2019 Ironman 70.3 Vietnam: Guide and Course Review


The inaugural Ironman 70.3 Vietnam was held in Da Nang last 2015 and saw over 1000 athletes from 54 different countries competing.   At the 5th edition, and being tagged as the regional 70.3 Championship race in Asia-Pacific, the participants has swelled to over 1800.     Ironman Asia and Sunrise Events Vietnam has done a superb job in growing the triathlon market.  In 2015, less than 50 Vietnamese signed up for the race.   At this Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championships, Vietnam was the largest country represented with around 1,000 athletes in the start list.  Last year, 600 Vietnamese signed up.   The growth in participation can be attributed to the popularity of the brand, the spectacular location in Da Nang, and the booming desire of the Vietnamese locals to get into the active lifestyle.

This year’s 5th edition of Ironman 70.3 Vietnam was also the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championships and comes with it the big names in the triathlon professional field.  Top on the list is reigning 2x Ironman World Champion Patrick Lange of Germany.  And it does not stop there; in the list are:  Craig Alexander (AUS) 5x World Champion, 70.3 World Champs Tim Reed (AUS), Terrenzo Bozzone (NZL) and Holly Lawrence (GBR).  Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific defending champions were also present in Mau Mendez (MEX) and Radka Kahlefeldt (CZE).   Past Ironman 70.3 Vietnam champions in the list are Tim Van Berkel (AUS) and Anna Eberhardt (HUN).

To see the race recap>>Lange (DEU), Lawrence (GBR) win titles at 2019 Ironman 70.3 AsiaPacific Championships in Da Nang, Vietnam

How to Get There and Where to Stay

Da Nang is one of Vietnam’s biggest cities and offers direct flights from several cities in Asia.   Even if there is no direct flight to Da Nang from where you are departing, there are plenty of options for a connecting flight from Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, which are both only a flight of an hour and twenty minutes away.

Once you are in Da Nang, the official race hotel (Hyatt Regency)  is only 20 minutes drive away.   If you are on a budget, there are plenty of good options closer to the city center that are only 3-7km away from the race start.   Boutique hotels surround the city and are only walking distance away from the metropolitan beach of My Khe Beach.  Getting around is quite easy with the popularity of Grab taxis and Grab bikes.   In my case where my hotel was around 7kms from Hyatt, riding on a Grab bike would only cost VND38000 or just around over a US dollar and a half.  The organizers also offer shuttle rides to all official hotels, but if you want to roam around the city, grab taxis/bikes are best.    If you are feeling adventurous and could figure out the driving patterns of the locals, renting a scooter (for as low as VND120,000-150,000 or 5 USD for 24 hrs) is a great alternative.  You can drive to Hai Van Pass or Sea Clouds Pass which offers an impressive landscape of  mountains and clear blue skies, overlooking Da Nang City, Tien Sa Port, Son Tra Peninsula, and South China Sea.

This is a great destination race as you may also combine it with a cultural vacation post-race (visiting Hue and Hoi An), enjoying the five star facilities of the host hotel and the nice scenery of Da Nang and nearby cities overall.

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Local cuisine is very cheap with popular Vietnamese rice noodle soups Pho, Bun Bo and Mi Quang costing only mostly less than 2 USD for a bowl.  Vietnamese baguette sandwiches or Banh Mi can be had for only less than a US dollar.

Overall, this is one of the must-do races in the Asian circuit, especially if you want to immerse yourself in the cultural aspect of the travel.

Race Course Review

Swim 1.9km (one loop – rectangle shaped)

A rectangle shaped swim course makes the swim start a little more important than in other races since the first buoy and turn (to the left) is relatively close (300m) to the beach and If you are a high performance athlete, you must have a faster started to avoid getting stuck behind the slower swimmers who may start too fast and make the bend before you.   You can also do dolphin dives as you may have gone 75-100m from the shore and water might still only be knee or thigh deep.

At the same time, as a beginner athlete, make sure you get your pacing right and be patient with a slow start, as if you happen to start too fast, you will have several athletes swimming around and over you and that may create panic.

Practice fast starts to avoid traffic after the first buoy

The past two years there have been some surf waves at the start, so you have to learn how to manage the swells (swimming under the wave).  The rest of the swim will have small swell but pretty straight forward with the way it is laid out.  You have 6 turns to make the rectangle rather than the usual 3 turns of a triangle shaped course so make sure you practice enough sighting while training as the course is very dynamic.

Small surf waves must be managed at the start of the swim, but Pro Dylan McNiece went out nicely in 21:44.

Once out of the water you have around 200m run through the Hyatt resort to transition area and this needed to be accounted for both your swim and bike strategy as you will likely see a very high heart rate at that point and you want to be in control and lower this at some point on the bike.

Bike 90km (17km out, M-loop of 44kms, 17km back and 12kms extra past transition)

The first 17km takes you from the transition area through city center to the M loop, a 4-lane highway which you will navigate all and where you will spend half of the bike course.

Be ready for some  cross winds as most of the bike course is along the ocean (with a great view!).   It is a relatively flat course so it will be considered a fast one, but make sure to master your handling and overtaking skills as there will be times when you can get caught up with a slow group on your front in a one lane road, with the next lane the riders on the opposite loop.

During the first 17km you will have 1-2 lanes that are well closed to traffic with another 1-2 lanes open to traffic right next to you, but once you are on the M loop 4 lane road, traffic is 100% closed.

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The course is all flat apart from one bridge that you climb only once at the 14km and 74km mark respectively, the bridge isn’t long or steep, so you can bring flat road gearing.   Heat and humidity will be the bigger factor than terrain, so make sure you hydrate smartly on your ride.

While you may be too focused on your race to enjoy the scenery, the bike course has great views and mixes the new and modern Da Nang with its high rise buildings, with local fisherman villages and of course the nice beaches of Da Nang.

You will have aid stations at the 15k mark, then every 10km (at the u-turn of the M loop) and the last 15km you won’t find any aid station until you reach transition, so make sure you grab a bottle of liquids before heading to transition

Run 21km (10.5km out, 10.5km back)

The run course is very straight forward and all flat but hot……tough hot!  You run 10.5km by Danang’s pristine coastline in 35-40 degrees heat, then run back to the hotel.     There is some shade from small trees on the side of the road, so if you can run your way through those part, do so.   Stay on the runner’s lane as the next lane will be for other athletes still making their way from the bike course.

Always expect the worse in terms of heat as this could be literally the world’s hottest race as the course runs through a coastline.   Adjust your training plan, race day nutrition and strategy for a slow run split. The organizers were on top of this situation and provided aid stations every 1.5km.   Take advantage of the cold sponges and water baths, as this would keep your core temperature down.

Enjoy your race in Vietnam and see you on the course!

Race Day Photos:

AsiaTRI Gallery: Best Images from 2019 Ironman 70.3 AsiaPacific Championships-Vietnam

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