IronMan 70.3 Maine is a recent addition to the Half Ironman races in North America. This race takes place in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, generally around the end of August. It features an ocean swim, followed by a single loop bike course and an out-and-back run course, with the majority on trail. In fact, this race has already been existing for several years. It was ran by different multisport organizers, before IronMan acquired it. The race draws over 2,000 participants and offers 35 world championship qualifying slots, although no professional triathletes participated in it yet.
IronMan 70.3 Maine Setup
Identically to all IronMan events, the race takes over a good part of the city. IronMan setups the village with the various vendors, the check-in tents and their merchandising pop-up store in the heart of Old Orchard Beach.
Traditionally, the finish line is right next to the village, as well as the podium and briefing areas.
IronMan 70.3 Maine has a single transition area for both T1 and T2. However, the transition area is not located next to the start or finish line. A large parking lot, about a half mile away from start and finish serves as a transition area. Unfortunately, there is no parking available next to transition, which requires a bit of walking for bike check-in and on race day.
Fortunately, Old Orchard Beach is a popular vacation destination and offers plenty of options for staying over. There is a multitude of B&B, guest houses, motels, hotels and campgrounds, all located at a walking distance from the race setup.
Prior to race day, the entire course is open for practice. The IronMan 70.3 Maine swim area is on the beach at the bottom of the iconic Old Orchard Beach pier. Since buoys are setup the day before the race, athletes can freely taste the water and get a swim workout in. The bike and run courses are accessible roads and trails on which athletes can conveniently practice throughout the year and before the race.
Race description and useful insights
The IronMan 70.3 Maine start line is located at the Old Orchard Beach, next to the pier. It is about 600 m away from the transition area, so be prepared for a bit of walk. What’s more, this walk is on a rough surface, not very comfortable for bare feet. So, plan for disposable shoes or sandals to wear. Then, the staff with collect and donate them the Salvation Army.
IronMan 70.3 Maine starts with a rolling start. Participants must line up on the beach, preferably self-seeding by estimated swim time. However, lining up for the start will be on a first-come, first-served basis. So, plan for a bit of time buffer, and be early if you want a chance to be at the front. The rolling start consists in a pair of 2-racers entering the water every 2 seconds. With around 2,000 participants, the line on the beach is significantly long, and it takes a good amount of time before everyone is started.
In theory, the start should take approximately ½ hour. In practice, it took almost 1h until the last racer hit the water. Keep that in mind when seeding yourself, depending on your race strategy, and accounting for your nutrition plan timing.
The swim course is a single loop 1.2 miles ocean swim off Old Orchard Beach pier. The swim map is as follow.
The course is very well marked with buoys roughly every 100 m. After the first turn, plenty of paddle boards are setup for assistance or resting. Beware of the Maine Atlantic Ocean chilly temperatures, which are usually around 55F at the shore but drops a couple degrees once into the course offshore. Make sure to choose your wetsuit accordingly.
The swim exit is located about 600 m further up on the beach and features a wetsuit peeling station.
The run to transition area is about a quarter mile, on a paved way. The run to transition looks a little awkward since most athletes’ feet are numb from the cold swim. As a matter of fact, you might consider neoprene socks or booties for IronMan 70.3 Maine swim. Also, note for sensitive feet: the run to transition is not a very sleek tar. It is not swept before the race and there are many small gravels which hurt!
The bike course is a single 56 miles loop of rolling hills, with a total elevation gain of 1700 ft.
Although most of the course is in the shades of pine trees, there is an exposed stretch (mile 36-39) with denser traffic. In fact, the course is not closed to traffic, but the IronMan 70.3 Maine staff and local police do a great job at regulating traffic and securing the race.
The run course is a 13.1 miles out and back, mostly flat (overall elevation of 430 ft) and with the majority on the Eastern Trail.
The trail consists in a packed gravel surface and wide enough to accommodate the two-way traffic of runners. Plenty of aid-stations are on the course, at every mile and well stocked up with the usual and typical IronMan variety of food and beverages.
The finish line is located right near to the beach where the race starts, and next to the IronMan village. The IronMan 70.3 Maine finish line mark punctuates a straight flat stretch. It is visible from about a half mile away on the course. It’s a great setting for a nice sprint down the chute. There are plenty of spots for spectators to cheer on participants.
Moreover, there is a big screen with a live feed of the finish line at the IronMan village.
Around the race and planning tips
Things to do
Old Orchard Beach is popular destination for vacations. Which means that there is plenty of fun things to do and see around the town. Do not miss the remarkable pier on the ocean featuring plenty of small shops and restaurants. Right at the entrance of the pier, along the beach there is an amusement park featuring a Ferris wheel and roller coaster.
Best food pick
The Grand Avenue features plenty of restaurants as well as motels and inns. I specifically enjoyed “The Shack” which offers outdoor seating, a delicious Maine lobster roll. The Shack also has healthy options on the menu, which is not the easiest thing to find in Old Orchard Beach.
Best accommodation pick
For a place to stay, if you are a camping aficionado, I highly recommend the Hid’n Pines Family Campground. I found the staff super friendly, and they offer a discounted rate for IronMan 70.3 Maine racers. I extremely appreciated the complementary late check-out option on race day. Nobody wants to pack and fold at 4 am on race day!
The campground is located in a quiet withdrawn area from the animated town center. But still, it is at a convenient walk-able distance (about half-mile) from the IronMan village, and the transition area. Additionally, the swimming pool was an fantastic recovery treat on the afternoon after the race.