I was thinking about what my favorite locations were for each discipline…my choices only include races I’ve done!
Even though the water was bone-chilling cold, the Boise 70.3 location is awesome. The drive up to Lucky Peak Reservoir is majestic and stunning. It feels like you are on top of the world up there and you can’t wait to bike over the dam and down into the Valley!
My runner up option would have to be the 1.5mi Alcatraz swim. I’ve swam this leg in nine of the Alcatraz triathlon’s I’ve done (there’s three races now!) and loved most of them It’s quite an adventure jumping off the boat just a few feet from the dock at Alcatraz. In some races, you start when you jump off and for others the kayaks attempt to hold everyone back until the horn blows. My times have ranged from 34min to 56min. That 56min race was pure hell, as 90% of racers missed the aquatic park entrance due to a swift current pushing us too far. I had to fight harder than ever against the current to make it in. Most racers washed up down the beach and had to run back barefoot about half a mile!
For this discipline, I needed to think about my strength on the bike. I’m a bigger guy and love to hammer the rolling hills. Given this, the Vineman 70.3 course is my favorite bike course. The bike portion of the Vineman Ironman 70.3 is simply a great course. It is challenging, but not too difficult. Its many rolling hills and curves are technically demanding. It has just under 2000 feet of climbing, including a 400 foot climb on Chalk Hill, which is enough of a challenge because of the location. Its comes at mile 45 of the ride…keeping you honest in your training and race pacing. But most of all the course is extremely beautiful, passing endless miles of vineyards and dozens of wineries.
My runner up Bike course would have to be the Donner Lake Triathlon. This race takes place just south of Lake Tahoe here in Norther California. This year marks their 30th annual race up there! The bike is 40K (24.8 miles) and is an out-and-back course. Cyclists start their ride with a 3 mile climb up to the top of Donner Summit (about 1200’). This portion of the bike course is closed to all vehicular traffic (except emergency vehicles). Upon reaching the summit you will have a great view of Donner Lake and the Truckee Valley. You continue westbound along Old Highway 40, passing Sugar Bowl and Donner Ski Ranch, cabins, ponds and other wonderful scenery. This portion of the course is relatively flat with small rolling hills. Upon reaching I-80, you will cross over the freeway and continue towards Kingvale and the turn around point. Although its slightly uphill for the next 8-10mi, it’s not that bad a climb. The course concludes with the fun descent down Donner Summit where they remind you to use extreme caution.
Here I am choosing the best overall run experience and that would be the Avia Wildflower Triathlon. I’ve raced the Olympic distance race seven times now! It’s a very challenging run course after a brutal rolling hills bike. The crowd support is the best anywhere! There are 10k racers there that weekend and most have camped out. Everyone cheers you on and the college volunteers are great, especially on the 2mi run up a nasty hill midway through the run! Once you crest over it’s all downhill from there and you can hear the crowds roar as you get close. This is a must do race for those looking for the perfect example of a what our triathlon community is all about!
Being a glutton for punishment, I have to choose the Alcatraz run as my runner-up. This is a very challenging xterra like course running along the rugged Pacific Coast Trial. You then run on the soft beach sand and then up the 400 step sand ladder as you head back up to the Golden Gate Bridge. This experience will drain the legs of even the best professionals, as there is nothing like it anywhere in triathlon. More than one triathlete has used the hand cable to help them walk up the stairs. The stairs are to the run what the currents and waves are to the swim.
What’s your build it yourself dream triathlon?