Course Review IRONMAN 70.3 Western Mass

IRONMAN 70.3 Western Massachusetts was an inaugural race in 2023. I jumped at the chance to participate since it’s 13 miles from where I grew up in Connecticut, and I attended Springfield College for my doctorate degree. It felt like coming home, and that’s just what I did. I was able to stay with family, my family came to spectate, along with friends I don’t see often. Although Springfield, Massachusetts doesn’t sound like a location for a race-cation, there is plenty to do in the area and even more just a short drive away if you are traveling with family and little ones. Including Six Flags New England, the Dr. Seuss Museum, hiking Mt. Holyoke, and unique shopping and dining in Northampton, MA.

Where to Stay

Springfield, Massachusetts is a small city with many hotels in the vicinity. The MGM casino which is only a few years old, is located right next to the race venue. The race is located right next to the major highway going north and south, which provides easy access if you stay a little outside of the urban area. Just across the river in West Springfield there are plenty of hotels a short drive away. There are some rental options through Vrbo and Air BnB but there is less inventory than other IM races like Wilmington or Atlantic City.

The Course

Racing in southern Massachusetts allows you to experience the charms of New England. In early June the temperatures can vary quite a bit but usually you won’t see extremes, it won’t be cold, and it won’t be very hot. This year the temperatures were cool in the morning but no extra layers needed on the bike. The run did get warm by the end and we had higher than average temperatures that day. However, no humidity which is a huge plus. The course takes you though rolling hills, and scenic landscapes of New England country roads while having an urban feel on the run.


Western Mass 70.3 is on a Sunday with time to travel in on Friday, check in bikes on Saturday, and race on Sunday, if you are looking for a quick turnaround. The local airport (Hartford BDL) is about 30 minutes away and as mentioned there are many hotels close to the race venue. Being in a small city there are A LOT of options for food! The expo is located downtown in the Mass Mutual Center.

One race morning, I parked at the MGM Casino since it’s in between the expo location and bike check in. I was able to walk to the expo grab my packet, head back to the car, grab my bike and walk over to check it in at transition. I would highly recommend checking our Red Rose Pizzeria while in town, it’s yummy! The expo is your typical expo with IRONMAN apparel and race apparel. There were a few other vendors there, I was able to pick up some race fuel that I needed a few more of, however there are some local shops that are a short drive away if you need other items during your stay.

Morning Transition

The race website has a few suggestions for parking but I would highly recommend parking at the MGM Casino if you aren’t staying within walking distance. The casino has its own exit off the highway that takes you right to the parking lot, it’s then about a 5-minute walk to transition from there. There is a parking garage across from transition however the entrance and whether you have to pay or not was not clear, and I didn’t want to stress if I couldn’t get in and/or roads are closed.

This is an EARLY race start – 6 a.m.! Transition opens at 4:30 a.m. Bring a headlamp/lantern/flashlight so you are able to set up transition in the dark. There are no bike pumps allowed, so keep that in mind. My race support did not arrive until later so I had my backpack which was able to slide under my bike, however if you are early enough, you would have time to walk/jog back over to your car to drop your bags.

LONG WALK TO SWIM START, NO SHUTTLE!  If you are wanting to line up in the front pack of swimmers you need to take this under consideration. The walk is 1 mile long, and takes 15-20 minutes to walk depending on how fast, or you could jog there… Don’t underestimate this walk. I arrived, and was putting on my wetsuit as the race was starting. I still had time to get in line, and still waited to enter the water, so you have a buffer if you don’t want to start in the front. There is a morning clothes bag so you are able to wear warm ups and shoes for the walk and retrieve them after the race.

The Swim

It’s down river in the Connecticut River, it’s fast, and odds are wetsuit legal. It is a walk-in start, and you are immediately starting to swim downstream. The Connecticut River has waters that come down from the north, therefore the water is likely going to be cooler, depending a lot on the temperatures during the spring. If you look at some of the social media groups from last year there was a lot of talk about water issues with sewage run off being a possibility. This was not the case, the water was cool and clear. Compared to other rivers I have swam it was much better. I would rank this as one of the best 70.3 swims I have completed (I have done 8) other than Wilmington, North Carolina.

This was an early season race for me, and I was thankful for it being wetsuit legal with a current helping me along. I felt good coming out of the water, with no fatigue from fighting current or other factors.


The transition is almost .25 miles long, your T1 times will look long because of this. However, it’s on a path that is comfortable, well supported, and right in the middle of the spectator cheer zone. I had no issues finding my way or my bike. The race director announced the T1 transition will be shorter, keep an eye out for those changes.

The Bike

The race director also announced in the fall that the bike course will be slightly different this year. However, I don’t see it being less hilly. The bike course in 2023 was a mix of flats, rolling hills and a long steady climb. I did not spend a lot of time in aero, but there were a few spots where you can settle in for a bit. Train for hills so you feel strong through the ride. I am not a strong hill cyclist and I wasn’t overwhelmed by the course. Having done a lot of triathlon training in New England I personally thought the course could have been worse with pot holes and bumps. However, if you train on nice smooth roads, it will feel very bumpy to you. They did say for this year, it is one thing they are trying to improve upon. Last year we entered back into Springfield via West Springfield, and later in the morning it was busy with traffic. The police did the best they could but KEEP YOUR EYES UP. The police were positive, supportive, and warned me a few times of issues. I was pleasantly surprised to see many neighborhoods outside cheering us on with signs, and well wishes.


Welcome back from your scenic New England bike ride. Transition 2 has some high energy!  Lots of spectators cheering on both their cyclists returning and runners going out. I was able to see my family easily as I was running my bike on the path to the racks. It’s long…however this also is supposed to be made shorter this year, keep an eye out for those changes as well.

The Run

Time to settle in for a nice flat, uncomplicated run after a challenging bike course. The run has a chance of being warm, there was some shade on the course but not always. The run is well supported, and the best part of it was going by transition area many times where many spectators were hanging out. I was able to see friends and family 4 times during the run.

The run course is a simple, out and back, out and back, repeat. The hills on the course lead up to bridges, on one of the out backs you will go up a small hill on the path and come down the other side. You will then go up a hill to get on the Memorial Drive Bridge, come down the other side, and then back up it as you are coming back. In between these two bridges was a water stop which you can utilize both ways. My thanks to the spectator on the bridge who was providing encouragement to us! On the 2nd out and back it’s mainly flat, this part is a bit lonely, with few spectators, however there are plenty of athletes to keep you company.

Finish Line

Although Springfield isn’t a large city, the finish line is right in the middle of it, which has some of the feels of a big city race finish, just not as many spectators. There is a park next to the finish line which is great for spectators. I was able to easily see my family and find them, as well as my morning clothes bag.


Post-race food and recovery area was in the Mass Mutual Center which was a few blocks away from the finish line. I did not make my way over there so I can’t speak to how good it was. I did go into the MGM casino to use the elevator up to my car, and there were quite a few people celebrating in the restaurants there, which is another great option. There are restaurants you can access if you are with family who are not 21. As mentioned above there are plenty of post-race celebration options in the area to create a memorable race experience.

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