St. George 70.3: On the Comeback Trail

Billed as one of the hardest half-ironman triathlons, St. George 70.3 is held in the town of St. George, Utah. This race was my first triathlon since the disc herniation during IM Chattanooga. So this was testing, 1, 2, 3.

Swim (1.2 mi/2110 yds)

The 1.2 mile swim was in the cold (62º) and clear reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park, NE of St. George. IMSTG--sand hollow

This year, IRONMAN has started using a rolling swim start. In the past, they’ve done mass starts or wave starts by age groups. In either case, the start is a mass of flailing arms and then the faster swimmers swim into (and over) the slower swimmers. For the rolling start, swimmers line up according to their estimated swimming times (volunteers hold up signs with the finish times ranges). Then the pace crawls as swimmers slowly approach a six-wide start corral. At the end of the corral, volunteers let six swimmers through, across the timing mat, and into the water every 5-10 seconds. It takes about 30-40 minutes, and alot of patience, but the result is a very orderly and pleasant swim (not like the pic above from years past). But it does change the race dynamics a bit. There’s no adrenaline-pumping, hand-to-hand combat as you jockey for position a the start. Also, a person you pass (or passes you) the bike or run who is in your age group unlikely started at the same time as you.

For me, the cold water necessitated a long-sleeve wetsuit and a neoprene cap (The Zone 3 cap is nice because it has an adjustable chin strap; fixed straps tend to be too tight for me–gaag). That combo was perfect. The swim objective was a steady pace with good form. It took me a few minutes to find that form plus I had to stop and rinse my googles when they fogged up. Overall, the swim felt good and not having to navigate through slower swimmers, especially around the buoys, made for a pleasant experience.

Swim Stats     Time: 35:37     AG: 16/145

Bike (53 mi)

For the bike, I was riding a new bike. Given my back situation, I built up a Gray Storm 2 frame, based on the fact that I needed an uncut steer tube. With a taller steer tube, I could set the handlebars higher, taking pressure off the back.

IMSTG--bike

I came out of the water feeling good and T1 transition was  easy, except for the fact that I kept turning by BOA shoe laces the wrong direction. With temps in the 60s and a light breeze, I decided against the vest and only wore the the arm warmers. The course starts out with some rollers and some nice flat sections where you can hammer it. A big climb was toward the end and then a screaming fast, straight descent brings you back into town, hitting 35+ mph at times.

IMSTG--bike elev

The objective on the bike was to be efficient and conservative. Hammering the bike, knowing the run was going to be hilly and hot, would have ended up with a walk-a-thon. Not fun. I used the power meter to keep my climbs in check but more importantly applied plenty of pressure on the flats and shallow descents (It was easy to back off on the descents and not take advantage of some free speed with a little more pedal force). The talk among the racers was Snow Canyon, the climb starting around mile 40. You’d think they were talking about Snake Mountain (BSG). Despite all the whining I heard on the course, it wasn’t that big of a deal (part of it may have been their low gearing; I ran a compact crank with a 11/32 cog which was perfect). As you can see from my time and place, I may have played this one too conservatively.

Bike Stats     Time: 3:08 (17.9 avg)     AG: 43/145

Run (13.1 mi)

The run course took full advantage of the hills around St. George. The first three miles took you up onto a ridge overlooking the city. The last 1/2 mile of that ascent was probably an 8-9% grade. Almost a walker but I resisted and instead shuffled up the hill. Then it was a series of rollers, a couple of turn arounds and then back to finish.

IMSTG--run

It was getting hot (low 80s) but with ice in the hat and water dumped on top, rapid evaporation kept the body cooled. But for many folks, it was a walk-a-thon, especially on the hills.. At this point my lungs were starting to hurt from the thinner air (3000 ft) compared to NC. But other than that, it was a pretty uneventful run.

Run Stats     Time: 2:07 (9:44 pace)    AG: 29/145

Overall   Time: 6:03 .   AG: 29/145

Summary

Overall, it was a well-executed race, keeping the pace within my limits. though I could have pushed the bike a bit harder. And the setting was gorgeous.  I was pleased on the nutrition and hydration front. I had a bowl of oatmeal 3h before the race. On the bike, I went through two bottles of water, 2 gels, and three bars (old school: Trader Joe’s fig bars). On the run, I sipped a little water and had two gels. I had no GI issues during the race (a little nausea post-race; likely from the gels). I found an interesting analysis of the 2013 St. George results from the folks at RunTri. They plotted bike time vs run time and divided the graph into  four categories, based on average times. Albeit this was from 2013, I dropped my times onto the graph (white dot) for grins:

IMSTG--correl graph

Next up: Dirty Kanza 200!

 

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