If there was ever a time Utahns should be Ironman fans, it’s now. In a historic first, the Ironman World Championships jump from Kona, Hawaii to St. George, Utah on May 7.
Thousands of international athletes – including four Utah triathletes – qualify to run 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles, and then run a 26.2-mile marathon amid the red rock landscape of Greater Zion.
Since the 1980s, Kailua-Kona has hosted this crown jewel of Ironman racing. But due to a series of pandemic postponements and rescheduling, St. George is given the great honor of hosting the 2021 Ironman Intermountain Healthcare World Championship (presented by the Utah Athletic Commission) in May before returning to Kona for the 2022 Ironman World Championship in October.
St. George is no stranger to this endurance racing series. The city hosts the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, also known as Half Ironman, every October, which puts it in an ideal position to host the rescheduled Full Ironman. Instead of the Pacific Ocean and the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, the Utah course will take triathletes to Sand Hollow Reservoir, Sand Hollow State Park, and Snow Canyon State Park.
Four Utah triathletes to watch
Qualifying for the Ironman World Championships is no small feat. It takes years of training, on and off the course, often in grueling conditions – running in extreme weather, swimming at odd hours, i.e. “chlorinating at breakfast” and doing cycling in “caves of pain” in the basement. These four Utah triathletes are aiming to cross the finish line on May 7 to hear Mike Reilly say, “You’re an Ironman!”
Skye Moench, Salt Lake City
Skye Moench suffered a traumatic cycling accident in 2019 that left her with a broken elbow and thumb. After multiple surgeries and physical therapy, this accountant-turned-professional triathlete hoped to race in 2020 until the races were canceled due to the pandemic. After a two-year hiatus, Moench roared with impressive Ironman finishes in Texas and Oklahoma and finished sixth at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship last September in St. George..
Kyle Brown, Farmington
Kyle Brown, 51, of Farmington was diagnosed with ALS in 2020 and had months to live. After the diagnosis, Brown created a to-do list that included getting married and completing an Ironman 70.3. Triumphant, he checked off both last year. He was the subject of an OutsideTV documentary about the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
Diane Tracy, Saint-Georges
Diane Tracy isn’t letting age drag her into a group of Ironman athletes. The 71-year-old completed her first Ironman just 10 years ago at the age of 61. At 70, she’s going strong and ready to rock the Ironman World Championship race in her hometown of St. George.
Dwarfism hasn’t slowed down Zachary Josie, who has been crossing triathlon finish lines for six years. Zach was born with Ellis-van Creveld Syndrome (EVC), a rare type of dwarfism characterized by short limbs, slightly bowed legs and abnormal bone development. At 35, Zach has conquered Ironman 70.3 finishes in St. George, Utah and Indian Wells, California. He now has his sights set on capturing the IRONMAN World Championship in St. George in May.
Shop like a local Ironman
Want to try a sort? Or do a tri-speed upgrade? Whether you’re an expert or an amateur, you won’t find all your gear in one place, however, a specialty running or cycling store is the best place to start. Here are some triathlon finds (because half the fun of triathlon training is the soft gear) and local Utah stores where you can get it.
Bike: Contender Bicycles, Salt Lake City
Utah is home to a plethora of locally owned and operated specialty bike shops, whether you’re a beginner or a pro. Contender Bicycle is one such bike supplier. While Ironman athletes race on tri-specific bikes outfitted with lightweight metal, premium components and an aerodynamic shape, novices can be geared up for any new or used road bike that has been correctly adjusted.
Shoes: Wasatch Running Center, Sandy and Centerville
Imagine lacing up those Hokas, Brooks or Altras on race day. Whatever brand of running shoes you prefer, make sure they fit properly to avoid lingering blisters or, even worse, long-term injuries. Running stores like Wasatch Running Center house in-store treadmills and employ hard-working runners to meticulously measure a runner’s arches, foot shape, and gait.
Wetsuit Rental: Salt Lake Running Company, Salt Lake City
Road bike? To verify. Running shoes? To verify. How about this wetsuit for your open water swimming? The pros probably own their own wetsuit, but for triathletes who only run a few times a year, renting them is a more affordable option. Specialty stores like Salt Lake Running Company rent high-quality wetsuits in just about every size, but for the best options book your rental early as they sell out early on popular race weekends.
How to Become a Triathlete in Utah
Without a doubt, training for an Ironman takes years of dedication. But most started in the same place: the start line of a local sprint triathlon.
Sprint triathlons vary slightly, but typically measure a 300-meter swim, plus a 12-mile bike ride, then end with a 5k run. Some Utah sprint triathlons, including Women of Steel or TriUtah’s IceBreaker, hold their swims in a pool, rather than a lake or reservoir, where triathletes swim (the stroke of their choice) in lanes, starting every 5 to 10 seconds depending on their level of self-seeding. Beginner triathletes are allowed to do 12 miles on just about any bike they can find, be it a road, gravel or mountain bike. Once off the bike, beginners can run, jog, or even walk the 3.1 miles to the finish line.
Once you’ve caught the triathlon bug, it’s time to take it to the next level. Open swims take place in a reservoir, lake or river while wearing a wetsuit, where you can choose from sprint distance or Olympic distance triathlons like the dawn triathlon, southern triathlon Utah, Sand Hollow Triathlon, Echo or Burley Triathlon, Idaho Spudman Triathlon.