April 10, 2022

IRONMAN 70.3 St. George Race Review

IRONMAN 70.3 St. George Race Review

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A very hard course with magical scenery. There are two transitions, with the swim start at San Hollow located about 20 miles from T2 and finish. The bike is hilly and culminates in a ride up the fabled four miles up Snow Canyon and then a descent for about 9 miles to the finish. The non Worlds run course was an out and back that included some long slow inclines and some punchy hills.


The city is incredibly welcoming and the race finish/IM village is centrally located. The weather was exceptional for the May race (perhaps a bit warm for some people, but I live in a hot climate). The 70.3 Worlds weather was really crazy where it went from mild, to windy and stormy, and then to sunny and warm all within 7 hours. It is a Saturday race and that can be very popular with people. 


Setting: 5/5


IM Village/Finish line/T2 are located in downtown St. George, Utah and it is an idyllic setting. The community really embraces the race and seem to genuinely be happy we are there invading their city! They have wonderful restaurants. Two of my favorites that are right near IM Village are the Bear Paw Cafe (breakfast and lunch) which has good food and great coffee and Twisted Noodle Cafe (lunch and dinner) which has fantastic healthy options. For both races, I stayed at a hotel that was about .75 miles from IM Village and it was great to just be able to walk everywhere. There are tons of options to stay and eat just within two miles of there. There is a large park area right at IM that is perfect for children to run around in. They have a splash pad area, a lot of grass, and a carousel to keep kiddos occupied while you check in and buy merch! The lone downside is it is about a 25 minute drive to get to Sand Hollow State Park where the swim is, but that really didn’t bother too much as it was logistically easy to get there for practice swims and for bike gear drop off at both races. The scenery everywhere is remarkable. I’ve never raced in a prettier setting.


Weather: 3/5 


It was warm at the race in May, with my Garmin showing a low of 63 and high of 90. With it being a dry heat, I don’t remember feeling like it was very hot. There was some wind, but it was more refreshing than anything else. I touched upon the weather at Worlds already, but it is worth noting that it hadn’t rained in St. George for 4 months leading up to that race in mid-September). The wind on that day, after the storm front came through, was really strong. Living in North Texas, I’m used to it, but it was still unpleasant for the most part. The challenge came with wet roads and the wind gusts, especially on the bike descent from Snow Canyon to T2.


Swim: 5/5 Wetsuit legal 


Sand Hollow is the most beautiful setting I have ever swam in. The water is clear and refreshing and there is a lot of space to move on the course. I never felt swam over in either race. The water was cold at the race in May, coming in at 62 degrees. If you are not used to swimming in cold water, I would STRONGLY recommend doing as many pre-race practice swims at Sand Hollow as possible. I did two short practice swims there, mostly for cold acclimation, and had zero issues on race morning. A lot of people can get headaches or lose their breath in very cold water once they dip their heads in. If this is you, take the time to go and get used to the water. The swim in and swim out was well organized and there were tons of volunteers. There were no wetsuit strippers as those seem to have disappeared in these COVID times. The course itself is a basic, keep the buoys to your right, make a right turn, make a right turn, keep the buoys to your right, and then exit. 


Transitions: 4/5


Transitions were large and well organized. Split transitions seem to be more common these days and I’m getting to like the fact that they require you to pare down and be efficient. Your bags (and everything needs to stay in the bags) are with your bike in T1 and they are hanging in your spot at T2. My only complaint is that the transitions are long in that you have to walk/run pretty far to get to your things and get out.


Bike: 5/5


No one would ever describe this bike course as flat! You are either going uphill or downhill with very little flat portions. I found that most of the hills were quite manageable and made for a very enjoyable ride as you are always challenged and that keeps your head int he game. It isn’t easy, but I also didn’t find it outrageously challenging. As someone who doesn’t have the opportunity to train on hills, the course was doable for me although not ideal to perform at my highest level. The roads were really nicely maintained and had a lot of room. I felt safe from cars too. Obviously, the iconic climb is Snow Canyon which, in the 70.3 comes around mile 44. It is approximately 4 miles long and it is a slow and steady climb until you get to the last 500 meters where it gets steep and pitchy. (This is definitely a race where you need to think about appropriate gearing on your bike.) After Snow Canyon, you head downhill the entire time into transition. The road is wide and free of potholes, so depending on your comfort level, you can tuck down into aero and really get some speed. The course is absolutely breathtaking. Even when you are suffering in Snow Canyon, you are surrounded by such natural beauty that it almost makes it okay!


Run: 4/5


This run is hard. There are no two ways about it. However, I loved it in both iterations I did it on. You leave T2 and run 3.5 miles up Diamond. For the regular 70.3 it was a sort of looped out and back once you got to the top of the climb. That out and and back had some very punchy pitches on it, but it also has some flat sections. For the World Championships, athletes went in a double loop course that went up that 3.5 mile climb twice. I preferred the World Championship course despite it being harder. Either way, you are going to bang the heck out of your quads when you are descending. The top of the course was a bit exposed, so you are going to feel any wind and there isn’t much shade outside of being next to a canyon wall. You need to be very judicious about how you burn your matches on this course. 

Finish: 5/5


The finish lines at both of St. George's races were remarkable. A wide, beautiful street with a huge crowd in a beautiful area. One of my favorite finish lines ever.


Family Friendliness: 5/5


This is probably the most family friendly race I’ve participated in. Ironman Village was in a gorgeous expansive park area that even had a small carousel. There was a splash area as well as a manmade stream for kids to play in. The restaurants are all family friendly and there are plenty. There are cute shops along the main road and it is easy to walk around. You can go to the Sand Hollow area and play on the beach as well. Not to mention there are national parks and hiking areas everywhere around there. This is an ideal destination/vacation race for a family