Tri Training Harder's review of IRONMAN UK Bolton 2016

Welcome to our IRONMAN® UK Course Review. Here we aim to give you a good insight into the course, the location and what to expect as well as extra tips for spectators and advice for nutrition and training.


IRONMAN® UK is located in Bolton, Lancashire. It is a bit of a drive from London, but it is very easy to navigate to.

Bear in mind it is a split transition. The race HQ and T2 are located at the Macron Stadium, Bolton. The start and T1 are at Pennington Flash, around a 15-20 minute drive away from the stadium and the finish is in Bolton town centre. 


For accommodation you have a few options:
1)   Camping nearby - there are a few campsites in the vicinity however they are not immediately on-site like they are at Ironman 70.3 UK, Exmoor. 
2)   Local cottages to rent – great for groups and can be very inexpensive if booked in advance with a large party. More comfortable than camping, but there will be a short drive to get to and from race HQ.
3)   Hotel/B&B – there are plenty in and around Bolton and the nearby towns suiting a range of budgets.

Nirvana Europe are the Official Travel Agent to the IRONMAN® European Series, providing accommodation, travel and event services to athletes and spectators.


The IRONMAN UK Swim Course
The swim consists of 2 X 1.9km loops, with an exit/re-entry half way round to give the spectators an opportunity to cheer the athletes on. Pennington Flash is very clean with exceptional water quality and, apart from the very start which gets a little churned up with all the athletes treading in it, the water clarity is very good. Wetsuits are mandatory.

Cut off time: 2 hours 20 minutes after your wave start, with a further 10 minutes allowed to reach bike mount.


In T1 you will find your own numbered BLUE bag (given to you at registration) in which we would recommend having:

-Race belt with number attached*
-Bike Shoes
-Talc for your bike shoes to soak up any excess moisture
-Small towel
-Nutrition for the bike
-Spare water for rinsing your mouth out after the swim
-Warm layers


Your wetsuit and any other swim kit that you are finished with is to be put in this bag and passed to a volunteer to be re-hung.


The course can be seen as a lollipop shape, with Pennington Flash (the start) at the bottom of the stick. 
To view in high resolution, click here

The first 20km or so is fairly uneventful, passing through the outskirts of Bolton. 

At 24km, in Rivington, lap 1 starts and so does the climbing. The most significant hill, Sheephouse Lane, starts here and is climbed twice - once on each lap. The Sheephouse Lane climb is around 4 km in total, with approximately 200m of elevation gain over that period, averaging 5% gradient. The descent over the other side is very pleasant with no steep sections and good visibility around corners. 

There is a sharp left hand, uphill turn at the bottom of this descent so make sure you are in a small gear here in order to get up the little drag through Belmont. Once this drag is finished with, athletes have the chance to knuckle down for 6km or so along a main road with no junctions. There is a good road surface, and is downhill in the majority so has the potential to be a good fast section provided that the wind is in the athletes favour. 

To view in high resolution, click here
At 41km, athletes reach a large roundabout and take the first exit towards Wheelton and Heapy. After a short drag up from the roundabout this section of the course is flat and fast. A right hand turn followed by a sharp right again at 47km follows. During this section the course is quite technical and involves another right then immediate left turn. What follows is a short climb followed by a short, steep (be careful) descent down to a stream which is crossed over a small bridge. The course then heads gradually up the other side of the valley for a 2km gentle climb, after which athletes find themselves at the top of Denham Lane with some nice surrounding views.

Coach Philip near the top of Sheephouse Lane
Following this, the course has a section of around 30km of small winding roads involving quite a few junctions, twists and turns. Therefore, despite it being relatively flat, it is not especially fast as it can be difficult to get into a rhythm. At 77km athletes encounter Bannister Road, which takes them up the short steep climb of Hunters Hill. This is a really good point for athletes to gauge whether they are pacing the bike course well or not. From here, there is a fast section that takes athletes back towards Rivington and Lap 2 - the lap commences at the foot of Sheephouse Lane.

Once round for a second time, the course continues back down the lollipop 'stick' towards Bolton town centre, turning off after 5km into the Macron Stadium and T2.
Cut off time: 10 hours 30 minutes after your wave start, with a further 10 minutes allowed to reach the run exit.


At T2 you will come off your bike, rack it, then head into the marquee and pick up your RED transition bag. In this you will have all your run kit, of which we would recommend:

-Run nutrition
-Appropriate extra clothing for bad weather

Your helmet and any other discarded bike kit is to be put in this bag and left in the tent to be re-hung by a volunteer. 


The tow path
The run is a course of two halves. First you have the 'out' section, from T2 towards the town centre. This follows the main road for 4km, before turning back on itself and then immediately turning off to a side road down to the canal. The tow path alongside the canal is used for just over 2km (the only part of the course that is not tarmac) and then climbs the 900m steep hill back onto the main road at approximately 9km.

From here, the second section of the run course starts - the 'loops'. 

The course turns left onto the main road away from the town centre and heads gradually up to the top of the hill. The course then doubles back on itself and a gentle downhill to the town centre follows. The course then turns around next to the finish and heads back up to the top of the hill again. This entire loop is completed 3.5 times, finishing in the town centre. 

Cut off time: 17 hours after your wave start.

To view in high resolution, click here


Nothing beats the feeling of finishing an IRONMAN®.
Once you have crossed the line, received your medal and T-shirt, you will be shown into the finishers tent. Here there will be food, drink and massage tables. You will also find your WHITE bag here. In this, we would recommend putting:

-Clean socks and comfortable shoes
-Full change of clothes, especially if the weather is bad.


Our top tips for having the best experience at IRONMAN® UK as a spectator:

1) Where is best to spectate for the swim? 

For the swim at Pennington Flash the best place to be is right at the swim start and exit (these are in the same location for this race). There is a great atmosphere here and the bank is steep enough to get a good veiw of the course. 

The added bonus for this race is that half way through the swim, the athletes come out of the water, run along the lake edge and back into the water - a good chance to give the athlete you are supporting some encouragement mid-swim.

2) Where is best to spectate on the bike? 

We would really recommend spectating the bike course at the foot of Sheephouse Lane, just past Rivington, for a few reasons.

There is time to get there via car before the athletes pass for the first time (provided you are well organised) and they will go past this spot twice. As Sheephouse Lane is a hill, the athletes will be cycling a little slower giving you a little more time to spot your athlete and give encouragement. Finally, there is a fantastic atmosphere at this point with other supporters congregating here, there are also cakes and drinks for sale by locals.

3) Where to spectate on the run?

On the run course at IRONMAN® UK you have a lot of options to support your athlete. If you want the atmosphere and amenities of the finish line (with cafes and restaurants nearby for refreshments) then the town centre is a good place to spectate from. You will be able to hear the music, commentary and also encourage your athlete as they come past four times on their way to the finish line. If, however, you wish to give them some support in their darkest moments, then they would really appreciate you heading up the road away from the town centre where it is quieter and more lonely. Encouragement at these points make all the difference.

Gear and Equipment


This will be a wetsuit swim, so make sure you have one that is well fitted and that you have tried beforehand (walking around like a lemon in your living room doesn't count, get in a lake or the sea).

Take a couple of spare swim caps with you - these could be very useful extra head warmth on the day underneath the one you will be given.


This is a relatively hilly course. For IRONMAN® UK, due to the short, sharp nature of some of the climbs, a compact gear set up would be advisable for the majority of athletes. However, if you don't have a compact chainset then a 28 tooth rear cassette should be enough to prevent most riders from churning a gear that is too big. 

Make sure you have enough bottle cages for your nutrition plan and have got your bike fully serviced or at least well cleaned, lubricated and checked (especially tyres and brakes) at least a week before the race so that you can ride with confidence without putting yourself (or anyone else riding near you) in danger.

Ipods, MP3 players or similar are not permitted, and your race number must be worn on your back and clearly visible.


The terrain is tarmac for the majority with a very short gravel/trail section next to the canal, making lightweight trainers the obvious choice. Make sure trainers are well worn-in pre race, the last thing you want are blisters on the run leg! Remember, Ipods, MP3 players or similar are not permitted on the course. Your race number must be worn on your front, visible for photographers and marshals to see.


All your hard work and dedication in the lead up to this will be completely 100% wasted without a viable nutrition plan on race day! For a more in-depth look at how you could tackle your nutrition plan for the race, click here.

Bike Course Feed Stations:

These will be found at 24km (Rivington), 59km (Buckshaw Village), 74km (Mawdsley Village) 100km (Rivington), 133km (Buckshaw Village), 150km (Mawdsley Village) and 174km (Rivington).

At these feed stations you will find: PowerBar Drink, Energize Bars, Water and Bananas (cut in half)

Run Course Feed Stations:

There are 3 feed stations on each of the 3 run laps, each around 2.4km apart.

0km (The Macron Stadium), 2.4km (The Beehive), 6.4km (Lostock), 11km (The Lane), 14.6km (Bark Street), 20km (The Lane), 24km (Bark Street) 18km (The Lane), 32km (Bark Street), 23km (The Lane), 41km (Bark Street). 

At these feed stations you will find: PowerBar Drink, Gels, Water, Cola and Bananas (cut in half)


Tri Training Harder, the official coach for IRONMAN® UK Events in 2016 can be of help in a number of ways:

- Download your own bespoke training plan for your event here.
- Have a coach help, who will build your training plan for you with options that suit your needs and budget here.
- Phone consultation with an experiened coach to answer your personal training questions here.
- A training holiday in the Algarve for a week of training surrounded by like-minded individuals and experienced coaches to answer any of your questions! 

Tri Training Harder's training holidays in Portugal. Training is never as hard in the sunshine!

Registration for 2017

Don't want to miss out? Go to to re-register for 2017 events.

We hope this review has helped you. Happy Training!

The Tri Training Harder team

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