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St. George Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship Race report

The 2016 St. George 70.3 Ironman Pro Championship race was a race to remember! The early weather conditions made for a test of wills most of the race. Scenic St. George featured a total elevation gain of just over 4800’ between the bike and the run legs. Temperatures dipped to 41 degrees at the start with chilly 62 degree water and choppy conditions. Cold rain accompanied by strong winds on the bike course added to the adversity for many of the 2,556 athletes that competed.

The weather caught many of us off guard as it was projected to be 70 degrees and overcast most of the day. I was in wave 9 and entered the water about 30 minutes after the 81 pro athletes started their race. Something I found unusual about this swim was how far off the buoy line many athletes were swimming. The wind and current seemed to be pushing many off course in the choppy conditions. I found myself questioning if I was the one off line with my sighting. I exited the water after the 1.2 mile swim just under 33 minutes. With the bike and run legs still ahead I felt good coming out of the chilly water conditions and not overly tired from my effort.

As I exited the swim to transition one (T1) I could feel the raindrops starting to fall. The roads were not wet yet, but the wind made for a chilly start after exiting the cold water. Ten miles into the bike leg the roads became wet and cold from the rain and wind. As I made my way through the steady climbs and descents of the course I saw many racers pulled off to the side trying to warm themselves with blankets, accessing on course race support vehicles, and even taking shelter in porta potties to escape the chill in the air and deal with cramping issues.

I pressed on with a numb face and numb feet and hands. Instead of focusing on my uncontrollable shivering, I focused my thoughts on my wife and daughter who are my biggest fans. I thought about my friend Kendra Goffredo who has raced with Team Tony Poppy as a top amatuer and professional triathlete to raise awareness and money for the MMRF in honor of her father - an amazing man who passed away this spring after a 13 year journey with Multiple Myeloma. I thought about my colleague Derek McCormick who is undergoing aggressive treatment for Myeloma Bone Cancer and is awaiting a bone marrow transplant in Seattle. When it was time to dig real deep mentally, I sang a song with chattering teeth that I learned from our volunteer athlete shuttle bus driver earlier that morning: “Have a great day. Have a great day. Have a great, great, great, great, great day!” It took the sting out of the brutal rain and wind.

With my legs pressed against my bike frame the water zipped off my wheels. I reached speeds over 45 miles per hour on the ten mile descent into town. The fast and wet conditions from the summit of Snow Canyon State Park into T2 were the most adrenaline pumping I have ridden. I prayed for no sudden tire malfunction as there was no way to avoid a horrific crash if something were to happen at those speeds in those conditions. As I entered T2 the rain had stopped in the city center and I was happy to be off my bike after riding for two hours and forty five minutes soaking wet. Freezing and finding it difficult to peel off my helmet and change my shoes I exited T2 in under 3 minutes. I passed my parents and coach Antonio in the first ¼ mile of the run. My coach asked how I was doing. I said, “freezing!” as I smiled and tried to stop shaking and feel my feet and legs under me. My coach shouted to let the run come to me as my body warmed into my run effort. The first 3 miles of the run were uphill and my feet and hands remained numb until about mile four. As I made my way through the run I maintained a steady effort, making sure to eat bananas and drink electrolytes at the aid stations I passed. With three miles to go on the 13.1 mile course and with descents all the way back to the finish line I picked up my cadence and averaged a 6:40 mile pace to the finish. I crossed the line at a time of 5 hours 7 minutes and 49 seconds. I Missed my PR time of 5:06:09 by 1 min.40 seconds from my last 70.3 race in Lake Tahoe last season. Despite missing my PR I was thrilled with this effort and PR’d my run time for a 70.3 race on this challenging course with challenging conditions by 3 minutes. This gave me a solid effort for my first of three 70.3 races this 2016 season, a top 20 age group finish, and an overall finish 179 of 2,556 competitors.

This race effort and result validated the mindset practices I use in my training and life for positive outcomes. It reinforced that where focus goes, energy flows (Robbins), that training never stops in life, and we choose to let moments define us or we choose to define our moments. This race also reinforced valuable life lessons developed beyond sports performance results in athletic competition. It reinforced the value of always being grateful, resilient, and remaining curious in adverse conditions. As I race towards the launch of my playing for purpose business and my book launch next Fall I continue to be inspired by those in my professional and personal life. Thanks for reading and sharing with others.

With Gratitude,

Sam Kristensen

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