Report: Utah Half IM Duathlon

by S. Scott Zimmerman 

My Background

On February 24, 2000, at the age of 55, I had what I describe as a near heart attack, followed by surgery (angioplasty). At 5í 9Ē and 235 lb, I was obese. But I knew I could win the battle against heart disease and obesity because I love to exercise. I had run 9 marathons, including a 2:58 marathon 20 years earlier. So I set a goal to run a marathon (I have since run three) and a triathlon (I have since completed two, a sprint and an Olympic). The Utah Half IM would have been my third but . . . Iíll get to that soon enough. Anyway, since February 2000, I have lost 65 pounds, lowered my cholesterol from 291 to 154, my triglycerides from 283 to 70, and increased my HDL from 33 to 59.

The Utah Half Ironman 5/31/03

This race is an official national (and international) triathlon. In 2002, it was supposed to be a full Ironman race, but a triathlete lost his life in Utah Lake, so this year the race was reduced to a half IM. The organizers were obviously skittish about the prospects of another accident. So when the swim was supposed to start at 7:00 a.m., the lake had waves (small ones in my opinion), so the swim was cancelled for age groupers like myself. The pro triathletes still did the swim.

            So what was supposed to be a triathlon ended up being a duathlon.


I was disappointed. I had just made a breakthrough in my swimming, and was excited to do a long course triathlon. I canít blame the organizers. I probably would have made the same decision, but most of the athletes felt like they were being overly cautious.

My Nerves

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was having difficulty controlling my nervousness. The new challenge was certainly exciting and important to me. But I succeeded in getting myself under control and was ready for the challenge. I felt calm, collected, and confident before the race on race day.

The Bike

It was a mostly flat, scenic course. In my other triathlons, I pushed too hard on the bike and had nothing for the run, so this time I wore my heart-rate monitor with the idea of keeping my heart rate around 75% of max. Once on the bike, however, that goal went out the window. I watched my HRM the entire ride and my HR stayed very close to 82%. I felt comfortable at that pace, or at least not any more uncomfortable than I feel when I run marathons. At 82% of max HR, I could maintain a bike speed of 21-23 mph on the flat straight-aways.

            My time for the 56 mile bike ride was 2:45:23, an average speed of 20.3 mph. I couldnít be more pleased with that, especially because I pushed the pace, had negative splits, and still felt strong at the end.



I didnít rush the transition because I wanted to make sure I took ibuprophen (I have a slightly sore foot) and re-applied lots of sunscreen (I burn easily).

            My time was 3:06.

The Run

Unfortunately, Utah is having a record heat wave. By the time I started the run, the temperature was 85-90 degrees, and probably above 90 by the time I finished. I had not trained at all in the heat. In fact, in the past 6 months, I had run exactly twice with the temperature above 55, because my married daughter and I run together early in the morning and often in a cool canyon along the Provo River. 90% of our training runs over the past 3 months have been in the 35-40 degrees range. So I was not prepared for a run in the heat.

            To make matters worse, I had not done one brick workout since August 2002. Again, because I run with my daughter (weíre training to run a marathon together) early in the morning (6:00 or 6:30), I donít have time to bike before I run.

            My time for the 13.1 run was 2:01:02, a 9:15 pace. Given the circumstances, I felt great about that, in spite of the fact that a year ago I ran a 44-minute 10K (7:07 pace) and a 3:53 marathon, but both in much cooler weather.


My total time was 4:49:30, about 40 minutes faster than I predicted for the Bike-Transition-Run. I finished 8 of 13 in my age group (M55-59), 391 overall of 703 finishers.

Overall Impressions

The Ironman people really put together a great race. Everything was so well organized, with hundreds of volunteers, well marked courses, fabulous aid stations (although some of them ran out of ice by the time I got to them), good expo, and lots of great post-race food.

            Except for not being able to do the swim, it was a great day.