A battle for the podium at Ironman 70.3 St. George, North American Championship

Before I even get to St.George, I should acknowledge that I also raced the St.Anthony’s triathlon 6 days prior. I had a great time in St.Petersburg with Nick and Karen Chase, and had an okay race to finish 4th for the third time in a row. Nick finished 5th, and it was a lot of fun standing side by side with a good buddy at the awards presentation! Good friend of mine and teammate Ben Rudson competed as well and it was his first pro race, he crushed in finishing 11th and right in the mix across all 3 sports! I will be back with the goal of finally cracking the podium next year. The race left me hungry for a better result the following weekend in St.George, and I knew my taper was focused on getting more out of myself in 6 days time.

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Nick, Karen and I flew to Vegas where we met up with Montana, from there we drove up to St.George. It was a great lead in to the race, very low stress which is always a huge advantage. Montana and I stayed with Dean and Carolyn Cooper who were amazing hosts and that made our lives that much easier. on race day, I got to the swim start feeling well rested and ready for the battle ahead.

I had a good start, swimming between Nick Chase and another swimmer of similar ability to me. I always feel like its slower to swim side by side with someone so I spent those 300m desperately trying to break free from the other 2. I finally moved ahead and started to pass guys from 300m to 1000m into the swim. At that point I ended up on Ben Hoffman’s feet where I remained until the end of the swim. The effort was solid, though I knew we didn’t make the lead group since there was a big gap in front of Ben. We ended up getting out in 5th and 6th, about 15 seconds behind Andrew Yoder, and 1:20-1::40 behind the three leaders including Eric Lagerstrom and Rudy Von Berg. I saw Kienle not too far behind me as I ran towards the bike, and knew it wouldn’t be long before I saw him out on the bike course.

I had a great transition, passing both Hoffman and Yoder, this allowed me to start the bike at a reasonable pace, I had a feeling those two would start out strong and there was no point in trying to break away from them with a few riders stiill ahead of us. Hoffman quickly passed me and smashed the first climb and I decided to let him go. This ended up being the theme for me early in the bike, as Kienle also went by. Yoder and Kilshaw caught me and I worked with them for a while at a more reasonable effort, 277 average and 294 normalized for the first 37 minutes, That is when we caught the group ahead of Hoffman, Lagerstrom, and Kienle. I was on the front when we caught up and Kienle had just gotten a 5 minute penalty, he was exchanging words with the official at a fairly slow pace as I caught up and I moved to the side to make the pass. When I got about 2 meters from his back wheel, he stopped yelling at the official and started sprinting up the road, I had to put out 729watts for 5 seconds in order to get past his front wheel otherwise I would have been at risk of getting a penalty myself. For me that is a bit of a match to burn as I’m not exactly a sprinter, but I seemed to recover from it quickly.

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The rest of the bike was relatively uneventful, I worked with the group, being careful not to go too hard before the snow canyon climb. When we got there, Bart Aernouts and Sam Long caught us, and crushed the climb moving into 2nd and 3rd respectively. I rode well up the climb that seemed to never end, and managed to stay with Yoder as I had for most of the bike. After the climb, Hoffman had a great descent into transition, passing Yoder and I and Moving into 4th place. I was in 5th with Kilshaw right on my heels and Yoder not far behind. Although my bike time was slower than in 2017 on the same course, I know a had a better ride with a few watts more power, and a much smaller deficit to the leaders bike split. The conditions seem to have been slower as everyone who raced both years biked much slower in 2019 than 2017. I started the run 6th after a fairly slow transition, taking the time to put on socks. It was a very tight race, there were 6 of us from 2nd-7th within 2:20, Von berg had a commanding lead of nearly 4 minutes.

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The run starts with 5km of all uphill running, then there is a short downhill followed by another 1km uphill. I could see everyone from 2nd to 5th ahead of me stretched out along the climb, everyone seemed to be evenly spaced and running almost the same speed. I knew I needed to go out strong to get myself into the mix for the podium, and I slowly closed the gap and caught Aernouts and then Hoffman around mile 3. I ran in 4th for a long time, Kilshaw in 3rd and Long in 2nd weren’t giving an inch, and Hoffman and Aernouts started bridging back up to me at the midpoint of the run.

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Around mile 6, Aernouts went by, putting me in 5th. At the second turn around at mile 7.5 or so, Hoffman was right behind me and Kienle was also within a minute. This was the darkest moment of my race, the posiblity of finishing 7th was looming, with 2 World class veterans bearing down on me. I knew i had to go with Hoffman when he caught me at mile 8, and he put in a big surge when he did. This somehow made me feel better, as I saw that as a sign of weakness. He was trying to break me mentally with a bluff, I thought, he would have just maintained his pace if he was confident in the legs he had left. I matched his pace, and when the surge subsided, I maintained the pace and dropped him. This was a huge confidence boost, and right then I saw that Long and Kilshaw were together, and both coming back to me slowly. I put a target on their backs and worked hard to close that gap from mile 9 to 11. I finally did, but then we hit a steep downhill where they got a couple seconds ahead again. It leveled off a bit and with 1.5 miles to go, it was now or never. I caught Long and ran right through him, then it was just Kilshaw running between me and the podium. I closed that gap at mile 12, then it was only 1,1 miles of hard running. My legs were wrecked, quads started feeling weak, and 1.1 miles downhill is not exactly easy on the quads. I had to forget about the rest of the day, and pretend it was just a 5 minute hard interval, like I’ve done hundreds of times in training. I told myself to break it up and run hard for 30 seconds, then figure out the rest after that. So, that’s what I did, I counted to 30 and the footsteps in my ear faded, then another 30, and another, and another, and another…. with 200 meters to go, my friend Tristan was just starting his run and let me know there was lots of space behind me, music to my ears! I was able to really enjoy the finish chute, coming in 3rd, and clearly I was pretty fired up!. This podium was the sweetest, having been the hardest race I’ve done from wire to wire. Montana was right there at the finish which was a really special moment for me, after all, it’s the only time she lets me go near her when I’m all sweaty! She is so supportive of me and it’s always extra sweet when I have a good day with her there to experience it with me.

I quickly went into recovery mode after the race with Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga 2 weeks later. Over the next couple days we went to The Grand Canyon, did some light training, and played a few holes of golf with Dean and Carolyn. Now It’s time for me to get back at it and go for the win at Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga!