Are you new to long course racing in 2018? Here is our very brief guide to long-course races in the Southeast!
70.3 Florida, Haines City Florida (near Orlando).
This race is drivable but you’ll likely want to take an extra day on the front and back end for rest and recovery. Don’t let the fact that it’s in Florida fool you. This race has rolling hills and a lake swim.
Advantages- If you're going to do a late season Ironman that could be hot and hilly (Chattanooga), this course is a great test run. Also, you can take the family to the area theme parks after the race (score major bonus points!).
Disadvantages - This course can be HOT. Especially if you're coming from nice spring weather in Georgia.
70.3 Gulf Coast, Panama City Beach, Florida.
If you’re considering Ironman Florida, this is a good race to get a feel for ocean swimming and a flat, (potentially windy) course. It’s an easy drive from the Atlanta-area and can be a fun beach weekend for spectators.
Advantages: The course is flat and the swimming in the gulf can be calmer than other ocean swims. It's an economical race. You can typically rent a condo or beach house for a good price at this time of year!
Disadvantages: Because of the time of year, the swim often gets canceled or shortened due to storms in the gulf and the bike course can be very windy.
This is a great race for anyone coming from Atlanta. The swim is only 300 meters up river before you turn for a mostly downriver swim. The bike course is rolling hills - easier than the bike course at Cartersville with one steep but short climb. The run course has a few big hills but lots of great crowd support.
Advantages: Typically has really good weather, wetsuit legal swim, current support for nonswimmer and it is a great course for spectators.
Disadvantages: The bike course will be fairly crowded because it's such a popular race and there are a few killer hills on the run course.
Check out this video with the scoop on Chattanooga 70.3 from our coaching partner, Energy Lab.
Mountains to Main Street Race Festival, Greenville, SC.
If you’re looking for a non-Ironman branded 70.3 race, the Mountains to Main Street festival is a great early season race. (Note this race was canceled in 2017 because of storms but plans to be back in 2018)
Advantages: Less expensive and less crowded than an Ironman branded race. There are several events throughout the weekend so friends or family can join you to compete. It’s a well-run event with great hometown support
Disadvantages: Two transition areas can be more challenging to navigate at your first race. The budget for a race like this is much smaller than an Ironman branded race so you won’t find the same level of staging and hoopla (which could also be an advantage!)
Raliegh 70.3, Raleigh, NC.
If April or May feel a little too soon for you to race but you’re looking to race before the heat of summer kicks in, Raleigh is a good choice.
Advantages: This race is extremely organized with a great bike and run course. The bike course goes through some beautiful areas and the run is two loops on a closed path with great crowd support.
Disadvantages: It has been known to be very humid at this race and two transition areas can be a bit daunting for first-time racers.
Lake Logan Half , Canton, NC
This is a non-Ironman branded race in the mountains of Western North Carolina near Asheville. It's one of the most beautiful settings you'll find for a race and makes for a great weekend getaway. With the half on Saturday and an Olympic on Sunday, it's a great spot for teams or families to race.
Advantages: The swim is in a spring-fed lake so it's guaranteed to be wetsuit legal even in early August. The course is seriously stunning and you'll really feel like you disconnected for a weekend. (no cell service at the race site). The race is not large so you'll never feel crowded on the course.
Disadvantages: Don't let the beauty fool you, this is the toughest half-distance bike course in the Southeast. You'll encounter some serious climbing on the course. The race site is a bit isolated with one road in and out spectators should plan to bring everything they need for the day when they arrive!
70.3 Augusta, Augusta, GA
This race is known as a beginner-friendly late-season race. Popular for its fast down-river swim and flat run, Augusta is typically the biggest 70.3 race in the U.S.
Advantages: This is a late season race for anyone who feels like they need a longer build up to training. It is also known as one of the easiest swims in Ironman (there's a rumor that a bag of potato chips made the swim cut off one year). The bike course doesn't have any major climbs and the run is pancake flat.
Disadvantages: It can be hot in Augusta! The last two years have boasted temperatures in the 90's on race day rending the race a non-wetsuit swim and very hot run temps with little shade.
Typically on the same weekend as Augusta (but not in 2018), Ironman Chattanooga is a regional favorite. The swim is a fast downriver swim that's typically wetsuit legal with a rolling bike course and some challenging hills on the run.
Advantages: The swim is great for weaker swimmers who want to tackle an Ironman. Even if it's not wetsuit legal, the current from the flow of the dam makes the swim fast. Great crowd support and a great place for family members to hang out during a long day of racing.
Disadvantages: It can be very hot in late September in the Southeast. Some years the course has seen temperatures in the upper-90's making for a long bike and run. Oh and there a few hills on the run.....
Ironman Louisville, Louisville, KY
This race was once the race everyone was proud to survive because it was held in August - the heat and humidity led to many DNF's (did not finish) over the years. Now that the race has moved to October, it's almost a magical race.
Advantages: It's hands down the best finish line in Ironman outside of Kona. You have to see it to believe it - just google it! It also has a fast downriver swim, nice rolling bike course and well-supported run.
Disadvantages: Louisville is raced on the same weekend as Kona so most of the attention in the Ironman world is on Kona (oh and there's another race in KY).
70.3 North Carolina, Willmington, NC
This race was known as Beach to Battleship and was a regional favorite even before Ironman purchased it a few years ago.
Advantages: The swim is in a channel (not the ocean) and is wetsuit legal. You get the triple whammy of a little current assist, wetsuit legal and salt water. The bike and run are fairly flat and the temperatures tend to be perfect in Willmington at this time of year.
Disadvantages: It is the end of hurricane season and with the crazy weather patterns of the last several years you could have anything from strong wings to a hurricane warning on race day.
Ironman Florida, Panama City Beach, Florida
This race was once one of the fastest races to sell out (in about 7-minutes) on the Ironman circuit but with the addition of Chattanooga and Louisville moving to October, it rarely sells out anymore. It's still a great first-timer race.
Advantages: A fun weekend away at the beach. Wetsuit legal and a salt-water swim for extra buoyancy. The bike and run area flat and the weather is usually perfect!
Disadvantages: It is two-loop ocean swim which means you have to get out and loop back into the water and it can be choppy in late November. The course can also be incredibly windy.
Have you raced any of these races? Leave a comment with your feedback to help people decide which race to choose!
If you want to get more scoop on long course racing, including tips for deciding if now is the right time, locations to train and more, sign up here.