Photo credit: Ken Anderson Photography

Article by Lorne White (Courtesy of KelownaNow.com)

Sept 28, 2016

Battling back from 19th place after the swim portion of the race, Kelowna’s Malindi Elmore earned a podium finish at the Augusta 70.3 Ironman on Sunday.

Competing in her 10th half Ironman, the 36-year-old reeled in the field during the 90-kilometre bike and the 21.1 km run to finish in second place among the professional women in a time of 4:20:06. The only female competitor ahead of her was Denmark’s veteran Helle Frederiksen, who completed her comeback from a year-long knee injury to post a winning time of 4:10.45.

“It was a solid race, and although I would have been happy to get my first pro win, my goal was a top three finish,” said Elmore. “In the end I was pleased and happy that I kept working hard despite some tough moments of suffering and doubt during the latter parts of the run.”

Elmore got off to a relatively slow start in the Savannah River — a down-current, non-wetsuit course of 1.9 km — coming out of the water four minutes behind the main pack and six minutes in back of the leaders.

Riding strongly through the rural rolling hills of South Carolina (the bike course crosses the Savannah from Georgia), Elmore passed about 15 triathletes to come off the bike in fifth place.

“I rode hard and strong and was glad to have some targets ahead to play off of,” recalled Elmore. “I always know I have hard work ahead of me on the run, so to get into the second transition in fifth place put me in a good spot.”

The Canadian Olympian (1,500 metres/2004 Athens) admitted she didn’t “feel spectacular” on the run and tried only to manage the heat (mid-30s with high humidity and 48 degrees off the pavement) and to keep her thoughts and emotions in check.

“I was working hard, but not running as fast as I had planned,” she said. “With a few miles to go, I was starting to suffer and as trying to stay strong and keep my legs turning over while staying relaxed — and of course cooling off when I could at the aid stations.”

With two miles to go, Elmore said she saw an athlete (third place finisher Jeanni Seymour) coming from behind and gaining quickly. She said she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to hold off Seymour for the remainder of the race.

“Generally, I’m confident in my running ability and believe I can cover other runners’ moves, but I started to really hurt. I was expecting her to pull up beside me in the final stretch, and the information I was receiving from spectators was that she was moving up fast.”

Elmore, a Kelowna Secondary School graduate and five-time All-American at Stanford University, tried to channel her past track days.

“With about 400 metres to go I attempted a quasi-sprint finish to prevent her from sprinting by me in the way I love to do to others.

“I’m pretty sure it was one of my uglier finishes, but I was glad to get to the line 17 seconds ahead of Jeanni.”

For Elmore, it was her second runner-up finish in a 70.3, having placed second in Victoria in June. She started the season with a ninth place in Oceanside, Calif., and was third in Coeur d’Alene and third in Calgary. It was her eighth 70.3 event since turning pro in the summer of 2015.

One of the reasons for choosing the Augusta event (3,500 participants) was to gain points toward qualifying for the 70.3 world championships in Chattanooga in 2017.

“I’m finally feeling like I have some experiences now so I know what to expect,” Elmore said. “The first handful of races are such intense learning experiences. I’m sure I have lots of new experiences ahead of me, but generally, I’m feeling better about my approach and execution of the races. The strategy and tactics are very different than racing on the track.”

Elmore’s next race is her first full Ironman in Arizona in November. She said her longer-term goals include being a consistent podium finisher and to be competitive in each race.

“ I would like to find a few more minutes in my race — maybe through swim improvements — to be at a high level next fall for the world (70.3) championships.

“Depending on the Ironman experience in Arizona, maybe a trip to the Big Island (Kona, Hawaii) for the Ironman World Championships (October of 2017) is in my future. Otherwise, my goals are intrinsic and personal: enjoy the process of training and try to get the most out of myself in races, and to be grateful for another opportunity to pursue competitive sports.

“I also feel motivated to support other people in their quest to achieve their goals and be their best.”

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