ST. GEORGE — There is a reason Austria's Michael Weiss moved to Colorado.
The world-class triathlete wanted to get the most out of his body by training in the rugged mountains with its altitude and steep vertical pitches proving an invaluable resource as the 29-year-old flew over the 140.6 mile course to win the inaugural Ironman St. George.
"I didn't expect it," Weiss told the media after he finished the challenging hilly course in a time of 8:40:08. "It was the race of my life. I hope I can do it again in Kona."
Weiss turned in the only sub-3 hour marathon Saturday and also had the fastest bike split of the day as he pulled away from the field and never looked back.
Montana's Ben Hoffman was second but finished 12 minutes and 46 seconds back because Weiss' pace was simply too much for anyone to match.
"I came out of the water in a really good position for me," Hoffman said of his 51:13 time coming out of Sand Hollow Reservoir after the 2.4 mile swim. "It was complete survival from then on. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. That run was just brutal."
Chris McDonald was third, finishing the race at 8:54:42.
The 112-mile bike leg took the triathletes — nearly 2,400 started the race — from Sand Hollow into St. George and then around the Veyo Loop for two laps.
The full marathon that followed took runners around St. George for a pair of loops before finishing downtown.
Like Weiss, Heather Wurtele dominated the course and her competitors.
The 31-year-old Canadian had spent most of the last three weeks living in an RV in the St. George area with her husband, Trevor, so she could train and get used to the course.
That move paid off handsomely as her time of 9:35:25 was good enough for 16th overall and was 11:33 faster than Meredith Kessler.
Caitlin Snow was third at 10:07:26.
"I just had a good feeling about this race when I woke up this morning," Wurtele, who finished just behind her husband, also a pro triathlete, and received a warm — albeit exhausted — welcome. "I felt like it came together today. I was loving the terrain and I was digging the wind."
North Salt Lake's B.J. Christensen had a superb run — the fourth fastest overall at 3:05:15 — to make up for a lackluster bike split to finish with an overall time of 9:41:39 and a third-place finish among the age-group athletes. He placed second in the 30-34 division and earned another berth in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
Highland's Spencer Woolston was the second Utahn to cross the finish line, completing the course at 10:07:22. Randall Olsen of St. George was next across the line with a time of 10:08:55 to round out the Utah podium.