Race Recap: St. George Ironman 70.3

Wow, has it really been almost 3 months since my last post? I guess life has been busy… I’m here with another race recap, if anyone is still following along on this crazy Ironman journey of mine.

This past weekend was the St. George Ironman 70.3 – my first race of the season – and boy do I know how to pick them! This race is known as one of the hardest, if not the hardest, 70.3s on the Ironman circuit. I knew that going in, and I was looking forward to the challenge. The challenge I was expecting, though, was filled with hills and heat. The hills definitely lived up to their reputation, but the heat on the other hand…

The race day forecast was looking absolutely perfect – partly cloudy with a high around 70. When I checked the forecast one last time at 4:30 am Saturday, there was only a 20% chance of rain. Turns out the high that day wouldn’t get above the low-mid 50s and there would be strong wind and rain most of the day.

The race started at Sand Hollow State Park just outside of St. George. The swim was in the reservoir, which also housed T1. The bike route went through the city of Hurricane, then along State Route 9 back towards Washington and St. George, through Snow Canyon State Park, then finishing in Town Square in St. George at T2. The run climbed up to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, which offered amazing views of the city, then back to the finish at Town Square. The scenery and beauty of the entire course was breathtaking – it will definitely be hard to beat.

I felt great on race morning – my nerves weren’t bad and I just tried to stay relaxed and take it all in. The great thing about traveling to a race is that it’s all new and it’s fun to just take in the new scenery, people, and atmosphere. We bussed out to Sand Hollow Park bright and early, set up transition, and then just relaxed until it was go time. I even bumped into Leana, my roommate at Oiselle bird camp a few years ago – it was great to see a familiar face and talk to her. Then before I knew it, it was time to go.

Sand Hallow Reservoir

Sand Hallow Reservoir

Swim: The water temperature felt great. It was an invigorating 62 degrees, but it didn’t feel too cold. It was a wave start, and my wave started at 7:21, 26 minutes after the first wave (the Pros). Just as we got in, the wind started to pick up and the water got really choppy. The waves were coming in on my right side (breathing side), so freestyle became nearly impossible because I couldn’t breathe without getting a mouthful of water. So, there was a lot of breaststroke for the first 1/3 of the swim. Then we finally turned and I was able to do freestyle the rest of the way. I felt good – I didn’t panic or freak out, I just stayed calm and tried to get in a rhythm. There was bumping into people and getting bumped into, but nothing too bad. I was a little disappointed in my swim time, but it could have been worse given the water conditions. If I was able to freestyle the whole way, I know I would have been much faster. Swim time: 40:39.

T1: The wetsuit strippers were able to get my wetsuit off quick and without any issues, then I ran to my bike. It took me a few extra minutes because I put on gloves and arm warmers, but I was still wet, so it took me a while to get them on. At this point it wasn’t raining yet and I honestly don’t know what I was thinking, but I didn’t put on the vest I had because I didn’t think I’d need it. Lesson learned the hard way. I also wish I had brought heavier gloves and arm warmers. T1 time: 6:00.

Bike: The bike started off well. The first 8 miles of the course were “chip seal” pavement, which really sucked because it was hard to get in a rhythm with it being so rough. Once the normal pavement started, however, I was able to comfortably get in aero and just ride. The hills weren’t bad at all the first half and there was plenty of downhill to give the legs some rest. As the ride went on, it only got colder, windier, and the rain started coming down harder. There were a few breaks in the rain, but it never lasted long. I got cold fast and just went downhill from there. When we hit Snow Canyon at mile 40, I was so cold that nothing else mattered. I didn’t care about the hills and I really wanted to take in the scenery, but it was hard to focus on anything but how cold I was. Yes, Snow Canyon was hard (notoriously the hardest part of the course), but I honestly don’t remember most of it because of how cold I was. This is when things started to get bad. The last 10 miles were all steep downhill, and the wind and rain were strong! I lost all feeling in my hands, feet, and face. I couldn’t shift the gears on my bike, so I stayed in whatever gear I was in the entire last 10 miles. I was shaking so hard that I was nearly convulsing and almost fell off my bike several times. Then I started getting blurry eyesight and lightheaded. Thank goodness that was the end of the bike ride because if I went any further I think I would have had real medical problems. I was fully ready to drop out at T2, especially because I didn’t have a change of clothes, but then during the last ½ mile when we were riding by the beginning of the run course, I saw people running and walking with space blankets and I had a glimmer of hope. When I got to the bike dismount, they immediately wrapped a space blanket around me and I went and racked my bike. Bike time: 3:30.

Pro Heather Jackson riding through Snow Canyon.

Pro Heather Jackson riding through Snow Canyon. Seriously, how gorgeous is this?!?

T2: I immediately sat down on the pavement and just focused for a minute, then put my run stuff on, which took 4 times longer than normal because of the shaking and numbness in my hands and feet. I still wasn’t sure if I would continue, so I found Justin (my husband) right outside T2 and he convinced me to just keep moving to help warm up. If I couldn’t warm up, then I should quit. T2 time: 9:02.

Run: I walked for a while, still shaking uncontrollably, but that space blanket totally saved me! I started slowly jogging and by about mile 3 or 4, I had all feeling back in my body and was able to ditch the space blanket. For a few minutes the sun came out and the warmth was the most amazing feeling in the world! It was just enough to get me going again before the next round of wind and rain came in. The run course was tough, but honestly, I didn’t mind the hills at all. I was just so happy to be out there running and feeling normal again that I didn’t care how steep or far they were. About mile 10 is when the sun disappeared and the wind and rain came back. But I was almost done, so I didn’t care. I finished strong and felt good at the end. Mostly I was just happy to be done and to have finished a tough day. It took a lot and I’m proud of myself for not giving up. Run time: 2:18.

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My finish time was 6:44, longer than I hoped for, but I’m honestly just happy to have finished. I know a lot of people dropped out after the bike leg, which is not surprising at all. After the finish, we hightailed it back to the hotel where I immediately went to the hot tub and sat there for about an hour. It was the most amazing feeling in the world.

2 Responses to “Race Recap: St. George Ironman 70.3”

  1. Sara May 10, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

    Congratulations, Ashley. That sounds like a tough race, but I’m not surprised you persevered. Good going!

  2. Leana May 13, 2016 at 8:04 am #

    Congratulations on your race Ashley! It was so nice to see you out there on course a few times. The weather was something else, eh? Glad you were able to warm up after that bike ride!

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