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May 11, 2010 | Triathlon Training Blog

2010 Ford Ironman St. George, Utah—A Participant Gives Mixed Rating

Signing up for an inaugural event, especially a 140.6-mile endurance race, can be exciting and unnerving.

Some may even liken it to a first date: If the experience was good, you can’t wait to do it again and tell your friends about it. If it was bad, you’ll tell or not, but certainly try to forget; and if it was mediocre, there is a 50/50 chance you’ll meet again. Racing an Ironman race is no different.

Having just returned from the inaugural 2010 Ford Ironman St. George in Utah, which took place on May 7, 2010, 40-44-year old age-group participant Julie Dunkle had some thoughts after spending 11:39:18 hours on this course, which earned her a 2nd place in her age division and a coveted Kona slot.

What day did you arrive in St. George and where did you stay?

We arrived on Wednesday (May 5), three days before the race. We stayed at a condo complex called “Las Palmas,” which was one of the recommended Ironman lodging. It was really nice: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a full kitchen, full access to a pool and hot tub for $165 a night, which is really affordable. The only downside was it was 5 miles away from the race start and not within walking distance.

How far away was the condo from the Ironman start?

You couldn’t drive to the start of the race. We had to take a bus, which is a big hassle on race morning. Busses left between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. and they did a great job moving 2,000 people without a problem.

What was the transition area like?

The transition area was cold and dark. There was no place to get warm, except for the changing tent and that’s where a lot of people were hanging out. They had tons of water, and no food.

Were there problems in the transition area?

There were 50 port-a-potties for 2,000 people and nothing else. You’re out in the middle of nowhere and some people stood in line for an hour to wait to use the bathroom. Some people gave up and went into the bushes and I heard many say I paid $550 in entry fees and you can’t afford more port-a-potties?

My 2 cents: That seems to be a common problem at Ironman events and at other races.

Tell me about the swim course.

It’s a water start, which normally isn’t a big deal, but when the water temperature is 53 degrees, it’s a big deal. It took my breath away. The only upside is that normally it gets crowded during a swim start, but I got to the front no problem as most people decided to stay on the beach and didn’t warm up.

I didn’t warm up either, but I splashed water on me for about 10 minutes to get acclimated. The swim course itself was one loop and there was no crowding on the buoys either. You could swim 1,000 meters before making a turn, so it was nicely stretched out. My swim time was 55:17 min. (2nd female amateurs).

What was the bike course like?

The road was chip seal (a pavement combining asphalt with a layer of fine aggregate), which made it bumpy and noisy, and not comfortable to ride on. It was hilly and windy.  I saw more people on the side of the road waiting for help than in any other race. Their tires were blown and shredded. One of my friends waited for 45 minutes to get a new tire. Bike Time: 6:35 hrs.

What was the run course like?

With 3,000 feet of elevation gain, it was either up or down and no flats. Run time: 4:03 hours.

How well was the race organized?

It was well organized. The volunteers were excited, helpful and engaging, but they wouldn’t run with you (on the bike course or run course), which made it hard to grab food and bottles. Also, the special needs and aid stations were located on the “downhill,” so you had to hit your breaks to get food.

So, it sounds like the biggest improvements needed are more port-a-potties, better placement of aid stations on the bike and run courses and what else?

If they repaved the roads, it would be a good bike course.

What did you think about the town itself?

On Sunday, almost everything in the town was closed, which isn’t good from a tourist perspective. Part of the whole Ironman experience is to have a good time and when everything shuts down, that’s a bummer.

Did you find any good restaurants?

Yes! On Sunday night we ate and drank at the “Painted Pony,” a high-end seafood and steak restaurant that had a great wine list. By the way, in Utah you won’t be able to buy alcohol on Sundays, so buy your booze in Nevada (or on the way to Utah), if you want to celebrate.

How did the overall experience compare to Ironman Coeur D’Alene, Idaho (2008/2009), Ironman Wisconsin, Madison (2008) and Kona, Hawaii (2009)?

With two transitions in different locations, you tend to lose the Ironman village effect. Here you register in one place, drive 20 miles to drop off your bike and go to the middle of town to drop off your run gear. In the other Ironman races I’ve done, everybody is together doing the same thing.

Would you consider St. George a destination town?

I would say that St. George is not a destination town. In the other cities hosting Ironman events there are more things to do, which is a big deal for your family. They don’t want to wait around for 6 hours while you’re biking. But for San Diegans it’s convenient and cheaper, because we can drive to St. George.

Would you do anything differently in your training now that you’ve raced the course?

 I wasn’t prepared to bike that long, so I would make my long rides 6.5-hour rides.

What advice do you have for athletes thinking about signing up for IM St. George in 2011?

I would swim in cold water leading up to the race, so you’re not shocked.  I would ride long and in hilly and windy conditions and do all the long runs as hilly as you can handle. This race had a lot of first-timer Ironman-distance participants, and this is not a first-timers race.   

Would you recommend it to others?

I would recommend it, if you’re looking for a new challenge within an Ironman, but if you struggled in Arizona or Florida, I would not go. The run has 3,000 feet of elevation, which in a stand-alone marathon would be tough to handle.

Would you do this race again?

People in the town said that the water temperature is normally 65 degrees and the outside temperature is warmer. Let’s just say, if in two years from now it’s not super windy and cold and the water is warmer, I’d consider doing it again.

Check back: More reviews on the Ironman St. George racing experience to come…

By Marion Webb
Marion Webb

Marion Webb is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. Webb has worked as a longtime award-winning business journalist, covering fitness, small business, health care and biotech issues. A competitive age-group triathlete and two-time ITU Long Distance World Championship qualifier, Webb competes mostly in the Half Ironman (70.3 miles) and (140.6 miles) Ironman distances.

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