This year marks the fifth anniversary of IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam and what a way to celebrate with winning the right to hold the Asia-Pacific Championship in Danang.
More than 2,000 amateur and professional triathletes are expected to descend on Danang for May 11 & 12 for what should be an amazing carnival atmosphere like never before for this event.
In order to bring you this course review, we asked three-time Australian Champion, two-time IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Champion, 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion and 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam Winner Tim Reed to answer a few questions about the Danang course.
SWIM 1.9km (one loop – rectangle)
The first buoy and turn to the left is just 300m from the beach, meaning things can get a little congested at that first turn. Generally, however, the swim is regarded as straight forward, but keep in mind there are six turns to negotiate.
Water temperatures are as you would expect in Danang during May (around 21C). Typically, swells are moderate for experienced swimmers, however, last year the surf was big enough (one metre) for the organisers to consider calling the swim leg off for both the Sunrise Sprint (Saturday) and main event (Sunday).
In the end, both swim legs went ahead with close to half the field in the Sunrise Sprint either not finishing or being pulled from the surf. Therefore, be prepared for swells and plenty of white water close to shore before much calmer water out the back. Note that the run out of the water to the bike transition area is approximately 300m, so keep that in mind.
B: Are there any characteristics about the swim course unique to this event?
TR: Like most ocean swims there’s a small current. I’d take the time to swim on the course the morning before to note the current and where you will have to work a little harder and where you can slow your stroke rate and relax a little more.
B: Would you call it a “fast” or “slow” swim course?
TR: I think it can be fun! A little swell really spices things ups nicely, although last year’s swell was quite unusual, I believe. I think the salt water tends to make the swim relatively fast. I would consider it a moderately fast swim, especially if the conditions are calm.
B: Any tips for the transition from swim to bike for this course?
TR: A lot of people like to really come home hard over the final 100m of the swim. The time benefit is minimal but the physical cost to do this is significant and really not worth it. Relax over the final 100m and get ready to stand up and run. Similar to pushing the final 100m of the swim, there’s no real need to sprint the transition as your heart rate will already be really high switching between disciplines and the goal is as even an output as you can sustain to make for a very strong finish on the run. Mentally run through your head what you need to do prior to getting to your bike so that it’s a smooth process.
BIKE 90km (two loops)
The bike course is described by the organisers as “a scenic two-loop 90km bike course on smooth, well-paved roads that runs along Danang’s pristine coastline and past some of the city’s key landmarks.”
Apart from the major bridge crossing before the turnaround on each loop, the bike course is flat, but gets windy as the day goes on and conditions get hotter. For many amateur triathletes, they will find the going tough due to little shade along the course, particularly from the 10km mark and onwards. Although, during our recent visit in March, trees along the route are providing more shade than last year.
B: Describe the bike course in general.
TR: It’s a flat course. It can be windy, especially on the final 30-40kms, but typically nothing too stressful. It’s a fast course with the heat and humidity being the slowing factors more than the terrain or road surface, which is flat and smooth.
B: What’s a good strategy for attacking the bike course?
TR: A good strategy for attacking the bike course is not to attack the bike course. As in, minimise surges and time well above goal effort, speed or power. Ideally, athletes should aim to target a HR or power 10-25bpm/10-60 watts below their lactate threshold or functional training threshold. With the fitter athletes targeting closer to threshold and the less trained closer to the lower end of the range described above.
B: Does the bike course favour any particular type of rider?
TR: The course would tend to favour heavier more muscular riders due to the lack of hills, however, the heat is not so suitable for these riders, so it evens out as somewhat equally suitable for bigger or smaller riders.
RUN 21km (out-and-back)
The run course is flat, smooth and hot…damn hot. Runners follow Danang’s beautiful coastline north to south. By the time most amateur athletes hit the run leg, the sun will be high, the wind most likely up and temperatures soaring to around 35C in the shade.
As for shade, there isn’t a great deal of it, although our recent visit to Danang indicated that there may be more shade this year at the southern end of the course, but at the northern end you’ll definitely still be out in the elements.
There are plenty of aid stations on the course, so it goes without saying to use them. The finish line is situated down on the sand just along from the swim start in front of the Hyatt Regency Danang.
B: What makes the run challenging compared to other courses you’ve run?
TR: The heat and humidity for sure. It’s a real mental battle to keep your pace in check early, slow to an adequate speed at the aid stations to keep cool and hydrated so that in the final 5-10kms of the run you’re still moving well.
B: Is there a section in the run that sorts people out and requires them to dig deep?
TR: I think 9-10kms just before the turn around point because you’re already starting to really suffer and there’s a whole half of the run still to go! It’s really important to keep the mind neutral at this point and simply focus on getting to the next aid station. Try not to think too far beyond that.
B: How are the conditions generally?
TR: Hot and humid!
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