2015 Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico

Justin MetzlerUncategorized

Holy crap… 5 months can go by fast! It seems like yesterday I was crossing the finish line at 70.3 Augusta, wrapping up my first season as a pro and reflecting on the amazing results I had all year. Since then, almost everything in my life has changed in one-way or another. I know the majority of you have been following along with my social media posts but for those that have been living under a rock, here are some of the highlights:

  • Jesse Kropelnicki now coaches me at QT2 systems. And I’m all in. Whatever the sensei says, goes!
  • I drove cross country moving from Iowa City, Iowa to Clermont, Florida
  • I signed with the most elite professional triathlon team in the nation: Maverick Multisport
  • I successfully completed a 17-day intensive training camp with 24 of the fastest triathletes in the nation
  • And I was named the 2014 Rookie of the Year by USA Triathlon


So yes, it’s a whole lot all at once. But I’ve actually come to accept and enjoy the change. It is stressful at times but it keeps me on my toes and is always exciting. Despite all the moving parts, the main reason I made all of these changes was to put myself in the best situation to not only be as fast as possible this year but also lay the foundation for the rest of my career. As a second year professional, it was time to make all of the sacrifices required to compete at the highest level in sport.


With my ducks in a row and some hard work in the bank, I set my sights on the first race of the season: 70.3 San Juan in hot and humid Puerto Rico. Although there was another race on the same day in Mexico that offered a few more world qualification points, the ease of flying from Orlando made it the perfect event to test the waters before the championship races in April and May. So I hopped on a quick flight south on Thursday night and ended up here…


Arriving a few days before the race gave me a really good opportunity to get familiar with the area, feel relaxed and enjoy the island. Friday morning started off perfect with beautiful sunrise and a smooth swim in the Condado Lagoon
Spirits were sky high after the morning dip and the good vibes continued as my Mom got into town. I always love having her at the races but more than anything, it was just nice to hang out and catch up. I hadn’t seen her for almost 6 months! Too long in my book.
So we got the good out of the way, now time some bad and even some ugly. That afternoon, I went out for a super easy spin on the bike and got caught in a flash rainstorm that passes through almost every day on the island. You’ll get hours of sun, a half hour storm that comes out of nowhere and then perfect weather the rest of the day. Mix that with some of the most aggressive, inconsiderate and downright violent drivers I have ever encountered and you get a fairly inopportune situation to ride your bicycle.
I had an hour ride planned but after about 30 minutes, it was too dangerous with all the traffic and I began to make my way back home. And as I made a turn over some cobble stones… WHAM! Down he goes.
Clean bike, then assess wounds. Priorities.
I got up gingerly and inspected the damage. Bones and bike parts were all in tact, so I didn’t panic. Some road rash and bruising would be inconvenient and “swollen” wasn’t really the feeling I was going for pre-race, but I knew it wasn’t anything that was going to deter me from getting on that start line. And it didn’t hurt that my mommy was there to take care of me.
Yeah, this did not feel good
After that traumatizing ride through traffic on Friday, I had no intentions of a repeat disaster Saturday morning so I got out on the roads before sunrise to beat the traffic. I could feel some tenderness in my hip from the fall but all systems were go on my short ride/ run. I made it back home safe, gorged on my carb-loaded breakfast and then met up with a new friend, Maja Stage (fellow professional triathlete from Denmark) to preview the course, go for a swim and hit up the pro meeting. In fact, we ended up doing most of the weekend activities together which was awesome.


I ended up being away from the apartment we were staying at all day on Saturday taking care of pre-race obligations but still tried to keep things on island time and remain relaxed. We ended the day with a rooftop dinner and I went to bed ready to throw down in the morning.


For those of you that know me, you are well aware that I function best on routine. I like to feel settled and sometimes I can get stuck in my ways. But simply repeating what feels comfortable will only get me so far. I need to grow, learn and innovate to get faster. So that means changing a lot of things and following the instructions that coach Krop’s gives me. And those changes started off in full force as I woke up and downed 3 and a ½ cups of applesauce before 4am! My QT2 people know what’s up!


With a belly full of apple goodness, I headed over to the race site to set up transition and make the walk over to the swim start. I have been putting in some serious time in the pool and the goal this year will be front pack swimming. But ripping off times in the pool is one thing and actually doing it on race day is an entirely different beast. So I got in a really solid warm up, hoping to hit the start mid-stride and got ready for the cannon to fire.

The gun went off and I had a very strong start swimming right next to good friend, training partner and fellow QT2 athlete AJ Baucco. Although we were ripping along nicely, we both quickly realized that we had lined up much too far to the left and missed the feet of the two fastest swimmers in the field. We took a slightly less direct line to the first buoy, which resulted in the two of us towing the front pack, swimming side by side, all the way to the swim exit.

Photo: Jay Prasuhn, Lava Magazine

I came out of the water in 4th place and was super excited about the effort, proving my months of hard winter yards did not go to waste. Had I lined up a little bit more to the right, honestly think I could have exited with the leaders (who still only gained :90 seconds on me)

It was nearly an 800-meter run from the swim exit to T1 but I made quick work of it and got to my bike ready to hammer and show off the hard work I put into my cycling. The gas was on full throttle as we rolled out of town, over a few bridges and out
to the main highway. I battled back and forth with two guys for the first 10 miles, bridged up to another athlete by mile 15 and around mile 20, the entire field came together to form the front bike pack. This was exactly where I wanted to be… Right in the thick of it. We rode hard for the first half of the bike but I was still well within my limits. Around mile 30, the pace slowed down dramatically as we merged with age groupers for a second lap of the course. It seemed as if everyone was eyeing each other to take charge at the front but no one was really up for the task. Early on, I had initial plans on making a break off the front around mile 40, but with the increasing heat and knowledge of the brutal run that laid ahead, I refrained and stuck in the group. Right at the end, I made a little move with two other athletes which did not put any time on the chasers behind us but it did put me in a good position heading into the second transition as I got off the bike in 5th place. Still, we were all together and spots 2-10 were up for grabs.
Now, I’ve briefly mentioned the hard work that I have put into my swimming and my cycling and in previous years, I would say the same for my running. But this year, I really backed off on my early season run volume. We did this in an attempt to not only focus on my swimming and cycling but also ensure I am not completely trashed late in the season when it really counts to run fast. So as I quickly transitioned into the run shoes, I could almost immediately tell that the snappy run legs I am use to were simply not going to be there on this day.
Photo: Kate Bruck
Still, not all hope was lost! I still have been running well and showed glimpses of really solid form including a 1:14 open half marathon in January. Additionally, the run course is arguably one of the most challenging, hilly and hot courses on the entire 70.3 circuit. This thing is no freaking joke. Seriously brutal… So I played the patient game. Biding my time, waiting for people to go out too hard and get spit out the back. And I hung tough. I did not feel good at any point but I never succumbed to a slow jog. I ran as hard as I could, leaving everything out there. I ran the entire half marathon with spots 4, 5 and 6 in striking distance but I just didn’t have that extra gear to go and get them. I ended up crossing the line in 8th place with the plan well executed and it solid way to start off my 2015 campaign. The race was an honest reflection of where I am at with a lot of room for improvement so I was proud of the performance.
This race paid 6-deep and it was a goal of mine to be in the money at the finish. And it certainly did not help that I was only :60 down from that final spot. The good news is I am feeling more confident in my swim and bike than I ever have in my career and I know when I get rolling with my run, it can quickly turn into a lethal weapon. I’m looking forward to getting there very soon.


Another change that I have slowly been able to make is to just letting loose a little bit. I love this sport and I want to do it for a long time. So after getting a 10-minute Puerto Rican ice-sponge bath from the volunteers and getting my body temperature cooled off a little bit, I was able to slip into 24-hour vacation mode. Chips, guac and margaritas did the job nicely. Sugar and salt to rehydrate, right?!


This was my first race as a member of the Maverick Multisport Elite Team and I would absolutely not be able to go after my goals without their backing. Huge thanks to our team director, Chris Hutchens for all the work he puts in. It’s a thankless job and I’m sure he puts up with a lot of headaches. Knowing he is there working hard behind the scenes means a ton.
With that being said, I also want to thank all of the sponsors for providing the BEST gear out there. Argon 18, Enve, Jaybird, Rotor, Infinit Nutrition, Blueseventy, Cobb Cycling, Primal Sport Mud, Sugoi apparel, Catlike helmets and Shimano- I can’t thank you enough.


And I cannot even explain how much I value the support of my coach, Jesse Kropelnicki. Having someone of his caliber in my corner makes me a very confident athlete.
Debrief with Jesse
That’s it for now! First race of the season in the books. Definitely not a bad place to start. Now, it’s time for some run training, some more Florida sun and then I’m jetting off to 70.3 Brazil for the Latin American Championship in Brasilia.
Looking forward to whatever 2015 brings.
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