Monday, February 22, 2010

Where's the FEAR Button?

I've been reading up on St. George (IM Utah--May 1st, '10), and a fire has been lit under my arse. Needless to say, I'm training like a maniac now, as scared for my 3rd IM as I was for my first. Here's what I've found:

IM St. George Run Reviews
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A training buddy and I just got back from St. George. He's signed up for next year, and I'll just say that I'm glad he's doing it and not me.

Brief synopsis:
Difficult bike, pacing will be vital, chip seal is awful. Run is all uphill or downhill, no shade, brutal.

Bike Overview:
(2, 40 mile loops)
The loop begins by winding through some housing developments…For us, the course really began with the right hand turn onto H91. This is all patched chip seal. I've found that this particular surface definitely robs me of speed. I also find myself experiencing more core fatigue... it's harder to relax when you're constantly vibrating and I tighten my core in order to provide a better "platform" for power application.

After bouncing your way along 91, you'll veer right onto 3184 and start riding through a narrower canyon. There might be some shade provided by the canyon walls, but that's dependent on sun angle (not sure what that will be in May) and the time of day, of course. When we rode it the first day at around noon, there was zero shade. The second day we rode it at 8:30ish, we got a little shade from the rocks. The road generally consists of rollers on an uphill bias, but there are perhaps four shorter (~:45 to 1:15 or so) hills in which I came out of aero.

..pacing is crucial. We went out way too hard the first day, and I simply burned too many matches on the first loop. The second day went much better as we tried to cap our power on these shorter hills. I would bet on a large % of AGers pushing too much on the first loop, being completely gassed on the second loop, and really suffering on the run.

The main climb on the loop is a switchback that occurs about 1/2 way through the entire loop. It's about .8 mile, rising about 400 feet in that distance for an average grade of just over 9%. I think it peaks at around 16-17%, and this occurs near the top of the climb. It's a relatively short but nasty little f'er.

This brings you in to the town of Veyo and a right onto H18 to head back into town. Veyo does have a small convenience/feed store to get some Gatorade/H20/etc. You're now on top of a wide plateau, and we had some good headwinds during our first ride. There's a slow gradual climb away from Veyo, as the road undulates gradually over the next 5 to 6 miles.

The first of the significant descents starts about 6.5 miles out of Veyo, as you approach Snow Canyon State park on your right. This continues for two miles, and levels out slightly with some slight climbs; you're still able to stay in aero. There's a brief respite from the chip seal with some nice smooth pavement (which will make you realize how much you've been vibrating and rattling around for the last 35 miles) but then, before you can say "ahhhhh...", you're back on the patched chip seal again.

The final major descent occurs after a few more miles as you wind your way down toward that Bluff/Snow Canyon intersection I mentioned earlier. It's not a technical descent at all. Only the quality of the road surface, the small shoulder, and the numerous trucks with horse trailers screaming past us made us a little skittish. Nevertheless, we still hit almost 50 mph on the descent.

Then you grab the brakes and make a hard right to do it all over again.

The bike course will be very challenging because of the hills, road surface, and weather conditions. I found it difficult to get in a solid rhythm because of the rolling hills on the course, which usually don't necessitate getting out of aero, but I found myself switching gears quite a bit. I believe a previous poster had mentioned the importance of a power meter, and I completely agree: pacing yourself up the hills and making sure you cap your power appropriately will pay big dividends. The chip seal just beats you up. When we rode the course the first day at noon, my SRM was over 100. I'd expect high temperatures especially for the second loop, with little to no shade. Coming out of Veyo, you could get hit with some serious winds.

Run Overview:
It starts uphill immediately and there's not much downhill to speak of until almost mile 5. You climb up Main to a little roundabout and veer left onto Diagonal. It's a gradual climb to a right on 18, and then the out-and-back on 1250 up to the Elks Lodge is a short series of stepped hills.

On the second day, we ran this as a brick after one loop of the bike course and found ourselves affected by the altitude (~3200') more than I would've thought. Coming from Seattle, we could definitely feel like we were more labored in our breathing and it was difficult to catch out breath. We slowed our pace significantly until we felt like it was under control.

Run up and down back to 18 to take a right at our infamous intersection again. Here's where the run really gets, um, good. There's an innocuous "8% grade" sign to let you know what's up. This steeper section, beginning at just before mile 3, lasts for perhaps 1/3 mile or so. The road continues to climb, albeit at lesser gradients, until mile 5. Then it flattens out and starts to turn down.

This downhill section is about 5% which can really hammer some tired quads.

The run is going to be just brutal. No shade at all, except perhaps along Diagonal because of some small trees. The hills are difficult, and there's maybe 500 yards of flat running over the loop. Those athletes who went out too hard on the bike are going to pay dearly on the run. Fueling and fluids are going to be crucial because of the heat.

Run course elevation change was ~635 ft of climbing and descending per loop, so double it for the full mary. The climb from the intersection to Veyo was a little over 1700 ft.

I think this might have an extraordinary DNF rate... I can't wait to see what the average AGer is able to do out there.
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1. Wind, wind and more wind. There's just no getting around it. So much so that I'd give the Swim a 50/50 chance of being canceled. It's that bad this time of year for wind in SG.
2. Lots of sun exposure on the bike.
3. High DNF rate of first-timers.
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…I was really surprised when I heard the course. I would love to do this race if I wouldn’t want a cross bike for the pavement. The pavement is just a quiltwork of patches and rough riding.
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…Unfortunately this lake and this time of year (early May) does not have a good history with the swim leg of triathlon. The past two years in a row the St. George triathlon (Oly distance in early May) has either had partial cancellation or full cancellation of the swim leg due to high winds and rough water.
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Bike:
Everything, and I mean everything is totally exposed (no shade) on this course. So anything I saw could be a different situation if it's windy. But, there is NO shade anywhere on the entire course. Every breath of wind will be felt. High winds could create a real monster.

After Telegraph you cut under I-15 and on to Buena Vista. This rolls with a few small climbs that could get your attention. Buena Vista becomes Red Hills Parkway and this gets you further in to town and on to the big loop. There is a good hill going up Red Hills (more on that bad boy for the Run review later). Not long but pretty steep. After crossing Hwy 18/Bluff St. you are on to the big loop. This begins by working through the fringes of the town of St. George. The pavement is not great in a few locations. No pot holes, but some chip seal and generally not real smooth. You then get on to Hwy 91 and this becomes rather hilly and "rolly”. The road surface here is chip seal. I think a little lower tire pressure is in order for this reason. It will be an annoying surface especially on the second loop. At County Rd. 3184 you veer right and continue up a valley. On the Gunlock reservoir road there are numerous cattle guards. I did not count them, but at least 4 (per lap). Maybe 5-6. These are going to require a little caution. Launching bottles, flats etc. There are a lot of rollers on this loop. You are almost never cruising flats, always either up or down. About 2/3 of the way in to the loop you have a good climb up a switchback. This climb brings you out of the valley you just rode and up on to a high plateau. This is the high point of the entire course (4,700'). Altitude might be an issue here, but probably not a killer even for sea level athletes. It is probably more of an issue on the Marathon course even though that is lower (3,200' top). Shortly after this switchback climb, you turn on to Hwy 18 and off the chip seal. Hwy 18 is going to be a blast. It is almost all downhill back in to town and the second loop. It is good to excellent pavement, and fast. No dicey corners. Some of this descent back in to town is going to be fast. However, not dangerous at all as it's a wide road and there should be plenty of room for everyone. There are some spectacular views from this Hwy. It should make the run back in to town on the second loop really refreshing and fun. And, get you ready for the Run. Ouch. More on that below.

Run:
Are you sitting down? The run is going to be a bitch. It's hilly, it's exposed, it's a double loop. Strong runners have the upper hand on this course. After exiting T2 you start back up Main st. which is uphill, not steep, but uphill, turn on to Diagonal, also a gradual off camber uphill. A mile or two out of T2 you have a short out and back on 1250 N. This won't be fun as it is an uphill again. Back on to Hwy 18 and then the real fun begins with the turn on to Red Hills Parkway (last part of the bike loop). This is steep and long. There is a highway sign on it that warns drivers of an 8% grade. There is no shade. The course goes out and back twice on Red Hills Parkway. All I can say is Red Hills Parkway is going to be etched in to your brain after this race. It climbs and rolls both out and back, some of it steeply. Coming down the last lap is going to pound the S#$T out of your quads. On the Parkway out and back there is also a short diversion in to Pioneer Park on a bike path (.4 miles). This might be a nice reprieve as it is very pretty in there. It also is not flat however. Overall, if you are in great run shape and have not blown your legs to pieces on the bike, this run is doable and while definitely not fast, it is fair and honest. Just tough. Pace the bike or else.

Bottom line impressions:
The bike course is not that bad really. Not as bad as I had been led to believe. It will be comparable to IMLP or IM Canada in my opinion. Of course I did not ride it, so take that with a grain of salt. But driving it didn't scare me off. It will give you back a lot on the Hwy 18 descent, so plan to work hard the first 1/2 or so of the loop and then recover and get nutrition etc. on the second part. The ride from the lake to the loop will be a good warm up. There will be spectators on this section, not too many on the big loop.

The bike is going to require intelligent pacing. If you blow your legs off on the bike you will pay dearly on the run. More so on this course than any other IM I've ever done, including Hawaii. Chip sealed surfaces are going to get annoying as I said. A good chunk of the big loop is on these type of roads. There is plenty of climbing on the course, so factor that in as well. Run a little lower tire pressure. Cattle guards could blow an overinflated tire, not to mention comfort on chip sealed roads

The run is going to require that you have trained your quads to take eccentric contraction pounding. Long downhills are going to pound them good especially after 112 miles on the bike. If you do not pace the ride, I guarantee you it will be a walk not a run. I am estimating this run course to be 10-15 minutes slower for a fit athlete, and possibly a walk for anyone undertrained or who poorly paced the bike. Hold back on the bike and I think you will be passing hundreds on the run. Hammer the bike beyond what is moderate at most for your fitness, and you will be annihilated on the run. Trust me.

St. George has the potential to be quite hot, so with it being so exposed the whole way, people are going to be toasted to a crisp if it's normal weather for them. SPF 35+ for sure.
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On Friday, October 23, 2009, eight members of the LA Tri Club who are participating in the inaugural 2010 Ironman in St. George, Utah, traveled to the venue to pre-ride and pre-run the course. The participants come from a broad spectrum of experience and ages. Ages ranged from under 30 to over 60, with 3 women and 5 men. One person has never done a triathlon of any kind. Our most experienced person has successfully completed seven Ironman races. We have two Legacy LA Marathon runners, with over 100 events between them. Others fall in between.

Quick Summary:
The St. George Ironman Bike Course consists of a 20 mile section into near downtown St. George from the Sand Hollow Reservoir (T1), and two 45 mile loops that take you out into hilly terrain north of town. The first 20 mile section is along well traveled roads with good surface conditions, with approximately 1500’ of total ascent. The two 45 mile loops are primarily on quiet 2-lane back roads except for the 10 mile return to town on U18, and with good surface conditions and some tricky climbs. Each loop gains about 2000’ for a total course ascent of approximately 5,500’

There are climbs of up to 10% in spots, but nothing of any real duration. The longest consistent climb we measured was approximately 4 miles at 2% - 4% grade. Most riders would call this course “rollers on steroids” with somewhat slower uphills, somewhat faster downhills, and some short steep 8% - 12% leg-busting climbs throughout that will require good course management in order to save your legs for a very tough run course. There are plenty of opportunities for recovery, and plenty of opportunities to over-cook yourself with the short steeper wall climbs that can easily take you into the anaerobic red-zone for 3-5 minutes – longer in a few cases.
Despite rumors and posts in other forums reporting a teeth-rattling chip-sealed washboard and hellish climb-fest, our riders felt it was very fair and manageable Ironman bike leg, largely due to the fact that there are no long extended grinding climbs. It is a manageable course with fantastic scenery that will challenge mind and body, but will require patience and good course management.

The run course may be another story. The total ascent is approximately 2000’ over the two 13 mile loops. The first section is a 2.5 mile 2% (rising to) 6% steady climb out of T2, then an immediate 8%-9% 400 yard grind after your right turn onto Red Hills Parkway will have you questioning your choice of Ironman venues for next year. What goes up must come down, and for every 8% uphill, there is an 8% quad-buster coming down. There is simply no flat section of this course – you are either going up, or coming down throughout the run. That being said, most of our runners felt that this course, too, was manageable. Probably no PR’s here, but a run-able course with proper management.

Two of the big unknowns are heat and wind. Locals say that winds are usually very strong in the spring. Due to the configuration of the surrounding canyons, headwinds may be coming at you from a number of directions throughout the day. Heat is another variable. Mean temperatures are rage from low 40’s to high 80’s in May (60’s average), and no way to tell what the day will bring. The area is very dry, so hydration will be, as usual, critical. Elevation ranges from 3000’ to 4700’, but did not appear to affect our riders to any great degree. We averaged 15.5 miles mph (auto-paused on the computers), with slower than race-pace slow areas, and faster than average climbs and flat pulls. Weather was perfect – cloudless blue skies, morning temperature in the 50’s rising to the high 70’s around 2:00pm.


The Bike Course:

Start and Mile 1-30 through town:
The bike course begins at Sand Hollow Reservoir, one of Utah’s newest State Parks, located approximately 15 miles east of St George. The road surface is super smooth new asphalt in good condition, and riders get an immediate view of the beautiful, treeless, desert panorama that will be with them for the most of the next 112 miles. Grade is relatively flat, with a few long rises of 1% - 3%. This is wide open expanse, with relatively few houses or buildings. There will be little to no shade on the bike course except around miles 25-30 and perhaps miles 35-40.

At 3 miles a left turn on SR9 (at 3700 West) for about 4 miles and a left turn onto Telegraph Road for another 4.5 miles heads riders southwest on good pavement with the first elevation increase of app. 400 feet of ascent coming between miles 6-8 with 3%-6% grades, a tough little 8% uphill at around mile 8, then a flat cruise with a long fast downhill until the right turn onto Washington Parkway. Road surface up to the point is excellent.

The one mile climb up Washington Parkway has a hard little 9% uphill pull for about 300 yards, and brings you onto the Highway 15 overpass. At this point the current road ends, but a new frontage road connecting Washington Parkway to existing Buena Vista Blvd at Graham Manor is promised before the race in May. We took a 2.5 mile section of highway to bypass that area. The course will eventually provide a left turn onto Buena Vista from Washington Parkway, a right turn on Cactus Lane, a left on Green Springs Drive and then right onto Redhills Parkway.
Redhills Parkway at mile 16 brings riders to a busier traffic area as you approach town. Elevation is at 2800’, and total climb up to this point has been about 700’. Redhills Parkway is a narrow 2 lane road that will take you to onto the run course at around mile 18.5. This road winds for 5 miles along a high ridge overlooking the city on your left, and the view is terrific. The road is a fairly steady climb, has long rollers with roughly ½ mile between tops, and two 6% - 8% climbs – one roughly 2/10th of a mile in length and another steep section of a 300-400 yards. The road dips down with a fast, steep 8% -9% downhill to cross Bluff Street at mile 22, where you will begin the two bike loops. Road surface is still good here.

You’ll get to know the Bluff Street intersection very well. You pass it three times on the bike during your 2 laps, and 4 times during your 2 loop run. This would be a good place for family and friends to wait and take pictures of you with your tongue hanging out as you run up the 8% slope twice during the run. More to come on that later!

The next 7 miles are uneventful, flat to rolling, and a series of right and left turns on wide streets through suburban neighborhoods leading to Highway 91, and the first signs that you are headed out of Dodge for the high country. There is a beautiful section where 2000 North turns into Pioneer Parkway at around mile 25, and you swear you have been teleported to Kona. The sharp volcanic lava rock field will have you looking for stacked white rocks (lave graffiti). You have 30 miles under your belt, total ascent has been 1500’, you are still at about 3000’ above sea level, and roads have been very good.

Mile 30 – 47 into the Paiute Lands:
The right turn onto Highway 91 lets you know immediately that you are not in Kansas anymore. The road surface turns to old-county-road style chip seal pavement with no shoulder. Fortunately, this is a relatively short lived 4.5 miles with long rollers and about 300’ of climb until you bear right onto CR-3184. The road surface here turns to fairly smooth old asphalt with a kind of pebble finish surface, and your chip seal-rattling time is done, at least for the next 35 miles until you hit it again on lap 2.

The CR-3184 road to Gunlock is one of the most beautiful sections of the ride. Our age-group champion “Legacy” Lou Briones has dubbed this area Gunlock and the Three Bears, because there are 3 progressively more significant wall climbs along this section. A Baby climb, and Mama Climb, and the Poppa climb at the switchback at mile 47. This road winds through Paiute Indian land through a stunning canyon alongside a small river. Hopefully, the river will swell in spring to provide a really breathtaking roll. Mama climb at mile 44.5 serves you up a nasty little ¼ mile hill with an 11% grade. Be careful of this one – it has the potential to eat you up as you get to the next climbing area.

NOTE: It is worth mentioning here that CR-3184 has 5 cattle guards in the road that you will need to pass over. These metal grates can be a little unnerving, but if you hit them straight on at a decent speed, and keep your weight off the bars, you should have no problems. Whatever you do, do not go over these slowly, or brake on them. After we walked over the first one, rode slowly over the second one and figured them out, some of us just bunny-hopped the 2-3 yard fixtures at high speed, but that may not be a wise thing to do.

The Poppa climb at mile 47 has a step switchback with arguably the toughest climb on the ride. This is a one mile long toughie that could eat your lunch, especially if you are on our second lap. The first ½ mile is 5% - 6%, but the second ½ mile jumps to 7% - 9% with an 11% section a few hundred yards from the top.

From mile 34 to 47 you have added 1000’ to your GPS - the switchback climb adds another 400’. You are at about 4300’ elevation at this point, and have climbed about 3,200’ over the last 48 miles. Altitude did not appear to be having much effect on our riders. Since the group only did 1 loop of the bike, plus the first 20 miles into town, we do not have dead accurate ascent figures, but simple math puts this course at about 5,300 total feet of climb – about 1000’ more than advertised.

The next 1.5 miles is a mild 1%-3% slightly uphill roll leading to the right turn onto highway U18 that will head you back to town. Elevation 4450’, but you are not quite done.

Mile 48 – 66 back to St. George:
After the long anticipation of the switchback climb, your mind somehow tells you “it’s all downhill from here”. And while there is nothing really serious up ahead, the right turn at mile 49.5 onto U18 is a little disappointing when you see a two mile 6% climb ahead of you. The next 5 miles on U18 will take you up another 250’ to the highest point on the ride at 4700’, with long rollers of 5-8 mph uphill’s and 25-35 mph downhills. One of the notable features of the route south on U18 is that a nice fast recovery downhill is a little spoiled by a persistent strong headwind that you will not shake until you hit town again at mile 66. The headwind appears to be a consistent year-round feature, according to local experts.

The next 10-11 miles starting the long downhill back to town at mile 57 are just plain fun. U18 is a busy state highway, (U18 becomes Bluff Street) and you will get buffeted by the traffic and the headwind. But road surface is very good, it is 9+ miles of fast downhill (35+mph) down to the 3000’ level before turning right onto Snow Canyon Parkway (smile, remember your fans are at that corner) to do another 45 miles loop.


The Run Course:

T2 to Mile 3
As mentioned in the summary, the St. George run course will be a rude awakening for many. It is perpetually hilly, including 3 grades of more than 8% to 10%. The terrain is either up or down, with virtually no flat anywhere on the course. There is no shade cover save for a short 1.5 mile section of Diagonal Blvd. Road surface is good throughout, and much of the gravel shoulder on Redhill Parkway is usable if you prefer to keep off the pavement.

The start of the run out of T2 in the old Downtown section of St. George is just plain hard. Most runners need 2-3 miles to get their stride together, and tend to hit the run too fast until they can get themselves together to find their legs and control their pace. The quick left onto the 5% - 7% uphill grade for ½ mile on Main Street makes this difficult to do. Veering left on Diagonal, runners maintain a 3% - 5% uphill section for another 1.5 miles. Turn right on Bluff Street at (U18).

In order to add mileage to the course, the designers needed to add a couple of small out-and-back sections. The first is at approximately 2 miles into the run with a right turn onto 1250 North, a little 4/10 mile dead-end turnaround that takes you up to the Red Hills municipal golf course and the Elks lodge. This out-and-back continues the climbing, however, and adds two quick 8% and 10% jumps of approximately 100-150 yards each. Turn around, head back down and turn right back on Diagonal and another right onto Bluff St at mile 3.

Mile 3 to Mile 6.5:
Redhills Parkway is the majority of the run course. Runners will stay on this 2 lane downtown by-pass that rolls along a bluff high over the city, offering a great panoramic view to the south of St. George. The airport to the southwest actually has planes landing below you. The right onto RedHills Parkway takes you immediately into an 8% - 9% uphill for approximately 4/10 of a mile. When you hit the top of this grade, you will have ascended almost 400’ in 4 miles since the start.

The next 3 miles is a series of long rollers with until the turnaround at just under 7 miles. There is another 8% grade downhill for approximately 3/10 mile at mile 5.5. At around this point, an extra loop section apparently takes you off-road for about 3/10 of a mile. We were not able to find this section, so not information is available. This section is only used on the outbound run, not the return according to the Ironman website.

Turnaround to Mile 13 or Finish:
The turn at 1000 East starts the 6.5 miles back to town, where you will reverse the two 8% - 9% grades you climbed and descended earlier. The left turn onto Diagonal will provide some recovery time with 3 miles of 2% - 3% downhill, before starting it all over after the turnaround at mile 13 at T2. The next 5 miles from mile 13 – 18 takes you back to the hilly section, and runners will really need to keep their mental game together as they deal with grades. Runners who will be going later into the evening may find this last loop particularly difficult as they deal with what is likely to be a desolate long stretch in the dark on Redhill Parkway. After passing the final uphill on mile 23, the 3 mile easy downhill cruise into downtown will present a classic run finish to your race.
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Hills, hills and more hills....
No really- ride hills if you can, long rides should include elevation gain. The course has over 7000ft elevation gain over the 112 miles, so you need to be able to ride long and hilly and be fresh enough to run off the bike.
For running:
• parking garage, stairs, hills....you need to practice running up and almost more importantly running down
• the run course is up or down with very little flat so your legs need to get used to long runs on varied terrain
Swimming
• the good news here is the swim is not hilly......
If you absolutely cannot find hills then go longer....more training is necessary for this race or you will suffer.
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Hey Rachel, I was just there this weekend and rode
the bike loop twice (skipped the first 20 miles of bike) and the next
day ran 1 loop of the run course. It's tough. After one loop on the
bike (45 miles) I said to my riding partner "that wasn't so bad.
People keep saying this is a monster course, but I feel fine". The
second loop really hurt. Climbing the 3 or 4 steep sections (8 to 9%
grade?) isn't a insurmountable task, but doing it with tired legs
hurts bad. Getting off the bike with running legs will be quite
difficult, I think pacing yourself will be critical.

The run course is just plain mean. It's tougher than AFC or LJ half.
It's tougher than Vineman. It's about like Wildflower 70.3 if WF were
all on pavement. There is no flat section. There is a stretch on
Diagonal st. which is flatish, but it's still slightly uphill. The
climbs are brutal - steep up and steep down. Generally the "out" is
tougher than the "back" since the first 6 miles are mostly uphill -
but the return trip still has one short steep climb and one long
sustained climb. I did one loop and was fried. I don't see many
people doing well on this run course.

So for training - hills, hills, hills. Not ridiculous stuff like
palomar repeats - but consistently doing long hilly east county rides
and runs. Attacking the hills on the bike or run seems like a silly
plan to me - this course is about a smooth consistent effort and
conserving fuel. If you blow up on the bike or on lap 1 of the run,
you're going to have a long day.

Oh, and it's windy.
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Gordo breaks down the Ironman St. George Course

I read a few course descriptions prior to checking out the course. They made the bike course sound like it was running through a combination of Death Valley and the Moon. Personally, I think that this is one of the most beautiful IM courses out there. The designer did a great job creating a course that is varied, picturesque and safe.

When you look at the bike course profile, you will get the impression that the course is much steeper than reality. While there is plenty of climbing on the route, it happens much more slowly than the profile will lead you to believe. Athletes that are used to racing Ironman Florida will need to add at least an hour to their time expectations.

My #1 piece of advice: Do not race blind. Figure out some way to get to St. George over the next six months to check out the bike course and make sure that you repeat my test workout (two laps of The Loop). The reason I recommend the journey is the course is 'slow' for the first 50 miles and you will be depressed with your time unless you manage your expectations by training on site.

I had a question about what type of athlete is best suited to this course. The course is suited to an athlete with strong power-to-weight but with a twist. I would not measure in terms of functional threshold power to weight (FTP/KG). Rather, I would measure in terms of Half Ironman watts per kilo. Using myself as an example 250w / 75 kg is 3.3 HIM watts per kilo. If you are a male amateur athlete then, I suspect that, you'll need to be close to that ratio to contend for a Kona slot here.

For the technically minded, I would use average HIM power (not normalized, and exclude zeroes). I would also only count the HIM bike ride as valid if the athlete was able to run within 7% of their non-triathlon Half Marathon time (I ran 1:22:30 off the bike after that 250w effort).

If you look at the marathon profile then you will see two solid climbs on each loop. This course is going to favor the efficient runner. Here, I would define efficiency in terms of maximum sustainable pace at the bottom of your Steady intensity zone. Again, for the technically minded, this course will favor the athlete with the highest pace at aerobic threshold. The combination of the bike and run climbs will take "big engine" athletes out of the picture. There is a TON of ground to be made up from being able to run well.

Skills - despite all the rollers and climbs, the course is NOT technical. The descent is straightahead and easy to navigate. The main skill required is pace management through the short climbs. For this reason, I think that most athletes will benefit from a road set-up (STI shifting) with clip-on aerobars. Athletes with aggressive TT set-ups with low front ends and/or brake hoods that are far from their hips will experience substantial back pain from all the climbing on the course.

Gearing - you can check my bike file in detail to see my cadence at various parts of the course. I use 50/34 gearing with an 11-28 cassette and had to stand in three places on each loop. While it might have been nice to have a 55-11 for a couple sections of the bike course, I bet my overall time would benefit from rolling-up zeros (no power output) at high speed, and eating/drinking. If you are mid-, or back-, of the pack then consider a triple chain ring. If you don't believe me then run for an hour after you complete the Two-Loop workout.

Altitude - lots of talk about the altitude at St George. Personally, I think that it is a non-event. The highest speed part of the bike course is the "top" and the thinner air (and smooth road surface) will help, rather than hinder you. If you are feeling breathless then it's your pacing rather than your location.

Swim - it is going to be COLD. I was swimming late summer at the end of a week that saw 90-100F daily highs. Even then, I needed a fullsuit to be comfortable in the morning. Practice a dry-land warm-up and experiment with neoprene caps and booties (I use the BlueSeventy ones). Because you are likely to be cold coming out of the water, consider toe covers, full-finger gloves and arm-warmers for the bike.

Heat - the afternoon high was over 100F the day that we did our ride. That said, I was pretty comfortable with a vented helmet and full-zip jersey. Because this race is going to be quite long (due to a hills), I would lean towards vents.

Wheels – because of all the pace changes, light climbing wheels will dominate aero dynamics on this course. Better yet, get yourself a set of light aerowheels - I ran my 404s with PowerTap and they worked great. The only guy that I'd recommend a disc for would be my buddy Chris McDonald (super strong, larger guy that copes with spikes well). For us mortals, you need to do everything possible to minimize the torque spikes in your legs.

Blocks - the bike course splits into three key 25-mile blocks.


The First 25: stay calm, get your HR settled and establish hydration/nutrition. It's going to be a long day.


The Second 25: this is your first journey from the bottom to the top of the course. You are going to witness some totally insane riding from stressed out competition that big-rings some of the steep rollers. Stay within yourself and remember your training ride on the course.


The Third 25: this is the second journey from the bottom to the top of the course. You will now see TOTAL carnage from the athletes that raced the first 50 miles of the bike. This course is extremely unforgiving if you crack (though not as bad as Placid because you have a late downhill to regroup).

Eating - when you turn onto Hwy 18 eat and drink plenty before the fast downhill to town. The downhill is so fast that you are unlikely to be able to eat/drink. So... you need to tank up across the top of the course to make sure that you have your calories in your system. I experimented and was able to get my HR under 110 bpm at the end of my ride. Focus on fueling and recovery in the high speed sections of the course.

Bike Position - you need a few different positions to reflect the nature of the course. You need to be very comfortable in all of them: straight ahead TT (standard); uphill TT (choke up on bars); high-speed descent (minimal frontal area); long climbs (sitting up); and standing (for the short steep rollers). Comfort is power on a course like this – my choice would be a road set-up with clip ons.

Saddle Position - while I used my "road" frame, I bumped the saddle forward so that my thigh:torso angle wasn't too tight on the aerobars.

Finally, be patient. The smart athlete will be able to make up over an hour in the second half of the race. You don’t need to “go fast” to do well here but you will need to run well after a variable bike ride. Set your bike ceilings and practice riding as evenly as possible through rolling terrain.
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Links:
http://www.mapmyride.com/run/united-states/ut/saint-george/359123786526858222
http://www.atozion.com/blog/?p=238
http://trailtime.blogspot.com/2009/11/ironman-st-george-course-preview.html
http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/ut/saint-george/935125954817482692

7 comments:

maryeggers said...

Do not write the end of the story before you even get to the starting line. harness these feelings and they will be the ones you fly on .... on race day! WOO HOO!

don said...

There seems to be a little disagreement with how tough the bike course really is however the things that appear to be consistent are:
1 The swim will be cold so bring a neoprene hat.
2 The key to success on the bike will be pacing yourself.
3 The run is hilly so focus your training on working the hills.

Will you have an opportunity to ride the St. G course before the race? I won't have that luxury, perhaps a drive in the car just prior to race day will have to suffice.

The other consistent message seems to be that you should not expect a PR time at IMStG. Oy, it sounds tough.

Thanks for posting this preview (I think).

Rachel said...

I am going out there for an unofficial training camp before my taper. Don't worry. I will post a full report on my return.

Andy said...

Geez, sounds like you signed up for a doozie!!! I just compared the Ironman St George profile (bike) with Ironman CDA, and St George looks much harder, and the roads look pretty beat up. The best thing I did was complete a century ride before my Ironman, and I did one that happened to be about the same net eleavation gain as your race. Maybe you can find one near you :) Let us know your report after you get back... I want to see how it compares to some of the ones you posted (depressing)!

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

Yes, the course sounds tough, but you must trust in your training and go in with a "can do" attitude. Otherwise, the race will be over before it even starts! You can do it and you are going to rock!

IronVince: IM WI 2009 and Beyond said...

There is no fear. So long as you are mentally prepared for the conditions you will do fine. What is it they say, "Prepare for the worst, hope for best." I know you will do well. You are strong. You are tough. You already are an Ironman two times over.

Wes said...

no kidding. go kick its ass. My third IM will be brutal, by choice :-)