Vernon native Heather Wurtele successfully defended her title at the Ford Ironman St. George Utah race Sunday.
And Wurtele defended the championship in style, setting a new course record of nine hours and 30 minutes.
The pro long-distance triathlete, now based out of Kelowna, finished ahead of Americans Jackie Arendt (10:06:36) and Ulie Bromme (10:10:48).
According to writer Kevin Mackinnon on the race website, Great Britain’s Jodie Swallow, the Ironman 70.3 world champion, was making her Ironman debut in St. George and, just as she did in Clearwater, Fla. last year, led the way through the swim and bike ride in Utah, wile Wurtele’s day seemed to be going awry.
Wurtele was third out of the water and in that position for much of the bike discipline.
Over the closing miles of a challenging bike course, though, Wurtele – who trained in St. George for a month prior to the race, giving her great knowledge of the course – rode herself into second place, closing the gap between herself and Swallow to 5:28.
Swallow would quickly succumb to a lingering foot injury – she was passed within a few miles of the marathon by a surging Wurtele and eventually dropped out of the race at 11 miles.
The rest of the women in the field steadily lost time to Wurtele through the rest of the marathon – her 3:14 marathon got her across the line in 15th overall.
Wurtele is fast being recognized as one of the top long-distance female triathletes in the world. Her husband, Trevor, recently placed ninth in the Pro Elites in Ironman New Orleans, and will next compete in Connecticut in early June.
Three other North Okanagan residents competed in Utah.
Virginia Sellar of Vernon was sixth in her women’s 35-39 age group (204th overall) in a time of 11:16:47.
Vernon’s Simon Craig’s time of 11:35:13 was good for 41st in the men’s 40-44 age category (260th overall), and Coldstream’s Eric Jewell was 433rd overall (73rd in the men’s 30-34 class) in 12:23:16.