With about 15 minutes until race start I made my way to the self-seeded swim start. I made a point to get in the first group of three athletes while I did my best to prepare for the swim without the benefit of being able to get in the water, an unusual twist. The swim at St. George is a simple three leg course around a small rock outcropping in the middle. By the time I had made it to the first buoy a group of three or four swimmers had developed, I decided to sit in, as I was feeling a bit rough and wanted to give my body more time to warm-up before pushing the pace. The group swam well together and I began to feel more at one with the water as we rounded the second turn to finish the last leg of the swim course. I finished the swim in a time of 25:39 which more or less reflected how it felt, slightly off but a solid way to start and still feeling fresh.
After another somewhat cold handed and therefore sloppy transition I was out on the bike and feeling strong about my position in the race. This bike split would prove to be one of constant improvisation and the hurdles started right away. Almost immediately and then intermittently throughout the race my right side pedal was dropping power and displaying 50% of what I might have expected to see. It was not hard to guess when I was seeing only one side versus a real number so that was not really an issue but it does make metrics like normalized power pretty irrelevant so I had to ignore the power goals I had set to achieve by certain parts of the course and just watch the actual numbers. Issue number two presented itself when my main source of nutrition decided it had had enough and after hearing a scratching sound I looked back to disappointingly see my 700 calorie bottle sliding down the road. Damn. I allowed myself about five seconds of disbelief before realizing that I had no choice but no modify plans and grab as many gels as possible from aid stations. Having accepted this new reality, I figured I should at least make sure I was hydrated and kept my salt intake on track. Unfortunately, I had also dropped my salt pills, now I was really starting to wonder what the heck was going on. On the bright side this was likely the lightest bike I have every used in a triathlon since I threw off all the important stuff early on. My new plan was to take my time through every aid station, make sure my front reservoir was completely filled at each stop, get a big gulp of Gatorade to fill in for the salt pills and grab as many gels as possible to replace as many of the 600 calories as possible. It took me two more aid stations to successfully locate and then finally actually grab gels but I managed to grab two gels up the final ascent through Snow Canyon which I promptly consumed. Sitting here writing this today I am proud of how I modified but in the moment it was a little crazy. Enough of that, power wise I was feeling strong and confident with the effort I was putting out. Early on in the bike I let the eventual third place finisher go and at one point was passed briefly by the second place finisher as well. I focused solely on my own effort and knew we had a tough run ahead and at best I would be slightly behind on my nutrition going in to the run. The last section of the St. George course features a solid climb up the moonscape of Snow Canyon and then a fast six mile blast back into town. Despite the problems with nutrition along the way, this was undoubtedly the strongest I have ever felt on a bike, it was amazing and I look forward to way more of it. I treated mile 50 as the end of the bike effort wise and used the long descent back into town to finished everything I had on my bike fluid wise and spend as little energy as possible. I finished the bike split in a time of 2:15:46 and in second place age-group, about one minute off of the lead.
The run course at St. George was never flat and rewarded strength on the uphills and leg speed on the downhills. I focused on tempo and controlling my heart rate on the three mile climb out of town. I knew immediately I felt strong, I was safe from immediate threat from behind, I had control of my breath and was within sight of the 1st place amateur. After the initial three mile climb, the course took us on two out and backs on top of one of the bluffs overlooking town. With the nutrition challenges on the bike in mind, I ate more than I otherwise would have wanted to during the beginning portion of the run, another reason I made sure to control and did not feel rushed to make the pass early or all at once. I alternated one salt pill and water or one gel and water for the first 5 aid stations after which I started either skipping or just taking a sip of water. I think I learned some important lessons about the rate I can absorb nutrition in New Zealand earlier this year and I felt like I managed that balance just right yesterday. As soon as I felt the sensation of being full I backed off the amount of water or skipped and aid station. With first place in sight my mind was full of mental math, attempting to make a decision about when to make my move. Much like the bike, the run finished with a long downhill so I decided to treat mile 10 as my finish line and just did deep and do everything I could to turn over the legs back into town. At mile 11 I started to catch 1st place quickly and made a quick decision that it was now or never, finally making the pass at 11.5 at which point I knew I had to bury myself and create a gap he did not want to bridge. In hindsight I am glad did not wait because he was eventually passed for second at the very end so it would have been unnecessarily close. Those last few miles hurt but honestly the whole experience was so much fun I barely felt it. I finished the run in a time of 1:23:22 and an overall time of 4:10:01 (so close), good for the best overall amateur and 20th overall including the pros. This results also qualifies me to race professionally which has been a goal of mine for quite some time. The plan is to race Eagleman 70.3, Lake Placid full and Olympic Nationals and then take my pro card and pick some 70.3’s to get started with in the fall. The St. George course was a true test and pretty close to my idea of a perfect triathlon, I will certainly be back.