By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
A throng of athletes expected to number around 1,800, and including some of the world’s best, will take over the water of Lake Stevens and the city’s surrounding streets for the sixth annual Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens Triathlon on Sunday.
An Ironman 70.3, which is half the distance of a full Ironman triathlon, combines a swim of 1.2 miles, a bike ride of 56 miles and a run of 13.1 miles. With the pro division beginning at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, followed by the amateurs, the competitors will start by plunging into Lake Stevens for an out-and-back swimming leg.
They will then switch gear for the biking leg on a loop outside the city, followed by a running leg that makes a few passes through the downtown area.
The entire course “has a great little challenge to it,” race director Frank Lowery said. “The lake is a good temperature for us. It’s not extremely hot and it’s not extremely cold. It’s usually 68 to 72 degrees, and that’s totally fine with us.”
The bike course “has some up-and-down rolling hills with a couple of big climbs. There are some fast sections and some slow sections, so the athletes have to be prepared for different conditions. And the running course is a good, fast course. The nice thing about (the running course) is that it’s very spectator friendly. People will get to see their athletes come through multiple times.”
As always, the biggest race variable is the weather. It could be blazing sunshine or cool rain, “so the athletes have to be ready to play the game on both sides of that environment,” he said.
Most of the athletes in Sunday’s race are amateurs, but there are 36 pros entered — 25 men and 11 women — and they will be competing for cash prizes, Lowery said.
This year’s numbers are expected to be the largest in race history, he added, and that is possibly because the race was moved this year from July to August. By pushing the race back one month, “we seem to be doing much better as far as producing more athletes,” he said.
Most of the pros will finish before noon, but many of the amateurs will continue to finish well into the afternoon.
There are several Ironman 70.3 events around the United States and elsewhere in the world every year, “but this is one of the few races that takes place in the Northwest,” Lowery said. “And for us, it’s a great event because we all love coming to that area to begin with.”