I was reading Jeff from Dangle The Carrot's post today in which he was talking about two new Ironman races - One in Quebec, Canada and one in New York City. Right off the bat, I decided that the Quebec race sounded very appealing but the New York race sounded appalling. Quebec is beautiful, almost European like. It sounds like a perfect place to race to me. New York is beautiful too, but in it's own unique way. And in the spirit of New York's "own unique way", dealing with an Ironman within the city limits (never mind crossing in to New Jersey) seems to me like a frustrating proposition at best.
I had an hour to kill on a flight from Oakland to Orange County this evening, so I started to think about what the perfect local Ironman might look like. Since I live in Huntington Beach, I naturally decided that focusing the race in downtown HB made sense. Has anyone run the Surf City Marathon? The transition area would be where the marathon's race expo is, and the finish line would be at the pier.
Laying out the swim and run was easy. For the swim, I worked backwards and found the point 2.4 miles down the beach from the transition area. Presto! I had my swim start. For the run, the distance between the Santa Ana River and The San Gabriel River is conveniently just over 13 miles. So the run is one big loop - bookended by two rivers - along Pacific Coast Highway.
Mapping out the bike course would be the hardest part because judging 112 mile cycling routes in and around Orange County isn't something I do every day. But I though about it for awhile and figured out something I thought would be pretty close. And it was - except for a few confusing twists and turns in the last 10 miles, it's one big loop and worked out to within a half mile.
Since this is a fantasy race, I did take some liberties. For example, part of the bike course is on a freeway. Also, I'd either have to be the absolute best salesman in the world or have Jedi Mind Tricks at my disposal when pitching the course to city and county officials. Because I doubt I could get them to come close to shutting down the roads I would need closed for the day.
I plotted it all out on mapmyride.com, check it out:
As I mentioned, the swim was pretty easy to figure out. The buoy line would be about 300 yards offshore. This is far enough out to be well beyond the outside surf break, even on the most epic of surfing days - Huntington Beach is "Surf City USA", after all. Here's a bonus - the prevailing currents tend to move north. This will be a fast swim.
Sorry about all the markers on the map, it makes it a little confusing. But let me explain the course to you because it's pretty awesome, and also pretty tough.
From the transition area, the course starts by heading south down Pacific Coast Highway before turning inland on the Santa Ana River trail about 2.5 miles from the start.
Then for the next 26 miles you are on a bike path. The good news is that it's fast and flat. You'll probably also have a tail wind. The bad news is that it's narrow - so if you get caught behind slow riders, passing could be tough.
At about mile 28, you finally get off the path. This is where I took my liberties, and you now turn south onto a freeway. But it's a freeway over a small mountain range, and for the next 6 or 7 miles you are climbing. When you finally crest, you've got a few miles of downhill before turning southeast into Santiago Canyon. And once in the Canyon, you've got a good 30 miles of circuitous and undulating terrain as you make your way back to the coast at Dana Point.
From Dana Point, you head north. You are now back on Pacific Coast Highway. This means another 10 miles of undulating terrain through San Juan Capistrano and Monarch Beach. Though it's very scenic, you most likely will be riding into a headwind.
When you reach Laguna Beach, you'll head inland again through Laguna Canyon. It's a slight but steady climb for the next 7 miles. But from there, you'll get a nice downhill into Irvine and then it flattens out, at least for awhile.
At about Mile 92, you'll hit the last climb on San Joaquin Road. It's short - maybe a mile. But it's steep and probably the last thing that you want to see at this point in the race. Luckily, when you hit height-of-land, you'll take a right and bomb down Newport Coast Drive back to Pacific Coast Highway.
From there it's nearly a straight shot north back to Huntington Beach. There are a few detours into Costa Mesa to add some distance, but you'll know you've got two miles to go when you see the Santa Ana River. You've just done about 4500 feet of climbing.
In contrast to the bike course, the run is pretty simple. Once out of the transition area you'll head north for 10 miles through Sunset Beach and Seal Beach. At mile 10 you'll u-turn, head back the way you came, pass the transition area and run along what was the beginning of the bike course. At mile 23, you'll u-turn again and run the last 3.2 miles to the finish at the Huntington Beach pier.
Sound any good? Let me know.
And if you have the time to obsessively plot out a course and then post about it, I'd love to see what you could get going in your corner of the world....