The Hammer’s 2015 St George Half Ironman Race Report, Part 2

05.27.2015 | 7:18 am

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A “Join Me to Talk About the Rockwell Relay This Thursday at 2pm ET / 1pm CT / 12noon MT / 11am PT” Note from Fatty: As anyone who follows this blog no doubt knows, The Rockwell Relay is one of my two favorite events to do every year. It’s an intense, funny, serious, silly, physically demanding, relaxing, and just plain memorable way to see, ride, and crew your way across some of the most beautiful desert you could ever imagine.

The race is getting close — it’s June 12-13 — so if you’re going to register, you’d better do it soon. Registration closes the 31st.

And whether you’re already registered, are considering registering, or are thinking you might want to start working on having this race as an objective for next year, you ought to attend a live webinar I’ll be hosting this Thursday at 2pm ET / 1pm CT / 12noon MT / 11am PT. I’ll be talking about the race, with an emphasis on what you ought to bring, who you ought to plan on racing which leg of the race, and how to make it both a rewarding race and a fun vacation.

I’ll have a first-time Rockwell racer on the panel to ask first-timer questions. I’ll have another experienced Rockwell racer to ask and answer questions. I’ll have the race director here. 

I’ll talk about how I’ll be preparing 600 bratwurst for grilling in the week leading up to the race. I’ll show pictures. I’ll answer any questions you have about the race. I’ll reveal what my team name is going to be this year, and what kit I’ll be wearing at the starting line (hint: it has to do with my having lost a bet).

So, be sure to register for and attend this chat. Whether you’re going to be racing at the Rockwell Relay or are just curious what’s going through my noggin as I prepare for a 500-mile race, it should be entertaining. And possibly even useful.

The Hammer’s 2015 St George Half Ironman Race Report, Part 2

5:30am. Race day. On the bus to Sand Hollow, where the race begins.

Deep breath.

The mood is always a little somber on the bus. I didn’t feel the need to talk. After exiting the bus, I immediately lost my friends. I headed toward my bike and found a pump to use and inflated my tires. I was really glad I had — the pressure had dropped to 80psi overnight.

My body was marked and then I went to stand in line for the bathroom. By the time I  finished, the pros were making their way down to the water. I found a nice place on the beach and watched them take off.

They make the swim look easy.

It was cool to see them move farther and farther away. The depression in the water and the wake they produce looks like a monster gliding along under the surface of the water.

The pros started at 6:50, and the age groupers started departing at 0700. I was in the yellow wave and would start at 7:21. Waves of swimmers would depart every 3 minutes with the last wave leaving at 08:00. I thought about the fact that I might be coming out of the water before the last person starts. This was different; I have never been in an early wave at a swim start. They usually start the “old ladies” last. I was a little apprehensive that people would be continually swimming over me. On the other hand, I was really excited that I would be finishing the race 45 minutes sooner than some. The day was supposed to get into the low 90s, so the sooner I was done the better!

As I moved down toward the lake, I saw Lynette and Jessica. They were starting in the 7:18 wave. I gave Lynette a huge hug and wished her luck. I reminded her I would be chasing her — and hopefully catching her by the end of the race!

The Swim

Then it was my turn. They herded us into the water. There would be no time for warming up. The warmup would be swimming the 25 meters from the beach to the actual start line.

I was grateful the water was fairly warm and didn’t produce the same shock that cold water does. I put my head down and headed for the start buoy. I pulled down the goggles and turned on the Iolite. I could see the red turn buoy ahead, about a third of a mile away.

I started fretting as I contemplated where I should lock my GPS on. Should I head for the buoy or the outside kayaker? I didn’t really want to swim in the the mass of swimmers which I would do if I headed for the buoy. So I aimed between the two.

The gun went off and I did a few strokes with my head out of the water so the Iolite would lock on. I was surprised at the chaos of the water. So many people kicking – water and waves were being kicked up. I inhaled a mouth full of water and began choking and sputtering.  I wasn’t panicked, but I certainly couldn’t breathe/swim with a mouth full of water!

Eventually I got my bearings, put my head in the water before I could be splashed again and started swimming. All the lights on the Iolite started blinking — that’s a good sign, meaning it’s locking onto a direction — and then I had a single green light: another good sign (that I was headed in the right direction). I peeked my head out…and yes! I was headed in the correct direction.

And that is how the swim went. All 1.2 miles of it: absolutely great. The Iolite guided me flawlessly, never letting me get far off course. I approached the first buoy wide — exactly what I had intended.

I then changed direction toward the next buoy. I, of course, got the red light telling me I was veering off course. I ignored it because I was now turning toward the next buoy. Pretty soon the red light turned to all blinking lights — the Iolite had figured out I wasn’t just drifting in the wrong direction, I had turned. So now it was figuring out my new direction.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!

My green light came on and I continued to swim. Before I knew it I was rounding the second buoy and headed for the beach. I was feeling awesome.

Usually as I head toward the beach, my sense of distance and direction gets messed up, but not with the Iolite. I headed comfortably for the dock and my exit!

In addition to the Iolite, I was wearing the Garmin 920XT Elden had bought me for our anniversary. Which means two things. First, that I was actually wearing two GPSs during my swim, which proves I have married a nerd. Second, it means I got a Strava of my swim and can show a video of the the Flyby of it:

In this video, you can see another racer’s GPS track criscrossing my own. This person swims pretty much how I normally swim, drifting off course and having to make big course corrections all the time. She (or he) is faster than I am, but we wind up finishing about the same time because with the Iolite I swam an amazingly smooth path.

Disappointment in Transition 1

As I clumsily walked up the boat ramp, I excitedly looked down at my Garmin. I was certain I had just rocked my swim – killed it. Forty minutes, tops!

So I was very disappointed and confused when I saw it had taken me fifty minutes.

What in the world?

I had felt great; the swim went perfect!

Well, the Iolite had done its job: I swam straight and had felt — for the first time ever in the swim part of a tri — like I knew where I was going.

But the fact is, no gizmo in the world could make me a faster swimmer. My little skinny arms didn’t have it in them to pull any harder or faster. Not getting in the pool or swimming for more than seven months probably had something to do with it too! How could I expect to improve my swim time with no preparation? If I hadn’t gotten on a bike or run a step in seven months would I expect to improve my times on them? Heck no!

The fact that I was only 5 minutes slower than my best 1.2 mile swim  , and that this little device had changed the swim part of a tri from something terrifying to something enjoyable should be celebrated.

But to tell the truth, I wasn’t thinking these thoughts as I hopped on my bike. I was just angry. Angry that I had allowed Lynette an even bigger head start.
“I’ll never catch Lynette now,” I thought. “She had a three minute head start to begin with, plus she probably did the swim fifteen minutes faster than I did. By now she’ll be twenty minutes ahead of me!”

I couldn’t possibly make that up.

But…I guess I could try.

I clipped into my bike and ate a delicious package of Gu’s new Watermelon Energy Chews (seriously, they’re really good), I thought I would give it my best.


The first significant climb on the bike hits about a mile into the ride. I had joked with Cory that I hoped to pass him during that climb. Since Cory’s swim wave was to start about 15 minutes behind me and I figured I’d be about fifteen minutes slower than him in the water, we’d be exiting the water about the same time.

But that was all based on me being five minutes faster in the water than I had been.

Still — as you might imagine — I felt a huge surge of disappointment as I crested the top of the climb and saw no sign of Cory. This was going to be frustrating race; everyone was ahead of me.

The bike portion of triathlons is always incredibly entertaining (if “entertaining” is the right word): the majority of triathletes have no idea how to ride. There were slow people riding in the middle of the road, there were people drafting, there were crazy people zig zagging between riders. Nobody was calling out passing warnings. It was a giant accident waiting to happen. And…happen it does. It wasn’t long before I passed a poor rider, lying in the middle of the road, covered in blood, being assisted by medical.

Meanwhile, my legs felt fantastic, they responded when I pushed them, I felt like I was going to best my 2013 time by at least five minutes.

Then we started up Snow Canyon — dreaded by many, but not me! I love to climb and Snow canyon has that to give. I knew the race directors had thrown in a re-route somewhere in the canyon, but wasn’t sure what or when it would come. I had just ridden this part of the course and was feeling confident.

So I was quickly thrown off my game when the arrows redirected us on to a bike path. There were several bikers in a group as we entered the bike path. The narrowness of the path made it hard to pass or gain speed. We kind of moved along as a group. The path eventually intersected the main road where we were to descend down the road.

What? A descent in the middle of a four-mile climb? What a way to ruin your upward/climbing momentum!

We (the group of us) descended down the road for about a mile, when we hit the turn-around. As a group we had no warning and we almost had a pile up as we made an abrupt U-turn and headed back up the mile we had just descended and then on up to the top of snow canyon.

That little loss in momentum was going to cost me my PR.


I summited the canyon, I got down in my tuck and cruised down the freeway toward St George and T2. There was little if any wind, so I felt fantastic as I flew down the last few miles into town. AS we rode down Diagonal street, I could see runners heading out on the run. I frantically scanned the field for lynette all while trying to steer my bike through the group of riders around me.

This was probably not a very good idea — kind of reminded me of texting while driving! In any case, I didn’t see lynette in the flow of runners heading out. Maybe I wouldn’t be seeing Lynette until the finish line.

Transition 2

As I headed into T2, I headed to the general area where I knew my shoes would be. And I got lost! I couldn’t find my shoes!

And since the Garmin on my wrist keeps track of each event — including the transitions — of a triathlon, I can show you exactly what my shoe hunt looked like in Strava:

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Someone should totally make a segment out of that.

I kept looking at the number on my arm and then the number on the bike racks. After circling around for what seemed forever-I found my shoes! I changed my shoes and my hat quickly, put my race belt on (didn’t want to forget that again) and headed for a quick bathroom break.

On the way out of transition a wonderful volunteer gave me an Otter Pop. It was icy and cold and tasted wonderful.

The Run

While riding the bike I hadn’t realized how hot it had become. As I started the run, I felt a bit overwhelmed. My leg muscles were desperately trying to decide what the heck they were supposed to do and my lungs were being seared by the heat  radiating off the ashphalt.

How could I possibly run thirteen miles? Especially considering that the run course of this Half Ironman is brutal. Check out the elevation profile from my run:

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As you can see, the first five miles are almost all uphill. This is made worse because the first three miles out of the aid station are a false flat. You feel like you should be moving a lot faster than you are. It’s a little demoralizing, and then the road turns straight up as you climb up Red Cliffs Drive.

Ugh. I had to walk. I hate having to walk.

And then she passed me. “She” being the sweet girl that had run with me at the Ogden Half Ironman back in October. I yelled out encouragement and reminded her who I was! She was cruising! I felt impressed with myself that I had been in her company back in October; she clearly is the real deal. She had started at least twenty minutes behind me today and was clearly flying on the run. Way to go! I love seeing people have banner days.

It was during these first few miles that I saw Cory. He was coming into T2 on his bike. Somehow I had gotten ahead of him on the bike. I wasn’t sure when. I yelled at him that he was looking strong and was only fifteen minutes behind me (which is how far he started after me!) He was doing fantastic!

Now I needed to find his wife!

My goal with each step was to make it to the next aid station. The temperatures continued to climb. The aid stations and volunteers were great. There was plenty of ice and cold water and coke as well as Otter Pops and popsicles being handed out by spectators.

[Ed Note: I do not think it is possible to overstate The Hammer’s love of Otter Pops. During the Summer she buys them in bulk...and eats them in bulk, too.]

Toward the halfway mark on the run, the route becomes convoluted. You run a loop and an out-and-back section. Where there had been aid stations every mile, now they’re stretched out to every two miles. 

I was quickly becoming very demoralized, hot and thirsty.

And then I heard my name: It was Lynette! I had almost caught her. She had just left the halfway / turn-around point. She was headed up the same hill I was heading down!

She was just half a mile ahead of me. Within reach, if I pushed. 

I yelled, celebrating in my head, and sped up. I grabbed some ice-cold water and Coke, then had another GU. In the past couple years, I’ve learned to love GU; it’s my secret weapon (even though I don’t keep it very secret). By fueling early and often (every thirty to forty-five minutes in a race, and don’t stop fueling just because you’re getting close to the finish line), I can race my best, staying strong in the second half of the race…when most people start fading.

Okay, back to the story.

I turned it on and within ten minutes had caught and passed Lynette. I really thought we could run together for a while, but I was feeling great and just motored past her. I patted her on the back and wished her well as I ran by.

It’s funny how catching up with someone who is five years older than I am can make me happy. I know that Lynette is an incredible athlete and it makes me proud that I can compete with her!

The last few miles were hot; my feet were burning up. I wasn’t used to the heat and it was really affecting me.

The last few miles I ran pretty consistently with a few ladies. They would surge forward and I would reel them in, then they would catch and pass me again.

I have no idea if they knew I was even there. It was a game I was probably playing by myself. I doubted I was competing against them, so it really didn’t matter.

As we rounded the last corner — there was only about one mile left in the race — I made a stupid decision. I decided to stop and have a drink. Sometimes this can be the right decision…but not today.

As I stopped, I was passed by probably five women and ten men  I had never seen before. The few ladies I had been running with disappeared up ahead! I tried to pick up the pace, but I was cooked. The stop had messed with my mojo and now I was sagging. Funny how that can happen.

Still, I did cross the finish line feeling less thirsty then the fifteen that had not stopped with five minutes to go in the race! 

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Final Times

I ended up being seven minutes slower than my 2013 time. My bike was at least a minute slower and my run was two minutes slower.

Am I disappointed? Maybe a little.

I have put a considerable amount of training into running and biking this year and was hoping for a faster time as a result. It didn’t happen.

Maybe I need to consider that possibly I’m a little overtrained and tired? I guess I can’t expect to improve my times every race.

But: I did have fun! 

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I love doing races with friends. The finish line was full of stories and adventure as we recounted our adventures to each other!

And now: on to training for the Squaw Peak 50 Mile Trail Run


  1. Comment by Fellowfattychris | 05.27.2015 | 11:41 am

    Nice job Hammer! You are going to crush the 50 miler! I totally agree with the comment about a lot of triathletes not knowing how to ride. Only a few of us that come from a cycling background really do.

    I started in the last wave, so there were a lot of people out on course for me to pass as I rode. On our way towards town I couldn’t count the number of times slow people were riding too far left, forcing me into the rumble strips as I passed. After a while I just gave up and ended up riding to the left of the rumble strips. Dealing with the road scree was better than dealing with the slow riders!

  2. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 05.27.2015 | 3:57 pm

    I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the tire pressure debate on For what it’s worth, I don’t find 80 psi to be all that low.

    Of course, tire pressure depends a lot on rider weight and rider style and tire type and so on, but there’s a fair amount of research that shows that lower pressure can be more comfortable and just as fast. I’m not super clear on the science, but I think that it has to do with less tire bounce.

    On my road bike, I go with 95 psi in the rear and 90 psi in the front. I’m 5′10″, 180 lbs, and ride Continental Grand Prix 4000S II clinchers.

    Keep in mind that pressure on the gauge of a foot pump may be 5-10 psi higher than pressure in the tire. Having a separate gauge to measure at the tire can be helpful.

  3. Comment by Fellowfattychris | 05.27.2015 | 4:40 pm

    One more comment Hammer, I was also hoping for a faster time in St George this year, and was fully expecting it after beating my 2014 Ironman Oceanside time by over 9 minutes 5 weeks prior to the St George race. However, I was also a few minutes slower than last year. This year had some extra climbing on the bike in Snow Canyon, and the run was much hotter than last year. Even the top pros were slower this year, so only losing a few minutes on the bike and run with the revised course and extra heat is nothing to be ashamed of.

  4. Comment by Elizabeth d. | 05.28.2015 | 12:31 am

    Thanks for sharing. You obviously don’t know me, but any race we do together, I’m racing you. I will never be able to compete with your bike splits, but I’ll work my bootie off on the swim And run. And I will continue to be in awe of all your qom’s on strava. You are an amazing athlete.

    It was fun to compare days/notes from your race report. if you have any interest in reading my very detailed report of that day and the similar feelings I had about that darn bike course change and the oppressive heat of the run, feel free to read it.

  5. Comment by Liz M. | 05.28.2015 | 11:08 am

    Congrats, Hammer! Sounds like a great result, all things considered. Nice group shot at the end.

  6. Comment by The Hammer/Lisa | 05.28.2015 | 11:52 am

    @chris-Thanks your comments are making me feel better!

    @Elizabeth: Loved your story! You rocked that race! I’m no competition for you-you’re faster than me on all counts! I would love to hear how the Zermott ultra went and if you ran a 3:18 at St George! Sounds like you had an exciting year!

  7. Comment by Elizabeth d. | 05.28.2015 | 1:36 pm

    No 3:18 yet. I’m giving myself another shot at big cottonwood or st george. But it’ll take a miracle and a lot of hard work. We will see if the stars align. zermatt was amazing. How can it not be. Harder than expected but so fun. (photo of zermatt)

  8. Comment by Kate | 05.28.2015 | 2:46 pm

    As much as I enjoy Eldon’s race reports, I think yours are just as good. And I LOVE reading about women my age-ish who are such strong athletes! Thank you (both of you) for sharing your stories!

  9. Comment by Brandon Banks | 06.1.2015 | 12:21 pm

    Wahoo! Nice job, Lisa!

  10. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 06.2.2015 | 7:13 am

    Thanks for the report Lisa. Enjoyed it. Maybe the heat was a factor in your slower time.


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