A:If you’re going to go to the trouble of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles, you may as well pick a gorgeous milieu. These courses are in locales that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but loaded with ways to relax post-race.
Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman New Zealand
March 1, 2014
Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman, held in Taupo, New Zealand, is one of the world’s most famous. This event provides a freshwater-lake swim and gorgeous landscape to run and bike through (picture the Shire in The Lord of the Rings), while attracting droves of spectators to cheer you on. And it offers 50 slots to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona. After you’re finished racing, you can soothe your achy muscles in the geothermal waters of the historic Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs & Pools.
Cairns Airport Ironman Cairns
June 8, 2014
In the Cairns Ironman, you’ll swim the cerulean waters of Sailfish Quay, cycle past stunning views of ocean and rainforest, and finish by running through a lively pedestrian mall—the Cairns Esplanade. After your efforts, you can unwind with a beer along the Esplanade, a dip in its famous lagoon, or a cruise to the nearby Great Barrier Reef.
Ironman Coeur d’Alene
June 29, 2014
The Ironman Coeur d'Alene is as challenging as it is beautiful. Carved out of northwest Idaho’s glacier-fed lakes, deep woods, and emerald parkland, the race is arduous—but it might reward you with one of 50 slots to qualify for Kona. When you’ve finished the many miles of swimming, biking, and running, you can relax in a spa, on a golf green, or on a boat in the Coeur d’Alene Lake.
June 29, 2014
The Ironman France sells out quickly, and it’s easy to see why. Hosted in Nice, the course takes you on a Mediterranean swim, a bike ride through picturesque villages and mountains, and a run on the Promenade des Anglais, a bustling pedestrian walkway. Once you’ve crossed the finish line, all the pleasures of Nice await, from its pebbly beaches to its organic wine bars and Musée Matisse. The race also offers 50 slots to qualify for Kona.
Ironman World Championship
October 11, 2014
The Ironman World Championship will take you on a swim through Kailua Bay just as the sun is rising over Mount Hualalai. You’ll then bike and run Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, passing stunning greenery and black lava. There’s a ticket to this paradise, though: you must qualify in a previous race to compete here. And it’s a tough race—where temperatures average in the mid-90s, coupled with humidity, intense trade winds, and high currents in the bay. But consider how good it’ll feel to cross the finish line here as an Ironman, with a final task of simply lazing on the beach.