Ironman Kansas 70.3 Review
This past weekend I finished Ironman Kansas 70.3 in Lawrence, KS. I’ve probably completed more than 25 triathlons, including several 70.3 series races, several Half Ironman (non 70.3) races and two Ironman triathlons. In this article, I review this year’s Ironman Kansas 70.3. I did not do the 2008 race, but it is my understanding that the course was a bit different in 2008 and there was only one TA.
Information about the race was poorly communicated. The information on-line was inadequate and the race packet provided little guidance. I traveled to the race with three friends and all of us were confused about the transitions. Especially, since this race had two different transition areas – T1 and T2. We were also extremely confused about the packet pickup / check-in procedure. This was not explained very well at all.
The check-in was very poorly organized. No one seemed to know what to do. Everyone stood in a very long line with their bikes. So, my friends and I did the same thing. We stood in line in the hot sun for over an hour with our bikes. This is not the best thing to do the day before a race. When we finally got to the front of the line, all they wanted was proof of our USAT membership and they gave out the swim cap, timing chip, and race numbers. I received a number for my helmet, but none of my friend’s received one.
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The aid stations were very adequate, especially on the run. The volunteers were great too. All aid stations had the typical stuff. Water, Gatorade, Power Gels, Ice, etc.
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There was a stage in the middle of the expo area. During check-in (while waiting for an hour in line with our bikes) a band played. This band was horrible and played lame old stuff, like Mustang Sally and Hard to Handle. This only contributed to the suffering of being in line in the sun for an hour! The band that played during the race and after the race was awesome though. They were a cover band, but dressed in costumes and played great music and put on a great show too.
At T1 and the race start, they were rocking with great music and a great sound system. This made the race start exciting and it’s always nice to hear music when you turn to breath on the way to the swim exit!
The expo was decent; however, my friends and I had a very hard time finding body glide. Only one vendor had body glide. We all needed this for our ankles and wrists to facilitate wetsuit removal. I used it on my nipples for the run too.
There were a decent number of pros at this race, including Chrissie Wellington, Luke Bell, Simon Lessing, Pip Taylor, and Tim Deboom. Chrissie and Luke dominated the race. Chrissie hung out after she finished the race and gave out medals and posed with the age group finishers for pictures. She hung out the whole day and posed for pictures, signed autographs, etc. She was awesome and seemed to be having a great time!
This was the first race I’ve completed with two different transition areas. There was not any transportation between the two either. They were almost ¾ mile apart from each other. T1 was close to the race start, by the lake. T2 was on top of the hill, by the finish line and campsites. We had to turn our bikes into T1 the day before the race. We rode our bikes down the hill, but had to walk back up the hill to T1 and another ¾ mile or so to our parking spot. On race day, we set up T2 first, then took a bag with only the things we needed for T1 to T1 on the way to the race start. Two of my friends forgot items and had to make the long journey back up and down the hill in flip flops for a helmet and sun glasses! My other friend and I were setting up in T1 like everyone else. We were constantly yelled at to "get out of the TA", because the race had already started. None of the information provided ever stated when T1 closed, so everyone was in the TA setting up after the race started, just before their assigned swim waves. This was very hectic.
The swim course was pretty standard – an out and back, however, I found the buoy colors less than desirable. The out section had green buoys and the back had red buoys. I found these much harder to see and sight off than the standard orange buoys that are typically used. This wasn’t a mass start – it was broken into a number of waves. The race started at 6:30am and my wave started at 7:10. The swim was also wetsuit legal. The water looked dirty, but didn’t taste too funny and I didn’t get sick from the water.
The bike course, contrary to popular belief, is not flat. It’s constant rolling hills with a few decent stretches that you can hammer in the aero position. The road surface is decent, but within Clinton Park the roads have the expansion gaps...so it’s constant bumps. Outside the park (the majority of the course), it’s decent though. The course wasn’t designed at all for spectators and I didn’t see hardly any spectators on the bike. The bike course was also too crowded. It was quite dangerous in some areas where four riders were abreast in both lanes on the out-and-backs. I missed a rider riding the opposite direction by maybe a foot…we were both right on the centerline. Also, a lot of novices seemed to drift all over the road and rarely stayed to the right. This is common to most tris though.
The run course was two laps. There wasn't much shade at all for the run and this really got the best of me. My head got sunburned through my hair. There was one major hill that you have to run down and back up twice. This is the same hill that separated T1 and T2. Other than the one hill, the course was flat and also very well marked. There was not enough bathrooms on the run course. There was one per aid station, but with almost 1800 athletes, there was always a line. I found myself skipping the first two bathrooms and finally having to wait in line, because I realized, other than going in the woods, there would always be a line. The aid stations were great on the run and had cold sponges. Spectator support was great on the run too.
The swag was decent. You got a standard finishing medal and a beer mug. In the beer mug were a beer ticket and a meal ticket. The beer was provided from a local brewery (23rd Street Brewery) and the food a local barbeque place. I had one of the wheat beers and it was excellent.
Parking is a complete mess for this race. For registration, we walked about ¾ mile from the parking area to the expo / registration / T2 (all in the same area). We also walked to check out T1, which was about ¾ mile from T2. We probably walked close to 5 miles in flip flops for race check-in and to scope out T1 and T2.
My friends and I stayed at the Holiday Inn on 200 MacDonald Drive. The hotel was nice and about a 15 minute drive from the race site. We initially thought about camping, but due to the poor information provided, we couldn’t figure out where the TAs were in relation to the campsites. If I were to do this race again, I would definitely camp. The run course weaves its way through the campgrounds and the camp ground is close to T2/finish/expo. There is nothing close to T1 or the race start. T1 is about ¾ mile walk from the race finish and T2.
We made a big mistake after race check-in and ate at the Salty Iguana. The food was actually really good, but probably not the right choice the day before the race!
After the race, we had dinner at Aladdin’s Café (Mediterranean) in downtown Lawrence. The food was great! I had the gyro platter and a falafel appetizer.