Muskoka IRONMAN 70.3 Bike Course Review

Discomfort Zone Head Coach and founder Mike Coughlin

by Mike Coughlin

I know that many of you have been training very hard for the Muskoka IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon. As your physical preparation comes to a peak and you rest and sharpen for race day, it is a good time to review the course and plan your race day strategy. For those of you who won’t have a chance to preview the course personally, here are my thoughts from my preview of the bike course last week.

First of all, this course is 94km long instead of the normal 90km. Why? Because 94km provided the opportunity to circumnavigate the beautiful Lake of Bays south of Huntsville Ontario, a truly memorable loop course that is increasingly rare in triathlon these days. Strictly speaking, this course is a “lollipop” design, with an 8km long “stick” leading to an 88km “candy” portion of the course. Yum!

I have outlined the 3 parts of the course below, but here are the take-aways in brief.

1. In addition to being 4km longer than usual, the course is back heavy (more hills near the end), so pace yourself even more carefully than normal.

2. Riding hills intelligently will really pay off on this course. Change gears before you have to, spin the bottom of the climbs and finish each hill strong so you don’t lose momentum.

3. The ride doesn’t really start until part 3. Use parts 1 and 2 to eat and drink well, and use the bottle exchanges to make sure you have enough calories and fluid for part 3.

Part 1 (0 – 17.3km): Warm Up

This opening section on secondary roads includes the 8.3km “stick” part of the lollipop course, and has many hills and a few sharp turns.

    Key points:
  • Resist the urge to attack the hills. Your effort should feel relatively easy.

  • Pay attention to the road and other riders. This busy technical section could see crashes.

  • Start by drinking all or mostly water to settle your stomach and let your heart rate come down after the swim.

Part 2 (17.3 – 62.3 km): Settle In, Eat and Drink

This section is predominately highway and contains both the bottle exchanges at 35km and 61km. There are hills but they are the longer, more gradual hills that you see on highways. The one exception is a steep hill coming back onto the highway out of Dorset (a cute cottage community you ride through at about the 35km point).

    Key Points:
  • Use this section to eat and drink rather than push the pace.

  • Stay aerodynamic as this is the most exposed part of the course.

  • Be ready for the bottle exchanges. The 61km exchange in Baysville is important since it is the last one before the challenging ride back to T2.

Part 3 (62.3 – 94km): Ride strong and smart

The right turn onto Brunel Rd. is where the race really starts. From here, it is around 32km of progressively challenging terrain back to T2. Those of you who raced the Muskoka Chase in June will recognize the section on South Portage Road from Brunel to Brittania, but will be happy to know that there is no left turn up the big hill on Brittania. Instead, the course continues on South Portage Rd. to North Portage Rd. where a left turn is made back onto the “stick” part of the course for the final 8.3km to T2.

    Key Points:
  • This is where your pacing and nutrition will pay off.

  • Apply the strength you have conserved to the top half of each hill and keep your momentum over the top.

  • Keep eating and drinking right to the end.

  • Relax and spin the legs in the final 1-2km so you are ready for the run.

So there you have it. A challenging and beautiful course through cottage country that you won’t soon forget. Ride it intelligently, and those memories will be all the sweeter.

See you at the race!