When did I get the idea that it would be a good idea to race Ironman St. George? Well that depends. I thought about it last year and almost signed up last minute. But really it was the enthusiasm of our friend Kirsty following my trip to Kona last year. She was pumped up from watching me race and declared that after a six-year absence from the distance that she was coming back and it was to be at St. George. She wanted a challenge. Hmmm? (Can hmmm be a question?) Should I do it too? I waffled for a few months and finally committed.
Kirsty lives in California where the sun shines all year. I live on an Island off the coast of British Columbia where the sun doesn’t shine from November through March. Our winter training experiences were going to be very different. We dubbed each other “Virtual Training Partners (VTP)” and kept each other motivated through killer bike trainer sessions, swing pace runs and masters swim sets.
Fast forward to May 5, 2012 and Kirsty and I found ourselves fit and ready in the front row of the swim wave. Mike Reilly had just announced that weather conditions were going to be perfect with 11 mph winds from the northeast. Boom - the cannon goes off and I am feeling great to the first turn-around buoy. Then I notice some wave chop to my left. I thought for a minute that it was just a boat wake; jerk boat driver. The chop wasn’t dying down. The wind had picked up unexpectedly and was now producing 3-4 foot waves and I was getting hammered. The waves had no rhythm. I was getting sea sick and was swallowing way too much water. It was so extreme that the buoys all but disappeared from sight. I exited in 1:12. What, 1:12? I am usually a sub-one hour guy. Did everyone else almost drown? And what is this finishing 35th in my age-group after the swim? There were some fast swim times, but lots of people were cutting the course - not only because the conditions were so bad, but because it was almost impossible to see the buoys. Oh well.
|Some photos I found online of our swim.|
Pictures never capture the extent of waves very well though.
Well, those winds were pretty extreme on the ride as well. I struggled to hold the Shiv on the road. A disc cover on the rear wheel seemed like a good idea given the weather forecast, but on this day it was anything but. The side gusts were so powerful that we were getting sand blasted exiting the Sand Hollow Park. Then it happened. I started to cramp. Very badly. So much in fact that I started to panic about the run and that was still 5 hours away. I don’t know if it was the extra energy output in the swim, having to use my legs more to stabilize my swim stroke or the puking up lake water but my legs were hurting badly and were tight. One of the downfalls of riding in those winds is the inability to remove even one hand from the bars to access food. At the 50-mile point my ride started to turn around just after climbing The Wall. I got some major food in at the Gunlock aid station and my cramping stopped.
What to do? One more lap of the bike still to ride. Do I go for it and try to make up for lost time or wait for the marathon and do my thing? I wasn’t able to run on the road from about six to three weeks out due to a torn anterior tibialis muscle. My running confidence was not high. I battled my way through the winds of the last lap and arrived at T2 about an hour later than expected. 16th in age-group after the bike. But looking at the pro times, Maik Twilsek rode 4:36 in 2011 and 5:10 this year, so I guess I shouldn't be too disappointed with my bike split, as clearly it was a tough day out there. Plus, what kind of Ironman has the top pros not able to split under 5 hours? Yikes!
We can all control our attitudes. I knew that it was a hard day. I knew that others would be suffering and I knew that if I tried to have fun I could turn this around. I didn’t charge into my marathon, but wanted to let my body tell me when to run faster. My gamble paid off. Holding back on the bike meant that I had my running legs under me after about the first mile. That made me happy. Very happy. And when I am happy I run well. The St. George marathon course was also very spectator friendly. I saw Alison about 10 times out there as she was able to move around to different places on the course, and got lots of encouragement from friends Tim, Heidi & Matt who were there as well.
I ran the first 2/3
of the marathon in about 2:04. On
the third lap I wasn’t quite as happy; now I was on fumes and digging deep into the well to hold my pace. At the end of my third lap Kirsty
and I passed on the out and back section.
It was good to see her, we exchanged
a few words but I was in a hurry to get this over with. I finished the marathon in 3:10 and
|Members of our cheering crew - wearing my VTP's Team Super Awesome shirts.|
I had no idea that I was running in 4th in my age group and 28th overall (including pros). There were about 280 registered in my age-group. Shocking that a 10:28 time can do that well, last year that would have got me only 12th place, and it wouldn't have cracked the top 75. But everyone was dealing with the aftermath of those crazy winds - the winning pro time (Ben Hoffman) was 9:07! When was the last time the winner was over 9? The 2011 winning time was 8:32. This year had a record-setting DNF rate of 29%. Legendary. An epic day and I was happy I was there for it. I had a massage, ate some food, and then headed out onto the run course to cheer on Kirsty. We caught up with her on her third lap and she ran by us looking strong.
I passed on my Kona slot. Hopefully the person that got it was
excited. After 3 Ironman races in
10 months I am in need a break from the distance. It takes so much physically to get to the starting line and
|The finish chute at long last!|
We always analyse our races and look back at what we could have done differently. Could I have biked faster? For sure. Would I have run as well? Who knows. That is the puzzle of Ironman. When is it a perfect race? It is perfect when we finish it. Anyone who did Ironman St. George deserves the title of “Ironman”. It dished out a brutal day.