Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ironman St George Triathlon Race Report 2011

Two weeks before Ironman St George I had done no Ironman training, and I was not even registered to do the race.   I went for single 80 mile ride and decided that I felt good enough to sign up for the race.  It was more or less an experiment, but I figured I had nothing to lose.  Here is a recount of that crazy day.

Swim (58:39):  I am always amazed how brutal IM swim starts can be and this one was no exception.   The first 800 meters was full contact football and I just tried to make forward progress without any major incident.  After 800 meters, the swim thinned out and I found a reasonable group of feet to grab.  From this point on the swim was just dead easy and went super quick.  Before you knew it the swim was done and I was heading into T1.

Exiting The Swim in my 2XU V:2 Wetsuit
Bike (5:21:23): I road by heart rate for this race with the goal of taking it out conservatively.  I knew I would be the best biker in the field and I had no worries about having to catch a train. I left the Sand Hollow Reservoir and was making quick work of the few age-groupers in front of me.  All was good until I dropped my nutrition bottle on an uphill.  In that split second I thought about leaving it, but I knew it would be a long day without my concentrated super bottle of 1500 calories.  I went back down the hill, grabbed it, and turned around.

I continued on plan riding conservatively to the start of the loop. However, what was not in the plan was bombing down a rough road only to hit a pot hole and pinch flat my front tire.   I almost lost it, and that could have been deadly, but I stayed upright and brought the bike to a controlled stop.

Flats have become so common for me recently that I could only laugh at the situation as I started working on the tire.  A couple of older onlookers came over to see if I needed any help.  I told them I was good and they started to ask me all kinds of questions.   "What was your swim time?", "what kind of tires are those", "how come your tube color is red", "what are those wheels for"....  I was exceptionally happy but  I was also not concentrating on what I was doing.   As a result, I incorrectly put in two tubes that both exploded.  I took my time with the third tube and was able to inflate it without popping.  I lost 15 minutes and I had watched 500 riders go by.

Bombing Down The Descents
I got back on my bike and started the loop part of the course.  For a moment my spirits were decimated as I lost all hope of winning the overall amateur race.  However, the despair was short-lived, and I knew the day was long.  I focused on what I could control and that was pedaling my way back into the race.

I continued biking and I was making up significant ground as I passed hundreds of age-groupers.  By the time I got to "The Wall" the crowds were starting to thin out.   I watched as people grinded up this mini-mountain and I could only imagine the carnage that would be present on the second loop.  I am so glad I had a 11-28 and I could not imagine people biking up this hill without similar gearing.  I stopped at special needs and picked up an extra tube and C02 cartridge that I had put in mybag.  Then I was off to the long-descent back into St George.

For this race I went went with an Zipp 808 front and Zipp 404 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Disc.  This ended up being a big mistake as the front wheel was twitchy in the crosswinds and I had to descend on my bullhorns.  Speeds on the St George descent can easily hit 50mph and because you are twisting and turning it makes it difficult to predict which way the wind is coming from.  Nonetheless I got the bottom and all was good.

On the only Zipp 404 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Disc
As I started lap two, the only people I was passing were people on their first loop.   I was starting to think that maybe I was the lead age grouper and that even with a bottle drop snafu, 15 minutes fixing flats, and stopping at special needs, that I reclaimed all that was lost.  However, the euphoria was short-lived as I realized my front tire was losing air.   I didn't really want to change another flat so I kept my eyes open for a support moto.  Unfortunately no moto came and I made the decision that I would hammer up The Wall a second time, and then fix it at the top as I let my body recovery.  I made quick work of this change and got on my way back to St George.

In the last few miles of the bike I finally started catching some more age-groupers.  It must have been a good group as it had literally been 50 miles since the last person I had past on the bike.  It was frustrating to have such a good bike but to have it completed shattered with snafus.   Nonetheless I was just happy to roll back into transition and start the run.

T2: As I got off my bike my first few steps were a little tense.  My inner thighs felt like they were done and were so stiff and I wasn't sure I would be able to complete the marathon.  Nonetheless, I toughed up, but on my shoes and headed out.


Run (3:29:56):


Heading Out Of Town
Loop 1:  The first couple of miles is all up hill and I just focused on setting an easy pace. To my surprise the inner thigh tightness quickly went away and I was feeling great. My plan for the run was to let the war of attrition play out and just see what happened.  Truthfully, I hadn't done the run training, and I knew I was in for a challenge with the hilly course.

The run course did not disappoint and with the heat, wind, and sun, I decided that it was best to walk some key aid stations that were placed at the top of hills.  It gave my body a chance to recovery and was probably the smartest decision I made all day.

Loop 2: I started the second loop of the run and was feeling good. My pace had not suffered much and my run form was surprisingly strong as I ran conservatively and enjoyed the day.  If the day was going to get tough, I knew it wouldn't be until at least mile 18.  That was a good prediction because when I reached the turnaround to head back to St. George I was met with a stiff headwind.

At mile 23 I stopped to dump some rocks out of my shoe.  As I put the shoe back on I was immediately passed by someone in my age-group.  Although I didn't know exactly where I was in the race, I knew there were only a few age groupers ahead of me.  I decided that it was important to stay with this guy, and I committed to doing so.

We continued on together as the ego battle lifted the pace. Then we hit mile 25 and the unthinkable happened - we got passed by another guy in our age-group.  He passed us like we were standing still and quickly gained a 50 meter gap.  I turned to the guy I was running next to and he uttered, "I have nothing left".    I shook my head in acknowledgment and took off in hot pursuit.  Roughly half mile later I found myself directly behind the guy.  I was huffing and puffing and I took a moment to recover as I drafted behind him through an aid station.  Then in a moment of strategy I emptied my pockets to lighten the load and I took off like I was shot out of a cannon.   He couldn't match my surge as I sprinted to the finish.  I never knew I could dig so deep.


Summary (9:55:23):  It was a rough day with some bad luck, but I stayed strong and learned just how deep I can dig. As a result this is by far the most satisfying Ironman I have ever finished.  The volunteers were great, the course was absolutely breathtaking, and I am already looking forward to round 2 in 2012.

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