Inaugural Ironman 70.3 Kansas Race Review
EveryMan Rating: 3 Brewskis (except that I did not finish)
Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
• 4 Brewskis So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
• 3 Brewskis The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
• 2 Brewskis Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
• 1 Brewski Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
• No Brewski A must-do annual event for both friends and family
There's a popular surf shop in Lawrence, Kansas were you can purchase a cool shirt that says "Surf Kansas" with an image of a women carrying a surfboard through a corn field. This shirt pretty much sums up my feelings about the inaugural Ironman 70.3 held just outside of Lawrence at the nearby Clinton Lake.
We're not in Kona anymore Toto!
I'm sorry but you know I just had to get an early Wizard of Oz reference into this review.
In other words, the race is really trying hard to capture the spirit of the Ironman Kona World Championship but you can't escape the fact that it is in the middle of hilly Kansas corn country. Which, by the way, is about as far as you can get from Hawaii...if you know what I mean.
In the interest of full disclosure you should know that I did not get to finish the race because it was called due to bad weather. You can read the full race report HERE.
However I don't think that I'm being unfair to the race with a full 3 Brewskis rating just because I did not get to finish it. If anything I'm grateful to the race organizers for putting me out of my misery. I just don't think I could have a taken another loop, out and back, uphill, down hill, and did I mention loop and out and back?
The problem with the course is that it's just plain hard and not very interesting. This race (topographically) most closely resembles the Wildflower Triathlon, which is very similar in terms of the terrain, but very different in terms of scenery. Where Wildflower has trees, flowers and naked aid stations, the Kansas 70.3 has corn, tall grass and a camp ground stocked with beer (not that there's anything wrong with that).
BTW: The most fun part of my entire race was during one of the endless run loops through the campground were a bunch of not-so-sober campers set-up a homemade aid station with a big sign proclaiming, "Sponsored by Busch" (as in Anheuser-Busch). For a smile the racers could grab a free can of beer to help with pre...no make that...on the run carbo loading.
True Story: The guy next to me grabbed a cold one from the station and his girlfriend, or perhaps wife said, "You're not going to drink that are you?"
I thought to myself, "Girl you did not just say that at mile 8 on the run?"
I suspect he wanted to shout.."You bet I'm going to drink this beer." But instead he took a tiny sip, gave the cold frosty can the very saddest of goodbye looks, and tossed it into a trash can before I could offer to help solve his dilemma.
For some unknown reason the racers in Kansas can't swim straight. I'm not joking about this in the slightest. I've never had this happen to me before, but I had at least ten racers make a sharp right turn straight ahead of me. You know, I'm just swimming along going straight for the next buoy when the guy or gal on my left decides to just turn right for no apparent reason. It was almost as if they just spotted the wrong buoy, and unfortunately it was over my right shoulder.
I did get an email after the race from a fellow non-finisher asking me if I felt the current in the lake? Which I did not, but perhaps some of the more body fat challenged (as in they don't have enough body fat types) did feel the current and were swept right with the current.
The nice part of the swim is that the course is just one big counter clockwise triangle so if like to breath to your left, and hate to get out of the water for a second or even third loop, this swim is for you. Just watch out for the mysterious current and the water treading swimmers. I managed to T-Bone one racers (so hard I heard him gasp) with my head. I felt really really bad until somebody cut in front of me again, at which point I wish I had added a blinking red light to the top of my swim cap.
The water temperature was warm, the water was your typical Midwestern lake water and of course the hills (at least on the swim) were pretty flat except for a few boats that churned some distant waves.
Wet, as in, "my it is really really wet in this transition area when it rains." Otherwise the transition was orderly and right next to the start and finish of the race. In fact the transition/start and finish areas are in the middle of a bloated figure eight on the run course. This means that you get to run right by stuff about 4 times during the run. Too bad you can't get back into transition without messing up the chip timing for that forgotten energy bar or rain coat.
I can sum up the bike in three "H" words and one "W" word.
Humid and for heaven's sake don't forget...
I don't think that there is any other words you could possibly add to make the bike harder.
OK, I just thought of two words:
Snow and Tornado!
But I don't think there's much of a chance of the first word and the second word might actually make it colder, wetter, and certainly windier.
You better love to ride out and back because the bike course has three. And I remember every single excruciating one of them. The last one is especially painful as I averaged something like 2.5 mph up the hills and into the wind and 1054.9 mph back downhill with the wind.
On the run you better thrive on running loops around a camp ground as in run around loop A and B and C and D, and so on because that's what you'll be doing for 13.1 miles.
You'll have the fun and thrill of watching happy-go-lucky campers BBQ, drink beer, eat brats, play catch and just relax while your legs are screaming from pain. Did I mention that the bike is hot, humid, hilly and windy?
Don't get me wrong the campers are great fun and some will actually watch you run by with a beer in one hand and a ready to assist squirt gun in the other, but it all gets really old, really quickly. And what's really baffling in that on the entire 13.1 mile run you'll see the lake for about 5 seconds (twice).
No watching the beach boys and babes as they frolic in the water. No watching the sailboats or powerboats as they ply the murky but cool waters of Clinton.
You might as well be in any landlocked campground in the Midwest because for some reason the race organizers have gone out of their way to hide the lake during the run.
For me there is something cooling and nice about running next to a body of water so I really missed seeing the lake as I snaked my way past yet another, car, camper, tent, toilet, and RV.
The Race Expo:
The Expo is held in downtown Lawrence in an empty parking lot. Not much of interest to say about this small expo expect that you can enjoy the local surf shop and micro brew after you pick-up your packet and race Schwag.
My bag of Schwag (for some strange reason) included my finisher's shirt. And you have to believe that giving out the finisher's shirt before the race has got to be bad Mojo..it certainly was for me.
FYINTKS (For Your Information Need To Know Secrets):
- There are so many loops on the run that if you decided that perhaps your race time is better served by running a 10.4 mile, or perhaps 8.9 mile half marathon, you could certainly do so without much fear of ever missing a timing mat. Please note that I'm not encouraging this illegal loop hole in the loopy run, but instead pointing out a potential problem to the race organizers that should be resolved.
- Parking at the race site can be a problem. Unless you enjoy a mile long pre-race hike with all of your gear, I would suggest that you get to transition early. Also, once the race starts it can be almost impossible for spectators to drive to the finish. They should either plan on joining you in the pre-down hours, or get a camp site, or be willing to hike about a mile to see you cross the finish line.
- The weather in Kansas in June is like the weather in Florida in June but without the ocean, or the ocean breeze. Plan on heat and humidity and plenty of water.
- There was no cola (except for one station at the very end), or pretzels, or fruit at any of the aid stations by the time I got to them. I have to admit that I'm a big fan of anything but power bars and power gels when I get to the run part of the race. Alas this race offered only the standard packaged power aides without the variety of fresh, frozen, and/or unhealthy junk food snacks that I so long for during the run.
- And in case you were wondering, unlike Kona, there is no surfing in the Kansas corn fields...at least none that I saw.