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Back at the beginning of April, Ironman announced the Ironman Virtual Club, which includes weekly virtual challenges and virtual races (called Ironman VR). Here are the full details on how to participate in the IM Virtual Club and how to sign up for VR races.
Almost every weekend since then has featured a different free VR race for athletes to compete in—mostly Olympic- or half-distance duathlons. As number of participants has grown, though—over 110,000 people have now registered for the Ironman Virtual Club—there have been growing concern about potential cheating. Ironman CEO Andrew Messick previously acknowledged, “You could get some results that were a little bit wacky,” like 60-year-olds putting times down that were faster than pro athletes. In May, Ironman added a “Challenger” division to its VR races to address some of those issues and announced that 70.3 Worlds spots would be up for grabs in a Championship series of virtual races.
These divisions and the championship series come with additional rules. We’re going to break down how it works here and what you need to know. You can also see the full Ironman VR schedule for July and August (as well as other virtual race options).
What’s the Ironman VR Challenger Division?
There are now two divisions to the Ironman VR races: Classic and Challenger. There is also a Championship division with a series of races (more on that below).
The Classic division is essentially anything goes. You have to do the three legs of the race—so far, they’ve been run-bike-run-in a given time period over the weekend, but you can do them in any order and on any piece of equipment you want—outside or inside. While there are some rules about how much extra distance over the given race distance you can upload, the Classic division is largely designed for athletes who just want to participate and don’t necessarily have a smart trainer or fancy equipment.
The Challenger division has some regulations on it, in an attempt to ensure fairness and cut down on user error. Most notably, the bike portion must be done either outside or on the virtual platform Rouvy in race mode. The run must be done outside. You can still do the activities in any order you want and they have to be within the timeframe. You also must make your activities public and connect your Rouvy account to the Ironman Virtual Club platform in advance—for data upload and for verification.
Both divisions require that you register in advance and upload your activities by the given deadline.
The Ironman VR Championship Series
If you want to be eligible for the a 70.3 Worlds slot in your age group, then you have to compete in the Championship division—a series of four VR races over four weeks. Your results will be based on your best three of four races; and, as of now, you have to complete the half-distance race as one of your three events. In order to be eligible for the championship series, you must have done a previous VR or real-world race with Ironman, so that they have a record of you and can spot-check abnormal results.
The second championship series of races is currently underway, with the third race of the series—VR16, a half-distance—happening this weekend. The next four-week championship series begins with VR18 on Aug. 7-9 (an Olympic-distance event) and then continues over the following weekends through Aug. 28-30.
The slots will be awarded to the 2021 70.3 World Championships in St. George via an online roll down process that hasn’t yet been finalized. Each Olympic-distance event earns the age-group winner 50 points and the half-distance race earns the winner 100 points. The maximum number of points someone could earn then, over three races (two Olympics and a half) is 200 points. Slots will be allocated to each age group via the usual process and will then be awarded in each age group based on a total number of points earned over the three races.
How Do I Compete in the Ironman VR Championship Series?
If you want to get one of those 70.3 Worlds spots for St. George, then you need to make sure you follow all the rules. You can read the full Ironman VR Championship rules, but here are some key points:
- You must first register with the Ironman Virtual Club and set up your Rouvy account. You will want to connect your platforms before you begin your event, so that when you ride in Rouvy it counts in the Ironman VR race!
- You must do the run outside and you must do the ride on Rouvy, on the designated course for that weekend, and in race mode (not training mode, which it defaults to). You also must make your profile public, so that it can be verified.
- The run can NOT have a net downhill, so to be safe make sure your GPS records correctly and give yourself a slight uphill buffer. (And, yes, you need a GPS watch.) The run is counted as elapsed time with any stoppages. You also need to wear a heart rate monitor.
- You must do it on one of these trainers (per Ironman rules): TechnoGym: MyCycling, Tacx: all NEO and Flux models, Wahoo: Kickr, Kickr Core, Kickr Bike, Saris: all Hammer models (H1, H2, H3), ELITE: Direto X, Drivo II, Suito, Zumo. (One note: This list of approved trainers has been updated since the first series of races, and some people had trouble with their trainer getting them DQ’d in the original races. Check the list before you begin the next championship series.)
- You do have to take a photo of you weighing yourself before getting on the trainer and use that weight in the Rouvy system—it may come up in verification of your results.
- The run-bike-run legs have to be completed in the order listed and you have to complete them within 12 hours.
A Few Tips
Because there are a lot of little rules to follow and details to keep track, it’s almost like doing your first triathlon again—when a transition checklist helps! To that end, here are some tips we’ve learned. First and foremost: Spend some time beforehand getting your trainer and Rouvy system set up, so you’re ready to go. Ironman has a video on how to get set up with Rouvy.
- Get warmed up before you start. Because the clock doesn’t start until you press start, you’ll want to do a warm-up run before you press go. Same with the trainer: ride some before the race officially starts.
- However, keep in mind that if you have your watch set to auto-sync and upload your files, your warm-up activity could sync and end up counting in your results. Don’t accidentally start before you mean to.
- To that end, you also don’t want to run extra—it’ll count in your total time—and you don’t want to run less—it’ll disqualify you. So plot your course well.
- You must do the events in order and within 12 hours, but use your time wisely to figure out the best rest and recovery (cool down and warm-up) strategy in between run-bike-run legs.