This exciting and extremely challenging 70.3 race will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Check out the details of this race, which is known as the second hardest 70.3 in the world.
IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa is widely regarded as the second toughest 70.3 in the world. This is due to strong headwinds, and a very hilly bike leg. Luckily though, the swim is usually fairly calm, and the run takes place on flat ground.
The swim is a 1.2 mile ocean leg off East London’s Orient Beach. Despite it being an ocean swim, this is a rather nice stretch as it’s protected by the harbour, so you won’t have to battle South Africa’s infamous waves. Luckily too, the water is usually pretty warm – although in 2016, it was only 16.8 degrees Celsius!
Use the gentle swell to your advantage, just like Kyle Buckingham did back in 2015: “Heading back to the beach from the turnaround buoy was awesome because I was catching these awesome swells and managed to get some great speed.”
Jodie Cunnama (nee Swallow) said of the 2016 race: “The swim was difficult this year. The current was opposed to the wave direction and that is always a battle. The helicopter camera was also adding to the splash and chop for me, hovering too low.”
Ride Segment East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Distance – 91.8km
Avg Grade – 0%
Lowest Elev 4m
Highest Elev 522m
Elev Difference 519m
QOM 2:43:35, 22 Jan 2012
KOM 2:17:38, 20 Jan 2013 – avg. 318W
The 56-mile bike course is undulating with some pretty challenging rolling hills and steep climbs. Jodie Cunnama noted: “The Buffalo City course heads out on a fairly straight but very undulating highway. The first 45km has persistent headwind and hills.”
The turnaround is on top of the bridge, and athletes will enjoy some easy declines and perhaps get some wind propulsion. “I was glad to get to the 45km turn around and feel the wind on my back,” said Jodia Cunnama. However, it’s not all easy going from the halfway mark though, with the undulating hills soon kicking back in.
The landscape on this bike leg is breathtaking, but previous athletes have joked that it’s hard to appreciate the scenery due to all the hills! IRONMAN themselves have stated: “The rolling hills of the 56-mile bike course will be a challenge.”
The two-loop 21km run course is nice and flat; a welcome change after the hilly bike course. Many athletes overdo it in the bike, though, due to the challenging course, and struggle when it comes to the run.
The run weaves past the lighthouse, the finish line and the promenade. Along the promenade, plenty of spectators will be out to support the athletes. Jodie Cunnama recalled: “It was nice to be able to absorb the support and crowds of East London. South Africans truly love high performance and they have real passion for endurance sport.”
Race Review by past competitors
Jodie Cunnama in 2016: “So happy to retain my sixth title here, a race thoroughly suited to me. But ‘the second hardest 70.3’ in the world is never easy.”
Jodie Cunnama made history last year with her sixth consecutive win. She won in 4:23:29, with Astrid Stienen finishing in 4:42:01 and Annah Watkinson in third with 4:43:35.
Matt Trautman took the men’s title in 2016 in 4:01:53, Kyle Buckingham was second with 04:06:11 and James Cunnama was third, finishing in 04:07:55.
Review of the event experience
“I really love it, the weather is unbeatable, you have amazing food and wine, natural beauty, good friends. 24 Rand to the £ also helps” – Will Clarke 2016.
Updates for 2017 race vs. 2016 – changes
KPR & Prize Money: 70.3 South Africa is a P-750 race. It has a total prize purse of 30.000 US$.
04:01:53 Matt Trautman 2016 Overall
00:23:39 Marko Albert 2014 Swim
02:13:39 Matt Trautman 2016 Bike
01:15:24 Will Clarke – 2014 Run
04:23:29 Jodie Cunnama 2016 Overall
00:23:51 Jodie Cunnama 2014 Swim
02:26:01 Jodie Cunnama 2016 Bike
01:25:07 Camilla Lindholm 2014 Run
What to expect for age groupers
Last year’s weather was incredibly rainy, so pack your wet weather gear just in case. Water temperature is fairly warm, although last year’s ocean temperature only reached 16.8 degrees Celsius.
South Africa is a long way from just about everywhere, so make sure your body becomes accustomed to the time zone with at least a few days at the venue before the event. Be sure to sort out your hydration and clean foods, and don’t forget to change your clocks to Port Elizabeth time on arrival.