Posted by Michael J. Montalbano November 14, 2007 10:02AM
Swim, bike, run.
If you put these activities together, you have the makings of an extreme event, and cities are eager to snag the ultimate triathlon competition -- Ironman.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Ironman 70.3 New Orleans will take place April 5, 2009, in the Crescent City. The grueling but uplifting event, which could have an economic boon of about $5 million to the Crescent City, according to race organizer Bill Burke, will consist of a 1.2-mile swim (in Lake Pontchartrain), a 56-mile bike and a 13.1-mile run -- for a total of 70.3 miles -- in a field that will include professionals and age-group athletes.
The New Orleans event is the equivalent of a half Ironman -- a full Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run -- but it still will take a supreme effort for the competitors in the Crescent City to experience the thrill of finishing.
"In a city that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina just two years ago, there only appears to be promise in its future," Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said. "Rebuilding efforts are fully under way, and the city welcomes Ironman 70.3 with enthusiasm.
"Louisiana is in the business of hosting major sporting events. .¤.¤. We are extremely thrilled to be part of the Ironman 70.3 series. I can't think of anything that stretches you more than an Ironman event."
Ironman 70.3 New Orleans will be the only Ironman 70.3 World Championships qualifier in a five-state region (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia). Fifty spots (46 age-group slots and four professional slots) will be up for grabs for the 2009 World Championships in Clearwater, Fla.
Only about 30 Ironman events are scheduled around the world for 2008.
"New Orleans is certain to become a favorite destination for the Ironman community," Jay Cicero, president/CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation said. "Our unique architecture, cultural ambiance and world-class hospitality will provide an unforgettable experience for athletes. New Orleans has a long history of raising the bar for events.
"A triathlete is a highly driven person. We like to have those type of people in New Orleans."
The field for the Ironman 70.3 New Orleans will not exceed 2,500 participants, and there will be no cutoff time for each individual segment -- but an overall cutoff of eight hours will be enforced.
One local triathlete jazzed to hear that the Crescent City now is on the Ironman 70.3 series schedule was Mandeville's Caroline Smith.
Smith was the first amateur female and won her age group (35-39) by nearly five minutes at the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Championships on Saturday in Clearwater. Smith finished in 4:23:43. She completed the swim in 28:26, the bike in 2:15:10 and the run in 1:33:48. Smith finished No.¤227 overall in the event.
"I'm excited about the race coming to New Orleans," Smith said. "In this sport, we have always had to travel to the big races -- and to have one come here is a real treat.
"There are a lot of folks from New Orleans and its surrounding areas who train and participate in triathlon and the healthy, active lifestyle that comes with it. I think the magnitude of this race will help the sport gain some much-needed recognition here in the city."
Ochsner Health System has signed a three-year agreement with Premier Event Management to be the title sponsor of Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.
"This will be an event in a city like no other," Burke said.
Like any event of this magnitude, volunteers will be sought to ensure the success of the race. About 300 volunteers will be needed throughout the course.
Leading up to the event, a more detailed schedule for athletes and volunteers will be provided.
The race itself will be eye-opening.
The average water temperature in Lake Pontchartrain during April is in the mid-70s, and if the water is that chilly, participants would be allowed to wear wet suits for the 1.2-mile swim. The bike course will weave to Lake Catherine and head back to the Lakefront -- with the run concluding in "spectator friendly" Jackson Square.
Smith, who also completed the 2007 Ironman World Championships in 10:39:19 (finishing No.¤625 overall) last month in Kona, Hawaii, already is looking forward to the New Orleans event.
"It will be an A race for sure," she said. "I think triathletes across the Gulf Coast will show up in big numbers. Because of the conditions of the roads and Lake Pontchartrain following the hurricane, runners and those in triathlons lost some races. This will be a rebirth."
Winners in the men's Ironman 70.3 series competition usually finish in about 3:50 to four hours, with the women's champions finishing in about 4:20 to 4:30.
Visit www.ironmanneworleans.com to register for Ironman 70.3 New Orleans. The cost is $225.