Sam Long has been knocking at the door of his first professional triathlon win since last year. Just 3 weeks ago he finished 5th at the IRONMAN 70.3 North American Championships and last year he placed 2nd at IRONMAN Louisville, 4th at IRONMAN Whistler and 3rd at the XTERRA Pan American Championships. This past Sunday, he sealed the deal and became the IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga Champion.
At 23 years of age, Long has a bright future ahead. Mixing it up racing XTERRA’s, road cycling stage races, road marathons, IRONMAN’s and 70.3’s, Long enjoys the diversity of the different races and has been successful in all disciplines but last Sunday was the day it all came together for him at the 70.3 half distance.
Long was the 15th man out of the water with a sizeable gap to Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches, who led the field. Despite his deficit, Long explained that the swim set him up for the rest of the race “I started well and was able to use the group to make my way to the front. This was a pleasant change as compared to St. George where I was solo from 400 meters to the end. My time gap was still 3:22 to the lead which was a little smaller then it’s been in previous races. Most importantly though, I felt very relaxed in the swim and my heart rate was low. So, I was not very upset about the time gap because of how fresh I felt exiting the water. I made up 4 places just in transition!”
A powerhouse on the bike, Long describes having to play the smart tactical game to move his way through the field, throwing down the fastest bike split to lead into T2, “The nature of the course called for strategic group riding, which is not my style. I attempted to break away from the group for the first 45 minutes but realized I was only pulling a large group of people which included fast runners like Matt Hanson to the front. I had to shift mindsets as this surely would have set me up for failure. I instead thought of it as a bike race and played the game of legal drafting. I knew the course and made decisive powerful moves on sharp climbs with descents. This broke the group up into smaller portions but, most noticeably, Matt Russel stayed with me and we bridged up to the main pack of 3 riders. The group of us which was now 6-strong caught the lead solo biker and I eventually pulled ahead with a 15 second lead into T2 over Jackson Laundry.“
Well aware of the strength of runners in the field behind him, including the likes of fellow First Endurance athlete Matt Hanson, Long knew every second counted. “I had the quickest T2 which moved my lead to 30 seconds. I knew it was going to be a poker match. I had to gain the perception that I was not going to be catchable in both my and my competitor’s minds. Still, Jackson was putting time into me in the early miles! I focused on staying smooth, cool, and being positive yet was prepared to be passed. Eventually, my gap started increasing. I kept it pretty steady throughout and had the 3rd fastest run of the day in 1:15:22. I stayed on the gas until the finishing chute as I still wasn’t sure if I would get the win.”
Extending his lead on Laundry and holding off the run speed of Hanson, Long broke the finishing tape in a time of 3:48:50 to win IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga and expressed his fulfilment on the day
“Winning my first professional triathlon was a moment I have dreamed of doing for a long time. I have put in years of consistent, hard, smart work. I believed it was possible but actually doing it felt so good!!”
“I have always told myself If I can win races then I have a financial future doing the thing that I love most. So, at the very least I’m a bit more confident I belong in this world as a true pro. And man, it was just epic!!
Canadian based First Endurance athlete, Jackson Laundry, who finished 1:53 back in 2nd place, said “I knew it would take a good day to get on the podium and a great day to get the win at IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. The race plan and fueling went perfectly, I just didn’t quite have the great run it would have taken to run with Sam. I am very happy to finish second between 2 great athletes, congrats to those guys!”
Stacking the podium with First Endurance athletes, the three-time North American IRONMAN Champion Matt Hanson finished 3rd and remarked, “Anytime you can find the podium it’s a good day. I am happy with how my day went, all things considered. Sam and Jackson both put together amazing races. Great to share the podium with two other First Endurance Athletes!”
May 19, 2019
1 3:48:50 Sam Long
2 3:50:43 Jackson Laundry
3 3:52:23 Matt Hanson
4 3:53:47 Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches
5 3:56:23 Matt Russell