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Coach Troy's Ironman St. George Race Report 2010
 

Race Splits

Swim: 1:02:45 (1:39/100 meter pace for 2.4 miles)
T1: 8:59
Bike: 6:19:24 (17.71 mph for 112 miles)
T2: 2:08
Run: 3:52:04 (8:51 per mile for 26.2 miles)
OVERALL Finish Time: 11:25:20

Pre-Race

For those reading this, it is my “2 cents” on my experiences at my second Ironman race (IM CdA in 2008). For those of you interested in this race, take it with a grain of salt, but learn from it. I tried to take the advice about this course with a grain of salt, but should have just dumped the salt container in my mouth while reading about it. LOL I arrived on Tuesday with some great training friends of mine from Austin on an uneventful flight and made my way from the Las Vegas airport to St. George Utah. It is a solid 2 hour drive through the desert, so don't believe the 90 minute reports. There are plenty of grocery stores, etc. to pick up your necessities in this town and I stayed in a hotel with a full kitchen…VERY nice option! The size of the town reminds me a lot of Coeur d'Alene and the support behind the race was just as awesome. Tuesday-Friday seemed like a blur of race activities, packet pickup, course touring, some course riding and running, lots of picture taking, and lots of hanging out with co-racers from Texas Iron. My first swim was Thursday, water temp about 63, def perfect conditions and was a nice swim. The interesting thing about St. George is definitely the weather. The air is BEYOND DRY, BRUTALLY WINDY, and can change drastically from one day to the next. Tuesday we had somewhere around 30-40 mph winds. Wednesday we went out to drive and ride part of the bike course. At one point we had to get off the bikes b/c we were afraid for our lives the wind was blowing us so hard. One of my friends got off her bike to put it on the car rack and the wind literally blew the bike horizontally off the ground while she was holding the saddle and bars. We guessed the winds around 30-55 mph that day. Some places north of us had wind and damages up to 105 mph that day. Thursday morning on my swim wasn't too bad, but it def picked up later in the day again. Friday wasn't too terrible, but still upwards of 20-35 mph gusts probably. My beautiful wife finally arrived on Friday afternoon and I was super excited to show her St. George and the race area. By this time, I had already dropped all my gear off, got my bags ready, bike ready, and performed my last brick workout before race day. I will say the swim on Friday was a bit different. The park rangers claimed with the wind the way it blows, it actually turns the reservoir water and draws the bottom water to the top, thus making the surface water colder than normal. The ranger claimed the water temp was 58 on Thursday and was colder on Friday. I ditched my wetsuit and hopped on the bike after that cold swim. I finally stopped shivering after 10 minutes on the bike and had determined what I would wear on race day to try to combat the coldness I would be feeling after 1 hour in the water. Like I said, Tues-Fri was a bit of a blur with a lot of fear about cold water and brutal winds. (I haven't mentioned the run course yet for good reason, I want you to keep readingJ). I had a great support crew there with my Coach Jamie Cleveland from Texas Iron, several other Texas Iron friends and competitors, my beautiful wife, and I knew I had several family and friends watching online. You'd be surprised at what you use to draw from for mental drive and to keep you moving on race day. On to race day…

RACE DAY!

Normal activities. The hotel was awesome and opened breakfast and a shuttle bus to take athletes to Town Square where you would drop off special needs bags. Then proceed to board a bus to take you Sand Hollow Reservoir for Swim and T1. Very uneventful. Got to T1 area and tried to stay warm as it was somewhere around 41-43 outside. The sun came up probably 20 minutes before the start, and the pros started at 6:45. The only thing I would change about this would be to take some old socks, old shoes, or cheap flip flops to wear around and toss right before I entered the water. Some area was covered with carpet, but the rest was parking lot surface. The major difference is that the asphalt rocks were super small and sharp as razors. I walked for 20 feet or so and had to stop to let my feet rest b/c it was so painful. I didn't have neoprene booties or cap (loaned my cap to a good friend as she needed it worse than me), but that would have helped in cold water and pre-race foot issues. Swim start is a deep water start, but given how cold the water was the day before I decided to wait until 5 minutes to start to swim out to the swim start (about 100 yards or so). I LOVE DEEP WATER STARTS, beats rushing from a beach any day if you ask me.

SWIM

Swim is what it is…2.4 miles of open water swim on water that was smooth as glass that morning only had one spot on the entire course that was into blinding sun (after the first turn buoy) and the buoys were well laid out. I learned later the water temp this morning was somewhere in the 52-54 range. VERY FRIGID! It was a one loop course and I loved that as well. The water started to get to me about half way through as I had lost all feeling in my hands and feet after about 10 minutes and my head was now getting cold, not a good sign! I made the last turn and gave it all I had to sprint to the finish line to get out of that cold water. I was completely dazed and confused coming out of that water. I made it to the wetsuit strippers and wasn't even able to use my hands to grab my ripcord for the wetsuit so they literally stripped the entire thing off me, told me to sit down and ripped it off my legs. I lost my goggles somewhere during that process (found them next day at lost and found somehow…yes lucky!).

T1

I ran to the T1 changing tent and sat down. I could barely use my hands so I just dumped my bag and started to try to get some dry warm clothes on. My plan was to put on my Texas Iron cycling jersey, a wind vest, arm warmers, throw away gloves, hand warmers, and socks on for this cold ride. I somehow managed to get my gear on all while shivering, almost convulsing uncontrollably, and teeth chattering. I got my bike and walked it to the mount line and “pulled up” to get on my stead like a horse. It was the least spectacular T1 and T1 time I have ever done in my life but I couldn't honestly have done it any differently (sorry coach!). I am sure there are some copyright issues with this, but this is a picture of me at the mount line, I think my face and body speaks for my mental state at this point in the race. I also found out later that there were 50-100 people that never made it out of T1. Some got rescued from the water from being too cold. Some made it to T1 but were experiencing severe hypothermia and couldn't function to get on the bike. I believe on guy was even taken in an ambulance as he was convulsing uncontrollably and they couldn't get him warm. My coach said he looked like it was an epileptic seizure the guy was so cold. Very cold swim and no doubt had to affect everyone and their swimming times and performance. I had hoped to break the 1 hour mark, but maybe next time.

BIKE

The first 90 minutes of this ride were one of the most miserable riding experiences of my life. I could barely hold my bars from shivering, my teeth wouldn't stop chattering and my upper body was so tense from being cold my neck was in severe pain. I kept trying to relax but couldn't until about the 80-90 minute mark after my body had warmed up. I had an ear infection this week so the cold water, shivering, ear ache, etc. really contributed to a VERY bad headache that would be with me from T1 until the end of the bike before I could get rid of it. The bike course has about 5k feet of climbing and is a lolly pop loop. We left the reservoir and rode towards St. George (the stick part of the lolly pop). Then started loop 1 of the 2 loop section. There were a few climbs going into town, but I welcomed them as it helped me get warm by working harder. I was passing EVERYONE on the hills b/c they would blow themselves up on the flats and I just cruised I guess. I hit town and was starting to feel better now and get my mental composure back. Once you make the turn onto Old Hwy 91 that is where the bike really begins if you ask me. You can see on the bike profile that it looks steep. It really only has 4-5 good climbs on the loops of the bike, but from Old Hwy 91 until past Veyo, it is a constant uphill false flat. I underestimated this false flat and what it would really do to my overall speed. I knew it was there and expected it would slow me down, but not to this extent. I just kept my power numbers in check and kept pounding the nutrition. I didn't mind the major climbs so much as others b/c I had done so many like this in Texas that it really wasn't that difficult. After you pass Veyo, you have a good downhill section, one good hill, another downhill section, special needs pickup and another small roller. Then it is FLYING into town on the descent. I used a 12x28 on the back and ran out of gears more times than I can count on that descent. You could hit 40mph just sitting still. Remember it was still probably only 50 outside by this point so the descent was a bit chilly so I kept pedaling not wanting my legs to get cold before loop 2 began. Before you know it, you are back in town after a screaming descent and starting loop 2. By the time I hit hwy 91 on loop 2, I knew I was in for a special treat. The wind had returned and it was going to be a straight up headwind all the way out to Veyo and some pretty sketchy cross winds on that descent back to town. I was pushing the same power numbers on the way out this time for loop 2, but my mph numbers were about 2-5 mph slower this round. I knew this was b/c of the wind. I gave it all I had and was still feeling good, just honestly a tough course. If you don't have something to base your RPE off of like power numbers or GPS grades you are climbing and are totally using mph, this could be a HUGE factor on this course. I think people that were using mph were killing themselves trying to meet some magic number and not realizing the wind was destroying them on the uphill climb for 30 miles. I knew the run would be the hard part, so I kept slamming calories down my mouth trying to avoid the bonk and the low energy mental block. I made it into town and was glad to be near T2.

T2

I redeemed some pride on this dismount and made it through T2, changed shoes, etc. in just over 2 minutes! I love the flying, running dismount! I felt good in the tent and was ready for this run!

RUN

I haven't said a word about this yet, b/c I wanted you to know the swim is a great swim (despite the abnormal cold temps we had on race day). The bike is a good bike course, challenging in its own way, but a good course. Just be prepared for lots of climbing, I loved that I never saw ANY drafting issues on this course!!!! I am a big hater of drafters! The run is like nothing I have ever seen or experienced before. I drove this course 4 times before race day (yes 4). I ran parts of the course twice. I honestly don't think there is anything you can do to prepare for this type of marathon. I have run several open marathons, several half marathons, several half ironmans, and one other ironman. I have NEVER seen a harder run course in my entire life. This run course can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending upon the mindset you go into it with. I started with the idea that I'd run the first 3.5 miles somewhat easy and make sure I was feeling okay; my legs were there and see how it went from there. Honestly I didn't have a choice, the first 3 miles or so were up a hill that was really 2-3% maybe and didn't seem bad until I was running it after 112 miles on the bike. I was chipping off somewhere between 7:30-8:30 for most of this. That was my goal for the first 3 miles so I was okay. Then you hit the Elks Lodge loop…just stupid. Then you come out and go up the street a bit more and find your first real climb. 8% up about -1 mile maybe? I knew this would hurt on loop 2 for sure. Rollers all the way out to Pioneer Park loop. This was as my friends said “STUPID!” Despite the shortness of it, there were some stupid short 20 feet x15% grades, ouch! Then down the big hill to the turn around. Yep…then we turned around to back up this LONG climb…maybe almost 2 miles? Lucky for me Jamie was out there cheering for us and it was awesome. So I had Tonya near T2/finish line/turn around area, Ainsley near the 8% hill, and Kevin/Kerstin/Jamie out near the monster long hill. I couldn't have positioned them on the course better myself if I had planned it. Just strategically awesome locations to keep me moving. My strategy was not to kill my quads going into town miles 9-13 on the downhill so I held onto the gravity pulling me down faster and just cruised. I thought I was good until the turn around at the half mark and then started running up the hills again. What? Nothing left in my legs? I made the first loop in 1:44 and while this was below my expected run that I had planned for, I would have been really happy with a 3:30 marathon after seeing the course and knowing how hard it was. Miles 13-16 were a HUGE mental struggle just trying to continue running when my legs were really mad at me for going up hills for so freaking long. I dreaded the Elks lodge loop, even more the 8% grind, but the 2 mile uphill on the way back to town might destroy me. I had a new strategy for loop 2 and had to incorporate walking the aid stations to try to get my mental game back on track. I made it running up the 8% climb the second half of it. I knew my Texas Iron crew wasn't too much further so I kept hitting the hills and doing the best I could. I found Jamie and told him “I am not in a good place right now” and he gave me some motivating words and I kept rolling and holding back the tears of mental frustration. I kept running as best I could, if you can call it that. I'd be running up that big climb on the way back to town and look down and my feet were barely separated with each step. This can't be good for my stride length as there wasn't one. About the time I started my 8% descent, which is where I decided I am going to give it all I have the last 4-5 miles, I started seeing all my Texas Iron buddies on their loop 1 of the run. LOVED seeing some familiar faces out there. The interesting thing is my legs never really hurt on this run (okay maybe my left knee on loop 2 of the run), but they just couldn't go any faster. The aid stations rocked and I consumed EVERYTHING they offered trying to get some calories in me to get more energy to climb the hills. Nothing helped, I just couldn't go up any faster. Since I didn't hit ANY of my targets for the swim, bike or run to this point, I figured I'd have to adjust and now my goal was just to beat the 4 hour marathon mark. I didn't even walk aid stations the last 5 miles for fear of missing that mark. I saw several people from Austin, Texas Iron, and of course my wife many times on the run and wanted to just collapse in her arms each time. I will have to say this is the hardest run I have ever done in my life. If you have a desire to really challenge yourself and the regular “ironman” just isn't enough for you, I'd highly suggest this race. I have heard this referenced as “SUPER” Ironman by some finishers since race day. I struggled more mentally at this one that IMCdA, but I believe that was b/c of the “interesting” run course. I am a pretty regular 3-3:15 marathoner for an open marathon. If I had to run this course as an open marathon, I'd probably say I'd run a 3:20 or longer.

THE FINISH

Want a challenge, do this course. I know I was trained by the best and properly. I felt prepared, I had expectations, I left it all on the course, and despite my times, I know I couldn't have done anything else on that day to make it better. There are some things I could do to comfort myself – like – highest DNF rate of any Ironman to date (from what I have heard anyway) (somewhere around 18% from the people that started the race), hardest marathon or run that I have ever seen or done, coldest swim I have ever done, very interesting bike course, and lucky that I made it out of T1 as some of my friends suffered severely from hypothermia along with MANY others – but the bottom line is that the day was what it was. I can't change it, I truly believe I did everything in my power on that day, and considering how much harder it was than IM CdA, I am happy with my finish. My run time was only 9 minutes slower here than IM CdA and my overall time was only 19 minutes slower. I like to hope that means I am stronger at this distance each time around and one day I will be able to execute a good race. The town of St. George, the volunteers, and race management were AMAZING! These are the best aid stations I have ever seen on any course and the support from the community was outstanding. Tonya even made friends with some locals that were standing with her on the run watching me. They were taking pictures of random racers and were asking a million questions about Ironman racing and how their town was “stacking up” against other host towns. These people even stayed to see me finish the race before they would leave Town Square. Everyone was super interested in this race, the racers, and making sure we loved the city. I think if you had a sub-par host community on a course like this, it would make it extremely hard. I can't say enough about their wonderful support. I would be willing to bet there were no PR's on this course, but if there was, I'd be absolutely amazed! This is a full 140.6 mile Ironman course that makes you dig deep every stroke, every pedal, and every foot strike to try to make that finish line in 17 hours. I thought the course was beautiful, but I love the desert, red rock, mountain terrain. I could have done without the dry air b/c I don't think I felt a drop of sweat on me all day but sure felt the crusty salt all over my skin. We got very lucky with mild winds on race day and for that I can only thank God as I know He had a hand in the outcome that day. My best suggestion is to be ready for hills on race day of all kinds and be ready for ANY kind of weather. We saw 80+ temps and 60+ mph winds early in the week. Then it dropped to upper 30's and lower 40's at night and morning and only got up to mid 60's Wed-Sun. The winds can be calm to keep the water like glass or windy enough to literally blow you over. The normal temps this time of year there are upper 80's lower 90's. I think if you had that, plus dry air, and windy conditions, it would make this course even more brutal. The water would have been warmer, but the winds on the bike would have destroyed a lot of people. I hope to do another Ironman one day and now I know that I could very possibly choose any race in the world and that might be one of the hardest races I have ever done and will ever do. I can at least hope that way right? Yes I could have never done this without the support of my wife, kids, and family. My coaches Jamie Cleveland and Andrea Fisher to what I owe endless thanks to and of course all my Texas Iron friends that helped push me out there. Thanks Kevin, Denise, Laurie, Judy, Betsy, and Kerstin for putting up with me all week and helping me through this adventure! You know you are all on tap to be at my/our next one!!!! I think I'll do some sleeping now!
~Coach Troy

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