Members of the band returned to their triathlon roots last weekend an went to a 70.3 event not to play their instruments, but to ride them. Their bikes, that is. And ride they did: some 4800-6000 feet of climbing in less than 56 miles depending on who’s GPS data you view.
I, like many others, signed up for the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Branson race with visions of Ozarkian hills in my head but having been told that the bike course in Branson was “comparable” to the bike course at Ironman Kansas or Ironman Wisconsin (not that either of those are “easy”) and as such I figured that my less-than-optimal hill climbing prowess would suffice.
What I learned was that the bike courses in Branson and Lawrence are “comparable” in roughly the same way as are a climb of Mt. Shasta as compared to a climb of Mt. Everest. OK, so that might be a little extreme, but the bike course in Branson was certainly among the most challenging that I’ve faced thus far in my short and not so illustrious racing career. That said, it was also one of the cycling highlights of said career; a major four-lane highway was completely closed for the race allowing for blazing fast downhill legs and wide upon uphill spin sessions. How many races can say that? Sure, toward the end the hills started to tax even the best of the climbers but all in all it was an epic bike course and one that I foresee becoming a go-to course for those seeking a challenge. Despite the fact that our song “Walkin’ on the Bike Course” started playing on the mental shuffle for the last several miles as I watched people pushing their bikes up the two-mile long hills, I did manage to stay on my bike this time around and finish the bike course intact.
By the time that I hit the run the temperature had crept up into the low 90s and it certainly made for a hot half marathon. The support along the run course, however, was great in that you ran three loops through the Branson Landing shopping area (and, conveniently, directly underneath our hotel room balcony). Stopping to talk to the family on each loop as the kids happily worked their way through all the ice cream, funnel cake, fudge, and frozen yogurt delights to be had along the run course was the final burst of energy needed to push through the heat and cross the finish line which was perfectly located in front of the giant fountain/fire show area on the Landing (and the fountain subsequently used by numerous athletes to cool down after they had finished).
Branson or Bust!
Did you hear the song composed and recorded while packing for the trip?
Listen here – if you were there, you might be mentioned in the song!
The accommodations were perfect whether you chose to stay out at the lake by the swim start or right at the finish line (we chose the later…probably more so for its proximity to the Irish Pub). From the swim in beautiful Tablerock lake, to the epic ride on the hills (mountains) of Branson, to the three-loop run through the Landing it was a challenging and doable race. It was also a great family getaway/destination race for us since we finally got to introduce the kids to the pleasures of Silver Dollar City (and, in retrospect, walking those hills and riding the coasters in the park was probably a great primer for what was to come on the bike course).
Congrats to our team and friends who tackled the course: Scott Kinner, Bill Biehl, Chad Babcock, David Shultz, Steve Strickland, Steve Harber, Chris Yows, David Seay, Luke Wilson, John Riley, Steve Richards, Tina Fleecs, and all of the rest of you who stepped to the starting line!
Congrats also to the overall winners, age-groupers, and Clearwater qualifiers. Our friend Steve Richards, who just a week earlier had a strong finish at Ironman Wisconsin, took his first podium spot in Branson and punched a ticket to Clearwater to boot – congratulations Steve!
Kudos to Ryan Robinson, Tom Ziebart, Glenn Bohannon, and their crew and carnies for a solid first-year event – the organization and logistics were nothing short of impressive. A giant thank also to the countless volunteers on the run course – there was never a shortage of friendly faces, encouragement, food, liquids, ice, and everything else we needed out there on the course. Last but certainly not least, thank you to our families for joining us in Branson and heading up the best cheering section one could ever ask for!
I’m sure that like me, many people finished that bike course and temporarily vowed never to return. That sentiment was short-lived, however as by a few hours later the general buzz was that everyone wanted to come back and ride that roller coaster of a bike course again…and do it faster next time. The course is already generating some hype as the “go-to” course for cyclists wanting to see what they’re made of so we’re sure that Ironman 70.3 Branson will attract even more thrill-seekers when it returns to Branson next year. Whether to race or to play a concert, we’ll be there in some capacity again next year!
Visit the K-Swiss Ironman 70.3 Branson website for more information and race results.