If you go
What: Boulder Ironman
When: Aug. 3
Where: Boulder, various locations
More info: bit.ly/1qsHZ9e.
To get to the Boulder Reservoir for the swim start of the inaugural Boulder Ironman, spectators and competitors — even those who live nearby — will have to take a bus.
That bothers some athletes who booked expensive rooms at hotels near the reservoir, and some local spectators who say not being able to bike or walk is counter to Boulder's eco-friendly transportation mission.
"I know there are plenty of people who are planning on spectating who live in Gunbarrel and Niwot, and it's a short little bike ride, which the town encourages," said Brad Schildt, a triathlete who plans to watch the Ironman. "It seems kind of funny that they're not going to allow us to do that."
Schildt lives a few miles northwest of the reservoir. He learned from a post on the Ironman Boulder Facebook page that no cars, bikes or pedestrians will be allowed to enter the reservoir on race day, only designated buses.
Race organizers have instructed all athletes and spectators to park downtown and take a shuttle from Boulder High to the start line.
This arrangement is intended to protect athletes, prevent traffic and parking congestion and, to some extent, make the race friendlier to the environment, race organizers say.
Schildt has lived in the Boulder area since 1986, and said this is the first local event he knows of that has barred cyclists and pedestrians.
"Essentially they're saying 'No, no, hop in your car, drive downtown, find some place to park with 10,000 other people and then take a shuttle back out,'" he said. "Then afterward, line up for a shuttle and then drive your car back to your house."
He suggested that the dirt-road entrance to the reservoir from Coot Lake be open to pedestrians and cyclists, while the main entrance off 51st Street remain open only to buses.
Triathlete Ryan Matherne of Samford, Connecticut, said he had planned for a friend to drop off his race gear downtown early Sunday morning, and then pick him up after the race. They're staying closer to the reservoir than to downtown, he added.
"From what I can tell, it's going to be a huge hassle for me and my friend," Matherne, 26, said. "She's going to have to go much earlier than she planned to drop off my race bags, and I'm going to lose another hour of sleep driving downtown to catch a bus back to the swim start."
Defending the decision, race director Dave Christen said the buses will ease traffic congestion on Boulder's roads.
They'll also protect the athletes, both before the 6:30 a.m. swim start and when they leave the reservoir for the 112-mile bike leg, Christen said.
"A lot of people in our other events will ride their bike to the reservoir the morning of," Christen said. "With this event and its scale, they'd be riding in the dark. In my experience working and competing, I've seen more significant, severe incidents with people riding to the event on their bike than I've ever seen on the course during the race."
Christen said he expects 10,000 spectators to watch the more than 3,000 registered athletes that day, which would overwhelm the reservoir's 1,500 parking spaces.
As a triathlete himself, Christen said would love to avoid using buses. But for the majority of spectators and competitors, many who are coming to Boulder from out-of-state, a free bus from downtown is the most convenient and efficient way to get to the start line.
Buses are used at Ironman races in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Lake Tahoe, California, Whistler, British Columbia, and others, Christen added.
"We have to plan for the majority, not for the minority in this case," he said.
Mike Eubank, special events coordinator for the city of Boulder, said the buses also minimize the race's effects on neighbors, who don't have to deal with tons of traffic or people parking on sidestreets and highways.
The city is trying to incorporate other bike and pedestrian friendly components into the week leading up to the race, Eubank said.
There will be two designated bike parking lots downtown near Boulder High School and close to the finish line on 13th Street, he said. Through a partnership with B-cycle, race participants and their family members will also get a discount on the bike-sharing service.
"We're actively trying our best to incorporate those parameters that are unique to Boulder, but once we get into a venue like the reservoir, we really have to balance safety and the understanding that we're trying to transport as many people as efficiently as possible," Eubank said.
For volunteer and Boulder resident Shelby Katz the buses will make getting to the reservoir on race day a lot easier.
Katz competes in off-road triathlons and some cycling events, too. To her, free transportation at a race is a "no-brainer," she said.
"This is the best, and quite honestly, the only way to do it," she said. "The race director had fantastic foresight and decided it was really important to create a safe environment so they can continue on with this race in the future."
Competitor Angie Murphy of Boulder said she can see both sides. But as an athlete, she's appreciative of a decision that protects her and other triathletes on their bikes.
"I get frustrated when people don't look at the bigger picture to see all the logistics and planning that go into this that are in the athletes' best interests," she said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org