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  • Writer's picturecchambersod

2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race Report!

September 18th, 2021 in St. George, Utah

Weather: mid 70s with thunderstorms, sandstorms, and hail, with clear sunny skies for the run

Water temp: 78 degrees and beautiful clear water

In the few weeks leading up to the race, everything was crazy as always. This race, however, presented a bigger logistical challenge than other 70.3 races. Organizing flights with tri gear in a carry on, coordinating bike transport, and planning for two separate transition zones 19 miles apart made things interesting. I made a checklist and itinerary and checked over it twice before leaving, and I even created a third copy of it to check off as I planned out my bike bag drop and run bag drop.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021 (3 days before the race)

We woke up bright and early at 2:30am and left home at 3:15 to make it to the airport with enough time for our 6am flight out. We had one connection in Dallas/ Ft. Worth and then onto Las Vegas!

The car – our first experience trying Turo for car rental. The experience is very similar to AirBnb for home rentals. Our host was amazing! He was very quick with communication and had the car waiting in a local park for pickup right on time. We had a 2011 Nissan Juke, and it was the perfect car for this adventure. It had plenty of space for our luggage and bike, while also being comfortable to drive. 100% wonderful experience with Turo.

On our way to St. George, we wanted to explore the Valley of Fire that we had heard so much about. It was incredible to see the landscape and geology of that area! We did a very short hike on the White Domes loop through a slot canyon, which was beautiful!

We made it into St. George around 6:30pm. The athlete check in and bike pickup was over for the day, but it was nice to get to walk around Ironman Village, take photos, and really take in the experience in the quiet of evening hours.

Wednesday night we checked into our AirBnB in La Verkin. We had a very nice, spacious, and comfortable 3 bedroom house with a kitchen perfect for all the dinners we planned on making. The house ended up being a perfect location to be near to race activities while still being convenient to Zion National Park. I would 100% recommend going this route for housing for the race. It was affordable, comfortable, and stress-free.

Thursday, September 16, 2021 (2 days before the race)

We headed to athlete check in and arrived close to opening at 9:30am. It was still relatively quiet but many people slowly started pouring in.

I was lucky enough to get to race with my E3 Tri teammate Aaron Jensen in St. George. His start time was hours before mine, but we actually managed to see each other on course! Having a friendly face always makes the experience better!

As always, the Ironman volunteers are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful, and check in had no line or wait time.

It was exciting to get our WC Qualifying coin at check in!

The event backpacks were super nice too! This one will definitely be my go-to travel personal item bag. It pairs well with my Cotopaxi Allpa 35L carry on.

The expo store was so much larger than any event I’ve ever been to! So much merch! There were at least 4 different visor designs specific to the race. I couldn’t choose just one, so I bought two! We then headed out to visit the vendor booths. The first stop was the Hoka tent. As a newly converted Hoka lover, I got to try on a few other models of shoes I’d been curious about, but the Rocket X is still my favorite!

We visited the Ironman Virtual Club tent next, and I found my name on their list of athletes that qualified though them! Racing that virtual 70.3 in April was tougher than most of the in-person 70.3 races I’ve done.

We also stopped by the BiSaddle tent and got to hear about some of the new designs they’ve come out with and what new innovations they’ve made. I started riding with the Ext Stealth at the beginning of 2021 and it has been such a game changer for me to be able to comfortably sit in the saddle for long periods of time.

Last stop – picking up my bike from TriBike Transport! These people are amazing! I dropped my bike off fully assembled (minus the pedals) at their headquarters in Asheville, NC, only an hour drive for me, about 10 days before the race. They updated me when my bike was loaded into the transport vehicle to begin the drive to St. George, Utah. They had it ready and waiting at the TBT tent just beside Ironman Village, still fully assembled. They put your pedals on for you, and your bike is ready to ride. This takes so much of the stress out of the equation and I know my bike will arrive safe and sound for the event. On the flip side, after the race you grab your bike from its spot in transition and just walk it over to the TBT tent for transport back home, easy peasy! No stress of worrying about disassembling your bike and packing it up after racing, so you can continue on with your vacation bike-free.

We headed back to our AirBnb and I got to work on sorting out my gear into bags to be dropped off the next day. I got my stickers added to my bike and helmet, run bib number put on my running belt, and labels all my bags with my name/ number. Not that it is difficult, but it takes a good deal of mental energy to make sure everything is where it needs to be.

Just as I finished this up, our friends Susan and Devon, who drove from San Diego to support us, walked in the door. We went to a delicious Peruvian restaurant in Hurricane then drove into Zion to see the beautiful views.

Around 6pm, we headed for the Dixie Convention Center for the banquet with the athlete briefing immediately following it. It was so cool to hear the inspiration speeches and performances, and I got all my questions answered by listening to the briefing.

Friday, September 17, 2021 (1 day before the event)

This originally was going to be race day, until the event organizers were forced to combine the event into a 1 day format. We headed for Sand Hollow State Park first to drop off my bike and my bike gear bag.

They advised us the night before that nothing loose could be left on the bike, such as a helmet, so those had to be stored in our bike gear bag. They did say they were allowing bike shoes to be attached to the pedals overnight, so that’s what I did. I racked my bike by the bull horns since my XS frame just dangles when racked by the seat.

I walked away from my bike with it feeling secure. I didn’t leave much in my bike gear back, just the helmet and socks. There was no access to bike gear bags in the morning so I had to make sure I was prepared.

Seeing Sand Hollow Reservoir for the first time was pretty breathtaking. It is so beautiful there and the water was so clear! I began getting super excited to swim in that water the next morning.

Next we headed to St. George to drop off my run gear bag.

Susan and Devon decided to come and experience the atmosphere of Ironman with a little walk around Ironman Village. It’s a pretty crazy experience to take all that in for the first time.

We had lunch at Farmstead, which was right beside transition 2. That little restaurant is so good! I think we ate there every single day we were in town. I highly recommend it!

Once everything was finished in St. George, we took another scenic drive into Zion National Park. I would never advise anyone to do this, but with it being our only opportunity to sneak in a Zion hike, we did the short and easy 1ish mile round trip Zion Canyon Overlook trail.

We had amazing views the whole way and the terrain was easy enough that I don’t feel like it affected the next day’s race anything significantly. (I even put together this little video of the hike since it was so beautiful!)

Back at our AirBnb for the night, Susan prepared an amazing pasta dinner for us!

With all my gear organized and packed already, it ended up being a fun evening relaxing. Jacki and Paul, who were finishing their tour of Utah by supporting me at the race, joined us for dinner (and met us at the swim start on race morning too!)

We managed to get into bed before midnight and I ended up getting more sleep than I ever had for a 70.3 ever before. We got to “sleep in” until 6am! Since the women’s race was changed from Friday to Saturday after the men’s race, my wave didn’t start the swim until 9:23am.

We drove to St. George and caught the last shuttle from St. George to Sand Hollow around 7:30am and arrived at T1 around 8:15. All my gear was already safely tucked away in my gear bag so all that was left to do was air up my tires, check my gears, and add my nutrition to my bike.

It was a gorgeous morning with beautiful blue skies and a calm wind. As we waited for our swim time, we watched as the last wave of men finished their swim. I caught up with Carli and we conveniently are in the same age group! I was so glad to have a buddy to shake out the nerves in the swim line!

I had plenty of time to drink my 20oz electrolyte drink and eat my Snickers as Carli and I sat around taking in the fun atmosphere.

I actually really loved the self-seeded but within your wave start. This was probably the BEST lake (reservoir?) swim I’ve ever had.

The water was amazingly clear and smooth. I’m used to visibility being barely a foot in front of my face so this was nice! Water temp was around 78 so not wetsuit legal but felt so good!

It was a triangle swim format, so it was very easy to sight the buoys and stay on course. This was my first time I actually felt like I could draft in the open water.

I came out of the water in 41 minutes, 34 seconds which is a new non-wetsuit 70.3 lake swim PR for me!

I was all smiles coming out of the water and felt like my race couldn’t have had a better start!

As I excitedly yelled at George, Jacki, and Paul about how much I loved the swim, they knew what was to come with the big dark cloud in the distance.

Next up was the bike! One word – terrifying, at least the first 1 hour of it. This bike course was more difficult than anything I could have imagined, but not for reasons I expected. Within 10 minutes, my blissful ignorance of the impending doom was shattered. Once I turned onto Hwy 7, I felt the strong crosswinds. Next came the sandstorm! I kept my eyes open just enough to see.

After a few miles of sandstorm, the blowing rain came. My 808 wheels were completely unstable in the crosswinds. I noticed the rain began stinging more, which made me realize it was HAILING! (no pictures here for obvious reasons!) From what I’ve read, those first 15 miles of my ride was in mostly 30-40mph wind. I had zero concern for my speed and just tried to ride safely. I didn’t use my aero bars at all through here.

After an hour of craziness, the wind died down to a more manageable level, just in time for the long slow climb up highway 9.

These hills were exactly as expected - challenging but manageable (thanks to Jacki for convincing me I needed to borrow her 11/30 cassette ). I didn’t attack any of them hard since I knew I needed to save some legs for the even more challenging run.

Around mile 41, I made it to the beautiful Snow Canyon. This part of the course had the reputation for being where dreams go to die. I’d ridden it twice on Rouvy so I felt ready for it. I was pleasantly surprised when the first 2-3 miles weren’t too bad. Those last two miles were tough, but when I struggled I reminded myself to look around at the beauty I was riding in.

I was very excited for the 9 fast miles back into town after Snow Canyon, but that’s not what Mother Nature had planned for me. Just as I started the descent, thunderstorm #2 rolled in. The wet roads with standing water made me much more cautious and use my brakes the whole way down.

Coming off the bike, I was so proud of myself for surviving that bike ride without a crash. I was so excited to see my crew right by transition and fill them in on my journey.

Finally, on to the run! I couldn’t have been more excited to move onto my favorite part of the race! The energy in St. George was incredible! So much encouragement and cheering really boosted me up the first hill by the Ironman cube. I knew this run course was likely going to be challenging, and I feel like my expectations were right at what I experienced.

The beginning on my run had some drizzle left over from the thunderstorm, but that all cleared out in the first mile and it was sunny blue skies for the last 2 hours of my race.

Within a mile, I felt both calves begin to tighten up. I’ve only experienced this one other time (at Chatty 70.3) and remembered that walking up the hills helped them loosen up by mile 3-4.

This worked out great since there was a massive climb in the first 3 miles of each run loop. By the time I was nearing the top, I eased into a run and felt great!

The views from the top of the mountain up Red Hills Parkway were incredible! I was able to keep a nice controlled pace and really appreciate where I was and what I was doing.

Everything I had read warned about how fatiguing the steep downhill of each loop would be. I made sure to run the hills of Johnson City often to prepare in my lead up and didn’t notice any quad burn out from the downs.

This was a challenging run but I’d say it was one of my favorite 70.3 run courses. Suprisingly, I felt a little better on loop 2 and mentally handled the climb better by knowing what I was up against.

The finish line experience was beyond any other 70.3 I’ve done.

Always have to get that finish line photo with the backdrop!

That post-race feeling was probably one of the most incredible I've ever had! Recapping the crazy experience that just happened with George and friends was hilarious when seeing the reactions I got.

To give ourselves a little rest after the race, we spent race night at our AirBnB packing everything up and relaxing.

The next day we drove back to Vegas and checked into our room at the Luxor.

I proudly wore my medal the rest of the trip 😂

What was meant to be a light afternoon stroll the Vegas strip ended up being a 10 mile walk. There are so many cool places to see there!

After a relaxing evening with a final round of In N Out Burger, we headed to the airport the next morning. We had a great flight home and so many wonderful memories from the Ironman 70.3 World Championships!

I can’t quite put into words how amazing this experience was. The journey to get to this point made for some incredible memories. If ever given the chance, I’d definitely return to tackle this course again!

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