I booked this when it was just IRONMAN St George and then it became the World Championship as once again Corona virus blocked Kona (which I was supposed to be at 2020 and 2021 for my legacy slot). When it became the World Championship you were given the option to stay or transfer. I of course stayed! This is the first time ever the World Championship was outside of Hawaii and the course at St George is tougher with 7500 feet of elevation gain on the bike and 1500 on the run. Add to that the heat and the wind, wow. In for a treat!
St George Utah sits at about 3000 feet so a little altitude but really not too bad and its super dry with very little humidity which makes it easy to dehydrate. My uber driver on the way from the airport said “electrolytes, lots of electrolytes”. The weather forecast was around 90 degrees and windy. Great, sounded just like Ironman Texas I had completed 2 weeks earlier (so yes was still a bit fatigued from that!). The practice swim was cancelled because of high wind so something everyone kept an eye on.
I stayed at the Advenire hotel which was 5-minute walk from the IRONMAN village and finish line and it was a great hotel. I arrived on Wednesday afternoon for the Saturday race to give me a buffer from any travel issues.
I quickly checked in and went to the village for athlete check-in and to buy stuff. The Athlete store was at the entrance of the village and only once you went through the store could you walk through the rest of the village and to athlete check-in. It was grander in scale than any regular IRONMAN I had done and it was exciting to be in the midst of it but I suspect Kona will be another level completely. I bought some event swag like t-shirts, water bottles, name towels then headed to athlete check-in.
You were given your number ahead of the event unlike other events where your number is allocated at check-in. It was all digital and very fast. As you entered check-in YOU GOT A COIN!! Yay.
You were given your bracelet, packet with two bibs (one to keep, one to use on run), extra event sticker and then went and picked up the backpack which had all the other gear bags and goodies in it including towel, luggage tag and poster (but no flag). You did NOT get your chip, that would be at bike check-in Friday.
I walked over to TriBike Transport and picked up my bike then back to the hotel. I walked over to Pizza Factory, had dinner then back to the room. There was a huge amount of talk on Facebook about the cold water of the swim, the 60-degree temperature and I started to panic. On Amazon I quickly ordered a second swim cap (so could double cap) and silicon ear plugs which I overnighted to the hotel. Thank you Amazon! Then to sleep.
Thursday was an easy day as I really had nothing to do. I had a great breakfast of egg whites and pancakes, I had a burger at the hotel for lunch and baked ziti at Pasta Factory for dinner. I was playing loose with my normal plan of pasta and chicken for my meals. I would regret this Saturday! I did take some pictures around the M-dot statue.
The only thing I had to do Thursday was to put on my bike stickers and drop back off at TriBike Transport. They were providing a T1 shuttle where they would take your bike to T1 and then have a bus Friday to take you there to do the actual bike and bike gear bag check-in. I did lay out all my gear and put in the clear gear bags. The bags were smaller than the regular bags for other events so was a bit of a squeeze for my bike gear!
Friday was bike, and gear bag check-in. You already selected times in advance online but they never enforced them. I had picked 7am run bag check-in and 8am bike and bike gear check-in. The bike was point-to-point so T1 and T2 were different locations.
I walked to T2 to drop off my run bag at 7am then walked to tri bike transport for the shuttle at 7:30 which arrived at 8am at T2. I got my bike from TriBike then dropped off at T2 and bag in the transition tent. The swim looked like a really nice location.
Then 8:30 shuttle back for lazyish day with just a few work calls. What was nice is both T1 and T2 were in tents so your gear bags were in the shade.
Lunch was ziti again then pizza for dinner. That evening I showered, put on sunscreen then my tri-tats and tried to sleep. I didn’t sleep well at all.
Saturday was the big day. The shuttles were based on swim time based on age. I was the last wave for males so 4:30 bus boarding for 7:30 swim start. I left the room at 4:15 so got up at 2:30. There were lots of school buses and it took about 40 minutes to get to the start/T1. Once there you did not have access to transition bags but you could access the bikes. I pumped them up to 95 psi then just relaxed. I chatted to a few people about random Ironman things. As usual I stopped sipping the Powerade 90 minutes before start time and had my gel and 5-hour energy 60 minutes before along with a final potty visit 🙂 This routine seems to work well for me.
Straying from my pasta and chicken for 2 days prior for lunch and dinner and pizza for final dinner taught me a lesson. My stomach was a little dodgy at the start of the day and some during but not too bad. Live and learn. Back to my strict eating in future!
Much talk had been made of the swim and how cold it was, 59 degrees leading up. On the morning it was 64 degrees, still cold. I only have a sleeveless wetsuit but had purchased extra neoprene partial arm covers and as mentioned had my double gap and ear plugs. I also put on my neoprene booties.
The swim was in waves based on gender and age. Within those waves which started at set times 6 people were let in every 10 seconds. I was in the last male wave and seated myself in the middle. As I got in the water it was a little shock of cold but not too bad, at least not initially. The swim course was basically an out and back with a turn but you swam to the left of the buoys except for the final part. This was hard for me as I always breath to the left so it meant I had to constantly sight lifting up my head making my neck get sore. Also the wind started to pick up so was pretty choppy water. Near the start of the swim I thought a boat went past me as something very fast went past creating a wake. Nope, was a human being!!! It was insane! Aquaman does IRONMAN apparently.
As the swim progressed my wetsuit clearly is not very well fitting as cold water kept flooding in so I never got warm and was steadily getting colder. Near the end my body was shivering and I kept trying to bunch my fingers to try and warm them up a little. I didn’t work and when I eventually finished at 1:38 I was shuddering. On the plus side the double cap and ear plugs worked great. Normally I swim 90 minutes so I was a lot slower. Not sure if that’s the booties, my body just not doing as well in the cold, not swimming straight because of sighting issues. There were wet suit strippers as you exited to help and then into the transition tents where there were lots of volunteers. They had to help me tighten my shoes as I didn’t have control of my frozen hands 🙂 I was looking forward to the bike just to warm up.
At the start of the bike I had my usual challenge of having to overtake people as I’m much stronger bike than swim AND I started last in the men however not as bad as usual as it was overall a high standard of athlete given the world championship status and most were age group winners of other events. There were a few people just riding the left and I’d have to shout out “on your left” however this was only the first 10 miles. One disappointment was the gel at aid stations. Aid station 1 only had only with caffeine and stations 2 and 3 had NONE! Pretty bad but luckily I carried a few for just this type of situation but I was panicking a little. Later aid stations DID have the gels still.
The bike had crazy elevation gain, 7500 feet. It was always up or down, you were constantly changing gears but really got brutal once you hit around mile 65 ish. I knew this so was holding back at the start to ensure I had energy for the hills. On the big ascents I would drop to my lowest gear but kept pushing the button hoping that if I pushed enough times another secret, emergency only gear would appear and help. It didn’t. Many people were pushing their bikes up the hills, many others were zig-zagging across the road (to reduce the slope) and to the credit of the marshals those people were given penalties for dangerous behavior, at least some of them. I was able to ascend fairly comfortably though in the bottom gear. I would stand occasionally for maybe 30 seconds just to stretch my legs.
A big part of the elevation gain were two huge ascents. On the first huge ascent there was someone in front of me with “Don’t Give Up” written on the back of their shirt vertically. As he was bent over as I was approaching him all I could see was “Give Up”. Tempting 🙂 I had not driven the course (I never do) nor really studied it so I was never sure when the ascent part was finished and I kept thinking “this must be the end” but nope, little flat bit then up again. It seemed to last forever!
The benefit of huge ascents are huge descents however in addition to the hills it was hot (around 90) and also a lot of wind. This came into play during the descents as what goes up must come down. You had cross wind gusts that would try to push you over. I didn’t care. I worked for my uphill and was going to reap the reward of the downhill. I tucked into aero and tried to make myself as small as possible. I also willed myself to have all my weight going straight down to be impossible to knock over 🙂 It seemed to work as I bombed down both the huge two descents getting up to 46.5 mph. Weeeeeeee
The combination of the hills, elevation overall (3000 feet base), heat, lack of humidity and wind made it very tough. I was very happy with my 6:29 time but I think I was under hydrated by the end that would hit me on the run. My average power was low but its a function of times I was not peddling at all, then just hard to judge what to do with the unknowns. I was doing about 220-230 up the hills.
My huge fear was true when I got to the run transition tent. My hook was empty. Um. I looked on hooks around and found my gear. I assume someone picked up mine by mistake then found theirs and put mine back on theirs. Thanks for nothing 🙂
I had a stitch at start of the run so struggled to maintain any kind of run/walk. My mouth constantly felt dry, no matter what I drank I could not get quench it. Also I couldn’t get my heart rate where I wanted it. Tried to run/walk and then power walk with occasional runs. The entire run my stomach didn’t feel right and just complete dry mouth. I couldn’t stand the thought of Gatorade or gels in the later half. I think I got dehydrated during the bike and never could recover. I suspect the same for many people. During the run there were huge numbers of people vomiting, I assume it was the heat.
The bike course was hilly, so was the run course with 1500 feet of elevation gain. Most was not shaded and just hot for the entire first loop of the two-loop course. I made it through and had plenty of time so was not worried about not finishing in time.
There was some confusion about time people had. About 75 people got pulled off course during the last 6 miles of the run when they had plenty of time. To IRONMAN credit they made it right and adjusted them to a finish time and are sending them medal/swag.
I finished in 6:09:33 for a total of 14:41:24. Pretty slow but given how tough the course was and the conditions I was happy!
At the end you got your medal which was huge and awesome. It was so heavy it almost hurt my chest as it bounced when I walked. Then you got your t-shirt, hat, got your finisher picture taken and on your way.
There was a food tent but they had run out of cheese pizza and only had stone cold pepperoni. They also had some kind of chicken and rice. I threw the pizza away, got my morning clothes and T1 bag then was directed to pickup the T2 bag and bike from the T2 location. It was late, I was tired so just took my bike back to my room for drop off at Tri Bike Transport Sunday morning. The first thing I did in the hotel was go to the restaurant and order a cheeseburger and fries for room delivery which was awesome!
In the end the DNF rate was 21.9%. Very high compared to the normal DNF which is about 10% I think. Overall I’m happy with my bike time on such a tough course and even my overall time is not too bad for such a tough course on a tough day.
The amazing volunteers throughout the entire course really were the best and it was just an amazing event. The town was amazing, the people amazing. Just a great experience. THANK YOU EVERYONE and kudos to IRONMAN for organizing something so special.
As always I couldn’t sleep a wink. Combination of stress on the body, adrenaline, lots of caffeine and sugar. At 6:30 I left the room to get a medal picture by the M-dot statue then queued for the store to buy one of every finisher item. $500 later my shopping was complete.
I walked to a bakery to buy a sandwich for lunch as I knew the tiny airport had no food then went back to the room until I ubered to the airport. There my Uber driver was an amazing 84 year old. He was the baby in Gone with the Wind, was married to Raquel Welch and basically Ubers to get out the house now during his wife’s medical care. Amazing! He told stories about being friends with Fred Astaire and also when he was 11 Clark Gable drove him in a jaguar and noted they snuck the jaguar into the portrait at the very bottom in the middle!! You can see it.
So my first World Championship of the year! Now on to Alaska then Kona. Time to work on my swim and run.