Ironman St. George will become Ironman 70.3 St. George in 2013, announced the World Triathlon Corporation today, but the upcoming 2012 event next week will remain a full distance event.
The inaugural Ironman St. George race took place in 2010 and sold out relatively quickly, but in 2011 the numbers were down a bit, topping out at just over 2000. The 2012 registration numbers continued a downward trend, with 1700 folks registered so far. Compare this to most of the North American events, which sell out in the blink of an eye.
"The course difficulty augmented by it being an early season race really had an effect on our participants, specifically the finisher rate," said Steve Meckfessel, Chief Operations Officer of WTC. "This is the third year coming up next week and the trend line continues to run downhill."
One might think that a challenging course would be embraced by the athletes, but that is apparently not so. The sub-60 degree water temperatures combined with 7,000 vertical feet of climbing on the bike and 2,000 on the run have caused one in seven athletes not to finish the race. That gives the race a DNF rate three times higher than that of the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
"One metric is how our customers respond to the race and the feedback we get is that it is an overly difficult race," added Meckfessel.
Ironman Lake Placid and Wisconsin are relatively hard North American races too, but they do not take place as early in the year as St. George, plus they do not feature as challenging a course profile for both the bike and the run, and the water isn't as cold.
Maybe half the distance is twice the fun, so, St. George will return the first Saturday in May in 2013 as a 70.3 event and most likely so through 2015.
With 75 slots at stake for the Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Las Vegas, Ironman 70.3 St. George will be the qualifier with more Vegas slots of any race in the world according to Meckfessel.
A 70.3 event pulls typically from a broader pool of athletes, so the 2013 event is expected to attract a bigger field. Plus some athletes in the Western region who had not wanted to go to St. George because they had already signed up for another long course event can now add this hard and scenic 70.3 location to their calendars.
Event information including detailed course segments for the 2013 Ironman 70.3 St. George will be posted on June 1st of this year on the Ironman.com website.