I love triathlon. I put my heart and soul into the training, and I get so many things as a result. I challenge myself, I say fit and healthy, and I learn that I’m able to accomplish hard things. While I dream of being one of the best, I’m realistic and I know my limitations. But I do the best I can for me and that’s one of the reasons that I love the sport. While we are all competing against each other, it’s really a battle of what we are capable of as individuals. The first time I qualified for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship I wasn’t expecting it and quite frankly I couldn’t go. But then I realized that I wanted it, so I made an effort to get there. And I did.
The process of qualifying wasn’t too hard. There are many spots and showing up for the roll down is the key. The race I chose was IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells La Quinta. I didn’t have the best race there, finishing with a 05:09:33 and in 28th place. But it was a solid performance and I didn’t even take that last qualifying spot.
I’ve raced the 70.3 in St. George before, back in 2018 and I really enjoyed it. Everyone talks about it as a hard course, but I don’t think it’s hard. It’s not a flat and fast course, yes there are some good climbs, but it’s very manageable. That said my bike time on the course probably reflects that of a somewhat hard course compared to other races.
St. George is in an interesting spot. Close to Las Vegas and within reasonable driving distance. In the past I’ve driven but I wanted to fly to Vegas for this race. Unfortunately, the flights were very expensive so I opted to drive. It’s about a 9-10 drive each way which is a lot.
Getting to St. George was a challenge in itself. Because of work and Jacob we really couldn’t go before Thursday. So we got up early and left about 5am. The issue was there was a snow storm coming though the mountains. The drive was clear till about Idaho Spring and then we had to deal with snow a little past Vail. In the dark that was not a fun drive. But things cleared up and the road were dry for the rest of the drive.
We got into town late afternoon and I was able to check in. You could tell right away this was a BIG race. The energy downtown was crazy and there were so many triathletes walking around. After I checked it we got settled in our rental and I needed to go out for a short run. In the 25 minutes I can’t tell you how many other triathletes I was out there. I felt like I was with my people.
I had trained well leading up to this race and was really looking forward to setting a good time. Right now I’ve been getting a few sub five hour 70.3 results and I wanted to keep that trend going. But as the race got closer and closer the weather forecast didn’t look all that great. I’m not sure what we can expect for a race at the end of October though. The race forecast wasn’t all that bad, it was going to be cold in the morning and warm up to about 70 by the end of the day. No rain and almost no wind which were definitely good things.
The women raced on Friday and then the Men on Saturday. I really liked this because I was able to watch the women race and get a real preview of the course. It also made things very exciting.
Lauren and I had breakfast right next to the action. It was cool because as soon as we got to the restaurant the women were just coming out of T2 and heading out on the run. I missed Taylor Knibb who was in the lead, but got to see Paula, Flora and Lucy all running together. Then after breakfast we went down to the hot corner and got to seem them all finish.
While I thought the race morning weather wouldn’t be so bad, I was dead wrong. It was freezing. The cold played a big part in the first half of my race.
I had to get a shuttle bus to get out to Sand Hallow. Because my wave was the first age group wave to go, I was supposed to be on the shuttle at 4:30. But my wave didn’t start until 7:35. I dressed warm and was ready to spend a lot of time in transition. There was a shuttle stop closer to where we were staying so I had Lauren drop me off there. But they just took us downtown to the main drop. It was kind of a waste of time, but I had plenty of it.
Once I got to Sand Hallow I really didn’t have much to do. I just needed to check my bike, and put my bottles on it. Then it was waiting time until I hade to get my wetsuit on and get in line to start the swim. It was dark the whole time. But the sun started coming up just as the pro race was getting under way. It was a dark red, something quite spectacular.
I got my wetsuit on, handed in my morning clothes and got into line for the men’s 40-44 group. There were a lot of un and it took a good 10 minutes to get to the water once our wave started. I wasn’t so concerned about position in the line since I knew I would have a slower swim. I had been training well in the pool and wanted to really perform in the water.
I’ve raced in cold water before, but here the water didn’t feel frigid. It was cold, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t take my breath away. I actually felt pretty good a first, but started to get cold. I was also fighting a loose timing chip and a leaky goggle. I had opted for clear goggles since it was still pretty dark when we started. Unfortunately, I had not swam in these goggles.
My swim was slow. I don’t know if it was the cold or what, but I just didn’t have the speed at which I have been swimming in the pool lately. There were some times I tried to push it, but I really just settled into the pace I could manage. I felt good, a bit cold but not uncomfortable. I can’t really explain what happened in the swim, but I just wasn’t moving fast. I’m pretty sure the cold just slowed me down. For the most part I had clear water which was nice and even when it did get crowded it wasn’t so bad.
Towards the end of the swim the a large group of green swim caps came by me. It was the next wave of men. I knew then I was not having a great swim. Based on a few stats I saw on my watch I had a feeling I was underperforming not only my expectations, but my average swims.
When I got out of the water my plan was to keep my wetsuit on as long as possible. But I was surprised by wetsuit strippers. I knew that would be a huge help so I rand over to them and they helped me get my wetsuit off. I then rand down the long transition to pick up my bag and change for the bike. I found a chair and started to get ready. I had packed a towel to dry off knowing that the dryer I was the more comfortable I would be on the bike. I wrapped the towel around me and proceeded to get ready.
This was officially my slowest T1 ever! I was shivering struggling to get ready. At the time I didn’t realize how long I took in T1, I got socks on, put my cycling jacket on, got my gloves on and was off to my bike. Although I struggled shivering to get it all on.
When I got to my bike I noticed there were not many other bikes around. I knew then that I was not in a good position. But I was ready to start the bike and get my heart rate up.
I was very cold starting the bike, but I felt that I had dressed well. I knew I would warm up eventually. As I got going, I started to get passed a lot. I knew this was a World Championship, but I was very impressed by the caliber of the other athletes. I didn’t feel like myself on the bike. I was moving, but I knew I was not pushing it like I normally do. The cold was a bit much for my body to preform at its best.
The bike course was quite spectacular. I took it in, but I continued to be passed. I felt that the caliber of athletes in this race was very high. I was pushing, but I didn’t have my normal speed.
Finally about 3/4 of the way through the bike I started to feel normal. And that was about where Snow Canyon started. Before the climb there is about a 4 mile flat out and back. This is a great fast section of the course I remembered from the past. While I was moving well I knew that I wasn’t having my best day here.
When I got off the bike I had planed to take it easy in T2. I grabbed my bag, picked a chair towards the end and got my shoes on. I stopped at the bathroom, took a gel and was out on the run. The energy leaving transition at the hot corner was something. And the first few miles of the course are uphill. But it’s a slight uphill. I was moving well and felt pretty good. There were lots of people on the run at this point. And it’s a two loop run so it was hard to tell who was just starting and who was halfway done.
I felt that I was moving and a very good pace, but didn’t look at my watch. At this point the race was kind of a disappointment so I didn’t want to burden myself with knowing the time. I wanted to get it done and knew I gave it my best effort. The first mile seemed to take forever, but once I hit that first mile marker the miles seemed to go by rather fast.
About a mile and a half in you take a right and head towards the gold course. This is a new section of the run course. There are a couple steep climbs up and then a nice little downhill onto the course it self. Here we rand on a narrow golf cart path, grass and then eventually back out to the road. This was the hard section of the course.
Once back out on the road it was all downhill back towards the hot corner. I was feeling amazing on this downhill section and decided to look at my watch. I was running 6:50/mile there. I was surprised to see that. As we ran past the hot corner we take a left and then head to a park which we run around, then back the way we come in and back to the hot corner. At the IRONMAN statue it’s a left to finish and right to start lap 2. Of course I had to get my second lap done.
The run back up the diagonal was much harder the second time and the run was much more packed. There were some parts that I really had to surge to keep moving at my pace and to get around people. I have to say though the second lap flew buy. I struggle a bit on those big hill on the golf course, but once I got to the end of it I knew it was all downhill.
As I cruised back towards the hot corner, not only was I feeling good, but I looked at my time. I expected to run a 1:45:00 or so, but my watch said 1:17:00. I tried to do the math and I thought it couldn’t be right, something must be messed up. I hit mile 12 and I couldn’t believe it. I had just over a mile to go!
The energy at the end of the race was amazing. As I headed toward the IRONMAN statue the crowd push me and I picked up my pace. I saw the sign to take the turn to the finish and there it was, the finish line. I just completed my first IRONMAN World Championship!
It was not the race I wanted, but I felt I have an excellent run. And it wasn’t till a bit latter I realized how great my run really was. It was my second best ever half marathon time. Only a minute or so off my PR that I had set in August at an all downhill race. And this in a 70.3! So while my swim and bike were not what I wanted at least I was able to preform on the run.
And while it was my slowest IRONMAN 70.3 time to date I was only about 20 minutes off my best time. It’s hard when you train for something like this all year and it doesn’t go the way you want it. But that’s racing and the big lesson I learned is you just have to keep going. There will be challenges that affect everyone differently. The cold is not something I handle well and if I have to take the time to get warm it can benefit other parts of the race.