Following a long and fulfilling 2017 season, I went into the offseason without any hard goals for 2018.
That quickly became boring, so I went back to my roots of swimming for a while in December and January, enjoying some 10k+ yard workouts and culminating in a PR & overall win of the 2018 USMS 1 Hour Postal Swim (5745yds). Why would anyone want to swim as hard as they could for 1 hour straight? I could write a few pages, but we’re here to talk about St. George, not my affinity for black lines and lactic acid. Suffice to say it was a great way to kick off the 2018 season!
In March, it was back to Tucson for a week of amazing training with Team VO2 Multisport, where I found some bike fitness and made good friends with a cactus that attached itself to my arm, hip, and leg.
Despite not having an A race nailed down for the season, I had such a blast at St George last year I decided to give it a go again. Colorado wasn’t done with winter though, so I was treated to a wonderful May snowstorm through the mountains. Eventually I made it to sunny Utah, where I met up with fellow former CU Swimmers Connor, Kate, Alex. I sported some great facial hair during the drive and buzzed it off the night before the race. As my mother always makes fun of the little tail that forms when I buzz my own head for a while, I asked Connor to “clean up the back for me”. Pre-race jitters aren’t conducive to clear communication; the exchange ended with a missing chunk of hair in the back instead of a clean neck. It was good comic relief.
Alex was there to sherpa & cheer, but I’ll make fun of him anyway: the night before the race he’s drinking from a Breckenridge Brewing 6 pack and one of us asked where he bought it. A grocery store in town he says, insisting that Utah must sell regular beer because Breckenridge would never lower itself to brewing 3.2%. He was wrong.
We woke up around 3:30am race morning and carpooled to T2. Dropped our bags, shuttled to T1, and had plenty of time pre-race.
Swim – 24:39 (1st amateur)
This year, St. George was a rolling start. 3 athletes every 5 seconds. While it doesn’t allow you to race your age group the rest of the race (more on that later), it was amazing to not swim over bodies the whole time. I started in the 4th row, so at 7:00:15am I was off! By the first turn buoy I was past the ~15 athletes that started in front and had clear water. It was by no means choppy, but not as smooth as I expected.
My only gripe here was the lack of opportunity to warm up. Ironman flaunts it’s SwimSafe initiative with this rolling swim start, but all the research out there says warming up significantly reduces the risk of heart attack. If Ironman was truly committed to athlete safety, every race would have a warmup area (and a closed bike course, but that’s another rant).
It was my first race in Zone3 Volare Goggles and they were fantastic (full disclosure, they are a sponsor, but I’d be saying great things even if they weren’t). They didn’t fog at all, I had no issues with sun glare, and they have a slightly wider field of vision than the Speedo Vanquishers I’ve used for 10+ years.
Unfortunately, they didn’t prevent me from nearly running over a duck, who was clearly unconcerned with someone swimming straight at it and refused to move. I think a nearby kayaker got a good laugh though.
T1 – 2:22 – It didn’t go well.
I couldn’t get the wetsuit off of one shoulder… what did I expect after 9 months of non-wetsuit swimming. To compound the issue, I got the feeling I was the first person the wetsuit strippers had ever stripped. Not my finest swim exit.
Next, my helmet had been knocked off my bike, which was apparent from the visor that now lay on the ground detached (but thankfully unharmed otherwise). Another 10-20s to get it snapped back into place.
Finally, clipping in. I’m still not comfortable with my bad shoulder on a flying mount, so I ran the length of T1 in my bike shoes but could not get my foot in the pedal. Amateur hour over here.
Bike – 2:27:43 (232W NP, 11th fastest in AG) – Strava
Finally situated on the bike, I settled into my pace. I was quickly passed by one male pro and a few age groupers pedaling like this was a sprint tri, but things quieted down and it almost felt like a tailwind heading into town.
The bike was fairly uneventful (outside of nearly crashing thanks to a 90deg turn at the end of the second aid station… they might want to rethink that next year). I found myself pushing a little too hard on some of the climbs, paying more attention to perceived effort than the power meter. Somehow, by the end of the final descent, I ended up nailing a perfect 232W NP.
Snow canyon was beautiful as usual.
T2 – 2:36 (basically twice as slow as last year)
In transitions, practice makes perfect. And since I didn’t practice transitions this year, they were far from perfect.
I got a little flustered when someone had racked their bike in my position (seriously, there were ~15 bikes in T2 and one is in my spot?!), then crawled around a bit looking for my bag on the other side of their bike.
Additional poor planning led to a lack of quick laces (I got new race shoes but didn’t consider my existing quick laces had been cut down and were far too short to be effective in these shoes).
Run – 1:24:57 (3rd fastest in AG) – Strava
This run course sucks. It starts with a 3mi straight uphill, is never flat, there’s very little shade, and just when your legs are smashed at mile 10, you run straight downhill on a concrete path. But it’s one of my favorite anyway.
Last year we got hit with 25+mph winds and it was nearly 90deg by the time I finished. Conditions this year couldn’t have been better: a gentle breeze and no more than 80deg by 11:30am. Not to say it didn’t get hot – by 2pm it was toasty. Another benefit of rolling start (well, for me anyway… maybe not the folks that started an hour later).
I was feeling good from the start of the run, likely due to good hydration and nutrition on the bike. I pushed the hill a little harder than planned but heart rate was still low enough I wasn’t concerned. Around mile 4, I realized I was on pace for one hell of a race, a PR even.
Around mile 6, someone in my age group blew by. I tried to stay with him for a few minutes, but decided to race my own race and back off. That’s the downside of the rolling start: thinking he likely started behind me, it wouldn’t pay off to risk blowing up just to cross the line physically in front. It turns out he started 5 seconds in front of me, so maybe I should have taken the risk. We’ll never know. This is why I still advocate for the “Optional Mass Start” swim start. But he did run a 1:21 on this hellish course, so hats off to you Matt.
Those session with the Lovato run group really paid off on the final descent, getting the turnover I needed for a few sub-6 minute miles. Training Peaks now has this as my 5k PR. But it hurt like a bitch.
Overall – 4:22:17 (3rd AG, 10th Amateur)
A 2.5 minute PR over 2016 Vineman 70.3 (which was a pretty fast course).
Given it’s early season and I went in without any expectations, I’m super happy with the result! Though had I bothered practicing transitions, I might have moved up a slot.
We hung out at the finish for a while, eventually finally VO2 Teammates, Team Lovato, and the CU Swim crew.
As it was Cinco de Mayo, margaritas were in order once we got back to the condo.
On Sunday, I took off for Zion National Park. My legs were considerably more smashed than last year but that didn’t stop a trip up the Narrows on Sunday and easy ride through the canyon Monday.
Thanks to Kwazadilla and Ben Fenton for some of these great photos!