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Ironman World Championship - Nice, France: Things to Know

The men's Ironman World Championship was held on September 10, 2023, in Nice, France. I was lucky enough to attend the race and cheer for an athlete that I've worked with for a few years. Attending and coaching at races is a great experience and a massive learning opportunity.


Here are a few things to know from that glorious race:


Wetsuit, skinsuit, and river rocks in Nice

  • The question is, will it be a wetsuit swim or a skinsuit swim? Kona is never a wetsuit swim. However, the same does not hold true for Nice. For the three days leading up to the race, the water temperature was 75.5 degrees. Not so on race morning! Due to a warm Saturday, race day Sunday water temperature measured 76.5 degrees. That's really not much cooler than Kona water, which has averaged 78 degrees across all IMWC races. My recommendation: take both a skinsuit and a wetsuit.

  • The water in Nice is beautiful - it's the French Riviera, after all. The water looks very similar to the water in northwest Florida, where I live. Beautiful blue and green in color and very, very clear. The beach, however, is an entirely different animal. The Nice' beach' is actually fist-sized river rocks, making water entry and exit difficult and challenging the feet, even on race day. One athlete said the rocks were covered with a carpet, but that provided no cushion for their feet entering or exiting the water.

Spectacular and technical bike course

  • Train for the 112-mile bike like it's your job! Why? Every athlete I spoke with post-race agreed on two things: they underestimated their bike time (by at least an hour) and that the course was even more technical than they anticipated! This means athletes should do as much outdoor riding on hills as possible. Couple that with a lot of core work and strength training. If you live in a flat area with sparse hills or where it's not safe to ride outside, I recommend using Fulgaz to ride the course and then do a lot of strength training, especially legs and core!

  • Common feedback:

    • 'I know I was racing, but I wish I'd been able to look at the scenery more.' The athlete I work for said that at one point, he looked up and saw a castle, and in his head, he said, 'Cool!', then thought, 'I need to look at the road so I don't crash into the guardrail for that hairpin turn coming up!'

    • The 10-mile, 3,000+ foot climb wasn't all that bad, but it made the rest of the bike challenging.

    • Momentum - don't count on it. Technical turns at the bottom of hills and long, multiple speed bumps prevented athletes from keeping higher speeds (go too fast over one of those speed bumps, and you're no longer in an Ironman race, but in a BMX race as you have the potential to launch the bike).

    • Take at least an extra hour of nutrition with you and have an extra hour of nutrition in your special needs bag.

  • The bike is one loop (yay!), and as a spectator, there are hours and hours for sightseeing or catching a nap. My athlete's family went to Monaco for a few hours. My college roommate (who flew in to join in the fun) and I walked around the port of Nice (Port Lympia) and up Nice Castle Hill. We walked down and ate lunch, then walked around Old Nice before heading back and catching the end of the bike leg.

Pancake flat, 4-loop run -- no ice!

  • 4-loop, pancake-flat run. This is good, bad, or ok, depending on how you feel about looping courses.

    • The run course is spectacular! It's on the promenade with the water on one side and the city of Nice on the other.

    • Very, very spectator-friendly! Eight opportunities to see every athlete on the run.

    • The turnarounds are just past the finish line, which is either annoying or inspiring.

  • Ice, ice, baby! Maybe this should be titled, 'No ice, baby!' because there was no on-course ice available for the athletes. None all day.

    • Americans love ice. North American Ironman races literally have tons and tons of ice available on the course. As athletes, we're accustomed to having it available.

    • The athlete I work with said there was not a cube of ice on the entire course, so it really minimized the opportunity to cool down - no ice down the shirt and no ice-cold water or electrolyte drinks.

    • For some athletes, they needed ice, and the lack of it really altered their race.

General things to know about the Nice, France World Championships

  • Local water consumption - do you have an iron gut? The water in Nice is clean and drinkable. You have two options: drink the water and find out if it agrees with your gut, or buy bottled water. I strongly recommend bottled water. My athlete's gut did not agree with local water, but his family's guts did (strange because he's a Marine and can generally eat/drink anything). Luckily, he figured this out quickly and made the switch to bottled water.

  • Access to your bike and transition bags on race morning: Bike access, yes. Transition bags access, no. Also, once you go into transition, you're in there until the race starts because swim access is only available through the transition area.

  • Save your money - you're going to need it for travel, lodging (make sure to check for air conditioning when you book!), bike shipment, food, and Ironman swag (my opinion: ridiculously overpriced swag!)

  • The race venue is fantastic, and the city of Nice did a great job hosting the World Championships.


If you're an athlete qualified for the 2024 Ironman World Championships, have a great race! Hit me up if you have questions!

 

Maria Netherland is a Northwest Florida-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Endurance and Youth & Juniors Certified Coach as well as a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Performance Enhancement Specialist. Coach Maria loves working for athletes of all abilities, military athletes, and new triathletes as they pursue their goals. Maria is a veteran of the US Army and a United States Military Academy at West Point graduate. She can be reached at maria@teammpi.com.

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