A couple of years ago we celebrated Tamara Jewett’s 1:13:08 half-marathon split at Ironman 70.3 Augusta as the fastest ever run over that distance. In fact, we probably jumped the gun on that statement as, about a year earlier, Anne Haug had scorched through a 1:12:30 split at TriGames Mandelieu. While it still might not be the fastest run split ever recorded in a half-distance triathlon, on Saturday Jewett flew to an impressive 1:13:00 split as she took Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, cementing her spot as one of the fastest runners our sport has ever seen. What the race really did, though, was send a clear message to triathlon fans around the world: Jewett’s swimming and biking have improved dramatically, and she’s running faster than ever.
Considering the field featured some of the world’s top half-distance triathletes, the win in California is without a doubt the biggest win of her triathlon career – “not one of my typical ‘just a few seconds short on the run’” races, a happy Jewett told us after her win.
Jewett, a former member of Canada’s national running team, has long been renowned as one of the sport’s premier runners. Her incredible running talent has netted her 70.3 wins, but also a number of runner-up and podium finishes where the women ahead of her into T2 were able to hold her off on the run.
The win in Oceanside, though, is a sign that the days of Jewett starting the run many minutes behind the leaders could be over. Jewett came out of the water with the first chase group (Great Britain’s Holly Lawrence surged ahead of the pack to finish the swim 1:30 ahead), hitting T1 with the likes of Ironman world champion Chelsea Sodaro, Sub8 champ Kat Matthews and Canadian star Paula Findlay, the runner-up at last year’s 70.3 world championships.
“I have been making dramatic changes to my swim form over the last two years,”.Jewett said, when asked what she would attribute the breakthrough swim to. “Learning a new technique has taken some time, but now it’s starting to show up as a stronger swim. Even off the swim start, I got myself into a better position.”
The breakthrough day continued on the bike, as Jewett stayed with that lead group as they steadily worked their way up to Lawrence. Over the last third of the ride Jewett found herself in a position she’s not enjoyed before – riding with the lead group, but that also led to some issues. As the five women started to catch some of the pro men ahead of them, things got congested out on the course and Jewett was given a 30-second blocking penalty.
“The challenging part in terms of race dynamics was going up the climbs in Camp Pendleton,” Jewett said of the new experience. But, even with the penalty, Jewett knew that she had entered a new level of racing. “I was able to focus on racing people rather than time trialing.”
Even after serving her penalty, Jewett hit the run course less than 90 seconds behind some of the sport’s premier half-distance athletes. Sodaro, a former collegiate running star herself, would post a 1:15 run split, normally enough to win most races, but not nearly enough to hold off the fast-running Jewett, who ran a blazing 1:13:00 half marathon to take the win.
The win can certainly be attributed to her improved bike split, too.
“We’ve been developing more strength and power,” Jewett said. “I was able to put in lots of strength work over the summer. I’m more confident with my bike handling, and just more confident on the bike.”
Last fall Jewett stopped working at law firm Torys LLP, which has given her the opportunity to prioritize her day around training, which has also helped with her development and progression on the swim and bike.
Jewett and coach Suzanne Zelazo (Miguel Vadillo is her swim coach, while Ethan Davenport works with her on the run) decided that the main focus for this year would be the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Lahti, Finland in August. As she gears up for that event, she’ll compete at the Professional Triathletes Organisation European Open (Ibiza) and US Open. She’ll also be back at the 70.3 race in Tremblant in June, looking to defend her title there.
Jewett will arrive at those races with a new target on her back – her improved swim and bike talents, coupled with that stellar run, make her a real threat to take the win no matter where she’s racing. Holding off the sport’s fastest runner was never an easy task. Now it looks like it will be a lot harder.