Sanders and Wurtele Battle for the Wins at Oceanside 70.3

This to me sums up Oceanside 70.3: Steffen passing Jackson back on a crowded beach path. (Photo: Katherine Kelly Lang)

We don’t need to tell you again that Oceanside 70.3 is very popular and very competitive, right? You’ve already heard?

Still, let me reiterate the point for a second. On the start line this morning was: Andy Potts, Sebastian Kienle, Lionel Sanders, Tim ReedSam AppletonMaik TwelsiekEneko LlanosJesse ThomasMary Beth EllisAlicia KayeCaroline Steffen, Heather JacksonHeather WurteleEmma-Kate Lidbury, and lots and lots and lots of other people who are much faster than you.

While there is virtually a year-round racing season at this point and plenty of these pros have already started 2016 somewhere else in the world, Oceanside is popular because it’s generally considered the start of the North American season, the course is pretty and moderately not slow (depending on the wind), and it’s in California, so everyone thinks it’s going to be all beaches and warm weather the whole time. 

Those people are often sorely surprised to find out it can actually be quite brisk. The swim is, after all, in the Pacific Ocean in early April. After swimming around a cold and at times choppy harbor, racers head out into Camp Pendleton. Spectators aren’t allowed on the military base, so the whole thing can get lonely, empty, and windy (not that the wind has anything to do with spectators). By the time they’re back at the harbor, athletes just have to run twice up and down the beach road as the sun finally comes out and things heat up.

Part of the attraction is also the $60,000 prize purse for the P-750 event. That’s $12,000 for first, $500 for 8th, and a lot of margaritas for 9th.

Wurtele in the Even Years

If you listened to the preview show (and I’m sure you did), then you might have actually been able to win fantasy triathlon with your predictions of who was going to swim fastest. Holly Lawrence and Ellie Salthouse were out in 25:01, and right on their heels was Ellis, Jennifer Spieldenner, and Kaye. Thirty seconds behind them, our own Emily Cocks led the second group of Steffen and Camilla Pedersen. The Heathers — Jackson and Wurtele — had two minutes to make up by the time they were on their bikes.

By a quarter in, Lawrence and Kaye started to pull away from the others. They opened that up in the second half, making a hard effort to get away from the rest of the field. But Wurtele was making a push herself. On the climbs on the backside of the loop, she moved into third, just over a minute behind the leading two. Steffen and Pedersen followed right behind. Ellis and the other Heather (Jackson) were behind that. Suffice it to say, everyone was going hard. Almost like it’s a race with a lot of money on the line.

Wurtele took the lead by T2 with a 2:22:17 bike ride. Lawrence came next right in her wake. They were followed, a minute back, by Kaye, who had 30 seconds on Steffen, who had 30 seconds on Jackson. Understandably, things got fast as they headed out on the run. Wurtele was hoping to hold on to the lead; everyone else was hoping to catch her. Especially Jackson, who passed Steffen for third a bit after a mile in.

The Heather half of Team Wurtele in the lead. (Photo: Brian Comiskey)

The Heather half of Team Wurtele in the lead. (Photo: Brian Comiskey)

Perhaps we should have seen how this was going to end. Jackson, after all, won in 2013 and 2015, while Wurtele won in 2014. Since this was an even year, well…

While Wurtele ran away with the win, Steffen passed Jackson back, just to make things interesting, and then Jackson hung in there as the two battled for third. Lawrence held on to fourth and Salthouse took fifth.

Edit: Salthouse was DQ’d after the finish for exceeding the speed limit in a speed-control zone on a descent in Camp Pendleton, which is enforced by radar signs on all athletes because of a bad accident on that descent a few years ago. I suppose she’d have liked to know that she was DQ’d before running 13 miles, but I suppose she’d have like to not have gotten DQ’d even more.

First place female #pro @teamwurtele Heather Wurtele #IM703Cali

A post shared by Meredith Atwood- Swim Bike Mom (@swimbikemom) on

  1. Heather Wurtele – 4:16:17
  2. Caroline Steffen – 4:17:39
  3. Heather Jackson – 4:18:32
  4. Holly Lawrence – 4:21:41
  5. Ellie Salthouse – 4:22:23
  6. Camilla Pedersen – 4:23:45
  7. Alicia Kaye – 4:25:50
  8. Laura Philipp – 4:26:58


Sanders Runs His Way to the Top

Chris Braden and Potts led the swimmers out of the water in 23:30, which isn’t terribly a surprise. What was a surprise, though, is that they were leading a large 11-person group that included Appleton, Brian Fleischmann, Twelsiek, and Llanos. Joe Gambles and Trevor Wurtele were another 1:30ish behind, and Thomas and Kienle another minute behind that. All that meant things were going to get interesting on the ride.

A group of four formed near the front of the bike: Andreas Dreitz, Reed, (Reed’s protege) Appleton, and Potts. Twelsiek was another 40 seconds or so back from them. And about two minutes behind Twelsiek was the group hoping to make up time: Kienle, Thomas, Sanders (there he is), and Jordan Rapp. It was Dreitz who finally was able to separate himself, as him and Appleton first opened up a gap on the others, and then as he dropped Appleton around 40 miles. Appleton was eventually caught by the others and Dreitz just pulled farther ahead. The only person making any time up on the leader was Kienle, who was moving through the field until he got a flat and fell almost ten minutes behind. 

Dreitz was the first one into T2 after a 2:07:51 ride, with an almost three minute lead on Potts and the giant group with Potts. Sanders had done what Sanders does and used a 2:07:47 ride to pull into third as part of that group, which also included Reed, Appleton, and Twelsiek. Thomas and Wurtele (the male half of Team Wurtele) were about 40 seconds behind that group. Things got fast quickly on the run.

It’s a bit repetitive and difficult to detail all the back and forth and who passed who. Here’s the important point: around 9 miles in, Sanders caught Dreitz to take the lead. Dreitz didn’t want to let go and hung in, though, just 30 seconds back with a mile left. But he couldn’t close it and Sanders crossed the line first in 3:51:17. How fast did he run to do that? 13.1 in 1:11:42. That gave him both the fastest bike and the fastest run of the day. Dreitz followed in 3:51:56, just holding off Reed, who was closing by the end. Potts was next, and then Llanos, Thomas, and Wurtele were all within 40 seconds of each other. Basically, there was about 7 minutes where things got really real at the finish line.

Sanders crosses the finish line first.

Sanders crosses the finish line first.

  1. Lionel Sanders – 3:51:17
  2. Andreas Dreitz – 3:51:56
  3. Tim Reed – 3:52:40
  4. Andy Potts – 3:54:44
  5. Eneko Llanos – 3:56:18
  6. Jesse Thomas – 3:56:44
  7. Trevor Wurtele – 3:57:01
  8. Sam Appleton – 3:57:35

About the Author

Kelly O'Mara
Kelly is a reporter and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She quit triathlon for a few years, because triathletes can be annoying, but now she's back into it and only hanging out with the non-annoying triathletes. She blogs about stuff at Sunny Running.