Valley triathlete wins age group at Ironman Canada |

Valley triathlete wins age group at Ironman Canada

Sandra Wendel of Minden celebrates her age group gold medal performance at the Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August.

Even a fall late in the race came as only a minor setback last Sunday for Gardnerville triathlete Sandy Wendel on her way to winning the women's 60-64 age group at the Subaru Ironman Canada in Whistler, B.C.

Wendel got back up after she fell in the final eight miles of the marathon run and went on to cross the finish line in an overall time of 13 hours, 22 minutes and 37 seconds over the 140.6-mile route.

She finished more than one hour ahead of her closest age group competitor and 797th overall in a race that attracted an international field of nearly 2,000 entrants.

Not bad considering Wendel wasn't sure what to expect coming into this race, even after winning her age group at the Ironman Mont-Tremblant in Quebec last August, followed by a fifth-place effort at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in October.

"I was thinking, 'I've been so blessed, I'm due for a flop;' I know a lot can happen out there, but it didn't happen," said Wendel, whose overall time was within two minutes of her two Ironman races in 2013.

Well, there was that spill on a gravel road during the marathon.

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"I think that was a case of tiredness," she said. "My toe caught on something and I just fell straight forward. I scraped up my hands, shins and arms, but I didn't feel injured. And some nice people were there to give me water, so I just washed up and said, 'I'm outta here.' I do a lot of trail running here and I think that has made me tougher, but I feel super lucky I wasn't injured. It didn't slow me down more than a couple of minutes."

Wendel completed the 2.4-mile swim in 1:25:25, then clocked a time of 6:55:40 on the 112-mile cycling leg to take a lead of nearly 12 minutes. She ran 4:53:27 over the double-loop 26.2-mile marathon route.

Wendel's performance at Whistler was significant considering the cycling course challenged participants with approximately 6,000 feet of vertical climbing.

"This one had the most climbing," she said, comparing her previous Ironman races. "But I feel like my training and experience have made me stronger."

Wendel will join fellow Gardnerville triathlete, Lesley Tuggle, to compete at the 70.3-mile Ironman World Championships Sept. 7 in Quebec and the 140.6-mile Ironman in Kailua-Kona on Oct. 11.

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