….and by Saints, I mean a world class men’s professional field at Ironman 70.3 St. George. Along with a gathering of athletes that easily rivaled the last 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas, I found myself returning to Utah for my 5th consecutive year to do battle, now for the 70.3 US Pro Championship. St. George has been on my radar since my college spring break days, when our triathlon club team would head south and train in the desert to escape the cold of Montana winters. When they announced that an Ironman event would take place there in 2010, I immediately signed up. Since then I’ve gone back for each edition, and it’s been amazing each time. From the support I get through our family friends in town, to the awesome crew at A to Zion, the unreal backing from the community and volunteers, and the stunning landscape, it always gets me excited to head back. So, I packed up the truck and hit the road for St. George, with a quick stopover to see family in Grand Junction and break up the drive. For a race of this level, I like to be sure and have everything I might need, so I did a terrible overkill job of packing and jammed everything I own into the vehicle. The drive is incredibly scenic, and gave me plenty of time to reflect and prepare pre-race. Sadly, I would not have my usual road trip companion, Kelsey, along for this one, but she would be cheering from afar. After a quick stop to run near Kolob Canyon on Black Ridge outside of town, I joined the all-star cast of athletes at the pro mixer on Thursday, and then hid myself away as best as possible until race morning. It’s been a good start to my season so far, with the only real mishaps coming in the form of flat tires in Monterrey and Oceanside. Otherwise, the body and equipment have been performing well, and I had every intention of keeping that going. With the sound of the cannon we were off, pushing a hard pace through the calm waters of Sand Hollow. Everything was going smoothly until TJ Tollakson let a gap open between us and the main lead pack with about 500 meters to go (he apologized at the race finish, but racing is racing and I should have raced smarter). I limited my losses and chased hard through T1 and the opening miles of the bike, making contact with the big main group. After only a couple miles of riding along with the group, I knew this was the time to test my legs and those of the other athletes. It’s not that I felt exceptionally good this day, but rather that I saw it as an opportunity to take some chances, as sitting back and waiting all day would more likely end in defeat. I pressed into the wind alone about 11 miles in, unable to bridge to the 3 or 4 leaders, but closing the gap some and stringing out the main pack. A couple more efforts off the front with Frodeno and McMahon, and we had whittled the group down to about 10 or 12 as we entered Snow Canyon. Joe Gambles was eager to push the pace too, so I followed his pressure up the canyon as we eliminated some of the other contenders, cresting the top and pressing the downhill too. By the time we reached T2, it was down to only a handful of guys, and we took off up Diagonal to face down the beast of a run course.
Early on, I could tell that the pace was unsustainable for me after such a hard ride. I stayed in my zone and ran around 8th or 9th position, excited to be in the top ten but wanting a little more. When Frodeno came charging past around mile 5.5, I tried my best to hang on for a little while, but realized this was beyond my skill set on the day. Still, the little surge gave me the energy and turn over to continue running back up to Collington and Bozzone. By mile 9, I had passed Terenzo, and by 10 I was running with Collington. We slowed a bit before the big downhill, and Tbone got back on, a tactical error that would cost us both a place in the end. With a couple athletes like Bevan Docherty and Sebastian Kienle closing on us, we pushed the pace back up and ended up in a sprint finish for 6-8th. I was 7th in 3:48:39, a couple minutes back of 1st.
Although I’ve never been happy with 7th, I will say that this ranks as one of my more important results. Against one of the very best half-ironman fields ever assembled, I pushed hard and showed that I can be competitive. Most importantly, I raced hard all day, and walked away feeling I gave everything I had. I do believe that my best years are still in front of me, so this was just another step forward on the journey. Congrats to all the racers who tackled that demanding course, and to the top-notch pros that made for an honest, hard race.
Post-race was all about relaxing with family and friends, having a little dinner party and sharing stories. I was lucky to a great hike with my dad and family friends through Orderville canyon in Zion the day after the race, and then a little video work with A to Zion on the mountain bike trails near Virgin on Monday. All in all, another awesome trip to St. George. I will be back again next year!
Tremendous thanks goes out to all my sponsors and supporters. The energy keeps building and I appreciate you all.