Ironman UK – course tips and everything you need to know

Ironman UK is undoubtedly one of the toughest single-day events in the country - we've scoured the land to bring you tips from those who have already been and conquered, to ensure you smash your Ironman UK debut!

Credit: Simon Powell

Ironman UK is the original UK long-distance race, with colourful crowds and a famous finish line experience. But how do you conquer the logistics, lumpy bike and lapped run of Bolton?

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Our step-by-step pre-race, swim, bike and run guide is provided by 2015 finisher Janine Doggett (click here to visit Janine’s ‘Triathlove’ blog!) and you’ll find various useful titbits from other finishers, plus stats and a bike course profile too…

PRE-RACE

Lanzarote it isn’t, yet modest Bolton provides an incredible Ironman race. The locality and calm lake swim make it an ideal first-time choice, while the bike course will challenge the toughest of riders. We named Ironman UK 7th in our top 10 European iron-distance races suitable for first timers.

It’s a good idea to recce the course before, and Pennington Flash offers swimming every Saturday morning before the big day. On race day, getting to the start is easy, but leave time to find the nutrition and post-race bag drop area as this isn’t immediately obvious.

THE SWIM

The race kicks off at 6am with a two-lap swim and, despite the quiet nervousness of over 2,000 people in neoprene, the well-organised start pens help to calm you before setting off.

The Flash is a decent temp (19°C in 2015) and there’s plenty of space to find your rhythm, but the water can be choppy. The buoys are easy to spot and the Aussie exit between laps is great for mentally breaking down the swim.

Go to page two to continue reading our mega guide to Ironman UK 

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THE BIKE

After a short run to T1, a two-lap course through beautiful Lancashire countryside awaits. With 1,641m of ascent, Sheep House Lane is a tough 3km star of the show. There’s a technical bit at the foot of the descent that can catch people out – it’s marked but stay on guard (and ideally on your bike!).

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Some sections are spookily quiet, but there’s sensational sporadic support en route, with locals sporting some outrageous outfits! At the Macron Stadium and T2 (it’s a split transition) there’s no assistance in racking your bike so be ready to find your number. The T2 tent offers a slightly larger privacy screen than T1, so if you want fresh kit for the run you can strip off.

The Bolton Bike course – provided by Veloviewer

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A graphic showing the route and elevation profile of the Ironman UK bike course. Click here to see the full breakdown on veloviewer.com

The Ironman UK 180km bike course starts with a 22km ride from Pennington Flash to Anderton, where the first of two bike laps begins. The route flows over Rivington Reservoir before the ‘fun’ starts with the Sheep House Lane climb at 30km, which rises to an elevation of 327m. From 35km there’s a long, mostly downhill section before a tricky ascent at High Moor at 78km before lap two starts at the 100km point. T2 is the Macron Stadium in Bolton.

Go to the last page to find out some invaluable Ironman UK run tips

THE RUN

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There’s a 10km point-to-point route before the lapped 8km course, which makes it up to 42.2km. It’s mostly flat but the laps are mentally challenging and, as it’s in a built-up area, there aren’t many nice views. The aid stations every 4km offer bananas, sugary drinks and a bucket-load of cheers!

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Lucy Gossage, who stormed to victory in 2015, takes on the Bolton run course. Credit: Getty Images

Having visited it three times already, the finisher funnel will feel like an old inflatable friend by the time you reach it. Ironman UK finishes at 11pm before it’s packed up fast, as if it were all just a beautiful dream of lactic acid, Lycra and ecstatic tears!

Ironman UK stats and figures

Average water temp: 16-19°C
Bike elevation: 1,641m
Run elevation: 290m
2015 DNF rate: 8%
2015 median finish time: 13:44:21

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Ironman UK kicks off on Sunday July 17th 2016, more information can be found on the Ironman UK website. A big thanks goes to Janine, Veloviewer and all our other contributors for helping 220 put this guide together. Do you have some need-to-know tips of your own, or anything else to add? Let us know in the comments!