3.8km Swim 180km Bike 42km Run - Temperature 98oF
Swim 1:06:11 - T1 03:03 - Bike 05:24:56 - T2 02:20 – Run 03:29:47 Total Time 10:06:17
Winner of my Age Group, 45th overall
Broke previous course record of 10:24:09, Qualified for Ironman World Championships
Ironman is considered as one of the toughest triathlon endurance events to race, Ironman St George is reputedly the toughest IM course in the world; the race took me to my absolute limits and lived up to its brutal reputation.
The swim venue was up in the hills around St George at Sand Hollow Canyon, a beautiful setting for the start of a long day. Last year’s race ended here for some competitors with water temperatures in the low 50s causing some hypothermic athletes to be pulled from the water. This year the water was a balmier 62oF and ensured most athletes made it onto the bike. The gun went off at 0700 and 1600 bodies collided, arms and legs flailing as I struck out to find some clear water to swim in. Within 400m I found myself able to swim unimpeded, proceeded to establish a rhythm as I made my way round the single loop course in the reservoir and before I knew it, I was kicking hard to exit the water. I grabbed my helmet and shoes, changed out of my wetsuit and was out on the bike course to tackle the 1900m of ascent over two loops.
The bike course was incredibly scenic, a mixture of deep canyons and sharply rising hills coloured with the reds and yellows of the local sandstones. The bike course is renowned for its spectacular topography and beauty, each lap finishing with a gruelling ride up The Wall, happily followed by a 75kmph descent. I had planned to pace first lap with a controlled effort and all went to plan, managing to conserve my energy for the looming marathon. As I started out on the second lap the temperature started to rise as we approached the middle of the day, at each 15mile aid station I was careful to grab two full bottles of water, one to drink and one to cool myself, staying hydrated was going to be critical in keeping my body’s core temperature under control. I continued to meter out my pacing on the second lap and was relieved to find myself finally spinning down the hill towards T2, having avoided any mechanical mishaps and feeling well hydrated.
The volunteers grabbed my bike from me as I hit the dismount line and I raced through T2 donning my running shoes, nutrition and cap. The run would be the part of the race that would claim the most competitors with almost 300 athletes failing to make it across the finish line. It was a brutal course, essentially a 10k run up a hill then turnaround, back down to the start and repeat for a total ascent of 500m, all in temperatures soaring close to 100oF. I had planned for an overall run time of 3.5hrs so I set out with a pace of 8mins/mile or better. The first lap seemed to roll by as I focussed on controlling my pace and staying hydrated but I knew the second lap was going to be where the race began. By this time I was pretty certain I was in the top 5 and, with the first lap completed in 01:38, I could reset my pace to 9min/mile to achieve my goal race time. By mile 16 it was becoming a mental battle to keep my feet moving up the hill as my core temperature began to spiral upwards, with little I could do at this stage to control matters. I clawed my way through each mile, one step at a time until I finally propelled myself towards and ultimately over the finish line. I was completely spent and really had no idea of my time or position; I just wanted to be out of the ferocious heat and to sit down. I was in the medical tent for nearly an hour in what resembled a M.A.S.H. unit, the medics stating they had treated more people in the first hour than they had in the whole of the previous year’s race. The course and conditions had taken their toll.
It was here that I learned from a fellow athlete that I had won my age group and was an Ironman Champion – I was ecstatic with winning the title, setting a new course record and qualifying to race at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in October.