It wasn’t until she’d reached that ubiquitous black carpet that Jeanni Metzler’s emotions changed, washing across her face.
Just moments prior—and for the hours leading up to that finishing straight—Metzler’s facade was the equivalent Fort Knox: unchanging, locked down, impenetrable.
Now, she went from hardened, to exultation as she reached across to high-five the fans, a huge smile spreading across her face. And in just two more steps, it changed yet again—a wave of emotion washed over her. Brow furrowed, she saw her mom who had flown over from South Africa just days prior, after not seeing one another for over two years, and the fact that she was there for one of the biggest moments of her pro triathlon career.
She thought of her proud husband, Justin, who, also a pro, had his hopes to race alongside her dashed when he got sick. Home in Boulder, Justin screamed at his computer while watching the race livestream, thrilled at what was happening. In that instant for Jeanni, the tears started coming.
She had just becomes second-best in the world.
Saturday’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships was a long time coming… literally. After it (and all events) were paused in 2020, and Kona 2021 was scuttled, hope sprung eternal that we’d get in the first World Championship IRONMAN event in two years. Happily, the desert town of St. George, Utah was capable of hosting a COVID-safe event. For pros and legions of race-hungry age groupers, it was on.
Race week promised plenty of heat. With temps in the 90s (°F) all week, everyone worried about hydration. As it turned out, athletes would be hydrated, all right. While race morning at Sand Hollow Reservoir was pleasantly warm as athletes took on one of the most scenic 1.2-mile swims of their lives, the weather changed on the bike as a storm system blew in from the south like a black wall. Sideways rain, hail, distant thunder and massive wind gusts had athletes fighting a battle as they were soaked to the bone by the downpour.
The pros were off first, and after the swim, the Boulder, Colorado-based, South African-raised Metzler dashed out of the warm reservoir waters and in fourth place, boarded her PRsix2 bike and began her attack. With total control, Metzler coolly stayed on the power through the relatively benign first half, awaiting the thrilling climb up one of the most scenic sections of any ride course: Snow Canyon. With red rock spires rising up to 5,000 feet into the sky, it’s akin to riding on Mars…compounded by over 1,000 feet of climbing from bottom to top.
Metzler exited ahead of several big names including former 70.3 World Champ Holly Lawrence and defending race champion Daniela Ryf. She was in the hunt. Throughout the bike, she pushed pace aboard her PRsix2, battling American Olympic wunderkind Taylor Knibb and the British duo of Emma Pallant-Browne and Kat Matthews.
With race leader Lucy Charles-Barclay eight minutes up the road, the trio of key chasers entered T2 within seconds of one another, with the ITU transition-practiced Knibb and Matthews each dashing out ahead of Metzler, who was dealing with a charging Pallant-Browne. Fourth place wasn’t going to be acceptable.
It was Metzler whose steady, strong effort in the pouring rain on the run would help propel her. She was able to un-hook the dogged Pallant-Browne first, then reeled in Matthews. It was a pit stop on Knibb’s behalf—and Metzler’s sneaking past—that vaulted Metzler into second place.
With just two miles to go, and Knibb just seconds behind, Metzler wasn’t going to relinquish the position. With focus on her face, she pushed hard down into town, past the brass M-Dot and toward the finish, finally letting the emotion of her accomplishment—second in the world— envelop her. It was the breakthrough performance she’d long waited for.
“What an incredible day. I was able to make my way to second with only a few miles to go,” she says. “I was chasing all day. I love this race, and can’t wait to come back!”
The remainder of the field of qualified age group athletes, including many from QR-supported Team Zoot, QT2 team, Base Performance and others, soldiered in to collect a well earned finisher’s medal. Congrats to our athletes, and to all finishers!
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