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Course Talk: Ironman 70.3 World Championship

An inside look at this weekend’s 70.3 worlds course at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev.

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An inside look at this weekend’s 70.3 worlds course at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev.

This article was originally published in the Sept./Oct. 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine. Pick it up on newsstands today.

Heat, hills, wind and dry air—that’s what more than 1,800 top age-group and pro athletes who qualified this year can look forward to at this iconic and highly competitive race. It starts at Lake Las Vegas, near the entrance to the rugged and hilly Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and finishes in suburban Henderson, Nev., a 20-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip.


The 1.2-mile swim leg starts beneath the arches of a bridge that connects the town square of Lake Las Vegas to the transition area, goes up one side of the lake and returns along the other. Expect a no-wetsuit swim in late summer, but bring along your wetsuit just in case as the water temperatures can drop quickly if there’s rain or a cold spell the week before. Be prepared for a long run from the swim exit to the transition area.

RELATED PHOTOS: 2012 Ironman 70.3 World Championship


The 56-mile bike starts with a steep climb to the main highway that leads into the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, where you’ll encounter a seemingly endless series of rolling hills that will gradually sap the energy from your legs as the heat and wind pick up. Pro Kelly Williamson, last year’s runner-up, prepared herself mentally and physically by doing solo rides on the course in early June, when the temps started at 80 degrees at 5:30 a.m. and exceeded 100 degrees by midday. “It wasn’t pleasant, but it sure as hell made me tough for that combination of heat and hills,” she says. After a 40-mile out-and-back on Lake Mead’s North Shore Road, the course returns to the main highway and winds its way through the suburbs and casinos of Henderson, climbing sharply up over the last five miles to the Henderson Pavilion, which serves as T2.

RELATED PHOTOS: Ironman 70.3 Las Vegas Bike Course


The three-loop run course will feel much longer than 13.1 miles with your tight hamstrings and quads from the hilly bike. And in addition to having to deal with the dry air and midday sun, you’ll be running every step either uphill or downhill through neighborhoods on a concrete sidewalk or asphalt road. “This course is definitely helpful to know because it is basically a long downhill followed by a long uphill, repeat three times,” says Williamson, who ran 1:23 last year, the fastest split among the pro women. “In the heat, the difficulty really increases in the final four miles.”

RELATED: Tim O’Donnell’s 70.3-Winning Run Tips

Local wrench
Tribike Transport ( will ship your bike to and from your local bike store fully assembled to the expo. For any bike repairs or gear you may need, check out Aspen Creek Cycling, which is located near the Henderson Pavilion and offers particularly helpful and friendly service.

Pro and age-group athletes who win each division will automatically qualify for the 2014 Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Mont-Tremblant, Québec, Canada. Starting in October 2014, the Lake Las Vegas race will become Ironman 70.3 Silverman and will be a qualifying race for the 70.3 world championship.

Key workout
To prepare her legs for the hilly race, Williamson ran three loops of the Henderson run course on tired legs after a long ride, trying to run each loop faster. You can do a similar workout by finding a two-mile stretch of road that goes slightly downhill and running down and back three times in the late afternoon heat, trying to increase your pace on each lap while practicing your fueling strategy.

Best for: Athletes who thrive in desert conditions
95 degrees: Average high temp in September
78-82 degrees: Sept. water temp in Lake Las Vegas
2,543 feet: Elevation gain on bike course
551 feet: Elevation gain on three-loop run course
50: Countries athletes will come from
2,500: Volunteers

Pro quote: “I think it’s really useful to try to pace yourself in this race,” says Kelly Williamson, the 2012 runner-up. “People will crack on laps two and three, and if you control that first loop and fuel yourself, I think you stand a big chance of continuing to make up ground.”

RELATED: Ironman 70.3 World Championship To Rotate Around The World

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