While the team of Heather and Trevor Wurtele showed their formidable bike handling skills and strength on the demanding course and fierce Icelandic elements, Jeanni Seymour and boyfriend Justin Metzler proved their ability to run down the competition to earn top spots on the podium for the day.
On race day, The Bay of Whales, a stunning long fjord where Challenge Iceland takes place, served up some truly Viking-esque conditions with high winds and 50F water temperatures. Opting only for a warm up jog before plunging into the frigid glacier fed waters for the race start Seymour said, “even with this strategy I found myself with frozen fingers and gasping for air as the cold restricted my breathing”. The point to point swim course, modified due to choppy water, had a strong wind assisted current making it more difficult to open a gap on the field but Seymour was able to lead the swim and said, “I still came out of the water first but with three other girls on my feet, including race favorite and defending champion Heather Wurtlele.”
Gusty winds and challenging terrain played into the hands of talented cyclist, Heather Wurtele. Seymour, who is of South African descent, took her time bundling up with socks, arm warmers and gloves, knowing it would be critical to try to keep warm when she set out on the bike in an effort to minimize the deficit to Wurtele. Her first year at the Challenge race, Seymour described the challenge of the bike leg stating “The bike course in Iceland is one of the most honest, challenging courses I have ever done but high, gusting winds made it even tougher. It made it nearly impossible to stay in the aerobars and on some of the descents my focus quickly shifted from going fast to simply staying on the road. As one of the best riders in the sport, I knew Heather would put some time into me on the bike”.
Wurtele’s impressive race best ride saw her start the run with a 4:47 advantage on Seymour who has a history of running down competitors from behind for the win. Determined, Seymour ran as hard as she could, although unsure if it would be enough. “I was able to see Heather multiple times on the course which motived me as I continued to close the gap. Despite my efforts, as we approached the final km’s I was beginning to think I had run out of real estate. But I have learned that anything can happen in this sport so I continued to fight to the finish line. I dug deep and was sprinting all out in the final 1000m to catch and pass Heather with 500m to go, taking the win and leaving absolutely everything out there on course.”
Crossing the Challenge Iceland finish line with a mere 20 seconds separating first and second place, Seymour said “I came to Iceland for an epic experience and to test my fitness in my build up to the later season championship events. It was also perfect timing in my 70.3 World’s preparation, where I look to be at my max form for the year, and a great opportunity to mix it up with a world class athlete like Heather Wurtele. But without a doubt, the highlight of the trip was sharing a win and the top step of the podium with my boyfriend Justin Metzler.”
“I am grateful for the places this sport has taken me and the people I get to meet along the way. The memories I made here in Iceland will be cherished forever.”
In the men’s race, eventual 3rd place finisher, Jesper Svensson had a minute lead out of the water ahead of First Endurance triathletes Kevin Collington and Justin Metzler, followed a minute further back by Trevor Wurtele.
While Svensson led the field on the bike, Metzler and Collington road together in the 30-40 mph crosswinds until Collington was blown off his bike into a ditch, ultimately okay but unable to finish. Riding carefully in an attempt to remain on the road, Metzler was caught around the half way point by the strong riding of First Endurance’s Jordan Rapp and Trevor Wurtele who proved his strength in the wind on the hilly course with a race best bike split.
Svensson started the run 33 seconds up on Wurtele, 59 seconds ahead of Metzler and a further 30 seconds on Rapp. Detailing the showdown on the run, Metzler said “I passed Svensson within the first 5km of the run but Trevor and I seemed to be running nearly identical paces, with Trevor about 200m up the road. I would reel him in a little bit and then he would extend his lead back out. We played this cat and mouse game for nearly 15k of the run and there were multiple times where I thought the win was his. But I never gave up and pushed all the way through this race. Around the 18km mark, I was able to pick up the pace as Trevor faded a bit.”
Metzler crossed the line with 2:24 to spare on Wurtele, earning his first half distance professional victory and said “On Sunday at Challenge Iceland, it all came together – this is a moment and feeling I will never forget” and also echoed the sentiments of his girlfriend Seymour expressing “We invest everything we have in the pursuit of excellence and to see all of that sacrifice, work and dedication pay off for both of us is very rewarding”.
Challenge Iceland Triathlon
July 23rd, 2017
1 Jeanni Seymour 4:18:02
2 Heather Wurtele 4:18:22
3 Sarissa de Vries 4:37:03
4 Meredith Hill 4:40:21
5 Santimaria Margie 4:41:17
1 Justin Metzler 3:56:21
2 Trevor Wurtele 3:58:45
3 Jesper Svensson 3:59:25
4 Jordan Rapp 4:02:10
5 Hannes Cool 4:07:38
**Photo Credits: Arnold Bjornsson/Challenge Iceland