Ironman St. George - May 1, 2010

A year ago, Dave Delucchi alerted me of this new Ironman race, and registration was just opening. I'd always planned to do another Ironman. I wanted to show myself and other hip surgery patients what was possible after a cementless resurfacing. However, I'd spent 11 years hardly able to walk, and only begun running just a year earlier, slowly. Would I be ready for a full Ironman length race in just 1 year? I went for it.

My cycling training went fine, and my swim training went quite well. I was feeling strong in the water, and had no fears about being able to do the 112 miles on the bike; I'd done several century rides as May 1 approached, with my last training being 75 miles at the Chico Wildflower Century the week before the race. My running - was another matter. The sheer imbalance of my two legs, worn and then replaced orthotics, and repeated injuries set back my run training whenever it seemed it was almost coming together.

Another issue was that I thought mainly about how nicely convenient St. George was - 1-day driving distance; no plane flights or bike transport hassles. I didn't really consider the course, figuring it was just similar to Ironman Canada. Wrong. It was much tougher. The swim was in Sand Hollow Reservoir, which might be only 54F. And the reservoir was at Hurricane, Utah (think - very windy!), the cycling course was 6200 ft of climbing on windy rough roads, and the marathon had not a single level place on the entire 26.2 miles. And there were severe cutoff times to weed out the slower competitors. Doing the numbers, I was no longer so confident I could make the bike cutoff and get on the marathon course.

Our group consisted of Dave and Diane Delucchi, Joyce and Dino Paar, Fred and Sonja Plageman, and me. Diane had rented a beautiful condo overlooking the town and local mountains. They arrived on Monday. I stayed to do my Wednesday morning Astro 4 class, then left a little after noon, arriving 11 hours later, at 1am (w/ time change). Sonja and Fred arrived just an hour or so before me, and had a "the Mummy"-style sandstorm along the way. I had strong winds too, mostly tail winds. I got maybe 2 hrs sleep before morning. We headed off to The Bear Paw Cafe, a great little breakfast place a block from the finish line. Then, to the Expo, where we picked up our race bags, bought some gear.... I'd hoped to meet Paul Huddle and Jimmy Ricitello, who were organizing the race - they were the core of my small training group at the University of Arizona when I was a post-doc in '85, and made me realize this was a sport I loved. I hadn't seen Jimmy since Dave and I had run into him at the USTS National Championships in '90 in Las Vegas. But, no such luck, this trip.

Next, Sonja, Fred, and I drove the 12 miles out to Sand Hollow to get into the water. It was sobering - 30 mph winds with higher gusts, strong chop, and cold water (59F and dropping). I tried out my new wetsuit top from O'Neal, over my sleeveless wetsuit. It worked well, and I was comfortable during the 15 minutes or so that I was in the water. Sonja had more trouble, getting dizzy and disoriented with the heavy chop. I felt I could handle the chop, but worried about spending an hour and quarter in mid 50's cold water - something I'd never done before. My hope was that this jet stream bringing cold winds out of the north would leave before Saturday and the lake would warm up or at least not get any colder. It had been 61F the day before and now it was 59F. After the swim, back to St. George, some shopping for food, and back to the condo to eat and vege out in front of the TV.

I tried sleeping, but couldn't. Not good. The night before the night before a race, you need a good night's sleep. Oh well. Morning came, and I began with my banana/grape smoothie