Story and photos by Neil Farrell

The first ever Ironman 70.3 Triathlon Morro Bay saw some 2,500 athletes of all ages and skill levels swim the Bay, bicycle up Highway 1, and run through the Downtown and Embarcadero streets on Saturday, May 20, as the first of three planned events is now in the books.

The Ironman Triathlon drew athletes from across the U.S. and several foreign lands as well, starting with a 1.2-mile swim in the chilly bay waters the company listed as 57 degrees, which is a little warm for these waters. 

There were so many athletes they started the swim three at a time, every 10 seconds, for well over an hour. Swimmers started hitting the Bay at 6 a.m. And despite the electronic timing devices each wore to track their progress through the swim-bike-run course, most also had a wristwatch timer.

The swim course led the athletes from Coleman Beach, south along the waterfront to a turn-around point near Rose’s Landing and then back, turning left towards Target Rock. A set of floating finger docks channel swimmers to a ramp that took them up through the rocks to the finish line. 

Hundreds of people, many with relatives in the race, lined the Harborwalk to watch the swimmers on a typical foggy and chilly morning.

The bike portion started at Morro Rock and caught Highway 1 northbound at Atascadero Road, riding up the highway to San Simeon, where they turned around and rode all the way back, some 55 miles total.

The run portion took the competitors down the Embarcadero from Morro Rock and up into town to Main Street, where they turned south and ran all the way through Lower State Park Road, turned around and ran back, doing the course twice for a total of about 13 miles. The finish line was at the Ironman Village that was set up in the parking lot across from Rose’s and Dutchman’s.

The Morro Bay event was a qualifier for the VinFast IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships, slated for Aug. 26-27 in Lahti, Finland.

The overall top-three men’s finishers were: 

  • Maksim Kniazev, first, in an overall time of 4 hours, 1 minute and 41 seconds. In a breakdown of stages he timed 29:07 for the swim; 2:06:56 for the bike; and 1:20:01 for the run, according to Ironman’s Race Results posted online at 
  • Denis Pyryev, second place, in 4:05:55 (26:01 swim; 2:15:50 bike; and 1:18:29 run).
  • Read Ziegler, third place, in 4:08:53 (26:26 swim; 2:16:26 bike; and 1:19:39 run).

The top-three women’s finishers were: 

  • Marissa Lovell, first, in 4:31:47 (30:47 swim; 2:29:58; 1:26:05).
  • Kelly Barton, second, in 4:40:02 (29:26 swim; 2:37:33 bike; and 1:26:59).
  • Kathryn Kennedy, third, in 4:40:41 (26:59 swim; 2:41:40 bike; and 1:27:07).

The event also had teams with a separate athlete doing the three stages for a combined overall time:

  • Team Tiki, first, in 3:38:45 (32:11 swim; 2:44:50 bike; and 1:16:29 run).
  • Team STRIVE Omni Sport, second, in 4:45:25 (39:28; swim; 2:25:54 bike; and 1:34:3 run). 
  • Team Sheeper, third, in 4:49:00 (29:48 swim; 2:20:54 bike; and 1:50:05 run).

The City, Visit Morro Bay, and Ironman, Inc., which owns the Ironman brand and holds events all over the world, signed an agreement for Morro Bay to host a total of three triathlons over three years, so residents can expect repeats in 2024 and ’25. Indeed, Ironman plans to start taking early sign-ups for the 2024 event in the coming weeks. It had little trouble maxing out this first event, as 2,500 athletes signed up to participate, though not that many actually showed up on race day.