Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2018

It all started a year ago when I podiumed at Santa Cruz 70.3. Right after awards, we had a decision to make. Should we take the spot to go to South Africa or not. I say “we” because this is a decision that my wife, Christelle, and I had to make together. South Africa is not an easy place to get to and if we took the spot, it would be our big trip of the year. It didn’t take much time for her to decide, she really wanted to go, so when they called my name, I immediately raced my hand, and said YES! The trip felt so far out that I really didn’t think about it until after my crash in April.

Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3 2017
All I wanted was to make sure I could recover from my surgery to be able to compete. I will probably also write a little about my crash and road to recovery, so stay tuned for that if you’d like to know more. Fast forward to Boulder 70.3, which took place on August 4th just 4 weeks before South Africa. Long story short, it didn’t go well, I had my first DNF (did not finish). My DNF happened after a bad stomach bug that I got over on Friday before the race. My body was so depleted from the illness that it crashed during the bike and after a while in the medical tent, I was pulled from the race. After Boulder I wasn’t feeling very confident, my training had been showing a lot of progress, but it had been almost 1 year since my last race and the during my first race of the year, I DNF. I was afraid that I would experience the same feeling I had at Boulder, of barely being able to make it back to T2. On top of that, it’s Worlds, so you know you’ll be racing against speedy people. As you can probably tell 2018 has been a tough year in terms of racing and training consistently for me. I’ve had more colds, stomach issues and crashes than all 5 years before combined. It has been very frustrating. All I wanted was that my luck would turn for South Africa.

Getting to Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth)

The race took place in Port Elizabeth, which is a beautiful place but it’s not easy to get to. We found a flight that went from Denver to Johannesburg with a 12-hour layover in Munich and then 1 more flight to Port Elizabeth. We left Denver at 4 pm on Tuesday, August 28th, and landed in Port Elizabeth at 4 pm on Thursday, August 30th, which is 40 hours of travel as South Africa is 8 hours ahead of Denver Time.
During the 12 hour layover in Munich, we decided to go visit the city. It was a beautiful warm day. We took the train to Marienplatz and then just walked around until the girls were so tired from the lack of sleep that we decided to take the train back to the airport to just hang out at the lounge, take a nap and be ready for our next 10-hour flight. (clicking on any of the pictures below will give you a slideshow)
When we landed in Johannesburg, we had to clear customs as the first port of entry to the country. When we went to check in to our connecting flight to Port Elizabeth, the agent told us it was oversold by 20. Since we were in the air during the “check-in” time, we were some of the last ones to check in and were bumped to the next flight. I knew this was going to be bad, I just didn’t realize how bad it was until we landed in Port Elizabeth 4 hours after our original flight. The only luggage I saw coming out of the plane were bikes. Only a handful of bags made it to the conveyor belt. What the airlines told us was that all South African airlines “had no idea” of the number of bikes that were going to be transferred during that 2-3 day period. Therefore the planes didn’t have enough space for both bags and bikes. I wasn’t worried my bike wouldn’t make it, I had shipped my bike with Tribike Transport. The only reason was that we were going to travel for 2 more weeks after the race, which would have made it impossible for us to travel with the bike. I knew my bike would be waiting for me, but none of our 6 bags made it. Even if I had my bike, I didn’t have anything to ride with, helmet, shoes, kit, everything was in the suitcases. After every flight, this was the scene at the baggage claim area at the Port Elizabeth Airport.
That day was not all bad though. When we arrived at our hotel, I was in the process of checking in, exhausted, cranky and not really paying attention. I heard the girls speaking in Spanish and exited, and I was like: “Who do they know here that they are that excited?”. Well, it was my parents, they had come to surprise us all the way from Kentucky. It was such a fantastic surprise and it really just made the end of the day a lot better.
We had to wait until 2 pm the next day to receive our bags. Apparently, they sent a 747 to make sure that all the bags and bikes could fit in the plane. ***Side note, we traveled with 6 bags because 4 of them were full of clothes and toys that we gave to schools in South Africa and Lesotho, we are not that crazy to travel with 6 bags 😉 *** The picture below shows the excitement of the girls and ours as we had been waiting and stressing out that our bags wouldn’t make it. The moral of the story. If you are traveling to a race, make sure you have the essentials with you in your carry on bag. I will never make that mistake again.
As soon as I got my bags, we immediately returned to the hotel, and I went for a swim and bike ride. Everyone had been saying that the water was freezing. I got in, and it did feel a little cold, but after clearing the waves, it just felt perfect. I swam about 1500 meters and was ready to ride.

Saturday (Women's race, day before my race)

Ironman started to separate the women and men’s races in Chattanooga in 2017. Saturday all the women race and Sunday is for the men. After sleeping in on Saturday, I went for a quick run, it felt terrific to shake out the legs after all the travel and stress. During my run, I ran into an Instagram friend, Tobi Lochner. We had been trying to schedule a place and time to meet, but because of all the issues with the bags, we still had not come up with a place or time. As I was setting up my camera for this shot below, guess who ran past me? Tobi, such a great guy, we talked for about 5 minutes, and he continued with his run, I took my picture and went back to the hotel. I’ve met so many amazing people in IG, I’m glad I was able to spend a little time with him before my race.

Since I slept in I didn’t get to watch the women swimming, not from up close at least, I could see them for very far out from my bedroom window though. The bike course is completely closed, so spectating on the bike course is not really an option. It was a lot of fun watching the women, mostly during the run.

Below you can see some pictures of the women that not only I was cheering for, but also that did an amazing job during a pretty hot run. Ok, just a quick shout out to the six of them. From left to right top to bottom: Ana Valeria Prado, from Guatemala, fun fact, I went to the Austrian School and she went to the German School in Guatemala. We’ve known each other for a very long time and we just now reconnected, through Instagram. She is a fellow Guatemalan in South Africa. Heidi Hattenberg, we didn’t know each other before this picture, we had also connected through Instagram through a mutual friend that lives in Louisville, KY. I swam with him at Lakeside, and he coached her years later. He found out that we both were going to be racing and made the connection. Flaca Guerrero, I don’t think I need to introduce her, I think she is the most instafamous person I know. I first met her in Austria for World Championships there, she needed a pump, and I happened to have one. I recognized her from her account, and we introduced each other. Flor Fraga, we also met in Austria, at Zell Am See, she is an amazing Argentinian triathlete, who lives in Panama. Christina Ekonomi, this is the second time we meet each other, the first time was at Santa Cruz 70.3, I just happened to see her walking by and introduced myself, we followed each other in Instagram also. Kimberly Von During is also another person I follow on IG, what is funny is that we know so many of the same people, we had just never met. We still have not really “met” other than this quick interaction while I was cheering and taking bad pictures simultaneously. Cheering for all these women, really got me excited to race the next day. 

(clicking on any of the pictures below will give you a slideshow)

After the race I took a nap, got everything ready and went to drop off my bike and transition bags. T1 and T2 were at different places, so I dropped off my run bag first, which I couldn’t access race morning and then rode my bike to T1. 

It was such a gorgeous day, but we all knew that Sunday wouldn’t be like that. Rain and cloud cover was announced the entire day, so I really took it in and enjoyed the sun.

Race Morning

Having my parents in town was a huge help, as we had the girls stay with them the night before the race. That makes it easy in the morning as we can just roll out of bed, get dressed, eat and head out. After going to T1 and getting my nutrition on the bike, putting my bike shoes in the bag (I remembered this time) and making all the final checks, we walked to the swim start. On our way there we saw Jan Frodeno, he had his wetsuit on already and was ready to go. I wished him luck, and at that point, he still wasn’t in his “do not disturb mode” on, he smiled and said thanks. One of the things I LOVED about this race was the porta-potties. Not only did they have 1 person directing traffic, but they also made sure that the toilet had been flushed, by that person, before the next athlete would go in. Yes, you read correctly, they had a flush, so you didn’t see or smell the inside as soon as you walked in. It was such a pleasant surprise to have this during a race, it felt so luxurious.
When we made it to the beach people were allowed to warm up, but they stopped it quickly after, about 30 minutes before race start, they took everyone out of the water. I was kinda glad I hadn’t gotten in as at that point we were still about 1 hour from our race to start. The pro men started at 7:30 am, and my wave didn’t start until 8:03 am. At Worlds they always introduce the top 10 pros which is pretty cool, we get to hear all of that. I was already in my corral which meant that I didn’t get to watch them. I wanted to start at the front, which meant that I needed to be in line from the very beginning. The time in the corral went very quickly though, I had Eduardo Della Maggiora with me. He is a very fast Chilean triathlete, who trains and lives in Boulder for part of the year. He is also the founder and CEO of this amazing company called Burn to Give. Every calorie you burn and upload helps feed children in need.

The Swim

Once the pros started, then they sent the 40-44 age group, then the 70 plus and we would go after them. Once it was our turn we lined up in starting cages, they let 10 athletes go every 10 seconds. I was able to get in the second wave, with Eduardo. The starting cages are fantastic, it’s the closest we get to “racing” nowadays. With the ridiculous staggered start, you never race against anyone but yourself. I really liked this as it meant that we would have a running start into the ocean. As soon as the first wave started, I could hear the beep every second until they let us go. I started running, but as soon as I noticed the other 9 guys were sprinting, I sprinted also.
As I got to the water, I jumped a couple of waves and then dove underneath another wave, when I came out I saw 3 guys around me. A couple of strokes looked up and drove underneath another wave, when I came out, this time I could see most of the 10 guys that had started in the first wave. Couple of more strokes and went underneath the last wave when I came out I was on someone’s feet. I tried not to touch his feet, so I did a couple of short strokes and swam around him. I could see the leaders, they were about 5 meters in front. It looked like they were hitting each other and fighting but all I wanted was to get on their draft, so I tried to swim harder, but it seemed the harder I swam the further away from me they got. I didn’t want to burn too many matches, so I settled into my pace. I didn’t have anyone around me though, it felt lonely and weird. The last Worlds I did, in Zell Am See, Austria, I almost drowned, there were so many people on top and around me, for the whole swim. This time though, nothing. The water was calm, it was cloudy so visibility was excellent and I felt like the water was pretty clean. I could see my hand clearly when entering the water. What I liked the most though, was the temperature. It was just perfect, I think the announcer said 64 degrees Fahrenheit. About 200 meters before the first turn buoy one guy passed me, he was kicking like I kick for a 25 all out. This is my chance to catch the other group, I thought. I lasted about 15 seconds on his feet and lost him, he was swimming so fast. I noticed he caught up to the other group right after we made our first turn. They were right there and all of a sudden, they were gone. I started catching up to the age group that left 10 minutes before us, and I could still see splashing, but I didn’t know if it was them or just swimmers from the previous age group. I was all alone and remained that way for the rest of the swim. About 400 meters before the swim exit I started catching guys from the 40-44 age group, who had left 20 minutes before us. This was when I began to have to sight more just to make sure I didn’t swim into any of them. The swim at 70.3 Boulder had felt eternal, here though, it felt a little quick. I wanted to keep swimming.

I came out of the water, ran towards T1, saw my parents, Emma and Sophie, said hi to them and made it to my T1 bag. I ended up swimming 24:52, good enough for 5th out of the water in my AG. The volunteers at T1 helped me get my stuff out of my bag and the swim stuff that I was left behind in the bag, this was so nice. Grabbed my bike and headed out.

The Bike

The bike was pretty uneventful, which is fantastic. I did see Christelle as I came out of T1, I never hear her or see her, but somehow this time I even saw her, turned and smiled at her. Below you can see the proof. The picture on the left is from Christelle, and on the right of the photographer. You can actually see Christelle’s leg and arm on the image on the right as she is taking the picture on the left.
The first 10 km, I knew the bike course was pretty much uphill. I had to things in mind, the first one I just wanted to make sure I could see something out of my fogged up visor. Didn’t want to crash, during the whole ride, but especially at the beginning. The second one, do not ride too hard in the beginning. I was in the middle of the 40-45 age group, and they were pushing very hard. I kept my watts as planned. I am always shocked when I race. If I push the hills, I’ll burn too many matches, but I see so many people pushing hard on the hills and then backing off on the flat parts or downhills. I got passed by maybe 5 guys during this part, but I passed all except one as soon as it got flat and never saw them again. The guy that I didn’t catch looked younger than the other and fast, I’m sure he was in my age group.
The ride was humid, and it rained at parts when I got the most water on me though was when I was passing people. I was getting sprayed by the tires from the other bikes. I had driven most of the course the previous day, and my coach had told me that the turn around was not half way. It was a little shorter, so I knew that when I started heading back, I would still have more than half the course still to go. The back end of the course was very hilly though. I don’t think the elevation map was quite correct as I felt like we climbed a lot more than it showed. The downhills were a lot of fun though, I spent them mostly passing people. On the way back I just tried to get as aero as possible as the wind had picked up. I kept trying to do the math in my head and even though I felt I was riding strong I was riding slower than I had expected. I think the elevation and just how dense the air was, made it a little slower course than I had expected. The road conditions were also not great, it’s definitely not smooth pavement. Once I got back to the hotels’ area, I knew I was close, by this time I was still feeling strong but I just wanted to be off my bike. Made it to T2, grabbed my bag and headed to the changing area. The volunteers here were not helpful this time, they just watched. I was so wet from the rainy conditions, I changed my socks. I knew it was going to rain, so I put my hat on and ran out.

I ended up biking a 2:25, which was still top 20 on the bike. I was pretty happy with that but take a look at the difference between the elevation change from Ironman and the actual elevation change map that I got from my Garmin. It says that it’s only 2100 feet of gain, but it was closer to 2500. It was a pretty technical course, with speed bumps and steep hills with turns. 

The Run

My legs felt surprisingly good as soon as I started running. Looked down at my watch and was running 6:15 min/mile…way to fast, slow down Conrad, I told myself. I saw my parents and the girls as I was coming out of T2, I could hear my dad from a mile out. Waved at them and started to really run. I was feeling pretty good, but it’s incredible how many people were passing me running much faster. I kept looking down at my watch to make sure that I was holding my planned pace. Also when I got to the mile markers, I was calculating to see if my watch was accurate. It was, these guys were merely much better runners. Pretty amazing to see actually. The run was relatively flat, except for the 2 turns they were uphill, which got me out of my rhythm but the downhills felt terrific on my legs. It was weird, I know it was cold, and it was raining, but to me, the run felt hot, I guess because of the humidity. I always grabbed a sponge with cold water, and each time it felt so refreshing. I saw my family 4 times on the run, which was awesome. The volunteers were so good, I never felt like I missed anything I needed. I always grabbed a bag of water and some ISO. The plastic bag of water is incredible, you can see me holding one in the picture on the right. I know it’s not great for the environment but for the race is absolutely amazing. When you grab it, it’s cold, you don’t have to drink it right there, you can carry it for a little bit and drink it little by little.

Instead of having to chug a half filled cup. I wanted to negative split the run and I was feeling pretty good so I started to push a little at around mile 8. A little too early and I ended up paying for the push on the last uphill. I took a deep breath and relaxed as much as I could on the way down. As I came to the last aid station I grabbed 2 sponges and drenched myself in water and decided just to push the last kilometer as fast as I could. As I was getting to the split between the second lap or to the finish, I went around this one guy who said that I was looking strong, I felt like my wheels were coming off and I was just trying to make it to the finish line, but it was nice to hear.

As I was coming down the finishing chute, I saw my mom holding the Guatemalan flag out, I grabbed it and started waving it as I was about to cross the finish line. As I crossed it, I looked down at my watch and saw 4:26. A little slower than I had hoped for but was so happy that I never got the feeling I had at Boulder. I had a perfect race, in terms of execution, so I couldn’t complain. Saw my family, gave them a big hug and went straight to the massage tent. My legs were so tight and I started to cramp on the table. I’m so glad I spent those 10 minutes there, it would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t.
It’s clear that running is still my weakest sport, I ran a 1:29 which put my 40th overall. I am looking forward to trying to figure out how I can become a better runner so I can be a more rounded triathlete.

Final Thoughts

Traveling to South Africa for the World Championships was an incredible experience. The race, city, and people were amazing. I think what made our trip even better though was being able to spend an extra 2 weeks visiting a little more of this beautiful country. This year has been very tough for me physically, mentally and emotionally, with my broken clavicle, many viruses, even as I write this I am recovering from a virus that kept me in bed for 48 hours. I would not have been able to come back to where I was a year ago without the help and support from some extraordinary people. Starting with my wife and family. After crashing my bike, she was so stressed out that she got shingles, despite that, she has remained the most supportive wife, I could ask for. Secondly my coach, Tim Rea, I started working with him right after Louisville Ironman. We had made some amazing progress, and I think I was ready for an amazing race at St. George 70.3 but it was not to be since then he has kept me in the game, and despite all of the obstacles, I think I am a better triathlete now than when I started working with him. Last but not least I want to thank my team Castelli Triathlon and the great support from Roka Sports, Rudy Project, Newton Running, Garmin, Gatorade Endurance, Perky Jerky and Tritats. Without them, there is no way that I could have made it back. I have a pretty close relationship with all these brands, if you need information about any of the products or a discount for a purchase you’d like to make please reach out to me, either by email at or send me an Instagram message. I’ll be more than happy to hook you up!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nuevamente con gran emoción he vivido cada minuto que pasamos en PE. Estamos súper orgullosos de ti y felices de haber podido presenciar cada instante de la competencia. Dios te ayude a que todos tus anhelos se hagan realidad! A seguir adelante, mi vida, con esa actitud perseverante. Eres un magnífico modelo a imitar para tus hijas. Felicitaciones Campeón!🙏🏼👍🏼👏😍💪🏼

  2. Extraordinario!!!
    Felicitaciones y que Dios te siga ayudando en toda la disciplina tan dura que se debe mantener para mantenerse sin decir para progresar se requiere muchísimo más disciplina; con la ayuda De Dios todo es POSIBLE!!

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