a mile away. Since the transition area is right next door to the expo, it would have been much easier if we had our bikes already with us so we could drop our bikes off as soon we picked up our numbers. I should probably note that Ironman Miami 70.3 does not require you to leave your bikes in the transition area overnight, so you can bring them with you in the morning as well (not every race gives this option), but it’s just so much easier (and less stressful) to drop them off the day before.
Loved the location – downtown Miami! – hated the set up. I was lucky to be on the end row so I could talk to my family during transitions, but the racks were so close together, that I couldn’t just run up my row with my bike without literally running a couple of people over in the process.
I should probably note here that I always opt to put my bike shoes on before I exit transition (haven’t exactly mastered the whole starting with your shoes already in the pedals approach yet) and made the mistake of running through the middle of the transition area to exit (there was a nice wide space thanks to a fountain that blocked the area off). The problem with running up the middle was that it was all slick brick and I started slipping thanks to my clip-in shoes as soon as I started running on it. Whoops. Take my advice and don’t make the same mistake.
Besides that, There weren’t any problems with the transition area. I was warned ahead of time that the run from the swim to transition was a long one, but I didn’t mind it. I’ve had to run longer in the past, and at least I didn’t have to deal with sand, mud, or dirt in the process (since everything was paved).
The swim is broken up into grouped starts off the dock. I was in the female18-29 group and there were probably 75 – 100 of us at the start, so it wasn’t terribly crowded. Our group lined up about 15 minutes before our start time. Once the group in front of us left, we had 5 minutes after to jump in the water and make our way to the buoys before our start. We did drift ahead of the buoys a bit, but the lifeguards made sure we all swam back to the correct position before the start. The time you spend treading in the water goes by fast – just think of it as a quick warm-up.
One thing I should note is that we originally didn’t see the huge group of people watching the start to the left of the dock and had made the mistake of telling our spectators to try and grab a spot in the complete opposite direction. They ended up missing our starts and had terrible views of the swim. Just remember to tell your spectators to stand to the left of the dock if they want to see your start.
The water was wetsuit legal, but just barely (this isn’t something that’s guaranteed every year). I didn’t wear my wetsuit and I felt fine, the water was more refreshing than anything else and the salt water gave me enough buoyancy that I didn’t feel like I was missing that advantage of the wetsuit at all. The water was also surprisingly calm and smooth. There were no waves, and wasn’t choppy at all.
The course is also designed so that you’re never really fighting the current. You start swimming with the current to the first buoy (the portion of the swim that flew by for me), then make a right turn so you’re swimming diagonally to the next buoy. You’re not exactly with the current anymore, but you’re not fighting it dead on either. You make a right for another diagonal route back to land, then finish the swim with the current in a dead sprint.
The swim was hands down my favorite portion of the 70.3, a fact that really surprised me since I don’t consider myself a swimmer(I guess those months of lessons are starting to pay off?). It was pretty cool to swim right next to the cruise ships docked at the port and the view of downtown Miami in the early morning light was absolutely stunning. I would do this swim again in a heartbeat.
Ugh. The bike. This is the portion of the 70.3 where I vowed to never do Miami again.
There are so many things I didn’t like about the bike.
1) It was boring. Mind numbing boring. It’s a straight out and back on a highway with absolutely nothing on it. Yawn.
2) The railroad tracks. Those suckers were just plain dangerous. It took me two sets to realize we were supposed to ride over the mat (whoopsies), but even then I still felt very unstable riding over them. My brother was only inches away from a bad accident that occurred right behind him when going over the tracks. If you do this course, be very, very careful on those!
3) The headwind! 28 miles of a brutal non-stop headwind. Do I really need to say more? That headwind almost brought me to tears on the ride, if I hadn’t caught up to my sister, I’m pretty sure I would have thrown in the towel.
The ONLY saving grace from the bike was the tailwind on the way out. I had never gone that fast on the bike before – I felt like I was flying!
Unfortunately, when reading reviews of Miami 70.3 leading up to the race, the number one thing everyone had to complain about was the wind on the bike course, so I’m not sure that the horrible wind was only a 2012 thing – it’s something anyone should expect (and prepare for) in future races on this course.
Just one more minor plus – the course was flat as pancake, I never even had a little hill to fight. Three cheers for that.
Be warned: the run is hot with limited opportunities for shade. Make sure you load up on salt and electrolytes on the bike because you’re going to need it for the hot and humid run.
The run consisted of two laps of an out-and-back course. Because of the out-and-back nature of the course, you were never alone, there were people on both sides coming and going.
There were four water stations on the course. One at the start, one a mile out (you hit going out and coming back), one two miles out (that you also hit going out and coming back), and one at the three mile-ish turn around point. They all had ice, water, coke, Ironman-ade (or whatever their branded Gatorade drink is called), and fruit (orange slices and banana).
The two water stations in the middle (that had people coming and going) were very overwhelmed during the race and had a problem keeping up with the demand. I really wanted some of the Ironman-ade drink at one point, but they didn’t have any out when I passed and I didn’t want to stop and wait for it. Luckily, that only happened one time on my first lap and I didn’t have a problem grabbing a drink in a hurry after that. Just be warned if you’re a person who requires a lot of fluid (especially on a hot day), you may want to carry your own fluids because the water stations can get kind of crazy.
The bridge was definitely a low point for the run. It’s a bad climb going either way and you have to run over it a total of 4 times during your two laps. I saw a lot of people give up on the bridge. I developed a pattern of 90 seconds of running, followed by 30 seconds of walking to help get me over. I would suggest setting a goal (either in seconds or landmarks) of when to walk/run to help you get over. On the plus side, going down the bridge was a fun pace booster.
The good thing is, since you’re going two laps, your spectators can find a place (say, next to Bayside Mall) to set up camp and see you a couple of times on the course. I wouldn’t suggest having them stand next to transition since it’s crowded and would be easy to miss them. If they go out just half a mile on the course (again, really recommending the mall here), there’s really not that many people, so it’s hard to miss them.
Basically you cross the finish line and you’re done. They take your chip, give you a medal, and you’re out. The plus is you’re not stuck in the finish line chute for a mile and you can see your family right away, the bad news is it’s kind of ant-iclimatic that way.
There was an “Athlete’s Lounge” tent near the finish line where fresh fruit and an odd catered assortment of chicken, rice, and green beans were being served. I’m not sure about you, but I’m not craving chicken and rice at the end of a race – not even a little. If I did this race again, I would have my family waiting at the finish line with a small pizza and a dozen donuts – now that’s the perfect finish line meal. 😉
As I stated in my original race recap, I’m glad I did Miami, but I wouldn’t do it again. I was really, really spoiled having Augusta as my first 70.3 and it’s going to be hard to find a race that stacks up to it – Miami didn’t even come close. Compared to Augusta, Miami was lacking the beauty Augusta had to offer, the amazing crowd support, and grander finish line party. I say if you’re looking for a pretty course, than skip this race. But if you’re looking for a flat and fast course (minus the wind on the bike) then this might be for you.
Have you done Ironman Miami 70.3? Have anything to add to the review? Any questions about the course I didn’t address?