PC: Justin Luau

Heather Wurtele has a history of success racing in St.George and made her mark again last weekend at the IRONMAN 70.3 North American Championships taking 3rd in a stacked championship field.

The demanding nature of the tough terrain in St.George brings out the best in Wurtele – at the 70.3 distance she’s won the North American Championships twice and racked up three other podium finishes and also won the full distance IRONMAN St.George twice, setting a course record along the way. For Trevor and Heather Wurtele, St.George has long been their home away from home training base as well as a race destination. Describing their draw to train and race in Southern Utah year after year, Heather said “The landscape of Southern Utah is definitely special. The vistas just seem inspiring and glorious and make you feel alive. I think the lack of trees – which I do start to miss as a BC girl – give this sense of vastness, and the contrast with the red rocks and sand with the blue sky… it always looks spectacular. The clean, clear water out at Sand Hollow is a pleasure to swim in, and it wasn’t even that cold this year,  though I thought it might be really bad given the cool wet spring and the snow melt. When I race, I’m pretty focused on my performance and don’t necessarily consciously appreciate the scenery, but this year, riding up Snow Canyon, I thought to myself ‘Wow this place is so spectacular! It’s so cool we have the road to ourselves for the race up here!'”

The championship race started off well for Wurtele exiting the water in 10th, only 1:50 back from super swimmer, Haley Chura, and former 70.3 World Champion, Holly Lawrence. Wurtele reflected “I was happy with my day. The swim especially! I was really happy to be under 2 minutes back to the leaders and out of the water in the first chase pack with some solid swimmers like Kinsey Lane and Lindsay Jerdonek. Last year, I had a really bad swim here and couldn’t claw my way back, so it’s always nice to start the race out on the right foot.”

Utilizing her power on the bike, Wurtele moved through the field into 5th position putting herself within striking distance to start the run. While Lawrence had a solid lead, Findlay, Moench, McCauley and Wurtele were within 3 minutes of one another heading out of T2 setting up for a tight battle to the finish. Wurtele said “I rode well, mostly solo, and tried not to burn too many matches since I knew I’d need a lot of flame for the run! I came off the bike in 5th, got out of transition in 4th and managed to catch Jocelyn in the first mile up Diagonal. I wasn’t sure how far Paula was up the road and I just kept running as hard as I could to try and catch her.”

“I was happy to have good run legs and to feel like I could really push. I think that that’s what athletes always want, a day where you are able to get the most out of your body.”

It was clear Lawrence had first place locked up but 2nd through 5th was up for grabs. The depth of the women’s field didn’t allow for any cruising into the finish on the run and Wurtele kept the pressure on, stating “I couldn’t let up even to give high fives in the finish chute because I knew that Skye was pushing hard behind me. It was a very fast race on an unusually calm day. Holly’s time was bananas, but it was an exciting, tight race from 2nd-10th!”

Pushing all the way through to the finish line, Wurtele earned another hard fought and well-deserved podium finish to take 3rd in a time of 4:15:55 at the IRONMAN 70.3 North American Championships. A happy, grateful and satisfied Wurtele remarked “Trevor, Sebastian Kienle, Ben Hoffman and I were joking after the race about how we don’t recognize a lot of people at the pro meetings anymore! We’ve been doing the sport for many years now, and racing in St. George alone for 10, so frankly, it feels good to still be in the mix with the young guns! I probably would have been unhappy with 3rd in the past, but perspective is a handy thing.”

“I had a really strong performance and enjoyed the day, so it felt like a win for me. It means a lot to have won 2 full IRONMAN’s, 2 North American IRONMAN 70.3 Championship races, and to have been on the podium in all but one of my races here.”

Looking forward, the long distance star has plans to race IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria and IRONMAN 70.3 Coeur d’Alene, two of her favorite venues which happen to be close to home, but her big focus for the season is IRONMAN Canada in Whistler.

IRONMAN 70.3 St.George North American Championships
St.George, Utah
May 4, 2019

1. Holly Lawrence 4:06:05
2. Paula Findlay 4:14:03
3. Heather Wurtele 4:15:55
4. Skye Moench 4:16:21
5. Jackie Hering 4:17:03
6. Sarah Piampiano 4:18:48
7. Jocelyn McCauley 4:20:06
8. Heather Jackson 4:22:42
9. Jennifer Spieldenner 4:23:48
10. Jen Annett 4:24:17