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A Winning Recap: Melanie McQuaid’s Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens Race Report


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This year the men’s race saw an epic sprint finish between Terenzo Bozzone and Ben Hoffman that will go down in the record books as one of the closest ever Ironman finishes with only 0.76 seconds separating the two after 3 hours and 55 minutes of racing.  Matty Reed rounded out the top three in the men’s pro race with Jason Sandquist, also from Vancouver Island, earning the top Canadian men’s finish in 14th overall.

In the women’s race, I managed to take the lead from the swim exit and built a lead on the bike that proved out of reach of a hard charging Liz Lyles to break the tape in 4:27.  One of the race-best run splits earned Erin Spitler third place in the women’s event with Liz Noey and Jess Smith rounding out the top five.  This was the second race this season I won wire-to-wire and I have all of my training buddies in Victoria to thank for that!

Lake Stevens is a town near Everett, Washington and is only a short drive from the Canadian border.  For me, this is the closest to a home Ironman venue I get since Victoria 70.3 does not have a professional race.  It is just a short boat ride and a two hour drive across the border to get there which equates to the easiest race travel of the year.  The race venue sports a clear and clean lake, a bike course with a series of choppy hills on relatively technical terrain, and a two lap run course with some rollers- one roller in particular being a kilometer in length.  It is a tough strength course and I believe really reflects the kind of terrain we train on in Victoria, BC.  Add to that no time change, similar weather conditions and one of the best beer stores in the Pacific Northwest-why wouldn’t you go?


Just a tiny fraction of the fridge space in Norm’s Market (in Lake Stevens) for a cornucopia of micro brews.
Just a tiny fraction of the fridge space in Norm’s Market (in Lake Stevens) for a cornucopia of micro brews.


Ben Hoffman and I kicked off the weekend by participating in the Ironkids event on Saturday.  We led a warmup routine before we each were a rabbit for a heat of the Ironkids race- with one or two lap events on the schedule.  Luckily, I was chosen to lead the kids racing the one lap event as trying to keep pace with the leader for one lap proved to be a decent warmup for the next day.  Watching Ben struggle a bit pacing the two lap participants in a pair of jeans was fun.  The passion and enthusiasm for competition in the kids was very inspiring for us getting ready for the Ironman 70.3 the next day, and it is great to see entire families travel to participate in the Ironman and the Ironkids events.

ironkidsThe race day temperatures were perfect for competition with the average on race day around 20 C.  The water was wetsuit legal temperature but very comfortable.  Jess Smith and I led out the womens’ race from the cannon.  We swam side by side for around 400m before I tucked in on her feet.  I could see we were alone by the turn buoy at the far end of the course.  With 300m to go I took the shorter line on the dogleg to sneak onto Jen’s hip and then picked up the pace as best I could into T1 to be first into transition.

The men’s race saw Clayton Fettel set the early pace in the swim to come out with a thirty second advantage going out onto the bike.  Hoffman, Bozzone, Paul Ambrose, Matt Reed and Fettel ended up riding themselves into the podium positions as a group going into T2.

Out onto the bike in the women’s race I rode alone the entire day.  The only time I saw any other riders were when I came upon two of the pro men, one calling it a day and one fixing a flat tire who I believe was Canadian Anthony Toth.  I really enjoy the rolling hills in Lake Stevens and I love riding my Trek Speed Concept with a wide open road in front of me.   The only stress came from a giant buck deer out galloping beside me in the opposite direction on the road- who I kindly asked to stay on his side as I passed.  I spent the day fuelling and planning to have a strong ride but an even stronger run.  That was my pre-Worlds plan, and I knew that I had a great training block for a good run that day.

In the opening eight miles of the run I was racing exactly to plan with my exact dream pace and strong legs beneath me.  I was holding Liz Lyles to less than a minute of time gained and was feeling very strong.

Since the race was two laps with an out and back I could see the Bozzone/Hoffman battle from inches away which was very exciting.  It wasn’t until the final meters that Terenzo opened a micro lead over the finish line in a sprint finish.   Matty Reed had the next best run to take third over Paul Ambrose and Clayton Fettell.

In the closing four miles of the women’s race I cracked a little, opening the door for Liz to come speeding up behind me, although it was too late for her to catch me. Liz has a monster fast run so minimizing the time she took back to me on the run was a great day at the races for me and easily was my best run this season.  She was having a great race, riding very close to my bike split and running a 1:22 half on that very hilly course – her 2nd place in IM Frankfurt was only the start of her great form this year.  Erin Spitler moved her way up through the field on the run to take third.

This was my test race to see how things are progressing into the World Championship in Mont Tremblant three weeks from now.  The main focus will be recovering quickly from this race and then setting up enough of a build to find a good peak for Worlds.  I look forward to getting back into my routine in Victoria quickly but not before our awesome training group in Victoria celebrate Sara Gross’s success in Mont Tremblant.  I really would like to see a Canadian or six on the podium for the elite race at World Champs in three weeks’ time.  Go Canada!

mel little girl