Heather Wurtele has announced that she will not be back on the Ironman 70.3 North American Championships start line this year. The 2016 champion recently suffered a calf strain and says she will not be healed in time to defend her title on May 6th this year.

In an Instagram post on Friday, Wurtele said, “Having to make this decision definitely breaks my heart a bit, not just as the defending champion, but because I love this race and the community so much.”

I've been dealing with a calf strain since I damaged it racing in Oceanside. I wanted to wait until the last minute to see if my injury felt fully healed, and my running back on track enough to race the 70.3 North American Championship here in St. George, but I know that the smart call is to withdraw from this year's race. It is tempting to start, but I would feel too bad if I had to pull out on the run, and toeing the line without feeling ready to give it 100% is not my M.O. (nor am I capable of making good "long term health" decisions once race mode kicks in 😏). Having to make this decision definitely breaks my heart a bit, not just as the defending champion, but because I love this race and the community so much! St. George has been a big part of our lives, since I won the first full Ironman here way back in 2010. The 4 wins and 2 podium finishes in the 6 years I've raced here are proud moments. They are, however, a small part of the sum of our awesome St. George moments. The relationships we've formed, the wonderful experiences we've had, and the brilliant training we've accomplished in the large chunks of time we've spent living the RV life in Utah's Dixie, mean much more than the title "North American 70.3 Champion". Of course, while I am aware of this, my ability to keep perspective waxes and wanes as the roller coaster of injury-recovery rolls along! I'm fortunate to have had very few injury set-backs in my 10 years of pro racing, but I'm still frustrated and super eager to be out there smashing myself among the world's best. I look forward to actually being able to see Trevor's race, and will do my best to take deep breaths, avoid the 'what ifs' and enjoy cheering from the sidelines. Thanks so much to all my sponsors for supporting me throughout all the ups and downs of professional racing and to the great folks at Fit Physical Therapy (the Alter G has been awesome!), and Summit Chiropractic here in St. George for all the great work they've done to help me heal.

A post shared by Trevor and Heather Wurtele (@teamwurtele) on

Wurtele’s injury prevented her from successfully defending her Ironman 70.3 Oceanside title the first weekend of April. She suffered on the run and ended up in third behind winner Holly Lawrence and Ellie Salthouse.

She has a long history with the St. George event, having won the now discontinued full Ironman event in 2010 and landing on the podium several times (plus winning in 2015 and 2016) at the 70.3 event. She will be at this year’s event to support her husband, Trevor, who will try and better his sixth place finish from last year.

See the full Ironman 70.3 St. George start list on Ironman’s website.