Ironman St George. Once seen coverage of the race, it’s definitely a course that makes you think ‘I’d like to race in a place like that’… So that’s what I did!
I’ll not bore anyone with the details of logistics. But I shall start by saying that like any race, keeping well rested, eating plenty of food and keeping topped up with hydration is key. And with two of those boxes ticked (inconsiderate neighbours up late into the night being noisy! Or was it pre-race nerves… A convenient excuse in any case) I woke up to my alarm at 3.30am.
This race had a split transition and transport was provided to take us to Sand Hollow (a reservoir swim). I can now say I’ve been on a proper yellow American school bus! The drive took about 40 minutes.
Arriving to T1 nice and early gave plenty of time to try to relax, have a snack and start to get in the race mindset. Now, 5am out in this remote area was chilly! I was very happy to have my TTG trackies and a hoody for sure. As the minutes ticked by, transition began to really spring into life and there was a buzz in the air that could be felt. 6.40am was the time where the Pro field were allowed in the water to warm up and this seemed like a sensible time to ditch my warmer clothes, get my wetsuit on proper and get into the time chute for the swim. You ‘self seed’ depending on what time you think you are capable of… Too optimistic and you might get swam over by everyone, too pessimistic and you might be dodging everyone in front of you. I think I got this just about right.
The location for the swim was incredible. Arriving in the dark, by 7am it was light and you can see how incredible the surroundings are. The day was clear and the view of the mountain was incredible. Just once more… Incredible. There was a lot of talk about the water being cold before the race and due to a few logistical issues I was unable to get in before race day. Rumours swirled that the water was only 16C! As no base of reference I did worry like a few others.
Swimmers were set off 5 at a time at 5 second intervals. Shuffling slowly ever closer to the water I got more and more nervous, literally feeling like I was ‘walking the plank’. When I finally got to the front and the countdown had begun I’d mentally accepted my fate… ‘Im here now. I’ve trained for this. Just get it done’. And that’s what I did. The water was absolutely beautiful, probably a little too toasty for certain fridge dwellers but perfect for me! Very clear meant good visibility. I soon found my rhythm and got stuck into the simple out and back style course. With only two right turns it was pretty simple… Keep the buoy to your right! I managed to overtake a few people and follow a few feet. I think I swam pretty straight too, certainly making no major course corrections. I felt pretty decent all of the way around but was happy to be heading up the ramp and leaving the water behind.
Official swim – 36:23
There was a short run from leaving the water to get to the bike. I decided not to use a wet suit stripper… I can strip myself thank you very much! But what I can’t to is run well on wet carpet – I slipped and fell in front of a very busy spectator area! I stayed down for what felt like a lifetime but in reality was about 1 second, jumped up with a smile on my face and thanked the adoring crowd for their concern with a thumbs up. Two downsides to this mishap were that I was in club kit! The shame! Secondly I managed to graze my elbow and damage my wrist in the process. I didn’t realise until later due to the adrenaline 😬😬😬
After running past a guy throwing up in a bin, I found my bike with ease. Walking transition a number of times before the race really helped. Helmet, sunglasses, cycle shoes and I was trotting to the mount line. Swinging my leg over, I set off! (So quick that my brother missed the photo opportunity!)
Official T1 – 5:26
Cycling in this environment is hard to describe. The landscape is such a contrast to the green and pleasant land we call home. Red rock sands and cliffs and snow still on the mountains in the distance. Beautiful. The bike course itself was relatively uneventful. It seemed to be a series of gradual climbs followed by quick descents and a lot of fun. The ‘big climb’ was a place called Snow Canyon. I did make sure to ride this in the days prior to test the bike after transport, only this time it was 45 miles into the ride. The scenery again was just fantastic. I could ride that every day and not get bored. In terms of the actual climb – it’s about 4 miles long, nice and steady but slowly started to tip up towards the top. I managed to pass a good few people here not because of my ability but because I was on a light road bike and decent gearing! A few poor souls ground to a halt and had their feet on Terra Firma.
Hitting the top of the hill I was happy, I knew what was coming next. A cruise primarily down hill or flat into town. I took a gel and tried to keep as aero as I could. Back in to St George you passed the heroes already out on the run course and with every revolution of the wheels the number of supporters seemed to grow.
T2 itself is bang in the centre of town. I was relieved to be off the bike due to a sore back… Not helped by my fall?! Hopping off at the dismount line I found my spot at T2.
Official bike – 3:05:53
T2 was pretty straightforward by my standards. The only thing I didn’t do was have my laces ready but I was too into it to get worked up about my mistake. Bike racked, helmet off, trainers on. Doused in water I hit the road. I did learn a valuable lesson… Volunteers offer additional sun cream for a reason. Given the chance again I’d definitely take it 😅
Official T2 – 3:44
Shuffling my way out of T2 was pretty great. The street was lined with supporters. With my bro shouting ‘Come on Gloucester Tri’ in his best American accent (no, hes not American and never will pass as one without serious practice!), I gave him a wave I tried to settle in which actually took longer than expected.
The course didn’t look too bad on paper, and to be fair it probably wouldn’t be awful without the lack of sleep, previous swim and bike legs as well as the heat! In reality the two loop course was mostly all up hill for half the lap and down hill for the remainder. Some of the hills at the top end did pitch up and were tough going. Aid stations were set up every couple of miles and after 3ish miles a bit of banana seemed to settle me down. The down hill of lap one was a welcome relief. The thought of lap two was a bit of a concern. My pace did drop on lap two. Walking some hills and being slower through the aid stations contributing to that… But the final 500m was in sight. Passing the split for the second lap I was en route to the finish, 400m or so to go. There was a guy just in front who was a good marker to catch and I passed him right on the corner into the final straight.
With 100m to go, screaming crowds on either side I gave it everything I could… There was not a chance I was going to let anyone pip me to the finish, and of course I had to finish strong for the crowds… Club kit on show!
I screamed across the finish line at what felt like a blistering pace and needed the stopping distance of a freight train come to a standstill. In reality this was probably a light jog and just lacking the strength to stop. But I’d finished! It was over! Finito!
Official Run – 1:54:45
Chip Time – 5:46:08
That was hard! A tough course in what the locals called ‘pretty mild’ but this Englishman would call ‘hot’ conditions. There are definitely a few learns in there too… But a 70.3 PB by 15 minutes is not to be sniffed at 😁
I should probably say that all of the help, advice, support and enthusiasm through training and the lead up to the race really do help so a big thank you to you all 👌
Hopefully I’ve done the kit proud, taking it on tour and giving it the best I had on the day. I’d like to think I lived up to the motto… DBS!