I was excited to be asked to drive Mark Woodhouse down to St George Utah safely for his Ironman. Whenever I've driven to California, I've zipped by St George many a time wondering about playtime in those red hills. This time I had three days to play while Mark prepped for his Ironman.
Found us accom with awesome couchsurfing hosts Ed & Ruthie in the comforts of a St George home, including their dog Moqui.
I remembered that a wickedly strong endurance racer lived in St George. I contacted Lynda Wallenfels and was excited she would squeeze in time to show me a few rides. Check out her coaching site and awesome blogsite of her amazing adventures.
Two more mini-might riders - check out that scenery!!
Lynda emailed links to Garmin tracks of the courses we planned to do. Using these set courses on the Garmin made that unit so much more worthy. The GPS would beep when I was off track which was helpful in technical sections when I needed to keep my eye on the trail and not the map on the unit.
Riding with Lynda was a full-on technical session for me. I really hadn't been on my mountain bike since my three races in June last year. It was great for me to try to stick to Lynda's wheel. Bonus was following the wicked lines.
I was in awe of the terrain right from the start and wanted to take tons of pictures.
Just past church rocks...
Soon after we started I hollered out "Was that a turtle?". Lynda was amazed she didn't see it as she dodged it on the trail with her bike. It was a baby tortoise.
Teeny Tortoise barely the size of the palm of the glove
And thanks to the tortoises, this area is called the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and is not an ATV rec area! We ended up seeing at least five Mojave Desert Tortoises of all sizes on our rides.
awesome flowers in bloom
The terrain was ever-changing, a whole variety. Had a little history tour when we checked out Silver Reef where a town of 2,000 people existed in the 1870's with a silver mining boom. Only a few buildings left with a museum that had been the Wells Fargo bank.
Thrilled to try samples of the Mulberries at the tree in front of the museum (free food!)
I quite enjoyed the next section of dirt road climb which twisted in tree-d area and was impressively more lush and green. At the top, we bombed down a section on the Mesa that had split second decisions to dodge jagged lava rocks, like a little bomb-field for the bike rims. The trail called Icehouse is the longest technical descent I'd ridden in a long while, it went on and on, fast and rough. Loop finished with a nice moab-rock section.
I was baked in the 85F sun with my pasty Cdn white skin. The trail was consistently rough that the palms of my hands had little blisters high in the grip area - pretty dainty this time of year!
Ride time: 4:25 hr, 65-km, 4900' elevation gain
Couchsurf hosts, Ed and Ruthie, had us watch an epic movie with Anthony Hopkins playing Burt Munro in "The World's Fastest Indian". They are both motorbike tour enthusiasts. I loved the movie - lots of good motivational things to take away. Hopkins was awesome in it - cute, sweet and charming.
I rode in to meet Lynda at the trailhead just SW edge of town. Wore white arm coolers to protect my sunburnt arms. Forgot to do anything with the blisters on my palms so I bared it! It was pretty hot in the canyon rock area.
We went over the True Grit race course that was so wickedly technical with step ups and moab-like descents. Some sections could barely tell there was a visible line to ride. Thankfully, I could follow Lynda if I could keep up!
there's a trail in there somewhere...
Tortoise siting #5
Then Lynda left me on my own for the final 40 km of mostly rolling terrain, until I hit the Barrel Roll trail which was back to a technical loop. I was baking out there.
this trail sucked me in on the slight decline of fast fun rollers for miles!
Siting of the white Bearclaw Poppies, another Preserve Trail for nature, yay!
pic of the black raven on the rock on the left (for Di & Al!)
Running low on water, I took the road option on my return thru Santa Clara, a town with very tall trees lining the streets. Another wicked day of riding red dirt!
Ride time: 5:10, 74-km, 5100' elevation gain
IRONMAN Race Morning
Super early morning to drop Mark off at the athlete shuttle to the swim start at the Reservoir. Back to snooze then get ready for my Day 3 ride.
Lynda was volunteer bike escort at the IM so I was on my own. Last ride was another epic near Hurricane, around 30-km from St George. The bike shop recommended starting at the trailhead near the town of Virgin and to ride the loop counterclockwise. This gave the technical track first, and ended with a wicked long gradual descent.
It was a windy day. A few riders I rode past commented "watch out for the wind"! I was jostled a little riding on the exposed rim trail. I thought it would be worse.
town of Hurricane below
The network of trails were again epic, varied and fun. Different than the last two days in that there was more mileage open sections.
Ride time: 2:34, 41-km, 2700' elevation gain
Enjoying this day, I was cutting time short to get back to town to see Mark finish the bike section of his Ironman. Little did I know the same wind picked up for the Ironman swim making it challenging in the 3 foot waves in a supposedly normally calm reservoir.
The bike had alarming gusts of wind with the leader getting blown off, unhurt, got back on. I wasnt sure if Mark had gone from bike to run yet. It was hard to figure out where Mark was on the run course with the "E" shaped out/back run down multiple street blocks, and people lined on all the sidewalks.
Mark's wife Karen was texting me to let me know whenever she saw Mark via internet online. Finally I found Mark finishing later than expected. He was a little bummed he did not meet his goals though not much one can do about conditions like that. More impressively, he finished it, and he recovered quick.
Ironman Mark with Couchsurf hosts Moqui and Ed
Wish I had a couple more days to ride as I would love to do those same three rides again, and maybe a couple road rides too, oh, and some trail runs. Lots to explore in the area.
I was happy that Mark was excited to join me on one of the best spring water stops in North Ogden Utah. We stopped twice on-route there and back!
Note, for organic shopping in St George area... Real Foods Market was small and abit expensive though had good stuff like raw milk! Natural Grocers in Washington was awesome with excellent selection and pricing. Zimmy's Cafe was a find for some yummy post race food for Mark (cafe is inside the amazing Bosch Kitchen centre with tons of awesome kitchen goods).
Easy 17-hour drive back to Calgary direct from St George. Pretty fun few days!!