Unofficial Ironman® Florida Race 411

Welcome to the Endurance Nation Race Strategy page for Ironman® Florida!

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Our goal here is to get you 100% up to speed and ready to have your best race possible. Every single race is unique, and Ironman® Florida is no exception. From the ocean swim, to a drag race of a bike ride (pray for a tailwind!) to a winding two-loop run, you will never forget the air-brushed awesomeness that is Panama City Beach!

Three Bullets Video | Detailed Race Info | Equipment | The Swim | The Bike | The Run | Free Trial

Three Bullets on Ironman® Florida

Don’t have time time to dive into a full review of the course? Then cover the most important highlights in this short video with Coach Patrick from Endurance Nation.

Detailed Race Information

Equipment Recommendations [top]

November in Florida is great to be on the beach during the day, but typically cool the rest of the day. And when the sun goes down (up at 7am, down by 5:30pm local time) it’s positively chilly.  Our general guidance, for nearly every race, is to bring everything you think may need, even if you’re pretty sure you may not need it! In short, be prepared for any and all weather conditions. 

The Swim:  The ocean swim is the most dynamic part of the race. Sometimes it’s crazy all week…calm on race day. Other times it’s a puddle all week and raging on race day. The only sure thing is that you’ll need to swim 2.4 miles!

We recommend either a full or long john suit…whatever is more comfortable for you. The salt water will keep you more buoyant than you ever thought possible. Tinted goggles are a must, and be sure to grab some Gatorade at the halfway point on the beach as the salt water can be a bit much on the tastebuds!

The Bike: Demands a super aero set up due to the likelihood of winds.  This means aero helmet, disc wheel, aero hydration, etc. If you are likely to be cold early on the bike (temps low 6os) then you’ll want “snug” gear that won’t disturb your aero mojo. 

For gearing, we nearly always recommend a compact crank (50/34) or “super compact” (52/36) if you’re a bit of a stronger rider on an 11 speed bike. Everyone should have at least a 25t cog on their cassette (for example, a 25-11 for stronger riders), with less strong riders always benefiting from a 28t or higher (for example, a 28-12 cassette).

That said, Ironman® Florida is pretty much the only race course in North America that gives stronger rides the option of running a beefier cassette — say 11/23.

Make sure that you are comfortable with your fit; the last thing you want is to be bouncing around or sitting up as you fatigue. There will be winds over the last 20 miles and staying aero makes a significant difference!

The Run:  Is a flat out-and-back course. You can break out the racing shoes here as you won’t find a “simpler” run course (note, I didn’t say easy…no such thing as an easy 26.2 miles). The forecast will determine your final gear selection — so pack it all. Note that you’ll likely want salt as your hydration needs will vary greatly between a cool morning, warm midday and cool evening. Your stomach will need some assistance with digestion for sure!

Swim Course Breakdown  [top]

The Florida swim is a two loop affair with a beach start. You’ll swim directly out from shore about 800m, turn Left and swim about 800m, turn left to swim 500m parallel to shore, and then swim 800m back to land.  You’ll exit the water (free drinks!) and then return on a diagonal path to swim out towards the first buoy for Lap One.

The swim start is a mass rolling start, similar to your local half marathon. Seed yourself by approximate finishing time, and then officials will “walk” the groups in to the water in a timely manner. Very simple!

Please Note — There are typically sand bars on the way back, so be prepared to see folks walking. Do not walk or run in the water if you can swim at all.

>> View the online map here

Bike Course Breakdown [top]

Miles 0-7: Getting Out of Town

This is your first chance to blow the entire race. IGNORE the hammerheads and others racing, be safe and just get out to the turn on 79.

Miles 7 to 34: The One Climb and Settling In

If you reference the bike course profile, you’ll see That there is one single climb on the course – an overpass. You do this on both the outback and in both cases you just want to make it flat by pedaling intelligently. since this is so early in the day, you should still be settling in to your bike. The horrid should be coming down and you should be well into your nutrition plan at this point. Just ride steady, ride your race, and ignore the other athletes around you.

Miles 35 to 74: The Loop and Return

this is a new change to the course instituted in 2014. Rather than doing outback on terrible conditions, you now have a counterclockwise loop on decent roads. Since it is a full loop you are guaranteed to experience both ahead and tell when it some point – do yourself a favor and don’t fight the elements!

This is the “meat” of the race. During this time you’ll be moving into your steady pacing, or Zone Two. Your heart rate will come up and the field will start to settle in as you begin to notice the same riders around you.

In this section, you will also find Special Needs. We strongly recommend that you stop. Even if you don’t need to simply to stretch and maintain your positional strength on the bike.

Miles 74 to 89: The Out and Back

This is the section of the course that no one talks about — it’s lost in the elevation profile and it seems innocent enough at just 15 miles. However, none of these 15 miles are getting you back to transition. And this happens exactly at the time when you are most likely to be struggling mentally. It makes the section of the course particularly difficult, so plan ahead to be ready for it. We suggest that you consider this 15 mile segment its own part of the race and focus on executing it without jeopardizing the final return to transition.

Miles 89 to 112: The Return to Transition

This is a long straightaway section on 79, including the bridge. By the time you reach it, you will never have been so happy to see an overpass in your life!

If the wind gods are on your side the section will have a slight cross tail carrying you back as you start thinking about the run. If the wind is coming off the water however this could be quite the slog.

Either way, remember to stay aero and be steady on those pedals. If you back off at all you are losing speed and momentum into transition. As you head into town and down the main drag, remember to keep your wits about you as there are quite a few potholes and cars!

>> View the online map here

Run Course Breakdown [top]

The run course hasn’t changed in…well…forever. It’s a fair course with zero gain and plenty of turns. Most people can still run well if they didn’t go crazy on the bike.

Miles 0-6.5, 13-19.5 = The Out

  • Feels like “downhill” but maybe that’s just the outbound.
  • Lots of spectator mojo in the first two miles and many, many athletes run much too fast here. Don’t be one of them!
  • This section eventually cross the main road (twice!) and things get pretty quiet.
  • You’ll head into the state park for a 1.5-mile out and then back. Super quiet here.

Miles 6.5 to 13, 19.5 to 26.2 = The Back

Once you turn around in the Park, you are running back towards Transition and the Finish Line. This section:

  • Feels like uphill. There, I said it!
  • Typically a slight headwind, and seemingly more turns than on the way out.
  • Regardless of what your GPS says, the end of the loop seems too far away.
  • Just put your head down in the last 3 miles. The many climbs and twists in this section make it very difficult to maintain a sense of where you are relative to the finish line, even though you have to run right past it. Just. Keep. Moving.

>> View the online map here.

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