It's Ironman St. George

Utah, once the home of an Ironman, is 140.6-less no more. World Triathlon Corporation officially announced the open secret: St. George will host an Ironman on May 1, 2010. The race will offer the suite of prizes typical of North American Ironmans: 65 qualifying slots for the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship, and $50,000 in pro prize money.

The swim will take place in Sandy Hollow reservoir. WTC race official Paul Huddle is, "...a huge fan of one-loop swims," says he, "but we have to take into consideration the final planning of the park." He does note that a one-loop swim is anticipated, and the reservoir is big enough to host a swim of Ironman distance.

The bike course is "on a par with Coeur d'Alene," in difficulty, according to Huddle, "not quite as difficult as Placid or Wisconsin." But the run is another story. While it is all on-road, Huddle says it, "is definitely the hardest of any [Ironman] North American run course.

Stats about the course: Base elevation of St. George is 2800' above sea level, the bike course high point is 4100', is two loops, after a 21-mile ride to the loop. The loops are 43mi long, and you exit loop-2 for a 2mi ride back into St. George and the bike course terminus.

The ride travels north from the swim venue toward Hurricane, back south to St. George, then onto the 43mi loop. The loop will take you through Santa Clara, Ivins, Gunlock, and Veyo (7mi into the St. George Marathon course). The loop takes you through Snow Canyon State Park, captured in the images attached.

WTC has been in discussions with St. George about an Ironman for over a year. Course designers Huddle and Roch Fry, ex of Ironman North America, were brought in to help about 3 months ago, after the sale of IMNA to WTC.

Kevin Lewis, Sports and Events director of the St. George Area Convention and Tourism office, is the point person on the local side. St. George hosts the Huntsman World Senior Games, for 50+ aged participants, 10,000 of whom attend every year to participate in 25 sports, triathon among them. The area also hosts a popular marathon.

"We just think we're the perfect destination for this kind of event," said Lewis. "It's health related, those who come and hang out a little while understand. Blue skies, fresh air, the area speaks to the athlete community.

Is the goal to get people to buy property in St. George and the surrounding area? "You know, that's a tricky question," answered Lewis, "because I'm a tourism person. I want you to visit, spend some money, then go home, and then return. Rinse and repeat."

Years, ago, however, Huddle and his wife, Ironman hero Paula Newby Fraser, bought land in nearby Cedar City. "College town, small, beautiful, if you like being outside, it makes 100 percent sense," said Huddle. "It's 10 degrees cooler than Phoenix all the year round. We love the surf, love water, we have lot of friends in San Diego. But it's unreal up here. The time it would take to explore this area would be the rest of my life."

This new Ironman, because of its date and place, will bump against the Wildflower Triathlon, a very popular half-Ironman distance race 25 years running in California's Central Coast. "Some may view see this as a premeditated attempt to put a race out of business," said Huddle, "but no way that's the case. You know how I feel about Wildflower, it might be my favorite event on the calendar. It's got a longer, richer history than any event in the U.S., period. No event WTC puts on is against other races, it's just what's best for the athlete, what fits into the calendar.

Speaking of calendars, the St. George Ironman will be the first North American event on the annual Ironman calendar. This event, coupled with the Arizona race in November, provide the Southwest with bookend Ironmans. Because these races are held in places that feature hot Summer climates, May and November are probably the appropriate months for them to be contested. Online registration is now open for the event.