St George 70.3 recap

Last year Heidi and I raced the St George Ironman 70.3 and, frankly, had a hell of a time. To clarify, we both finished and had a good experience — I mean, how bad can it be when you’re in a beautiful part of the country doing something you love? But, we got kicked in the face a bit on the run portion of the race.

I’ve been thinking about that run for the past 11 months and how I wanted a second shot at it. In 2013 I felt like I had (for me) strong swim and bike legs of the race. But, the run is just so damn hard and since I wasn’t prepared for it, I ended up slowing way down and eventually had to walk a few miles of it. So after we pulled the trigger in January and registered for a second go-around, I set my sights on improving my run.

My parents drove down from Boise again this year and met up with us at the Sand Hollow campground, which is where the race starts. Heidi and I got there on Thursday afternoon and, after getting our camp stuff set up, had time for a quick swim in the reservoir.

Campsite at Sand Hollow

Campsite at Sand Hollow

Sunset at Sand Hollow

Sunset at Sand Hollow

We did a short ride and run and took care of the race logistics (bike and run gear drop-offs) on Friday. We hung out with my parents and then called it an early evening to get rested up for the next day’s festivities.

Whenever we tell people that we’re camping before a race, they usually say we’re hardcore or that they’re impressed by it. And while I will say there are definitely some challenges that go along with camping and racing, I just love camping and being out in the open so much that it’s worth any of the minor inconveniences that go along with camping. I’m not sure Heidi feels as strongly about it as I do, but she likes it enough to put up with it. That said, there are a couple major challenges with STG 70.3 camping.

  1. The swim-to-bike transition area is lit up with generators all night before the race and the MC/music starts playing around 5am. So sleep the night before the race can be a little dicey.
  2. Hot. Damn hot. Friday was really warm and when you’re camping (in a tent) there’s no way to escape that. So it wears you down a bit even before you’ve started racing. And, after a tough day of racing, you have to go back to your tent, which is basically in the middle of the desert (think: no shade), and try to cool off. In 95 degree heat.

Anyway, everything went well logistically on Saturday morning and we made it to the starting line without any issues. The forecast called for light winds, but really warm temps so we were bracing for a very warm run. The conditions were perfect, though, at the start of the race.

Me and Heidi before race start

Me and Heidi before race start

Super fans!

Super fans!

I felt like I pushed it pretty hard during the swim, but still kept things under control so I wouldn’t completely blow up. There’s a big difference between “swimming” and “being a swimmer” and, falling deeply into the former camp, I have no illusions about my swimming times. I do the best I can to get through the swim and hope to keep getting better as time goes on. I shaved off a little over a minute and a half from last year’s swim so I was happy about that.

I have two main bike racing strategies:

  1. Go ape-shit and bury myself. Then suffer the consequences on the run (which will probably suck anyway so why not make hay while the sunshines?).
  2. Keep things under control and save something for the run. Because, as evidenced by last year’s STG performance, the run is usually where I need all the help I can get.

Like life, though, races aren’t black-and-white, so the last two years I’ve taken a hybrid approach to the bike — go really hard on the first half, as it’s mostly flat/downhill. Then take it a little easier on the hillier second half so I have enough in the tank for the run. That seemed to work pretty well this year, as I knocked off about 3 minutes from my overall bike time. As mentioned, the course is pretty fast at the beginning as you make your way out of the Sand Hollow/Hurricane area and into St George. There are a couple short climbs outside of Hurricane, but nothing terrible. Once you get through St George, though, you get into Snow Canyon, which is simultaneously awesome (beautiful!) and gnarly (big hill!). But, it’s a really fun bike route that has a lot of variety and is very scenic. I didn’t have any mechanical issues so I was thankful for that. I stayed on the nutrition and hoped I would avoid any serious cramping issues on the run.

The run starts off with a gradual uphill and then gets nasty about 2.5 miles in. I generally need a mile or so to get settled in because, after hammering it on the bike for almost three hours, you feel a bit “out-of-sorts” when you start running. But at St George this transition period is basically uphill so it sucks. Last year I felt like crying about .5 miles into the run and this year was no different. But, I’m learning to be patient, run through the discomfort, stay calm, and get settled in. So that’s what I did yesterday. And, after a couple miles I started to feel better. Then I hit the right-hander onto Red Hills Parkway, which pretty much feels like you’re going up a wall. But, I kept telling myself this is why I spent hours running up hills over the course of the last 3 months. “Whatever you do, don’t walk. Just keep running, get over the son-of-a-bitch, and then we’ll deal with the other hills as they come.” And that’s what I did — I ran up the whole grade and, once I hit the top, knew I’d be OK for the rest of the race.

There are a bunch of other hills over the rest of the run — some bigger than others. But, I was so damn stoked to have not walked on that first one (like I did last year) that I just kept plowing forward. Someone had put up a race sign in Snow Canyon that said, “Ironman. It’s you vs. you.” I can’t think of a better way to sum up why I train and why I race. I certainly didn’t set any speed records out there on the run. But, during the entire run I’m battling with myself and with the monster inside of me that wants to stop after every step. I don’t really care how I fare against other people. I’m racing against myself and the forces inside me that want to give up. I couldn’t be happier with yesterday’s race because I didn’t give up and stayed on it for the entire race.

Me and Heidi post-race

Me and Heidi post-race

All-in-all an amazing weekend. It’s so great to get out and race with friends, watch my wife race and shave off 30+ minutes from her last year’s time, hang out with my parents, and camp at a beautiful campground.

Race results
Swim (1.2 miles): 00:35:12
Bike (56 miles): 02:45:23
Run (13.1 miles): 01:49:11
Overall (70.3 miles): 05:18:46


3 Responses to “St George 70.3 recap”

  1. Heidi on May 4th, 2014 8:10 pm

    You rocked it Matt! You are becoming such a strong runner and overall well rounded triathlete! Congrats!

  2. Frederic on May 4th, 2014 8:53 pm

    Well done, those are very nice times! I, too, think camping the night before something as difficult as a 70.3 is hardcore, but if that’s what you like so be it :)

  3. Alana on May 4th, 2014 9:25 pm

    Awesome job Matt, I would love any of those times, especially the run!