Bike Course Overall:
Coming into this race, I had thoughts (not sure where they were birthed) that this course at Ironman Louisville was flat and fast. After driving the course today, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. This course has rolling hills, some sharp turns, tours through residential neighborhoods and some steeper climbs with few descents. I feel once you get into a short rhythm, the terrain will change and you will either need to sit up and spin or carry your momentum from the short downhill into the uphill of the next section. I road the course (1 loop) the day after we drove it. Still feel that the course is rolling. For those in the Boulder area, the course best represents the ride from Amante Coffee on North Broadway towards 36 N to Nelson to 63rd to Diagonal Highway. I’ve ridden this numerous times during our 9 years in Boulder, and it’s the best example of what to expect here on the Ironman Louisville bike course.
Shade is what you’ll have on this road, so take advantage of it. You don’t get back here until the final miles of the bike because the 2nd loop doesn’t come all the way back into town. The latter parts of the road surface on River Road are a bit rough in spots, and the shoulder really doesn’t exist (a theme for this entire bike course). If you choose to train on the course before the race, we have been advised by locals and the area bike shops to ride in non-rush hour times and on the weekends if you can. This section is the flattest on the course too.
There is a bit of pavement work at the beginning of 42 and it can be rough. Driving was rough, so on a bike you’ll feel this even more. The rolling hills start just shortly after you turn onto 42. They are rollers similar to that of Lake Placid by the Golf Course. If you raced the High Peaks Cyclery Mini Triathlon on any of the Mondays, you know this section. If you raced Lake Placid, it’s the section of road at the top of Papa Bear if you were to continue straight and not turn right on Northwoods School Road. This section is also more exposed than River Road so be prepared with your cooling strategy throughout the day – I like to take an extra water bottle from every aid station and pour it over my head. The road has numerous ups and downs, but mostly the ups continue with either a flat section after it, or continues up. Net positive gain for sure. For those Colorado peeps racing Louisville, it’s exactly like the Nelson Road to 63rd Loop. As I road this section 100’s of times when living in Boulder, I really could feel it was very similar. The hills are non-stop, very short flat sections. At the end of 42, there is a hill similar to Baby Bear in Placid.
The hills on this section are similar to what you saw on 42 but increase by about 20%. There is a long, sustained climb and as we drove the course, we slowed down next to a cyclist who is familiar with the area. She said this is the toughest part of the course, and you hit it twice because it’s part of 2nd lap. There are more ups and downs on this section than just ups like on 42.
This sections starts out with a false flat with a slight pitch, and might actually feel good after the bigger hills of 393. It’s rolling again, but at the very end before turning onto Ballard School Road, there is a nice downhill that you can fly on. But watch for the quick left turn onto Ballard, it comes up on you pretty quickly.
This stretch takes you through rolling hills with higher grades, but still short. You wind through a neighborhood with a short out and back stretch. I rode this the day after we drove the course, and it’s one of more fun sections on the course. Probably would say you sit up for 50% of it while in aero the rest.
Leaving the neighborhood, you take a left onto this short stretch which is more flat than rolling. Limited to no shoulder and you can build up some speed here.
Back on this stretch which I found to be rolling hills and extended flats. I was able to ride aero much more back to River Road then on the way out. The featured photo above gives you some sense of the hills you’ll see. Sitting up is recommended when you can’t carry your momentum in the aero position up and over the hills. I really enjoyed this section all the way back to River Road.
After recently spending 8 weeks in Lake Placid, NY leading into the Ironman (DNS – read how this all went down) and riding the course numerous times, this course should be approached the same way. Take is much easier on the first loop, and then when you start the second loop begin to pick up your effort. I found I was bouncing back from aero to seated numerous times, and only 1-2x did I actually stand (I think the first time was on Ballard School Road but only briefly). Plenty of flat sections to hydrate too. Mostly exposed road so the sun will be a factor. The shoulder is very small and has grooved pavement for 95% of the route. Stay away from the extreme sides of the course. The road conditions are 90% great for riding, a few deep chunks of pavement missing or choppy pavement sections along the way. But definitely avoidable. With that said, make sure your water bottles on the rear cages are secured tightly. I use the TREK bottle cages on the rear and drilled holes in each side, secured with a small strip of bungy cord. If interested, I can post a photo. They work extremely well.
Ironman Louisville Run:
Luckily our AirBnB is located just a few blocks from the end of the run course, so I’ve been able to run a 2-3 mile stretch in my training. This past Sunday though, I ran the course from the furthest point south back into town and through the 4th Street Live finish line. The course is very, very flat. A small hill at the 264 intersection on the southbound side, and a short hill that goes under the railroad tracks, but otherwise, you will be running flat and fast. I would even say that Cozumel has a hillier run course than Louisville, for those that have raced in Cozumel. Their are sections of shade during the middle section of the run on 3rd street, but then it becomes exposed as you approach downtown. Be prepared to stay cool, whether that’s pouring water over your head (bent over of course so you don’t soak your running shoes) or wear a hat to stuff ice underneath. The run takes up the entire street which is closed to traffic, so plenty of room to run on each side. Very simple course, straight mostly with only a few turns. Get ready to PR the run!!!