Welcome to Part Two of our review of the Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Race in Wilmington, North Carolina. If you just found this post, please check out the first part of the Beach2Battleship Race Review for information about the expo, the transition areas, and the swim course.
Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Bike Course:
The bike course started on Wrightsville Beach and ended at the USS North Carolina Battleship park. The most challenging part of the bike course was within the first two miles when riders had to cross a drawbridge. The drawbridge’s deck was metal grate and could have caused some serious problems. In previous years, Setup Events covered the bridge with carpet, but received too many complaints about that surface, so this year they tried without the covering. Riders were instructed to hit the bridge in a straight line, between 14 and 20 miles per hour. I followed the directions and made it across without a problem.
After crossing the bridge, we traveled for a few miles on heavily trafficked roads. Setup had coordinated the closure of one lane of these roads through the Wilmington suburbs and stationed police and volunteers at every intersection. We followed Market street for a few miles and finally hit the entrance ramp to I-140. Maybe it’s just me, but there was something incredible about riding in a closed section of the interstate.
The course is almost totally flat. The only significant elevation changes are the entrance and exit ramps off the interstate and the final bridge before returning to the battleship. The course did have a few slight inclines, but none worthy of shifting gears or slowing down.
The volunteers on the bike course were excellent. Participants picked up their special needs bags at a church about 53 miles into the course. The volunteers had a great system and they met you with your bag before you could even get off the bike. The aid station volunteers were also excited, organized, and helpful. Some were dressed as superheros, some had volunteers of all ages cheering and helping. Setup did a great job recruiting and training the volunteers and their contribution was vital. Aid stations were well stocked with HEED, water, gels, crackers, Hammer and PowerBars, and sometimes gorp or trailmix.
The final miles of the course were on a busy 4 lane highway with no cones, but plenty of police and volunteers to direct and control traffic. There were a few sets of railroad tracks in the last few miles, so it’s worth being careful to not lose a bottle or two on the mile. The final ‘hill’, actually a bridge, was the last obstacle before entering T2.
Beach2Battleship Transition 2:
Again, Setup Events runs a well organized operation. When you pull into the second transition zone, you’re met by a volunteer to take your bike and helmet. Very well organized, plenty of volunteers, plenty of space in the changing tent for your gear and plenty of chairs for you to use while changing.
Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Run Course:
The run course is an out and back, 6.5 miles each way. For the half-iron distance race, this probably isn’t the worst race course, but it gets a little tough if you have to go out and back twice.
The course starts flat leaving T2, passing an aid station before you’ve gone 500 yards and before the first mile, you have to cross a branch of Cape Fear River. This is the only serious elevation change on the entire course. This bridge is the same bridge we crossed on the way to T2 on the bike course. You hit the first aid station after crossing the bridge and then you right to another bridge that crosses the main part of the Cape Fear River. This bridge isn’t as steep and the views down the Cape Fear River are amazing, especially if you’re running late and the sun’s already going down.
After you cross the second bridge, you’re heading into downtown Wilmington. You hit the Mile 2 aid station and continue on before taking a right on Red Cross Street, a bit ominous if you ask me… After heading down Red Cross Street, you’re traveling along Water Street. This is a busy street with hotels, convention centers, and restaurants and there are tons of people on the sidewalks cheering. You stay on front and water streets for about one mile before heading up a street to a more residential area. This is where the going gets tough. After leaving the residential part of the course, you move towards a light industrial area on the outskirts of downtown. The course is well marked and the volunteers are excellent, but it’s still a lonely trip.
The final two miles or so of the race are through a park area with some residential, but mostly green space. For much of this section, you’re running on sidewalks and park trails, all paved and mostly well lit.
At the turn around, Setup again did a great job finding volunteers and training them. At the 6.5 mile mark, and more importantly, when you returned to the turn around at mile 19.5 or so, it was great to see such excited and helpful volunteers.
The aid stations, again, were very well stocked. In addition to the water and HEED, these stations had HEED Espresso Gel, with a caffeine boost, a few other HEED gel flavors, trail mix, cookies, crackers, pretzels and chicken broth. The rumor was that the chicken broth was hot and there were a few aid stations where it was, but many times it was lukewarm or just cold. At this point, chicken broth is chicken broth, but it’s a real pick-me-up to get warm chicken broth on a cold night. I hope Setup stocks the aid stations with better equipment to keep it warm next year.
Finally, the announcer did a great job at the finish line. You could hear the crowd and the speakers from about half a mile out. The chute was full of cheering folks and the photographers got a few great shots of you as they presented you with the finisher medal and tee-shirt.
The only complaints at the finish line were a lack of food options for late finishers. Your reviewer finished in a little less than 15 hours and the only food left were bagels and a few slices of onion pizza. The volunteer running the pizza stand was very kind and went to the pizza stand to grab a few slices of cheese pizza. Great work volunteer! By the time I finished, Setup had run out of Mylar blankets and the massage tables were packed up. Good motivation to finish earlier.
Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Race Overall Thoughts:
Overall, this was an excellent event. Setup does a great job and runs a very professional race. They contracted for buses, trolleys, and water taxis to move participants and spectators around the race courses. While there were some lines, there was never a shortage of transportation options.
The expo and registration were crowded, which I’m sure impacted the amount of money spent at the expo. Jeremy Davis, the race director, tells me that they are moving to a larger location for next year’s expo. I’m sure that will take care of the overcrowding.
The transition areas were well marked, well organized, and secure. Setup had enough volunteers and police at the transition sites and at every crossroad and intersection. The course was well marked with spray paint on the road and much of the bike course featured road cones. The bike aid stations were well stocked and full of great volunteers.
The run course was mostly well done. The aid stations were great,as were the volunteers. As the event grows, I’m sure there will be more spectators on the course and that was the only downside to having the run go through the residential and light industrial zones.
Overall this is an excellent race. Setup has a level of attention to detail that many race producers lack. While there were a few issues: not enough Mylar blankets; food selection; massage ending early; and the crowded expo, these aren’t life-shattering. This is only the third year of this event and Setup is improving the race every year. Setup Events excelled at the truly important aspects of this race: excellent course; well marked routes; plenty of volunteers and officials; transportation; logistics; and a great selection of food at the aid stations.
It’s not surprising that the editors of Triathlete Magazine selected this race as one of the best in the world. If you’re on the East Coast, it’s totally worth the trip and if you’re on the West Coast, put Wilmington on your list. You won’t be disappointed.