This race report on the 2021 IM70.3 Florida comes from TriEndeavors athlete Matt Chabrier.
A quick, but much delayed recap of the Florida 70.3 in Haines City, April 18, 2021- one of the first Ironman brand races back since the start of Covid.
For those that prefer the TLDR version: Ironman took Covid pretty seriously. As for the rest of the state of Florida that I saw- not so much…
Haines City proved a great spot to race in April for several reasons- plenty warm, easy access from the Orlando airport and a race registered to capacity with about 1500 participants. I used Tri-Bike transport from the Pacific Cycling and Triathlon shop which proved super easy, and the staff at the shop friendly.
The race was great but proved challenging for this triathlon newcomer, with Covid precautions throughout:
We had dedicated check in times Saturday to keep from too many crowds. I took the early morning option and had no trouble getting registered and picking up my bike for transition setup while staying distant in line. The staff were all wearing masks and all behind plastic shields as well. Additional staff helped ensure mask wearing and separation within the line. While the IM staff did a great job of enforcing Covid protections, once off the premises, every restaurant or public venue I went to had the majority of people not wearing masks or keeping space.
Swim- Lake Eva is an interesting course with several turns- Out- two rights, two lefts, two more rights then back in. Almost “M” shaped. However the key challenge of the day was the temperature coming in at 78F (when measured at 4AM…) – no wetsuits!
Morning of, the same Covid precautions were in place- masks required to enter transition. Heading down from transition to the start did involve some tight packed crowds on the walk, although some effort was made to prevent this. The lineup for the swim kept everyone distanced the whole way: separate rows based on projected swim time, a 3 person every 5 seconds stagger for the swim start, and masks provided and worn up until just before the swim start line.
Exiting the swim was another close traffic flow area and no masks unless requested. There was some natural spacing from the staggered start.
The bike course in Haines City has light undulating hills +/- <3% grade most of the way and is quite fast. It was HOT today, with temperatures starting in the low 80s rising to the high 80s. 3 aid stations along the route with volunteers handing off water and gatorade bottles plus a few food options. When coming back into transition (same spot) we were handed water- all staff wearing masks.
The run course is a two lap course also made of relatively light hills, with one particularly mean one right at the start of miles 1 and 7. I walked about half this hill and through the aid stations which turned out more than fine for race results. At 87-88F for the run it was a temperature battle- aid stations had plenty of water, ice, gatorade, red bull and others. Everyone working aid stations wore a mask as well.
After the finish line we were handed masks (not to mention the finishing medal!) to enter the food tent with and then shuffled to either sit on the lawn or back to bikes.
Overall it was a great race experience and I felt that Ironman did a solid job taking precautions all things considered. That said- this is still a massive event so some risk is certainly there. Fingers crossed you are vaccinated and have races on schedule when reading this!