Travel and Accommodations
The Ironman Arizona venue is one of the easiest to travel to in North America. The Phoenix International airport is only 10 minutes away from downtown Tempe and it serves numerous airlines (in high volume). Hotels and accommodation options are plentiful as Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale is a major tourist attraction. If you stay within walking distance of the race site, I suggest not renting a car and just taking a cab from the airport.
The IMAZ bike course can be accessed easily prior to the race, but it does incorporate several busy areas of traffic. Be aware of your surroundings prior to race day and be prepared to change a flat on your pre-race rides. There tends to be excessive debris on the roads before being swept the night before the race. Running around Tempe Town Lake is the primary choice for pre-race workouts if you are staying close to the race site. Swimming is a little more challenging as you are not allowed to swim in Tempe Town Lake except for Ironman’s organized swims. Since everyone has to swim at the same time and enter and exit from the same location, it can be a bit crowded. There are plenty of pools throughout the PHX area and I recommend using SwimmersGuide.com to locate one.
An additional pre-race note: The bike check in at Arizona in the morning was one of the longest lines I have seen at any of their events. I would suggest going later (1-3 p.m.) if crowd avoidance is a priority.
IMAZ is usually temperate, with cool-to-cold mornings and temperate-to-warm afternoons. It is not unusual for the wind to kick up as the day progresses, particularly when riding along the Beeline Highway. It did rain one year so be prepared for that variable.
It gets cold in the desert overnight, so dress warmly when you show up on race morning. The cool temperatures are nice when the race gets started, but wear several layers to counter the cool, dry desert air.
If you drive to Town Lake on race morning, you should have plenty of options with the parking garages that IM has reserved. Check beforehand on which lots will and will not be paid parking as they can sometimes be situated right next to one another.
Tempe Town Lake is chilly; typically with temperatures in the low 60s. The race starts before sunrise so hopping in the water will be a bit brisk at first. The swim is a deep water start so you you will have to spend some time in the water prior to the gun going off.
The swim course is a one-loop course that heads directly east and then back west to the start. There is plenty of room along the start line so everyone can spread out fairly easily. Since the course heads due east, you may encounter some strong sun glare before making the turn to head back home.
The bike course consists of three out-and-backs (not loops) of approximately 37 miles/60 kilometers. The first half of each out-and-back is flat with some turns as you make your way east to the Beeline Highway. The out-and-back section along the Beeline has a gentle rise to the turnaround, with most of the elevation gains happening in the final miles before heading back to town (more of a climb/hill in this final bit). The wind can play a factor here and it usually builds through the day making each out-and-back have a slightly different dynamic than the previous ones.
The bike course will become heavily congested as you approach your second and third loops; this can create some challenges, particularly in the aid stations. Be prepared for varying speeds of athletes as you enter and exit each aid station and be careful.
Additionally, if you would like to get your special needs bag, be aware that it occurs on a faster section of the bike course (coming back south on the Beeline). You will have to slow down or stop to get it, so make those arrangements in your race plan beforehand.
The run is two loops, incorporating Tempe Town Lake and some of the surrounding areas. It is mostly flat with some rises around the lake and one hill (per loop) along Washington Avenue. The run makes it’s way past transition numerous times, giving athletes a nice boost from the crowd support. The weather is usually great for running, but it can be a bit on the warm side some years.
IMAZ is a spectator friendly venue. Spectators can walk alongside the lake front watching as much of the swim as they prefer. The bike course comes by transitions several times as does the run course. Since you are so close to downtown Tempe and Arizona State University, there are plenty of restaurants and bars to keep spectators fueled!
After the race, head over to Four Peaks Brewery or Oregano’s Pizza. My favorite place in the Phoenix area is Nello’s Pizza in Ahwatukee, but (sadly) it is closed on Mondays which was really, really disappointing when I found that out a few years ago. However, if you stick around to Tuesday, go check them out.