One of the toughest courses on the North-American Ironman circuit, Syracuse rightfully earned its reputation for challenging you in every way.
I’m not usually the kind of athlete who likes to make things more challanging than they already are, so I prefer my courses to be flat for my long distance races.
However, the timing of this race was perfect in my training plan and I figured since I am training for a full distance Ironman race, at this point a half distance shouldn’t be a problem no matter how tough the course is.
I was right in that thinking, but I still underestimated how different it is when you have to give up some of your expectations in terms of pace and speed because the weather is just too hot and the course is just too tough.
Syracuse has a bike elevation of about 1000 m (3244 ft) and run elevation of about 200 m (606 ft). Just to put things in perspective, I ran 2:18 on the half marathon while 2 months later on another course – which was still not flat but nothing like Syracuse – I ran 2:02. The difference is huge and it has two reasons: the crazy hard bike course takes a lot more of your energy than a moderate or easy course and at the same time the run course is pretty challenging too.
My bike time was 3:48 vs 3:00 a year earlier on a flat course. That pretty much tells the whole story.
Towards the end of the bike course, as you keep seeing hill after hill, you keep thinking… I hope this is the last one, because I can’t take it any more. Then another one comes and you think the same thing. And another one… and it is just never ending.
I kept questioning why I chose this course when I much prefer flat courses, but it is true, that it was only half the distance that I was about to race a few months later. So yes, I could do it. Yes, it was extremely challenging, especially for me, who doesn’t like hills on the bike nor on the run. But it was fun. And it felt soooooo good, when it was over.
I would say if you are trying to pick your first 70.3 race, Syracuse is probably not your best bet. However, once you have done a few 70.3s, Syracuse is definitely an iconic race that you want to consider.
Syracuse also offers the usual number of qualifying spots for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. And by this time of the year, a lot of people who take this sport seriously, have already qualified. I saw people who came 20th in their age group qualify. So if you are looking for a race where your chances of qualifying as a middle-of-the-pack athlete are better, you might want to give Syracuse a shot.
As a bonus, it will give you bragging rights for the rest of your career that you finished a race on this course!