Race Analysis: Ironman 70.3 Oceanside

Photo by Always Curious

Ironman 70.3 Oceanside

The triathlon season in North America officially kicks off this weekend with 70.3 California in Oceanside. This race was once an Ironman distance (a LONG time ago) but is now one of the most popular races on the calendar. Registration sells out in minutes—just ask our columnist, Kelly O’Mara, she missed the chance to race here by waiting too long to register. Anyway, along with being popular with amateurs the race is always stacked to the gills with professionals.

When you look at the men’s start list it is plausible that any number of men could win. Andy Potts was second last year and ran down Lionel Sanders in the last couple miles. Sam Appleton is not quite as well known as Potts and Sanders in North America but he could make a big name for himself this weekend. He holds the course record at another classic, Vineman 70.3, so expect to see him vying for the win on Saturday. Tim Reed, Appleton’s former coach, is also racing. It is his first time in Oceanside and he could definitely give the other men a run for their money after spending the summer season in his native Australia training. Sebastian Kienle is also back after finishing third here in 2014. The names keep on coming: Trevor Wurtele, Taylor Reid, Jesse Thomas, Joe Gambles, Eneko Llanos, Andreas Dreitz….. Since it is the first race of the season expect to see a few surprises, good and bad.

The last three years the women’s race has been won by someone named Heather. Heather Jackson won in 2013 and 2015 while Heather Wurtele took the title in 2014. It is hard to say “even year, Wurtele wins” with the other women lining up in the 2016 edition of the race. Caroline Steffen is here for the first time and just won Subic Bay 70.3. This race definitely won’t be as warm as the Philippines but I doubt that will slow Steffen down. Camilla Pedersen just finished second to Wurtele in Monterrey so we know she is fit. Holly Lawrence was the surprise leader off the bike last year and hung on for third place. She will be out of the water at the front again and will have a big crew chasing her down. Alicia Kaye, Amanda Stevens, Mary Beth Ellis, Michelle Vesterby, Jen Spieldenner and Ellie Salthouse are just a few more of the names that could make their way to the pointy end of the field.


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Photo: Patsy Healy/Real Racine

Photo: Patsy Healy/Real Racine

Heather Wurtele

You and Heather Jackson have gone 1-2 the past 3 years…HJ with two wins (2013,2015) and you with one (2014). It’s an even year so we can probably pencil you in right?

Ha ha. Ya. Sounds good. It has come down to a battle between the two of us the last couple of years, but we’ve both had to run down some strong swimmer/cyclists. To win here you have to put together a very strong all-around performance and it’s going to be challenging as always. There are several athletes here, e.x. Caroline Steffen, that I’ve never raced in a 70.3 before, so that makes things even more exciting.

However, in all seriousness, the start list is stacked per usual. Like this time every year, it seems that some will be very fit and ready to hit it and others will be building for races later on in the spring. Does that make it easier for you to just focus on your race and go as fast as YOU can on race day?

Honestly, that is always my focus. I love big, competitive races where your fellow athletes really challenge you to give your best performance. When it comes down to it all that you have control over is your own race and rising to the challenges that each day presents.

(QUESTION FOR YOU AND TREVOR) The WTC checks for PEDs. Do you think they also need to start checking for “mechanical” doping?

Yes. We know that this technology is out there so it would be great if there were proper checks for it and consequences for cheaters.


Sam Appleton

Are you ready for the “Spring World Championships?” This race always brings out some big names and you get a chance to race some athletes you haven’t race too much (if at all) like Potts, Kienle and Lionel Sanders.

I’ve never raced Andy Potts before, but i have battled Kienle and Sanders a couple of times. Unfortunately those times i raced them i was far from my best so i am looking to rectify that this time around at Oceanside. It is definitely a really deep start list, but its early season for a lot of guys so anything can happen. I’ve been training really well since blowing out the cobwebs at Buenos Aires 3 weeks ago and i am feeling confident in my own ability.

Most of the talk is battle between Kienle, Potts and Sanders. Do you like going in under the radar? To be fair, you do own the course record at Vineman and Potts has won there before so it should be a good battle….

I think i am under the radar on the media front(especially in North America as i havent been racing here for too long), but i am sure most of the guys racing know who i am and what i capable of. I had a great race at Vineman last year and if i am able to bring that kind of form to Oceanside i know i will be competitive. The start list is loaded with guys but i will just go about my business and treat it as any other race. I am really excited to get out there and test the form against some of the best guys in the world.

The WTC tests for PEDs. Do you think they should also check bikes (pros and amateur) for “mechanical doping?”

I used to think that mechanical doping was more of a farce than anything else but the UCI found someone in the Cyclocross World Champs so i guess its more prevalent than i first thought. I definately think PEDs are far more common but it cant hurt to get more testing on all forms of doping within the pro and amateur ranks.

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This weekly podcast is your source for all information related to upcoming races in the world of Professional Triathlon. We will bring you analysis on how the races could play out, start list updates and input from the Professional athletes themselves. Hosted by Zach Miller, age group athlete and triathlon enthusiast and featuring input from Emily Cocks, a professional triathlete herself.

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About the Authors

Zach Miller
Zach Miller is a sports enthusiast and age group triathlete living in the The Woodlands, TX. He is the Host of The Triathlon Preview Show. Follow @trifantasy The Triathlon Preview Show: iTunes Podcast
Emily is a professional triathlete and swim coach living in Napa, CA. Emily swam for the University of Michigan and completed her first tri in 2004 at the Chicago Triathlon. She worked for seven years as a paralegal, followed by three years as an Assistant Swim Coach for the University of Illinois-Chicago. Presently, she lives and trains in Napa, California while working for the Napa Valley Swim Team and coaching several age group triathletes.