There's been a lot of discussion had about where's the best place to stay for an IRONMAN event.After racing 5 (don't forget the 2014 TX DNF), I have a few tricks up my sleeve I'd recommend. Next to training, travel and lodging can be the next biggest stressor or relief to your big race.
I've been to CA for IM Lake Tahoe, TX for IM TX, Chattanooga for IM Choo, Boulder for IM Boulder and Panama City Beach for IM FL. Not to mention several half IM events out of town as well. Each trip has been unique in who went with me and the requirements of each home base. Lets just say I have a wide breathe of experience to draw on to recommend ways to find a place to stay, specifically at the races I have been to or guidelines in general.
General GuidelinesThings to consider.
- How many people?
- Going to cram 10 people in a place that says it can fit 10, but using air mattresses and fold out beds?
- Adults vs kids?
- Sometimes adults want their own space. Aunt or grandparent coming with? Do they want to bunk up with the kiddos or their own room? Ask everyone what their preference is so they're not making you miserable complaining.
- Kids in separate room?
- Again... tweenies and toddlers are completely different animals. Can you stand your teenage kid sitting on top of each other while you're stressing over race logistics?
- Age of kids?
- Toddlers, teenagers, tweenies, infants... that all have their special requirements and you may not want them near you for extended periods of time. Paying for more space may be worth it in the long run.
- Nothing worse than coming back after the event and YOU NEED TO GO and Grandma is washing her dentures in the 1 bathroom for 10 people.
- Rooms in general
- Consider if you're getting up early for last minute workouts or race day, some consideration for those not getting up at 3:30am would be wise.
- Distance to race venue / check in / etc
- If it's a 50 minute hike to drop gear, bikes and check in... that time will eat up any free time you thought you had.
- Consider the race host hotel
- Yes, generally it's more costly, but if you have a group with you, consider their time that can be saved commuting around tracking you down when they can roll out to the start, transition and finish area.
- Also consider if the race has multiple transitions, different start than finish, etc. Do you want to be near the start or finish line? Typically events arrange for you to park at the finish and transport you to the start. If you have people with you, it may be flexible.
- Consider renting out houses with multiple resources these days.
- Sure, there are options like Choice Hotels for the standard hotel, but you'll have to work out food and the like without a full kitchen to work with. Plus less flexibility on space if you have multiple people going.
- Consider VRBO.com for a great option.
- Tips - check out renter reviews. Obviously the more the better.
- Prices shown on initial search may be lower when you click down to each property.
- Consider cleaning fees that may drive the price up.
- Better chance of getting spot on run course for spectators to watch racers run by over and over. Can't tell you how awesome it was to run by my family at IM FL 4 times for a pick me up.
- Get on it early. The choice spots go fast.
- On a budget? The worst feeling in the world is trying to get ready for a big race and you cheaped out and picked to share a house with randoms and you don't feel relaxed ANYWHERE besides starbucks or McDonalds. $50 bucks extra for a night in a nice hotel the day before can be a difference maker. Take my word for it.
- Do some homework. If there's a convenient route to the race parking, odds are 2500 other athletes have the same idea. Literally hours could be saved sitting in traffic waiting to park and stressing out if you found a maybe longer, but less traveled route to the race. Air BNB and VRBO are great for housing options near events that provide a direct route bypassing high traffic routes. Take that into consideration when picking a location.
IRONMAN FLORIDA RECOMMENDATIONSStay close to the host hotel/condo. There are SEVERAL options from 1 to 10 people at VRBO and several hotels. We stayed in a house on the run course, which was great, but parking to get to the start and finish was a pain for my family and we'd recommend staying within walking distance to the start and finish avoiding having to cross any routes of the race, bike or run.
I would recommend staying south of Thomas street and depending if you have kids in the group, staying within walking distance is best to allow easy coming and going and letting the kids play at the beach and being able to walk back and forth to home base.
IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA RECOMMENDATIONSIn 2014 I went alone and stayed at a hotel 15 minutes from transition. It worked out well. Traffic wasn't much of an issue. I did have to pay for parking, but there was a lot to choose from. It worked for a lone traveler. The route off the highway was direct into IM village and transition. Easy peasy.
If I end up there with a family, I'd recommend looking at the host hotel or one of many houses along the run route. Most locations are walkable to transition without the need to drive around. Plan to stay close with a group or even stay within the downtown area for loners or small groups.
Honestly it might be worth the cash to stay on the south side of the river near downtown to stay within walking distance to transition. You'll see athletes at each transition and very close by for run turn arounds and the finish. It makes for a great home base. Next best option is north of the river on the run course to be able to walk the bridge back to the finish line and transition area.
IRONMAN BOULDER RECOMMENDATIONSUnless you want to fork out some dough to stay in a house near the Rez, you'll be staying somewhere where you have to drive to the start. The half IM is a one transition race while the full starts at the Rez and T2 is at the high school near downtown. Staying downtown at least gives you access to more options to stay. Near the Rez you will have a drive to get back after the race and looking at crossing at least the bike route.
The perk with Boulder full IM is that run is contained within the paved trail system with minimal impact to traffic. On the flip side the half is all on the roads around the Rez and access to parking is open due to allowing bikes to leave through a back door trail system. Coming and going is pretty easy minus crossing traffic to get to the access road to the Rez. Really, don't plan on leaving the Rez for the half. Driving to and from downtown for parking and spectating is not hugely impacted. That being said, it's always nice to walk, but you'll be driving to park and ride to the Rez to watch the start and T1. Athletes and spectators are encouraged to park by the high school and ride buses to the Rez for the start for the full.
For the half I'd suggest looking to the east and immediately south to make a quick entry and exit to race site.
For the full, I'd recommend looking near T2 and the finish line. You are encouraged to ride the shuttle that leaves from the high school, so proximity to the Rez is not really as important.
Always, if you have places to stay for free, you can't beat that. I stayed in south Denver with in-laws and drove to Boulder when I raced IM Boulder in 2015. It was an hour drive each way and coming back was brutal, but I saved bank having somewhere to stay for free and with people I knew and trusted. It worked, but was a little bit of a stress to drive around so much.
Thanks for reading! As always if you found this post helpful, please share on social media, email the link, etc.
I also have groups for separate events where I post specific tips for each race since I have raced them and have a decent amount of experience with each venue.
IM CHATTANOOGA 70.3 and 144.6 --> https://www.facebook.com/groups/154018848532000/
IM BOULDER 70.3 and 140.6 --> https://www.facebook.com/groups/1533666713416165/
IM FLORIDA --> https://www.facebook.com/groups/1975094579431071/