My goal race for the fall of 2022 was the Berlin Marathon in September and I had already committed to it when I qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Ironman 70.3 in Mont Tremblant. When you qualify for the World Championships at an Ironman event you have to commit to going at the awards ceremony. At 70.3 events the awards are held the afternoon of the event, so you get a few hours to think about it. If you want to go, you bring a Visa card, and go straight from the stage to pay. Harold and I talked about it between watching people finish and borrowing a hotel room for a shower. Because he is my number one supporter, and we like the parks in Utah I said yes when I was asked if I wanted to go. The timing was not ideal but if not, why not…
Fast forward to October 2022. This is not my first Ironman World Championship event. I went to Kona in 2009 and I did the World 70.3’s in 2012 and 2014. Odd though it may sound having to fly my bike to the event is probably the biggest stress for me. You have to take it apart, put it in a box, convince the airline to take it, make sure they don’t lose it once they do have it, and then you have to put it together again!
Thankfully Kyla Martin lent me her Evo Pro bike bag which I highly recommend. Rumour has it some people have had issues with airlines taking this bag. We had no issues and having used a hard case in the past this bag provided great protection and it was small enough to get into a standard rental car, so we did not have to rent a bigger vehicle just for the bike.
I ride a 2010 Trek Speed Concept 9.9 which has an integrated headset. I get excellent service from both bike shops at Bushtukah, but Harold and I decided we should take the bike apart ourselves because we were going to have to put it back together at the other end. We set aside a night three days before the flight to take the bike apart, and get it in the bag. The three days allowed us time to get someone who actually knew what they were doing to fix it if needed.
We used our friend YouTube which is not very helpful when your bike is 12 years old and has a complex headset. To be honest, Harold did all the work I just looked for videos and held things. We ran into a problem right off the bat. The first step is to take the pedals off and we could not get the pedals off the bike, they would not budge. We only had one night so we decided to proceed with the pedals still attached. We were able to get the rest of the bike apart, so we left it half packed and mostly apart. I went to Bushtukah the next day with my half-packed bike, asked them not to judge (which they didn’t) and got them to take the pedals off. In our defence they had better tools, and they had a tough time getting them off too. Once the bike was fully apart, we covered it with pool noodles and zipped up the bag.
According to the website the average air temperature in St George at this time of year is 29C and the average water temperature is 22C. Two weeks before the race the forecast was for 31C race day, so I packed arm coolers and a skinsuit in case it was too warm for a wetsuit. One week before the race, the forecast was for a low of 3C and a high of 17C so I packed arm warmers and a lifa top.
We flew to Las Vegas via Calgary. Las Vegas because it’s cheaper than flying to St. George, and Calgary because Toronto has recently been rated the #1 airport in the World for losing baggage and you can’t do a Triathlon without a bike. The flight was a bit of an adventure by it’s self, but Harold, the bike, and I all arrived safely in Las Vegas. We spent a few days in Beatty and made a side trip to Death Valley before we headed to St George for the race.
We arrived in the area on Tuesday afternoon. You were required to pre-book your check in time. I was late because I failed to notice that there is a one hour time difference between Nevada and Utah. It turned out that it did not really matter. The check in was really fast and efficient. I was in and out in no time. We checked out the expo. You cannot fly with CO2 cartridges so I, and everyone else who flew, needed two. They were charging $5 US a cartridge at the expo! We decided to try and find a bike shop instead. We did spend too much money at the official Ironman store on a towel, a shirt and a bike jersey. The logo and graphics for this event were really good.
The race was being held over two days, Women on Friday and Men on Saturday. There were more than 6000 people racing over the two days. Unlike Kona, where some of the men raced with the women, Friday’s race was truly women only, a first for me. We were staying in Hurricane which is about 30 minutes from St. George so we planned to stay away from St. George on Wednesday and just return for bike and gear check in on Thursday. Wednesday’s events included a fun run, a parade of nations and the opening banquet. We spent the morning putting the bike back together, again Harold did all the work. I took it for a spin, everything was good, the gears were Ok but not as smooth as they had been before we left Ottawa. We found a local mountain bike shop with a shop dog and free range chickens from next door! We bought CO2 for $2.75. We suggested they should go to St. George and sell it for $4.00. Maybe next time we can drive to the race, fill the car with CO2 cartridges and make back the money for the entry fee!
The logistics for race day were a little complex. The swim was in the reservoir at Sandy Hollow State Park which is closer to Hurricane where we were staying, than it is to St. George. T1 was also there (obviously), but the bike course was point to point so T2 was in Town Square in downtown St George. The banquets were held at the Dixie Convention a third location in St George. The pre-race briefing was held after the opening banquet on Wednesday night, so I ended up going back to St. George without Harold for the banquet and briefing.
On Thursday we went to T1 and T2 to drop off the bike and my T1 and T2 bags. It was really windy. So windy that they were allowing people to rack their bikes by the handlebars. Some women actually zip-tied their bikes to the racks for the night.
They told us at the pre-race briefing that we had to take the race buses to the start. No parking on site and no drop offs. The swim start was done by waves based on age group. The order appeared to be totally random, but I am sure there was some logic to it. I was in wave 7 which started at 8:23 am. According to the schedule I had to be on a bus between 5:20 am and 5:30 am to go to the start. This did seem a bit early. The buses were leaving from Town Square which is T2 . When we drove from T1 to T2 on Thursday it took less than 30 minutes. I really don’t need 2 ½ hours to check on my bike and get my wetsuit on, even on a bad day! There was no parking at T2 either so we had to park at the Dixie Convention centre and take a shuttle to the shuttle buses from Town Square.
We were staying about 20 minutes from the start, but we had to drive past it to the Dixie Convention centre to get a shuttle to the shuttle to the start from Town Square for 5:30 am. We set the alarm for 4:00 am!
Race morning, I had my usual coffee and apple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast. In recent years I have added a bagel or even better a cinnamon bun to my morning routine. I usually eat that closer to the race start. The lady at the local thrift shop in support of the animal shelter recommended the Muddy Bee Bakery. We went there and discovered the most amazing cinnamon buns. They were huge! I ate one before the race and I am sure that’s what got me to the finish line! They also have a real beehive inside the bakery. The sunglasses are for scale!
We parked at the Dixie Convention Centre and took the shuttle to Town Square where I was on a bus by 5:45 am. Harold was with me, but they were prioritizing athletes on the buses so Harold had to take a latter bus although as it turned out he only had to wait 5 minutes.
We arrived at T1 a little after 6:00am. It was 3C and still windy although it was better than the previous day. I went to check on my bike. There was a certain amount of confusion because some bikes were racked by the handlebars and other were racked more traditionally by the seat. We worked it out and by 6:15 am I had done what was needed. I found Harold by 6:30 am and then had almost 2 hours left to stand around and try and keep warm in the wind when it was 3C. We all froze! I had a down jacket, gloves, socks, a hat and two pairs of pants on and I still froze. I changed into my wetsuit and left the down jacket on.
We had to line up to go to the swim start about 20 minutes before we started. At that point I gave up the down jacket. I kept socks and gloves (both of which were actually Harold’s) and a pair of very ugly sparkling red shoes I bought at Family Dollar for $1.
I wore them right to the start and tossed them about 3 minutes before we went into the water.
They had a Dixieland band playing and a very peppy announcer. We were listening but more focused on staying warm. The sun came up just before we started. It made a huge difference in the temperature.
There were about 80 women in my wave. We all had purple caps. The swim start was set-up so that even in the wave they started 10 women every 15 seconds. I am a relatively strong swimmer and I had planned on being in the first 10, but I was cold and everyone wanted to be at the front. I did not push my way through, so I ended up in in the 5th group.
Soon the beepers went off and I was in the water. The water was much warmer than the air so after the first few minutes I started to get warmer. I did not swim well. Going out I was all over the place. The sun was in my eyes but that’s just an excuse. It was better after the first turn. I looked around and saw less purple caps and more caps from the previous wave. There were a few other purple caps around and they were swimming as fast as I was. Overall, this was the lowest contact swim I have ever done. Maybe it was because there were no men? When you came in contact with another swimmer they did not run straight into you or kick you in the head! Swim time 34.15 I think that is my slowest swim time ever. I did not know it at the time, but I was 8th out of the water.
The sun was up, but it was still cold and there was some wind. I can manage heat, but I have a tough time when it’s cold. I get cold and I can’t warm up. I took the time in T1 to put on a lifa top, a wind vest, a gore jacket, wool socks, and full finger gloves. Looking at the post race photos the jacket was catching some wind. I wish I had added toe covers, my feet were still frozen 50km into the bike course.
I was expecting the bike course to be tough and it was. It was the toughest 70.3 course I have ever done and everyone I talked to agreed. I passed Elvis on the side of the road a couple of times and a group of 5 or 6 men dressed only in jockey shorts. They must have been really cold! Lots of ups and downs with a 5 mile climb up Snow Canyon 41 miles in.
I was holding my own on the bike until we hit the big climb. I found it tough, and I definitely lost some time. A couple of women suggested a climbing gear would have been a good idea. I am not sure, but it might have saved my legs a bit. There was a spectator on the course about 4 miles into the climb with a sign saying “Caution naked man ahead”. About 500m up there was a guy who looked like he could have been naked holding a sign over his more private parts that said “Keep the Watts up or I drop the sign”. I don’t usually look back but I had to check. From behind it was obvious he was not actually naked “fake news”.
After the big climb there was a big downhill. The road was smooth and straight so there was no need to hold back. I pedaled down it on my tribars, but I was still only hitting 65 km/h. We either had a head wind or my jacket was flapping more than I thought. The decent was no where near as scary as the Keen hill in Lake Placid. Bike split 3.12.54 also one of my slowest but the course was 90.12 km so I blame it on the extra 120 metres! I did not know it but I was in 11th off the bike. I lost less places than I usually do on the bike, but I was further behind coming off the swim.
The run is my strength, and I was very happy to pass my bike to a friendly volunteer. By the time we hit the run it was hot. I was down to my tri-top and tri-shorts and was putting ice down my tri-top. I left the wool socks on to save time. The first 3 miles of the run were basically uphill which was brutal coming off the bike. Every time we went around a corner I thought we had to be at the top and going down but we just kept going up. It definitely took me a couple of miles to get comfortable.
There was no body marking and everyone had their bibs on the front so I had no idea if the women I was passing were in my age group or not. I am 60 so I started looking for women with grey hair I also noticed that the women my age are starting to lose muscle mass so I looked for women with grey hair and skinny legs. I passed a couple who fit the criteria.
The run was a spectator friendly two loop almost figure 8 course. I actually saw Harold for the first time. Early on in the second loop I noticed a women in front of me who fit the criteria so I passed her. She immediately sped up and passed me. Obviously, she thought we were in the same age group. I passed her again. I thought I had her until she came flying by me about 3 miles from the finish line. Her coach was on the sideline yelling you are in 4th, 3rd is only 15 seconds ahead of you. This was my first clue that I was in a podium spot. If she was 4th I had to be 5th. She kept pushing looking for 3rd place. I wanted to go after her, but I did not have it in me. I was hopeful she would slow down once she passed me allowing me to catch up and power past her, but she just kept on pushing hard.
I was pretty well done when I crossed the finish line. The women who passed me turned out to be Lynne Fiedler. She won our age group at the World Ironman Championships when they were held in St George this spring. She ran strategically and well.
When I was sitting on a curb in the recovery area she stopped by to say hello. She congratulated me and told me she was 3rd and I was 4th, but she never did figure out when she passed the woman in 3rd. By then I had figured it out, I started 5 waves back so when she passed me, I was still in 3rd place by 15 seconds. She was trying to pass me when I was behind her. She asked me why I never looked back after I passed her. She concluded, correctly that I had no idea I was in a podium spot. I have been running a long time and as a general rule, I never look back anyway. If there had been an out and back, I definitely would have looked for her but there wasn’t. I know people who study their competition, I don’t. I figure on race day I am there to do my best race and what anyone else does or can do is irrelevant. I also tend to worry too much so the last thing I need is something else to worry about. Lynne beat me by 40 seconds, but I am Ok with that she was more strategic than I was and she had it in her to finish stronger than I did. My run time was 1.47.10 hers was 1.47.31 They were the two fastest times run by women over 60 that day. Ironman goes 5 deep for awards, so I got a nice trophy on stage the next night. It was also a pleasure to meet the other women from my age group who placed. They are an impressive group of women.
The women from Ottawa did well in St. George. Leslie Sanderson took 2nd in the women’s 55=59 and also Maureen Mahony took 4th in the women’s 40-44. A strong showing for one city at a World Championship.
Overall. Tough day, tough race but a beautiful course and I am very happy with the result. Thanks to everyone for their continued support, Bushtukah, RunK2J, Nuun and my #1 supporter and bike tech Harold!
I stopped by the bike shop on Sunday and gave the C02 cartridges back. They asked how I did and I got a big cheer from the tech shop.
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