Professional Erin Spitler raced Ironman Calgary 70.3 on Sunday. Top 5 in her first race with Dan as Coach.
We chose Calgary for the familiarity, wetsuit swim and potential to have a fast run. Leading into the race she (Erin) had been working hard on a full Ironman block and keeping sharp by doing a few smaller triathlons and duathlons but was also coming off a week of heavy travel across the country.
Erin has worked hard on her swim this year and was given full permission to attack early and stick to the front pack. She took this instruction and swam well but confusion with the lead kayaker sent several athletes off course while the main group continued on. Looking at the splits it’s obvious who took the shorter route but only Magili, who initially won the race, was brave enough to acknowledge her mistake and take the DSQ penalty. I commend Erin for not getting detered by seeing her competition cut the course and she produced a strong ride moving her into 6th, setting her up to run into 5th. Had everyone raced the same course Erin might have found her third 70.3 podium in the past 12 months but as they say, that’s racing.
On the other side of Canada, Paul Stiekema set out for a third attempt at Ironman Canada. He has been putting in very consistent work and producing several strong results at local races and bigger 70.3 events. However, he went in with hesitation on his ability to run after he strained his calf at a sprint race a couple weeks prior.
Conditions were rainy and cold but Paul is one of the few athletes capable of racing hard regardless of conditions and took it all in stride. Like, Erin, Paul worked hard on his swim all year and PRd the hard swim by 4 minutes, exiting for the first time in the top 20. Although running is his strength, coach Dan wanted to ease the pressure of having to produce a hard run, knowing the calf may create troubles the longer the day went on in cold conditions. Therefore Paul was instructed to ride to the front and he did just that, entering T2 in 2nd position. At this point Paul was given free reign to push, pull back or quit based on scenarios discussed going into the day. To Paul’s credit and another example of his mental strength, he kept his ego at check and ran conservatively, something very difficult to do over 42k, especially as a history of being a strong runner and knowing 1st place was just up the road. There is no doubt that he could have ran into first if he had a few more weeks of running going into the race but experiencing a front pack swim and strong ride has silenced any thoughts of weakness in those disciplines. Paul will take a few well deserved days off and then build his running back up in time for Ironman Arizona where we’re going in with nothing but a win in mind.
A relatively new athlete to Dan’s group, Robert Grammer, jumped into the Waco Olympic distance triathlon. This was a last minute request from Dan and despite being caught off guard and taken out of his comfort zone, Robert obliged and went in with 100% commitment to the plan despite obvious physical fatigue from the current block. He was asked to break through comfort zones on each discipline and push to harder than he believed possible. He took risks and paid the price but kept going and kept taking risks. That kind of fight is all a coach can ask for in an athlete. Sometimes racing is about winning, sometimes it’s about learning how to race, for Robert, this race was strictly about learning new things and he’ll take those lessons back into his training as he prepares for Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz and then joining Paul at Ironman Arizona.
Coach Dan Wins Evergreen Sprint Triathlon
Coach also snuck in a quick sprint race at the Evergreen Sprint Triathlon where he is currently based doing a swim block. Dan holds the course record and was returning to make it win #3. Race morning started with water and air temps in low 60s and at 9,000 feet elevation the air was in rare supply. Despite the purple toes and fingers out of the swim the Dan was happy to be racing and thought of all of his athletes racing, wanting to do them proud. With a minute lead out of the swim he kept a gap on the chasers into T2 and held off surges at the end of the 5k to take his 3rd win.
Its been a great summer of racing in North America for Dan’s athletes but everything is building towards even greater end of season results.