St. George Utah, May 1st 2021–For the last couple of years they have exchanged blows on social media and swapped Strava KOM’s on Mt. Lemmon, but yesterday they battled in person to very end. Sam Long and Lionel Sanders ran shoulder to shoulder for last three miles of IRONMAN 70.3 St. George, the North American 70.3 Championship. If it had been a 70.1, Sam may have won, but with an obvious final grimace, Sanders had one last kick and pulled away in the final turns and edged Long by five seconds.
Both men collapsed at the finish line where the emotion and pain of the effort was clear when they stood and embraced like two prize fighters with nothing else to give. The made for the movies ending culminated a day that saw Long and Sanders make up time on the bike putting them in position to chase down the leaders on the run that included Boulder’s Rudy Von Berg who finished fourth.
For Sam Long this was a breakthrough race. He knew that if he found himself in the exact position he did, that all his hard work had paid off. He knew Sanders was probably the one to beat and his respect (maybe admiration) for Sanders was obvious at the finish line.
During the broadcast, analyst and pro triathlete Dede Griesbauer (who did an amazing job) thought Long’s move near the top of the last hill about 3 miles out may have been too soon. He caught the pack on the hill and then slipped back near the top. Was his last match burnt? Nope, and he said when asked about it, “my plan all along was to push the final 3 miles. I knew they are downhill and that I can run down quite well. I was struggling to stay with them on the uphills so had to give it everything I had.”
On the down hill Long chased once again and caught Sanders and Daniel Baekkegard and for the final couple of miles it was just Sanders and Long, perhaps unfolding a new generation “Iron War”.
On May Day, a day in many cultures that celebrates laborers and hard work, Long’s hard work paid off. He is only 25 and has worked his way into the conversation of being one of the world’s best. Who knows, perhaps he can be the first American to win at Kona since Tim DeBoom did it in 2002. No doubt his future is bright.
When asked about the significance of this race, Long said, “This was absolutely a breakthrough race. The thing about triathlon and improving is it usually takes many small breakthroughs. But today was a huge breakthrough and even though I didn’t win it will elevate my performance.”
With triathlon season just kicking off, the bar has been set high for performance and frankly entertainment. That was a fun race to watch.
We hope to catch up with Boulder’s Jeanni Metzler who had an incredible race coming in second to Daniela Ryf and finished just three minutes back. Metzler came out of the water one second ahead and held a brief lead on Ryf but Ryf overcame her on the bike and held on to first for the rest of the race. Metzler made up time on the run but her three minute faster run than Ryf’s wasn’t quite enough.
Colorado triathletes raced this weekend, in Texas and Colorado. In Galveston Texas, not only did the Colorado pros make a big impact, but one well known age grouper, Betsy Mercer raced in redemption of her 2019 attempt in Galveston where she was stopped 100 yards from the finish line because of weather. At Cherry Creek State Park, The Barking Dog Duathlon kicked off the multi-sport season with about 150 athletes racing.
Betsy finished fourth in her age group but cried at the finish line, not because she finished, but because her friend Michael Jones finished his first 70.3. Said Betsy, “I didn’t cry this time when I crossed the finish line, I cried when Michael did. That’s the beauty of triathlon, the community you’re a part of.”
Maybe similarly, Boulder Pro Jeanni Metzler who finished second to Skye Moench after a blistering, race best, 1:15 half marathon is with her husband, pro, Justin (finished 9th) at the podium spot. Skye said on her Instagram, “a big congrats to the ladies racing today, I was running for my life!” Skye was recently on the 303Endurance Podcast talking about this race and her comeback from a crash in 2019, listen here (303 Endurance Podcast with Skye Moench)
Boulder’s Sam Long shook off a disappointing swim to finish third behind Lionel Sanders and Ben Kanute with the fastest bike split of the day averaging nearly 28mph for 56 miles. Sam finished behind Ben by six seconds and just ahead of Castle Rock’s, Matt Hanson by ten seconds.
When asked if this race could’ve actually been the best situation possible to set Sam up for the rest of year he said, “That’s a great way of looking at! I discovered how much much I can push on the bike and run and that I can get myself back in the race. I’m pretty sure this was a one off swim and lit my fire for the next races!”
Whether a pro, or age grouper, the joy of racing is clearly more appreciated than ever after a rough 2020 season. In Cherry Creek, the Barking Dog Duathlon kicked off the multisport season in Colorado. Dana Willett (good friend of Betsy’s btw), said this after the race, “Great weather and so much gratitude to be back out there! Every- Single-Racer, gave encouragement on the course. Our lungs were burning but we found the breath to say “good job!”, and “you got this!” I couldn’t slap the smile off my face.”
A 1,000 miles south, Betsy said, “Galveston holds a special place in my heart because it was the very first triathlon I ever did, of any distance. That was back in 2009 (I believe). About 6 years ago the damage to my left leg became more significant after I developed osteonecrosis, which is a disease of the bone. I thought I’d never run again. Two years later, I did run again. 3.1 miles at Without Limits’ Summer Open. I cried at the finish line I was so happy. Slowly I began to think maybe I could do distance again. Two years ago I chose Galveston because it had been my first ever race. I just wanted that feeling of finishing one more IM event. I wanted to close that chapter of my life on a positive note. All was going fine in the race two years ago until a massive storm came in when I was halfway through the run. Hail, lightning, crazy winds. It was insane. Right before I crossed the finish line they called the race. I ran past the volunteer trying to pull us off the course and went across the finish mats, but they had turned them off minutes before. It was a DNF. I was devastated. I cried for hours.”
When asked about her future Betsy said, “I don’t know if Galveston is forever in my past, it’s one of my favorite events. I have one more race to put in my rear view mirror. IMFLA in November, ten years after I did my first full there at age 35. Then I swear, I’m retiring.” We shall see 🙂
Recently social media giant, Triathlon Taren interviewed the CEO of the Professional Triathlon Organisation (PTO), Sam Renouf. This podcast left me quite impressed with the direction of the PTO, Triathlon Taren and made me hopeful for the sport of triathlon.
In a public perception sort of way, we seem to want a good vs. bad, a black vs. white, a villain vs a hero story. In the triathlon space, last year PTO took a shot at buying IRONMAN only to be denied. Then PTO decided to introduce a golf influenced triathlon extravaganza, the Collins Cup to showcase the sport of triathlon and attempt to make it a made for TV event. But Covid killed that for 2020 and its slated for August of 2021.
They then partnered with IRONMAN competitor, the Challenge Family and made CHALLENGE Daytona their pro triathlon championship complete with a 1.2 million dollar prize purse. The PTO also awarded other non-Ironman races with prize purses during 2020 eventually rewarding pros with a few million dollars. Meanwhile IRONMAN had a few races in 2020, but all in all, PTO was responsible for a majority of the cash awarded to pro triathletes and frankly kept them going in 2020.
So now, in the eyes of the public, there seems to be a bit of a triathlon “war” between Ironman and the PTO. According to PTO, their mission is to grow the sport overall and they believe the way to do that is with a healthy pro field and events that appeal to sponsors who want to reach an audience not just racing, but watching on television or in the venue itself—like the home of the Daytona 500.
Furthermore the PTO believes that salaries and prizes for pros should not be funded primarily by age group entry fees, but rather by sponsor fees. In IRONMAN races, the age group entry fees are the foundation for the revenues and thus the vehicle to fund prizes. The PTO believes that sponsors, TV advertisers and event marketers should pay for the bulk of the prizes and the age groupers shouldn’t be funding the pros. PTO believes IRONMAN races are too expensive for age groupers and that the experience can be made better and less expensive and also that pro’s should be compensated much better.
Ok, so now what? PTO has deep pockets and has spelled out in this interview how they plan to eventually have a model like golf and tennis. There will be four or five triathlons the PTO manages that are the equivalent of the “majors” and will feed a championship. Along the way, local and regional triathlons will act as qualifying events for the majors.
Not every event will be the same or on a track like Daytona. In this podcast they discuss for example how Challenge Roth could be a possible major and how covering it for TV won’t be as easy as a Daytona, but necessary. They discuss how they want a mix of race types so different athletes with different strengths can emerge champions. Again, think tennis or golf. There are clay court specialists, long course type of golfers, and so forth. Yes, they all need to be able to be good in all conditions, but not all triathletes compete well in say a Kona type environment, or even at a full distance Ironman. A full distance IRONMAN is pretty much about attrition and stamina. There is strategy, and speed and making the most of one’s skills of course, but very few athletes have a chance to win. It’s not a compelling race. It’s a compelling event because what these pros (and age groupers) do is absolutely incredible and inspirational.
But, it’s not made for TV and a tough sell to non-endemic sponsors. The PTO, in Daytona had to prove they could pull off a made for TV event that was competitive and combined the need for skill and speed coupled with stamina and endurance—and they did it.
In Daytona, half a million people watched the race with an average watch time of 29 minutes according to Sam Renouf. That’s unheard of. The PTO definitely succeeded in orchestrating a watchable event. This isn’t to say that the steaming of Kona doesn’t have a large audience, but, according to this podcast the time watched is merely seconds versus 29 minutes. And, that makes sense. There is very little drama in Kona. In Daytona the lead changed practically every few minutes. People probably check in on Kona to see who is still in the lead and come back later. That’s what I do when I’m there. Once in a while there is some drama in Kona, but with the lap format in Daytona, each lap showcased someone moving up or down the leaderboard.
The bottom line, to me, is IRONMAN and the PTO can co-exist, quite nicely in fact.
IRONMAN has one huge advantage over Challenge or any other triathlon—they have a brand. They own triathlon.
To the average person on the street, if you say “triathlon,” they think “Ironman”. They will say, “oh that race in Hawaii.” Like Kleenex is to tissue paper. Do you see any tattoos of Challenge or USAT or any other form of triathlon on people? Nope. That says it all.
So as long as IRONMAN continues to put on quality events, and they do, and people aspire be “Ironmans” they will succeed. And as long as Kona or wherever the 70.3 championships are held, are tough to qualify for and have a worldwide appeal, they will be remain relevant.
To the pro’s, at the end of the day, they will, and need to go where the money is. But there may always be a desire to race Kona even if it’s not the top money gathering race. There may always be a desire to figuratively race against the legends of the sport on the same historic course; the Mark Allens, Dave Scotts, Paula Newby-Frasers, Chrissie Wellingtons, Miranda Carfraes etc. And the same goes for age groupers. As someone who nearly qualified, I know its a pretty exclusive club to race there, and that appeal is strong.
If I had my druthers, I would love to see IRONMAN and the PTO kiss and make up and throw IRONMAN races into the mix as qualifiers for the pros. Maybe Kona is the long course championship, maybe the Collins Cup is the place for national pride to take over (its America, vs Europe vs Internationals—like golfs Ryder cup) and maybe Daytona is a mix where triathletes of all disciplines get to race against each other and the fastest one wins. And maybe great regional races like a Lake to Lake, or Harvest Moon here in Colorado become qualifiers for a PTO Major maybe held in a place like Des Moines—think the old Hy Vee race.
Who knows, but a fun, healthy made for TV sport will only help provide more opportunities for both age groupers and pros to excel, make a living and have fun.
The sport needs heroes and characters. Locally we have someone like Sam Long who isn’t afraid to mix it up and call people out and behind his “yo yo yo’s” I believe Sam is having a ton of fun and trying to make the sport more dynamic and earn a living doing so. He, I believe wants nothing more than great competition like all triathletes I have ever met.
The sport needs a healthy variety of races and distances and a sense of pride for competing in everything from a local sprint to Kona. Every triathlon and triathlete should be judged on their willingness to try every single day at every single event.
Go PTO, raise the bar. Go IRONMAN, keep the dream alive and lets hope someday you both dance on the same dance floor together.
Colorado was well represented at IRONMAN Florida on Saturday. As the world was learning who our next President was going to be, quite a race in Panama City was unfolding. In the end, it was close, but Boulder’s Chris Leiferman out dueled Matt Hanson (who recently moved to Castle Rock) and Sam Long.
Long led about 2/3 of the way through but fell back and Leiferman came off the bike in the lead a minute ahead of Germany’s Andreas Dietz and six minutes ahead of Long and 10 minutes in front of Hanson.
Leiferman then led the rest of the race but both Hanson and Long significantly closed the gap on the run. Hanson cut nearly 8 minutes into the lead with Long just 29 seconds behind Hanson.
Said Leiferman, “yeah, they were catching up to me, but I’m glad it wasn’t a run race and I had the swim and bike to keep the lead. I have had the worse run build up this year, so knowing where I can go for future races.”
Leiferman finished in 7:52:44, Hanson in 7:55:02 and Long came in third with a 7:55:33. Long became the youngest American to ever finish under eight hours in an IRONMAN.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win any ironman, and it’s a bit more special to win this race after so many months of no racing. I know a few IM’s kicked off early in the year, but the gap in between had kept people hungry for race spectating and I feel that this one was a solid race for anyone to do well at,” said Leiferman.
When asked the key to his win, Leiferman said, “The key was coming out with the right group in the swim and a solid bike. I may have over biked a bit and that’s why my run was the way it was, but I can’t complain since I was able to hold on for the win. Also, the run aid stations were every 2 miles apart, so I had to really focus on taking care of myself on the run and if that meant walking through each aid station (which I did) then that’s what it took to not completely fall apart.”
Sam Long, on Facebook wrote; “Ouch. That hurt. But honestly the race I’m the most proud of ever. I had a massive “hiccup” the last 12 miles of the bike and hemorrhaged time to the leaders. Bonked as well as having some issues with tightness from the flats all day–even had to get off the bike and stretch. Literally limped into transition and thought there was no way I could run and told myself I had to start. Then went deep! And ended up running 2:45 and going 7:55! It was such a battle at the end and that’s what dreams are made out of. Good for 3rd.”
303’s Kenny Withrow was there taking pictures and had this to say, “it was an exciting race to watch as Sam made up a lot of time nearly catching Matt and Chris at the end. It was fun to see Colorado triathletes finish in the top three!” Even though the weather conditions were very favorable, Kenny added, “The aid stations were further apart than usual and not as well equipped with the proper “needs/hydration” (on the run) So it made fueling more difficult for the athletes.”
A few days before the race 303Endurance interviewed Chris and listen here to learn his thoughts before the race and his thoughts on the upcoming race in Daytona. Podcast link HERE
Boulder, October 23–Yesterday the Professional Triathlete Organisation (PTO) announced the final wildcard selection the PTO Championship in Daytona in December and Boulder’s Chris Leiferman was selected. Also selected was Lucy Hall, Chris Simone Mitchell and James Cunnama.
Earlier this week, in case you missed it, the PTO announced Sam Long, Danielle Dingman, Magnus Ditlev and Renee Kiley will be racing in Daytona.
Sam Long commented, “The PTO 2020 Championship is going to be epic, and I am thrilled to have been selected to be a part of it. It is fantastic professionals have all come together to form the PTO. This will be the greatest race EVER, and the best thing about it is that this is OUR race and the PTO is OUR organization. I am ready to give triathlon fans the race they have all been waiting for
Chris Leiferman, said, “I am excited about being awarded a wildcard slot at the PTO 2020 Championship. With the calibre of the field, it will be the event of a lifetime. As the first event that has been organized by PTO Professionals, it is a historical moment for our sport, and it is an absolute honor to be part of it.”
Charles Adamo, Executive Chairman of PTO, commented, “Our final wildcard selections could not have been more difficult. There were many talented and qualified athletes to choose from. We very much wish we could have selected them all. We are satisfied that the wildcard selections represent a good balance from our criteria of top ITU talent, professionals whose ranking does not accurately represent their historical performances, and the newer, up-and-coming professionals. These were not easy decisions to make, but we think the result clearly delivers the greatest field ever assembled for a triathlon event.”
Will Boulder’s Sam Long find the Golden ticket to race in Daytona? The “top” 80 triathletes were invited weeks ago and now 12 others have been invited via the Wildcard selection. Eight slots remain and will be awarded in the next week. It feels like the PTO is taking a page from Willy Wonka handing out Wildcards like a golden ticket making their way around the world. Who will be Charlie and get the last golden ticket to race the most lucrative triathlon on the planet? There is a million bucks on the line and no doubt the pro’s want a shot at the prize, especially in 2020.
The Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) is certainly doing its best to make the triathlon season competitive, fun and lucrative with the PTO 2020 Championship at CHALLENGEDAYTONA®
Today Angela Naeth received a golden ticket. We just interviewed Angela on the 303 Endurance Podcast being released tomorrow so check that out! She has had a very interesting career with some great accomplishments and has overcome a huge challenge with Lyme’s disease. Angela grew up in a small town in a very remote part of British Columbia so learning of her journey is fun and interesting.
It seems the PTO is stirring up the pro triathlon circuit and maybe some fun rivalries will come out of this recipe for wanting to make pro triathlon a better followed sport. The vision is to make the profession more lucrative and more on par with other sports. Having an event like Challenge Daytona will definitely create some buzz.
What’s interesting about Challenge Daytona is all types of triathletes are vying for the prizes; short course, ITU and long course champions will all be on the start line. No doubt winning Kona at the IRONMAN World Championships will not be replaced as coveted award, but with an event like Daytona, the monetary stakes are higher and it’s very hard to predict who will win. In Kona its a pretty small field of probable winners. But in Daytona it’s hard to know who the favorites are.
Today we are interviewing Norwegian Olympian Kristian Blummenfelt who holds the world record time for a IRONMAN 70.3 distance. Daytona will be the same distance, so he must be a favorite. But then factor in someone like Tim O’Donnell the fastest American in Kona last year. The list of other athletes with amazing accomplishments is staggering. So many could win.
And back to Sam Long, if he gets in; he has had an amazing year winning IRONMAN Cozumel 70.3 and the Bear Lake Triathlon earlier this summer with a solid list of pro’s. Check out this video from the Bear Lake Triathlon,
Let’s hope Sam gets the golden ticket—keep buying those chocolate bars Sam!!
Here is some commentary from the PTO and Executive Chairman Charles Adamo about the selection of the first 12 wildcards over the past couple of weeks.
The Professional Triathletes Organisation first selected Vincent Luis, Nicola Spirig, Kristian Blummenfelt and Georgia Taylor-Brown as wildcards for the PTO 2020 Championship at CHALLENGEDAYTONA®
Charles Adamo, Executive Chairman of PTO, commented, “It certainly was not a difficult decision for the non-athlete members of the PTO Board to select these four world-class athletes to join the already star-studded starting line at the PTO 2020 Championship. With Luis and Taylor-Brown being the reigning World Triathlon Champions, Blummenfelt holding the middle-distance world record, and the pure greatness of Spirig, there is little doubt they will challenge for the title. It will be an exciting prospect for triathlon fans around the world to see these athletes doing battle against the sport’s middle- and long-distance stars.”
The Professional Triathletes Organisation then announced that Tim Don, Flora Duffy, Gustav Iden and Jessica Learmonth have been selected as wildcards for the PTO 2020 Championship at CHALLENGEDAYTONA®.
Charles Adamo, Executive Chairman of PTO, commented, “The second round of wildcard selections were as easy to make as the first. With these four tremendous world-class athletes added to the mix, the PTO 2020 Championship will have an unprecedented field.”
Adamo added, “No one better than Tim Don exemplifies the resilience and integrity of our sport. His comeback from a horrific bike accident is an inspiration to us all. The first championship event run by PTO professionals would not be the same without this seasoned statesman on the start line. While Don brings the experience and breadth of a 20+ year career, Learmonth and Iden, with their recent stellar performances, bring the speed and power of youth, and what can’t you say about the versatile, multi-world champion Flora Duffy? There isn’t any format, distance or style of swim, bike and run she doesn’t excel at. We all look forward to seeing her whiz around the iconic race venue.”
Tim Don, commented, “I am grateful to have been awarded a wildcard spot. After over twenty-five years in the sport, it is great that professionals have their own organisation and now, a championship. It is an honour for me to be competing alongside my fellow professionals in the PTO 2020 Championship, and while the competition will be tough, the camaraderie will be even greater as professionals unite to make our sport better.”
Charles Adamo, Executive Chairman of PTO, commented “Our third round of wildcard selections is filled with Olympic medallists and a gritty Canadian. With Britain’s Jonny Brownlee and South Africa’s Henri Schoeman joining Jonny’s brother, Alistair, and Javier Gomez on the start line, the star-studded field will have every men’s Olympic medal winner from both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Sweden’s Lisa Norden, silver medal winner in the 2012 London Olympics, will join previously announced wildcard selection Nicola Spirig, who denied Norden gold by 9/1000th of a second. Canadian Angela Naeth just missed out on an automatic qualifying spot, but her stellar career and her remarkable comeback after being diagnosed with Lyme disease has earned her a wildcard place.”
In Daytona on December 5th and 6th there is a triathlon festival–the Challenge Daytona Triathlon. There are two days of racing finishing with the PTO Pro Championship. One million dollars will be awarded to top male and female finishers. Pros are invited based on qualifying points and below is a list of the top 40 male and female pros who have qualified. In addition, 10 men and 10 women will be awarded “wildcard” spots. If you are curious how that will work, here is a link to the process: https://protriathletes.org/pto-2020-championships-wildcard-selection-criteria/
The Wildcards will be chosen next week. It will be interesting to see if recent 70.3 IRONMAN Cozumel winner and Boulder native Sam Long gets an invite. On Sams YouTube page in his Cozumel race review he alludes to hopefully being invited to Daytona. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7LaidPWcAs
Charles Adamo, Executive Chairman of the PTO, commented,“These will be very sought-after openings and the non-athlete members of the PTO Board will have some very difficult decisions to make, particularly as the ITU season is ended and many of the Olympic distance superstars, like Nicola Spirig and Kristian Blummenfelt, are relishing this unique opportunity to have a crack at the PTO 2020 Championship. In addition, the wildcard selection process will allow the PTO to invite some of the young and up-and-coming athletes, giving them a chance to cut their teeth in a championship field. With the top 40 PTO World ranked professionals and the wildcard selections, the field for the PTO 2020 Championship at CHALLENGEDAYTONA® will be one of the strongest fields ever assembled for our sport. It will be exciting to see the best athletes doing battle for the spoils.”
This race is lining up to be a very iconic event with the swim and shorter distance races held inside the track and a spectacular middle distance ride that hugs the coast for a bit. Imagine doing the 5k run of sprint or most of the bike on a race track?? Here is a link if you want to learn more or register. https://challenge-daytona.com
In the pro field there are notable Colorado ties: Tim O’Donnell, Miranda Carfrae, Lesly Smith, Ben Hoffman, Andy Potts, Rudy Von Berg, Sam Appleton, and many others seen training and racing in Colorado over the years.
This video shows the courses:
Watch this to see what Olympian Rowdy Gaines thinks of swimming INSIDE of the Speedway…
Sept. 30, 2019–303 had a chance to catch up with Sam today and talk about his win at IRONMAN Chattanooga. Sam has had a very busy race season with mixed results–mostly good but some not as good. Yesterday he tried something new–and it worked, and he won.
He started the year out winning the Napa Marathon and then raced Oceanside 70.3, St. George 70.3, Chattanooga 70.3 (winning it), Victoria 70.3, Boulder 140.6, Lake Placid 140.6, Boulder 70.3, 70.3 IRONMAN World Championship in Nice and now IRONMAN Chattanooga. Exhausting!
But in Chattanooga he tried something different. He rode his bike without a computer. And he rode a new bike, not having had a professional fit and only having ridden it about 500 miles. He had the bike shipped from Nice directly to Chattanooga, only having put a few miles on it the week of the race yesterday. And he also discovered something about his bike that explained his slower than expected time in Nice.
In August he switched from a Trek to a Cervelo P5 Disc, fitted himself as best he could, put in less than 500 miles (about a weeks worth of riding for “Go Long’ Sam Long”) and shipped the bike to France for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
In Nice, Sam said, “I did ok and I did use a computer and I was disappointed in my speed because my watts were actually pretty high.” Not understanding the weird correlation to his speed and watts, when he got to Chattanooga and when reunited with his new P5, he noticed his brake was slightly rubbing—ah ha, that explains it!
Thinking back to recent races Sam said, “I kept getting discouraged on the bike and too focused on watts and speed and all that overthinking sabotaged my last two races. So I decided to change it all up and race without a computer. In recent training rides, I started putting the computer in my pocket trying to get more in tune with my perceived exertion. Then when I got home I would look at the files and I started to teach myself how I felt versus how I was actually doing.”
Yesterday in Chattanooga, Sam’s strategy was two fold and simplified on the bike; to focus on how fast I was going but making sure I felt fresh and not worry about stats, just ride feeling good and taking measures to come off the bike feeling fresh for the run. For example he says, “when I got to downhill, rather than keep pedaling to maintain watts, I simply coasted, enjoying the break and knowing it would help me on the run.”
The strategy clearly worked and he came off the bike nine minutes in front of Matt Russell. When asked how he got such a lead, Sam said, “I don’t like riding in a big group (not drafting, but pacing) so about mile 40 I decided to try to break it up figuring a couple of guys would go with me. And feeling fresh, I simply pushed a bit more and in about five minutes I looked back and noticed nobody responded, so I just said to heck with it, and kept on going!”
Getting off the bike nine minutes ahead also affected his pre-race run strategy. “Originally I was going to take the first lap conservatively and then push on the second. But when I realized I had a sizable gap off the bike, I pushed more than I planned on the first lap and figured to hang on for the second.”
13 miles in, Sam had a 13 minute lead having completed the first loop in 1 hour and 26 minutes, putting him on pace for a 2:52 marathon. He knew that was pretty much impossible to maintain in the heat and humidity. But he kept pushing trying to do the math at how fast his competitors would have to run to catch him. Still worried, they could be doing at least one minute per mile faster motivated him to keep that gap and keep pushing.
“At about mile 22, when I finally realized I was likely to win. My first thought was don’t screw this up and thinking that at my current 7:30/mile pace I was running, if Matt started running a 5:30/mile pace he might still catch me! I wasn’t thinking straight clearly, but I started having doubt if you can believe that!”
Of course nobody caught him nor was going to run that pace late in the race in the very hot weather and Sam crossed the line almost ten minutes before Matt did.
With the fastest bike split by nearly 10 minutes and the second fastest run of the day, Boulder’s Sam Long won IRONMAN Chattanooga yesterday, winning by nearly 10 minutes over second place finisher Matt Russell.
Earlier in the year the two battled at IRONMAN Boulder with Matt winning that day. Sam said in post race interview with Dave Downey, “I was up two hours every night for the last two weeks wondering how I am going to beat Matt.” Looks like the wee strategizing worked.
At about 40 miles into the bike, Sam pulled ahead and says, “I wasn’t planning to break away, but I looked back and everyone was gone so I said to myself, go with it!
Earlier in the year Sam won the Chattanooga 70.3 and he told the crowd yesterday, “two of my best days of my life are here, I want to come back here every year for the rest of my career!”
To learn his behind the scenes strategy read this article:
The last edition of IRONMAN Boulder featured two athletes in Matt Hanson (7:57) and Lauren Brandon (9:09) setting two course records on their way to victory. The other four podium spots were filled with Tim O’Donnell and first-time pro Kennett Peterson for the men and Lesley Smith and Danielle Mack for the women. All will be competing in Kona at the IRONMAN World Championships this fall. For Kennett and Danielle, this will be their first trip to the big island as professionals. Danielle won IRONMAN Boulder in 2014. Says Danielle, “I’ve been a professional for 7 years, won 3 Ironman’s and have never competed in Kona….thank God!”
The story of the day might be Kennett Peterson who until yesterday hadn’t competed in a full-distance IRONMAN or even ran a marathon! He settled in on the bike early in the race in second place and never relinquished that position. Tim O’Donnell lead through the bike segment with Kennett, Sam Sam Long jostling for second and third and Matt Hanson right behind. The race took shape on the run with Hanson running everyone down with a 2:48 marathon, O’Donnell dropping back with a 3:05 and Peterson held tight with a 2:54. Colorado’s Tripp Hipple crossed in forth place with Boulder native Sam Long rounding out the top five.
The women’s race featured and course breaking swim time of 48:43 and course breaking overall time of 9:09 by Texas’s Lauren Brandon. It was her first IRONMAN 104.6 victory. Says Brandon, “got my Kona spot, and I’m ecstatic!” Off the bike she was 37 minutes ahead of the field, but “with the likes of Lesley Smith running, I knew I had to have a big lead.” Boulder’s Smith indeed had a fast run of 3:11 narrowing the gap by nearly 25 minutes. Smith chased down the field passing seven others on her way to second.
The “Flatiron wars” are complete and was a great battle fought during the last IRONMAN to be held in Boulder. A bittersweet day and much more to come on that!