Race with a View

David Yon, September 28, 2021

Tallahassee triathletes brave Utah mountains for Ironman

Don’t be scared — it is just wind, rain and hail on a mountain. • St. George, Utah, is approximately 2,024 miles as the car drives from Tallahassee, Florida. The terrain in the two cities is remarkably different.

Tallahassee, of course, has lush forests, lakes, and hills, but not altitude. St. George is tucked into the southwest corner of the state along the border of Arizona in the northeastern corner of the Mojave Desert next to the Pine Valley Mountains and three distinct geological areas – the Mojavi Desert, Colorado Plateau and Great Basin. It sits at 2,861 feet of elevation and is host to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race, held Sept. 17-18.

The first test participants face is getting into the race. Most must finish a qualifying event (the Executive Challenge Series) with a high finish within their age group.

14 Tallahassee triathletes

Fourteen members of the Gulf Winds Triathletes went out and qualified for the 2021 70.3 Ironman World Championship in St. George, Utah. It is not easy to get in.

Jeff Bowman, one of Tallahassee’s top triathletes and coaches, was the first to qualify. “I’ve always wanted to do the 70.3 Ironman World Championships,” Jeff said. As the year went on more local athletes qualified, and it quickly became a Tallahassee community event. To Jeff the camaraderie was the highlight of the weekend. “It was almost like a local event; friends were racing while others cheered and supported the competitors.”

Jeff added: “The race itself was majestic. The course difficulty was worthy of the World Championship designation. It was the toughest course and the most beautiful I’ve ever completed. No matter where on the course you were, at each turn the view was magnificent. To add another level of difficulty Mother Nature decided to have her say and hit the athletes with high desert thunderstorms shortly after the start. 40 mph winds, rain, lightning, and hail.

“The 70.3 event includes a 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles riding the bicycle and 13.1 miles running. The bike route required participants to climb up 3,400 feet while the run climbed 1,300 feet.

“That all was tough enough. But the race day weather made the event much more challenging.”

Scenery came with winds, elevation

Kory Skrob described her day in part by saying “I was honored and grateful to race among some of the best triathletes in the world. The most challenging moment for me was coming out of the swim to 20-30 mph winds blowing over barricades and bikes and being yelled at to get on our bikes and get out of there. The best part was taking it all in and enjoying God’s creation and the journey to the finish.”

The swim began in the Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane, Utah. The transition area was potentially “quicksand” that swallowed precious time.

Brittany Bevis was prepared. “When I started doing triathlons 2 1/ 2

years ago, I set up my transition area and practiced over and over and over again. Socks rolled up inside shoes, BOAs locked in with 2 turns to secure, helmet upside down the right direction with straps unbuckled. So, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of hunting through thousands of bags trying to find my gear. Instead, I counted racks ahead of time, used mental visualization, and went through the entire process in my head. My transitions were among the faster ones in my wave, so I was very excited!”

The bike leg was next, and Brittany reported: “It wasn’t until we crested Nemesis Hill at Mile 3 that the wind started to pick up. That’s when I noticed the sky. A massive black and gray wall was heading our way. I hate crosswind. But this wasn’t normal crosswind. It didn’t come in bursts. It was steady, unrelenting, and ramped up to 30 mph. I could barely keep my bike on the road.”

Survival of extremes

“At Mile 6, there were people who had stopped on the side of the road. Heading out I was going 32 mph, on the flat. On the way back, it was 11 mph. I stopped looking at my computer. At that point, it became less about performance and more about survival.”

“I knew the 56-mile course, with 3,200 feet of elevation, was going to be challenging, but it was deceptive too. There was never a section where I felt like I could settle in and push race power. It was either a long, slow climb or a steep, screaming downhill.

“The four-mile section had 1,000 feet of gain and ramped up to 10% at the end, but it really didn’t feel that bad. It was probably the incredible scenery with the red and white sandstone cliffs and black ridges of basalt and lava rock. I found out later it’s where “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and John Wayne films were shot!”

Mickey Moore called attention to the fact that Jeff Bowman completed the event with a MCL tear in his knee and reported the temperature during the race ranged from 70- 90 degrees with wind, rain, heat, and hail bombarding the participants.

The race ended with a 13.1 mile run. Kory Skrob described it this way “The run was brutal, at least for me. It was hot and had an elevation gain of 1,293 feet total. It felt like 5 miles up and a little over a mile down and then you repeat it. But the scenery was amazing and worth every bit of the challenge.”

Brittany described her run: “I knew the two-loop course with 1,200 feet gain was uphill for the first 3 miles, and it didn’t seem too bad, until we hit that super mean hill. It seemed to go on forever.”

“Once I hit the top of the ridge, it was incredible to look out over downtown St. George. You could hear cheering from the finish line echoing up the canyon. Then, we had to run downhill, which is my favorite, but this was so steep it was like falling.”

“The second time up that mean hill was the kicker. Everyone near me was walking, but I’m way too stubborn for that. It likely would’ve been faster to walk up it, rather than jog so agonizingly slow, but I knew that if I stopped it would be too hard to start back up again.”

Congrats to the GWTC-Triathletes who refused to give in: Kory Skrob (6:25:40), Jeff Bowman (6:27:31), Brittany Bevis (6:23:54), Jon Nash (5:07:44), Daniel Cook (5:24:09), Mickey Moore (6:27:29), Joe Woodson (6:12:14), Jamilla Allen (6:27:23), Robert Buldoc (7:04:23), Marc Witowski (7:04:30), Seeley Gutierrez (5:28:10), Stephanie Sullivan (5:31:48) and Becky Cahill (6:39:24).

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