IRONMAN UK confirms course changes for Sunday

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From 112 miles to 95: wildfires impact IRONMAN UK 2018

As you’ll no doubt have seen on the news in recent weeks, the recent hot weather has been a contributor towards major issues with wildfires on the moors in Northern England. Today it was confirmed that changes will be made to the course for IRONMAN UK, Bolton this coming Sunday, 15th July.

The full announcement sent out to entrants has been reproduced in full below.

The summary points are:

  1. The bike course has been changed and will now be a distance of 95 miles.
  2. A map of the revised course is available, linked below.
  3. Despite course changes, these do NOT impact the existence or allocation of Kona slots for the IRONMAN World Championship in October 2018.
  4. While there have been fires, testing indicates that air quality levels are showing completely normal readings.
  5. The hot weather has caused a rise in blue-green algae levels at Pennington Flash (swim venue).
  6. Blue-green algae levels can change / dissipate overnight depending on weather patterns and will continue to be monitored.
  7. Should elevated levels mean the swim has to be cancelled, the event will be held as a bike-run.
  8. Regarding the swim, the event will “make any announcements of changes closer to, or on race day.”

My thoughts

There are two crucial issues here that need to be remembered:

  1. The factors that have resulted in late changes having to be made are out of the control of the organisers.
  2. Having to make late changes in circumstances that realistically could not have been forecast is very difficult.

While it would appear that social media is reaching meltdown and words like “scandal” and “disgrace” are being thrown around casually, a little more perspective and understanding is required from athletes. I have no doubt at all that the last people that want to make any changes are the team at IRONMAN UK.

It takes many months of commitment to train for an Ironman. It also takes many months and lots of people to organise one, people with organisational skills who are similarly committed and experienced in their particular field.

The over-riding objective must be to provide a safe race. And that, though as an entrant you rarely consider it, is much of what you are paying for. Sometimes, sh&% happens, and there have been plenty of other races in recent memory that have had to be changed at late notice in terms of format or distance. I’ll repeat it again – the last people that want to do that are the organisers, because it makes their job much harder (and not just because of the ‘abuse’ they get online!).

Given the wide area across which the event is held, it also means that logistics are incredibly complicated in relation to things like road closures / traffic management / medical access, and the need to coordinate with a host of council partners and road management agencies. There will be many things that the organisers would like to do – but that is simply not possible because of restrictions implemented by the many local authorities with whom the race has to work. A “just stick in an out-an-back section to make up the distance” is easy to post on Twitter, but incredibly difficult to implement in practice.

“The alternate route has been devised at short notice due to the wildfires and in close consultation with our council partners, local authorities and other key stakeholders and is the best alternate route that allows the race to go ahead to ensure athlete safety. Importantly, the impact of the course on the residents of the community in the light of the ongoing wildfires must be considered and respected.”

I really do feel for athletes who have prepared for the iconic distance. And those are not empty words, I’m multiple Ironman finisher myself. Right now, I’m sure I would also be gutted.

Yet, at the same time, the cause of these changes have seen people evacuated from their homes, schools closed and the army called in to assist firefighters in trying to contain a major incident.

As frustrated as you are, focus on what you can do, the preparation you have done – and that the organisers will have been, and continue to do, everything they can to make the best of your race day experience.


Due to recent wildfires, and after extensive consultation with our council partners, local authorities and other key stakeholders, we would like to provide you a further update on IRONMAN UK Bolton 2018, including the decision to implement an alternate bike course.

While we’ve made every effort to continue with the original bike course, to ensure athlete and public safety, it is necessary to implement the following changes:

BIKE COURSE UPDATE

Athletes will exit T1 as normal and ride 15 miles to the start of the 2-lap section.

1)    After climbing Babylon Lane athletes will now TURN LEFT onto Nickleton Brow instead of heading past New Road Rivington. The aid station will now be located on Nickleton Brow.

2)    Athletes will cross Rivington Reservoir via Knowsley Lane and continue onto Moor Road.

3)    Moor Road is a technical climb with a long descent. After climbing Moor Road athletes can enjoy panoramic views of the North West before starting the technical descent.

4)    The course will then merge onto Higher House Lane before taking a right onto Hollin Lane, left onto Coppice Lane, right onto Tithe Barne Lane merging onto Chapel Lane before re-joining the original course in Wheelton on the A674.

The total distance of the alternate course is 95 miles, which while short, is the only solution which enables the race to go ahead, and ensures that our athletes, volunteers, marshals and staff remain safe; while also minimising the impact of the change on residents and local businesses.

You can view the new bike course map, here.

Despite the altered distance, IRONMAN UK Bolton remains a fully sanctioned IRONMAN event and a qualifier for the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i.

With the current fires in and around the Winter Hill area, we wish to assure you that air quality levels on the IRONMAN UK Bolton course have been continuously tested by environmental agency and civil contingency teams and show no increase to normal readings.

SWIM COURSE UPDATE

The current heatwave across the UK has caused a rise in blue-green algae levels and rising water temperature at the swim venue at Pennington Flash.

Blue-green algae is a natural occurrence influenced by weather patterns which can appear or dissipate overnight. With weather conditions affecting the presence and dissipation of blue-green algae, we must continue to monitor through water quality testing.

All athletes are reminded of the importance of attending one of the following Athlete Briefing sessions at the Albert Halls:
•    Friday 13 July 2018: 17:00 – 18:00
•    Saturday 14 July 2018: 12:00 – 13:00
•    Saturday 14 July 2018: 17:00 – 17:45

We thank you for your patience and understanding as we manage these situations that have occurred beyond our control. Our thanks go out to our council partners, firefighters, rescue workers and emergency services for their efforts in containing the situation, ensuring the safety of the surrounding communities and for making it possible for the adjusted race to go ahead.

Please go here to read Frequently Asked Questions and remember you can stay up to date by downloading the IRONMAN app, visiting our website or following us on Facebook at IRONMAN England.

We look forward to welcoming you to IRONMAN UK this weekend,
Your IRONMAN UK Bolton Team