Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh, A Future Classic?

I'm sure I'll look back on this race and say "I was there at the first one".

The new half-iron distance event has all the ingredients for a classic.

More people want to race this distance, so there are more events to cater for them.

That means a new event, even one with the Ironman brand, needs something special, a Unique Selling Point.

Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh has four special somethings, and the theme which connects them all is this - it's going to be a tough, tough race.


Swim
Firstly, the 1.2 mile swim is in the North Sea.  The bay at Prestonpans is partly sheltered, certainly more so than the original venue by Gosford House, but if the wind is from the north then those waves would stack up.  However, the forecast and tidal streams suggest something more complicated.

The swim will start roughly mid-tide on the flood (low water is 03:28).  That's roughly when the tidal stream is moving fastest, flooding into the Firth of Forth.  This is good because it will carry us along the longest second leg of the swim.  But the wind is forecast to come from the west, so we'll be swimming against that in a, potentially, wind-against-tide situation i.e. lumpy.  Still, it'll be what it'll be.  If it's too rough they'll shorten the swim.

Bike
Then the bike route plays with your head pre-race.  Which sort of bike to choose?  There are long, draggy straights where a tri-bike would be perfect, especially given the weather forecast.  We're expecting a westerly wind and, with split transitions, we'll mostly be riding into the wind.  What's more there are no big, long climbs... so a tri-bike... yes?  Well... somehow there's almost 1000m of ascent on this course, much of it on a loop at the outer limit of the ride, but still lots sprinkled around the place.  Plus there are sharp turns, sudden dips down into and across valley's, rising up the far side.  So there'll be lots of surges, accelerations and getting back up to speed, plus short leg sapping climbs.

Initially I was going for my Tri bike, a Cervelo P2 with a 32t cassette to help with those hills.  Now I've decided to switch to my much lighter Parlee, set up with tri-bars etc as I used at Weymouth and Ironman Maastricht.  Although I'm lower and more aero on the Cervelo I fear I'll 'burn too many matches' powering it into those hills and surges.  On a lighter bike I'll save effort for the run.  And what a run.

Volcano anyone?
This is the visual selling point of this event.  Not many capital cities have an extinct volcano in the middle, and we get to run around one side of it (the bike comes in around the other).  But volcanos are steep, and I know people who do their training hill-reps on the section of course up which we'll be running.  You can see it in that photo above from the IM website.  And we'll do it three times.  Oh, and there's a tunnel too.

That said, it still totals less than 100m of ascent compared to 200m at IM70.3 Staffordshire, a surprisingly hilly run.

Run
That's three reasons why Edinburgh will be a classic, but I promised you four.  The fourth is the race director Paul McGreal and the Durty Events team.  If anyone can run Scotland's first Ironman brand event success it's Paul.  The man behind the extraordinary Celtman extreme triathlon, he introduced Swim Run to the UK, organises the friendliest triathlon I know on Craggy Island, and has been behind the success of very big events including the World Orienteering Championships in 2015.

Paul is also one of the good guys and will be working hard all this week to make this race a success for everyone.  I emailed him some feedback from my Staffordshire experience and, well let's just say if you're nervous before this weekend it's nothing compared to what he's going through.

So I'm doing a tough race, two weeks after a pretty bad race for me.  I'm not expecting a PB!  I will take time to look around and drink it all in, especially on that run.  I want the mental photographs.  I want to remember - "I was there at the first".

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