Ironman St. George 70.3 Overview
This past weekend I made the short drive from Las Vegas to Utah to challenge myself in the 2014 St. George Ironman 70.3. With breathtaking scenery throughout the course I quickly understood why this race has become one of the Marquee events on the Ironman circuit.
Also designated as the U.S. Pro Championship, this event draws top pros from around the globe. In previous years, the St. George Ironman 140.6 event struggled to draw participants due to the course difficulty early in the season. Ironman created a winning formula by dropping the distance to 70.3 and giving it the U.S. Pro Championship distinction.
I'm in awe of of the times marked by the winners on a difficult course and very race high temps. Jan Frodeno with a 3:45:21 (course record) and Meredith Kessler made a three-peat victory with a time of 4:11:53.
The Sand Hollow reservoir has a very good swim venue. Ironman did an in-water wave start by age group and setup a very simple triangular course. On this particular day there was little to no choppiness from the waves. A good warm up was the only thing lacking in the swim. Everyone was allotted the 3 minutes between each wave to enter the water, acclimate, and make it to the swim start. Not a deal breaker, it's just one element of doing a race with 2300 participants.
The bike portion of the race is a mix of short hills and false flats up until mile 40 where we entered Snow Canyon State Park. I can't describe the awesomeness of climbing though this Canyon alongside hundreds of other triathletes. The beauty is breathtaking and the 8% grades, well, they are breathtaking as well. No one says anything. We work to keep our legs spinning over the 4.25 miles of 4% average grade and smile when we reach the summit because it's 10 miles of mostly downhill to T2.
The run became a lesson in fatigue management. Uphills going out for the first 6.5 miles and downhill coming home I purposely slowed down in order to race the downhills and recover time on the return trip. Temperatures rose throughout the day and reached a peak of 93 degrees during the run. Thank goodness for ice and cold sponges!
The Massive Hill
Big climbs make for fun and memorable races. Everyone faced a massive bike hill at mile forty and I suffered, but I believe the hills faced on the race course pale in comparison to the hills faced in preparation. Making it to the starting line is the toughest challenge and I felt this to be true in St. George.
I had multiple reasons to bail on this race. Primarily financial as I transition back to school to get my registered dietician license. In addition, I have done other 70.3's and, for this event, I traveled alone. The family had just come off vacation so my training leading up to race wasn't dialed in, and I had a minor injury 2 days before the event that could have kept me out of the race if it wasn't managed.
Yet, I needed this race. I set a goal to do 2 Ironman's this year and if this race slipped past it would be later in the year before I could find another event close to home. I had also made a commitment to my coach and training squad Purple Patch Fitness. Plus all the winter morning hours spent training in the dark…spring/summer is here and it's time to test my level of improvement.
When I see someone cross the finish line it's not just a celebration of that particular day but of the effort it took to get there.
How I Raced
St. George Ironman is a lesson in fatigue management. I found it beneficial to conserve, conserve, conserve for the large climb through Snow Canyon and because of the encroaching heat.
I tried loading up on higher Calorie solid nutrition for the first 35 miles of the bike and then switching over to gels and liquids because I wanted to see if it helped alleviate GI distress on the run. My heart rate on the run jumps up dramatically compared to the bike and I find it hard to take in as much nutrition at this point in the race. I found the Cola on the race course settled my stomach and provided some sugar.
My nutrition profile was as follows:
- OSMO Preload 16oz 45 mins prior to start of race
- OSMO Active Hydration 60oz up till T2
- Stinger Organic Waffels 4 total up to mile 35 of bike (640 Cal)
- Water during the run at aid stations (estimate 12oz)
- Sam's Cola during the run at aid stations (estimate 8oz 100 Cal)
- One Hammer Gel during run (90 Cal)
- 96oz of hydration
- 830 Cal of nutrition
I think most experts would say I need to increase my total Calories and hydration. I'm going to try this in the future and see how my body responds. All-in-all the nutrition worked for this race as I continued to stay cool with ice and didn't experience the GI distress of past races.
I had the left medial side of my leg taped. This offered some support to irritated tendons (pes anserinus) around the the knee. This is the second time I've used taping for a race, and I feel like it really helps when applied correctly. The tape used for this race was Strength Tape by Endvr and it held great.
My biggest bonehead mistake…I'm using the wrong cassette and chainrings on my bike for both training and racing. I'm going to save the details for a future post, but currently my bike is setup for a flat racing course.
I set a new PR of 6:08:23 on a very hot day and a very tough race course. I raced smart, kept cool, and managed my fatigue on the run. Yes, that meant walking some of the uphills for 1-2 minutes and then running 1 minute. I have no regrets in walking as I think it saved my legs for the downhill to the finish line and contributed to an overall faster time. Nutrition felt better but will continue to tweak. Breaking the 6 hour mark still eludes me though I have no doubt I will sink below it in the future.
Looking forward to another great race later this year!