Thursday, September 15, 2011

Watermans Half Iron Bike Course Preview

This past weekend I had the opportunity to bike the Waterman's Half Iron bike course. I was excited about this opportunity because I will be racing Waterman's in a few weeks. The bike course had tons of positives and some negatives. Here are my findings.

The race takes place in Indian Head, Maryland just about 50 minutes south of Arlington, VA (hooray for day-of travel!). The swim will take place in Smallwood state park in a very calm lake. The bike course quickly leaves the park and makes a big 56 mile lollipop loop around southern Maryland.

The Scenery:

The course starts and finishes with a few miles on Chicamuxen road, which is a four lane highway with huge shoulders and little cars. After the few miles on Chicamuxen (I love saying that!) you turn onto Riverdale Road which is a serious treat. You ready for this? It's totally shaded! There is a huge tree canopy lining the road for miles and miles. It is absolutely beautiful. I didn't stop and take a picture but you can imagine is looks something like this, only better, for about 15 miles:

The scenery for the rest of the 56 miles is equally as beautiful and shaded. You ride by farms, historic churches, and through a nature preserve. It is one of the prettiest rides I have been on and I am excited to see it all again during the race!

The Terrain:

Don't let the images of tree-lined streets fool ya- the terrain of the course is not flat. It's not super hilly either. In fact- it is a perfect mix of both! The first 25 miles are rolling hills, with 2 or 3 climbs that slowed me down to under 10mph. None of the steeper hills though are very long. You never have to climb for more than a few minutes at a time. And don't forget- what goes up, must come down! You are able to pick up serious speed on the downhills if you are a master at your gears and use that momentum to go up the next hill.

See? Nothing crazy but certainly not Cozumel flat. The rollers come often and come quickly in the first 25 miles. You have to be ready to change gears quickly if you want to be efficient going up and down those hills. And don't drop your chain like I did on one of the hills :)

Once you turn off of Riverdale Road you have some sections of flat with a few more rollers thrown in. As you can see from the elevation chart above the last few miles into T2 are downhill. You can stretch your legs on your bike while you fly down the hills into transition and be nice and prepped for the 13.1 mile run of more rolling hills.

The Obstacles:

While the course is fantastic there are some issues on the course on which to be aware. The most dangerous obstacle we encountered on the roads were potholes. Big ones! There is one pothole on Riverdale Road that actually takes up the entire right lane and you have to cross the yellow line into the left lane to avoid hitting it. I emailed the race director about that one since crossing the yellow line in a tri is a DQ offense. Besides that one major one, there are also several others that if a cyclist hit them they would either wreck or seriously damage their tires. Keep an eye out for these as they could seriously mess up you and your bike. The potholes are mostly on the downhills so take caution when flying down the hills.

The other obstacle is one which a race director can do nothing about- squirrels! Those little buggers are scary! They run out in front of you, then run back, then dart out in front of you again. They can't decide if they want to get run over by your bike or not. I encountered 3 or 4 potentially suicidal squirrels on the 56 mile loop.


So in short- the course is beautiful with rolling hills on roads that have large shoulders and very few cars. I think there are going to be some damn fast bike splits at this race. There may also be some road rash for the cyclists that don't dodge the potholes on the downhills. There may also be a few squirrel deaths if they don't stay off the road.

I hope this helped for those that are racing the Waterman Half on October 8th!


  1. This looks like a fun course! I'm tempted...but haven't been training for a half. It's an hour away? I could be a cheerleader:-)

  2. Great (pre) review of the course. You are going to rock this (hills are nothing for you :-) ) It looks really pretty, too. Have you every biked in Poolesville, MD? The pictures kind of remind me of the "course" in Poolesville.

  3. That looks like FUN - you're going to KICK ASS!! Maybe next year... ;)

  4. I had no clue you were racing another half before your IM!! The course looks nice! Maybe I can come cheer you on :)

  5. squirrels kept attacking us last weekend! scary.

  6. Thanks for posting this report on Watermans! Will definitely keep an eye out for the swallow-your-bike-whole potholes!

  7. Thank you SO much for the preview, I will be racing it and not sure what to expect. It will be my 4th tri and 2nd Half. Good luck with your Full!