Saturday, January 02, 2010

St. George Training Weekend - Run Review

We drove and ran the run course while in St. George. Hopefully the pictures and comments will help with planning for this run.

This is the view looking south toward the round-a-bout that will be the finish line. Athletes will need to loop around this rounder as they head out for loop two of the run. If they are done with the race they head straight into the finish line.

After running north on Main Street the course goes through a round-a-bout and heads northwest. Diagonal Street is a wide residential street which is relatively flat. We didn’t notice any uphill grade along here. Based upon where the sun will probably be located there will be no shade during this segment.

Turning right onto Bluff Street the climbing begins. The incline isn’t very steep at this point so a good pace can be kept. A short out and back on 1250 North takes you up to the local Elks Lodge

I would imagine the Elks will have an aid station here. There are two steps going up to the lodge which are short and steep. Some people may want to walk these short bumps to save some energy for the big stuff. But powering over them is just as easy. Of course the bumps on the road send you downhill back to Bluff Street.

Another right turn back to Bluff Street and the climbing continues to Red Hills Parkway. This is the main out and back for the run course. Rounding the corner on to Red Hills Parkway you will be faced with the first significant climb of the day.

The snaking road climbs for a good quarter mile before letting up. This is a 7.5 - 8% grade for just under half a mile.

The hard part will be making sure to hold back during the first loop and not attacking the hill too hard. The hills will definitely consume some calories.

As with most big hills I run I try not to focus on the top of the hill. Instead I drop my gaze down to the road and concentrate on the 10 – 15 feet in front of me. Using this method I can make sure I have good footing and not get discouraged with the task in front of me. Keeping your head down also prevents you from leaning back. You need to lean into the hill. The curvature of the road also prevents you from seeing the top of the climb. I really didn’t know I was done climbing until the road straightened out and you could see the open fields.

While the road is a good surface, I was running on the gravel shoulder instead. On the day we ran the course it was the safest option. The low clouds made it a little difficult to see with visibility down to about a half mile but it was still clear enough for people to see us. The gravel, more like small rock, shoulder was actually comfortable to run on. I can see it as a good alternative to running on the road. The shoulder could provide some relief from the pounding of the road.

At the top of the first hill the course flattens out for approximately one mile. We were on top of the plateau and it was wide open. Once again I looked around and there is no shade. If the day is hot it would be a scorcher for all athletes. This flat section will allow you to get into a decent pace until the next set of rollers.

After a couple of rollers the course reaches its peak and the downhill fun begins.

The course is predominantly all downhill to the turn around at 1000 East Street. With no rest the return trip begins immediately with the uphill climb to Pioneer Park.

We looked at Pioneer Park and couldn’t figure out exactly how the run course will flow through here but it will be a nice scenic quarter mile section. Don’t forget that this park in located in Utah. Parks in Utah are filled with rocks and cactus, neither of which provide any shade. So I will simply offer another reminder that there will be no shade on this run course.

This the uphill after Pioneer Park looking back to the top which is shown two pictures above. From this intersection to the top is approximately .5 mile. With an elevation gain of 170 feet this calculates to a 6.4% grade.

This run course will be a true test of running ability. Not only will a person’s physical condition and preparation be challenged but their mental focus and race strategy will be tested.

Physically someone will look at this run course and know they must prepare for hills. Yes hill repeats will be required during training. I would recommend long repeats. Aimee and I usually do 90 second repeats. Those won’t suffice this time around. I have a 1 mile repeat in mind for her to train on.

However, uphill repeats are only half the training needed for this course. Downhill training is a must as well. The steep grade of these hills can wreak havoc on the quads and hips. If proper running technique is not held during the downhill’s the quads will tire quickly and the hips can become sore from all the impact.

I found two articles I liked that talked about downhill training/running. article to improve downhill running

Runner’s World article with Ash Coach Jenny

It will be interesting to see how they do traffic control. Red Hills Parkway is a nice by-pass around downtown St. George. But based upon how the athletes will start this section and the short loop through Pioneer Park I am anticipating the entire road to be closed to traffic. This will make it nice for the runners but also lonely. Spectators will be most welcome on the parkway but I can’t see family and friends walking or cycling this section.

The next three pictures are from the viewing area across from Pioneer Park. Each picture is centered on the Bear Paw Cafe with the red awning. The first picture is a 10x zoom. The third picture is pulled all the way back. The Bear Paw Cafe is on Main Street where athletes run out from T2 and in to the finish.

The course is up that high.

Did I forget to mention that there will be no shade on this course? Athletes will be on top of the red hills. A plateau….mesa…ridgeline. No matter what they call it out there in St. George, it will be exposed. Take the time to get a good coating of sun screen when coming out of T2. Skip it and the sun can steal your energy away and/or leave you with a good sunburn, ouch. Let’s just add some tender skin to the already sore muscles the day after the race.

Here are two more pictures to give reference to the elevation. The first picture is where the course turns left onto Diagonal Road. The "Dixie" painted on the rocks is right above the run course.

This picture of Aimee is across the street from Pioneer Park. In the background you can see part of the "Dixie" sign.

Below is the results from the BimActive capture from the run. I like this profile chart better since it is 1/4 of the marathon. I did a manual mapping as well and confirmed that there is a 485 foot elevation change from Main Street to the highest point of the course. The 803 elevation gain listed below covers the entire route (excluding the out and back to the Elks Lodge).


Route:--Elev. Avg:2998 ft
Location:Saint George, UT, Elev. Gain:+137 ft
Date:12/12/09Up/Downhill: [+803/-666]
Time:09:46 AMDifficulty:4.3 / 5.0


31 F temp; 82% humidity

31 F heat index; winds CALM calm mph
Elevation (ft)


Anonymous said...

Nice review. Athletes should also know there is (generally) no humidity in Utah. It is hard to tell how much you are sweating, since it tends to evaporate immediately. You may also want to train in windy conditions because it is often quite windy.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Thats gonna be a tough day on the course. Good luck

Jill said...


I'm doing IM St. George as well... 1st IM for me. How crazy eh? I'm trying to figure out the steepest grade during the bike and run. 8% for bike, 6.4% for run? What grade would you recommend doing hill repeats on?