Summing it up: Lake Michigan is going to be Lake Michigan. The bumpy bike ride? It’s true. You won’t see any zoo animals, but you will see cows. A nice race and worth doing.
July 19, 2015
LocationExpo & Registration: Racine Civic Center, 5 5th Street, Racine, WI 53403 Transition Area: North Beach Park, Barker Street & Michigan Boulevard, Racine, WI 53403 The transition area (along with start and finish) is located about half a mile north of the registration/expo area, with a meandering drive or ride that goes through/around the Racine Yacht Club. (Main Street is basically downtown Racine proper.) So this race is a bit different from other Ironman branded races in that the expo area is not particularly convenient relative to the race itself. Parking is fine for the registration/expo area. I found it to be a bit tight for the transition area. The closest is on the streets to the south of the park (where the swim exit is), and along Michigan Avenue that runs west of the park. Most of the parking will be in the residential areas to the west of the park. Also, I saw a lot of people just park along Main Street, which also has parking garages, and ride their bikes down to transition.
It’s on the website, dude
75 degrees at the start, clear skies.
79 degrees at the start of the run.
Wetsuit legal (59 F)
(The usual disclaimer if you look a the times the associated data: I am a very slow swimmer.)
The swim is point-to-point from the north end of the park to the south. You walk from the transition area (paved) to the start. The finish is a little bit south of the transition area.
As always, remember this about a swim in the Great Lakes: You are swimming in an inland sea. Lake Michigan is going to be what Lake Michigan is going to be on race day. This report is from 2015 when the swim was very benign. In 2014, the water was so rough that there was a large number of DNFs (Did Not Finishes) out of the swim. So, it is what it is.
Sun is not a problem after you get around the first buoy, and easy sighting after that. There is a lighthouse on the point as you are heading south that makes for excellent sighting, but in addition you have the large boys in a line to follow.
We had an unusual weather occurrence. The reported water temperature the evening before the race was reported at 65 degrees (F), which is short sleeve wetsuit temperature for me. Race morning, it was 59 degrees, which would be long sleeve and heavy cap conditions for me, if I had had them with me. I’m a bit mystified as to how a giant body of water like that drops 6 degrees in 12 hours, but whatever. But that brings us to a nice feature of this race. In the water just to the south of the start line, they have an area where you are allowed to warm up (or cool off, depending on how you look at it!) I made use of that by getting in and out of the water and gradually acclimating myself to the unexpected cold. When my wave started, it was then a pretty easy adjustment.
The swim exit is a little bit south of the transition area. Contrasted to it’s sister race Steelhead 70.3 on the other side of Lake Michigan, this transition is fairly easy. You do not have much of an uphill to go on the beach (or a really long run in dry sand), and at the right turn near Barker Street you are on paved pathway. This is one of those races where you run parallel to the transition area and enter from the far side (hence the hairpin turn you see below). The bike mount occurs on Barker Street to the south of the transition area.
First things first: Make darned sure you leave your bike in low gear when you set up in transition! That’s true for every race, but especially this one. You are going to come out of transition, turn right, pass the mount/dismount line, get on the bike, and go up the hill that is the bluff overlooking the North Beach Park as you head up to Michigan Avenue.
Beyond that, everything you have heard about the bike course is true, and can be summed up in one word:
There are probably something like 6 miles of road (the three heading out of town and the three heading back in) that are smooth. The rest is that chip seal stuff and it is constant bumping. Most people find this to be an irritant and one way it might manifest itself is limiting how much time you will be able to spend in aero. It would be a good idea to spend some time riding on similar pavement before this race, if you would like to be used to it. I was fortunate in a bit of serendipity in that I had a four hour bike ride in my training plan two weeks before the race, and happened to be in northeast Indiana where my favorite empty road is exactly that – bumpy. (Denizens of Dekalb County, IN – I’m talking about County Road 4.) So by the time I rode at Racine, I had an idea of what was in store.
The course itself is in the flat/rolling category. In fact, after the initial climb noted above, it is completely flat for about 6 miles before you leave town.The overall grade is slightly up hill the first half and slightly downhill for the second half. You will see cows.
The ride ends going down the same hill you came up, so please remember to brake.
Important note: The map below is from 2015 and there were some modifications in the middle of the course due to construction, so (obviously) check your Athlete Guide for your route.
No, I did not actually do a 35 second T2, I had some buttonology problems with my Garmin. Going from memory (it has been a year since I did this), not much that I remember. The run is to the north and that’s where the Run Out is located in transition.
You will head back north in the direction you went to go to the swim start, but you will be going up the bluff this time. Unlike the bike, you don’t go straight up it but rather you will go up it at an angle.
The course is a double out and back. It has been a year since I did the race, but here are the things that stick out in my mind:
- It is a reasonably pretty run. For the most part you will be running with Lake Michigan in sight, which is a nice distraction. It also makes for the possibility of a breeze!
- It is not a particulate hilly course, with the notable exception of the area that I mentioned above involving climbing the bluff. The course is out and back, and you get to do this a couple of times. You can see it in the elevation profile in the linked Garmin profile below.
- Support was fine.
- Shade is above average (not a death march in the Sun), there are quite a few stands of mature trees along the route.
- Don’t be too excited about the “you get to run past the zoo”. You are running past the back side of the zoo, which consists of a wall. But you can still see the Lake, so it’s all good.
Stuff to do
My family went with me and can report on stuff, as they dropped me off at the expo and I just bummed rides the rest of the weekend.
Racine is between Chicago and Milwaukee, so there are a couple of metropolitan areas to visit. As far as Racine is concerned, there is the Zoo, which my family visited and found worthwhile. Check out the bird feeding experience, it was different because instead of cups of nectar, they use seeds on a stick.
Visit the S C Johnson campus. These are the Johnson Wax people, a family owned business. You need reservations (very easy to do). The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. And if you stop in the gift shop, pick me up one of their cycling jerseys, with the Scrubbing Bubbles guys on it. I’m a size medium. They aren’t available online.
Eat a Kringle. Apparently it is a thing. You find them in bakeries. My family went to O & H Danish Bakery.
Traditionally, Racine is the first (or close to the first) Ironman 70.3 race for qualification for the following season’s Ironman 70.3 World Championships. As the announcer mentioned many times, if this is something that interests you, it is worth attending the roll down ceremony. Patience is often rewarded.