Ford Ironman St. George is in just a few days, which means that athletes from all over the world are about to find out that spring weather in Southern Utah can be a little bit...unpredictable.
Luckily, I live just a few hours from St. George, and have had an opportunity to pre-ride and pre-run the Ironman course several times during the past few months. Here are some important things I have learned.
1. There are two cycling climbs that matter.
The cycling course has you riding from the first transition, then riding a 45-mile loop a couple of times before dropping into the center of St. George. The course rolls, climbing and descending frequently, but not far. However, there are two big hills.
The first one is about five miles before you come into Veyo, and it's brutal. Luckily, it's only 0.8 miles long. The second is affectionately known as "The Veyo Wall" and is one mile long. And don't forget, you do each of them twice.
2. You have a big ol' long descent at the end of each cycling lap.
At the end of each lap—after climbing the Veyo wall—you have around 17 miles of descending to do. Weather providing, this is a fantastic place to rehydrate and eat something.
3. There's almost always a headwind going into that descent.
Of the three times I've ridden this course, there has been a headwind all three times. Once, that headwind was so bad that it felt like I was pedaling uphill, even though it was downhill. So don't think of that 17-mile descent as likely to do you any favors.
4. You will experience a ridiculous amount of d?j? vu during the run.
There is a lot of zig zagging on the running course as you weave through local neighborhoods, which means you'll run past certain spots several times. Those neighborhood streets may be a good spot to set up your family to cheer you on.
5. The run has hardly any flat spots.
There were some changes to the run course in 2012 but don't worry, it's still a challenging one. If you love running up and down climbs, this is the perfect marathon for you. You will spend some time on Diagonal Street, which looks flat, but here's the thing: it's not flat.
6. The weather is unpredictable.
It looks like it's going to be sunny and warm in St. George on race day. Past event, however, have seen rain and high winds. Be prepared for anything.
7. Get some Concrete.
Concrete at Nielsen's Frozen Custard in St. George, that is. It's like Oreo ice cream, but smoother and tastier. Best race recovery food ever.
Elden Nelson blogs on the cycling comedy and endurance racing website fatcyclist.com. This will be his first Ironman. In fact, it will be his first triathlon.