IM 70.3 St. George (StG) is an EPIC race of GRAND proportions. And, hopefully, this race report will do it justice and give you just a little taste of what the race was like. Epic and Grand? Yes, totally! And, during this writing, I might think of some other awesome, stellar, dynamite adjectives to add!
Preface: I have been training for IM 70.3 St. George since January, with IM 70.3 Oceanside as my warm-up. It was on tap to be my “A” race this year. My goal was sub 6 and I knew I was capable of that. In fact, I just hit a new PR in Oceanside just 5 weeks prior and I was (am) in the best racing shape I ever have been in. I was feeling very strong and confident going into this race.
I flew into Las Vegas the Thursday before the race and met up with some great friends. I rented a van and drove a couple of hours to StG, where I had rented a condo. This was my first time flying with my bike, so I was nervous as heck that something would not go back together right. My nerves settled as my friend, Josh, was able to help me put it all back together. (**A special thank you to Brent for helping me pack my bike and to the Bellingham TRI Club for the bike box loaner).
On Friday, I did a mini shake-out brick, consisting of a 20 minute bike ride and 10 minute run. Josh and I did this together near the condo, while our other friends (not racing) were out for a long ride together. Josh went to meet up with the girls, and I went to the expo.
Ironman Village, was located in the Town Square of StG. It was only a 10 minute drive from my condo. Plenty of parking and easy access. The expo had outdoor booths with vendors and the packet pickup had a tent with a long line. I waited and finally entered the tent. The day was hot and there was no shade, except for when I was inside the tent. The packet pick-up was seamless and I was off to see what the Ironman Merchandise tent had. I bought just a couple of t-shirts and water bottle.
I met up with Josh and the crew sometime after 2 pm and we headed out to check our bikes in at T1 – Sand Hollow Reservoir. We located the area and took some stunning photos of the water. It was so hot out and this was the first time I really thought about how the heat (THIS heat) might affect me on race day. It was dry and HOT. The temps called for mid 90’s on race day. It was low 90’s when I checked my bike …. uhhhhh … okay then. I can do this! I practiced with heat at home on the trainer. Long sleeves and a wool cap. That should be the same.
***(insert wide eyes here optimistic but realistic scared look here)***
3:45 am wake-up. A cup of coffee, 1/2 a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. I got ready and we were all out the door by about 4:30. We went straight to T2, near the athlete village and dropped our run bags. We then said our goodbyes to our crew and we boarded the buses to the start. The drive seemed to take forever.
Once at the T2, I made my way to my bike and filled my tires with air, got my hydration bottles ready and laid out my bike gear. Two more trips to the porto-potty and I was good to go.
I met up with Ginger, Jazzy, Steph and Angelina for some last photos and before I knew it, I was in the water.
Another friend from the F3 community was in my wave and it was so nice to have someone there with me. Thanks Kim! This was her very first 70.3 and I was so excited for her, that I forgot about my own nerves.
The swim started in the open water. I had exactly 3 minutes to get to the red buoys in the water before the air-horn would blow for my start. From the pictures above, they don’t look at that far away, but they were! I didn’t even make it to the red buoys before the the air-horn blew. Dang it. I’m already behind. I started my Timex and started my race.
Head down, I told myself to relax and just swim. I had really worked on my swimming the past 3 months and knew I was capable of sub 48 minutes if I really worked. I wanted to get 45 or less truth be told. I held my own and could feel others swimming by me from the wave starts after mine. I was clawed at, hit, and grabbed. I maintained my position and kept swimming. The water started out cold (60 degrees), but I soon warmed up after about 10 minutes. I was breathing hard, reaching and pulling. Trying hard to focus on being relaxed and not slowing down.
Before I knew it, I was headed in and hit the mat running. I looked down and saw a 45 something on my Timex …. WHAT????!!!!! YES!!!!!! A huge smile formed across my face. I was so proud of myself. I did it!! It was at this very moment, I decided I didn’t care what the rest of my day looked like, I was so happy with this accomplishment. (If you have followed my triathlon journey, you know I didn’t even know how to swim just a few years ago).
Wetsuits strippers peeled my suit and I was running to my bike.
My bike … where was my bike? I was turned around and it took me a little bit to find it. Mistake #1, but not a biggie. I still had a faster transition time than I’ve ever had! I was off and pedaling.
The bike … Oh the awesome, amazing bike! This truly was the course of all courses for beauty and scenery. I took it all in because it was breath-taking. It was also the hardest bike course I’ve ever done. The hills never seemed to stop and the descents were sparse. I felt solid on the bike and took in plenty of fuel for the run.
Coming into T2, I could not locate my run bag. It took me an extra 30-45 seconds. Mistake #2. When I finally found my spot, I racked my bike and quickly changed shoes. I grabbed my run belt with bib, visor and water bottle. I was off.
It was hot out and I pushed it out of my mind for all of about 2 seconds before I thought about it again. Dang … it’s hot! Shuffle. Small steps. Just keep moving. My coach, Daryl, told me if I was breathing too hard, to slow down. Okay then, I was breathing hard and I was in the first mile. Granted the first 3 miles are all uphill. Not just little hills, they gradually became bigger by mile 3. It was about this time, I thought my head just might pop off my body. My head was seriously throbbing and my face felt hot, like steam was coming out of my ears. I fueled at every aid station and dumped ice down my top and shorts to cool my body temp. Nothing seemed to be working.
I will admit at this point, about 3.5 miles in … I thought about stopping at a medical tent and calling it a day. I had PR’d my swim after all and had an amazing bike ride. I just could not get the throbbing in my head to stop and I was not sweating. My clothes were wet from ice, but my skin was bone dry. I thought I might have a stroke or something my head hurt so badly. I walked. I thanked the volunteers. I tried to stay positive because that is who I am. I thought about everyone cheering for me and eventually I kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept at it for miles. So many thoughts swirling in my head: Why did I sign up for this race again? I am never doing another Ironman. I think I like sprint TRI’s. Yeah, those sound nice. I do not like hot weather for racing. Me and Heat don’t get along. Ginger can’t do this race, so buck up and get going! Mikey would have killed this course. I loved the Yoga I did last night. Oh — that’s a cute TRI suit. Oh, HI! Where are you from? I wonder where Josh is. Is it almost over? These volunteers are so friendly. Oh, see … he’s walking too. Eek, does he know those black tri shorts are see-thru? Just say no to crack buddy. Looking strong Michelle! Run to that bush. Where is the shade? There is no shade here. Oh, photo op … start running and smile …. the random thoughts go on and on.
The scenery was gorgeous, but to be honest, I had a hard time enjoying it because I was suffering. I was not cramping however, which is the best news of all. I continued to jog/run/walk. In no particular order. In the last two miles, I put the hammer down and just wanted to be done.
Upon crossing that finish line, I was greeted by the nicest lady who helped me. I was not feeling well. At all. She asked me if I wanted to go to medical, but truth is, I didn’t know what I wanted. I saw my friends and thanked her for her time.
As I continued to exit the finishers area to meet my friends, my emotions overcame me and I started to bawl. Not cry … bawl. I’m not sure exactly what overcame me in that instant, the heat, the accomplishment of being done, my friends, the fact I didn’t feel well, or all of the above. Thankfully, my friends knew just what I needed … shade. And ICE. Angelina ran over to grab some ice from the medics and put some on the back of my neck and head. This did the trick because in about 10-15 minutes, I felt so much better.
We found Josh and took a few photos and grabbed food.
It sank in … I finished! My fifth 70.3 distance. I was happy and I was not going to be let down by my overall time. Why should I? There was too much to be thankful for.
*Swim PR (45:51)
*It was the MOST beautiful course — EVER!
*I finished (and I have the medal to prove it!)
*I had the best friends there for me (Thank you Josh for racing with me; and to Ginger, Jazzy, Stephanie, and Angelina for cheering me on all day. Also thank you to Doug and Stephanie for meeting me at the airport!)
*I had friends who wanted to race today, who were registered to race, but were not able to. I thought of them during my race! ❤
A few more Memorables:
1. I did not wear my Garmin. The day before the race, I knew I did not want to be dependent on my pace/time. I needed a stop watch for fueling, so I opted for my simple Timex for time only. This was a good call.
2. The volunteers were the best EVER. Like EVER. In all the races I’ve ever done … StG volunteers take the cake! I had all the ice, all the coke, all the love from the run course. Simply awesome!
3. Thank you to Gatorade Endurance for my fueling! The G Endurance Carb Energy Chews are the best! I am proud to be an ambassador for this company!
4. The entire race experience was unforgettable. In every way, even the hot run, I am so thankful for it. I now know what it feels like to be in an oven (on broil) and trying to run at the same time, up hill. That is the best analogy I can give you.
5. I have the best friends. They came from San Diego, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Each one of them inspires me.