In just under two weeks, a few thousand athletes and their family and friends will travel to the quaint and beautiful Lake Michigan coastal town of Frankfort to take part in IRONMAN 70.3 Michigan — an event that’s had its share of twists and turns over the past year and a half during the pandemic.

You can’t exactly call this 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run on Sunday, Sept. 12 a new event in northern Michigan — the first IRONMAN 70.3 in northern Michigan took place in late August 2019, in Traverse City — though it is inaugural in that it moved from TC to Frankfort, about 45 minutes to the west, on the shores of Lake Michigan. It also has a new date; the Traverse City event took place over Labor Day weekend while the Frankfort event is set for the second weekend in September. 

It also happens to be an event that holds a special place in Heather’s heart, being the first (and only, so far) IRONMAN 70.3 she’s taken on.

IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City
Heather, about to finish IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City in 2019

In this episode, Heather talks with race director Joel Gaff about what athletes and spectators can expect to experience during IRONMAN 70.3. Joel shares course information, race weekend highlights, and behind-the-scenes details, including what it’s been like to plan for an in-person IRONMAN during the pandemic. 

Joel Gaff with his wife Laura and their two daughters

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Heather and Joel also cover how they’re both feeling about their own athletic pursuits lately (Heather shares how she made the tough decision to defer to the 2022 IRONMAN 70.3 Michigan, while Joel talks about getting back on the road and running more after dealing with an injury). Joel, who has two young daughters, also talks about his especially busy summer — he served as race director of another all-new IRONMAN 70.3 in Oregon — and what he’s looking forward to this fall.


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