Ironwoman Wendel still going strong
Sandra Wendel can still be called an ironwoman. And the Carson Valley triathlete is showing no signs of slowing down after winning her women’s 65-69 age group on June 10 at the fifth annual Boulder Ironman in Boulder, Colo.
Wendel completed the 140.6-mile swim, bike and run in a time of 14 hours, 15 minutes and 19 seconds to finish 658th overall in a field of 1,486 athletes.
The number that mattered most, though, was taking first-place in her age group to earn a qualifying berth for the 42nd Ironman World Championship on Oct. 13 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This will mark her third trip to the world championships.
“I feel like I’m getting smarter,” Wendel said. “It’s experience and knowing how to handle the heat and being able to engage in whatever happens in the race.”
Elements definitely came into play at Boulder on a course that started with a 2.4-mile swim at Boulder Reservoir, followed by a double-loop 112-mile bike ride that featured 3,936 feet of elevation gain and a double-loop 26.2-mile run.
Wendel logged times of 1:29:28 for the swim, 6:40:33 for the cycling leg and 5:51:40 for the run.
Adding to the challenge of the race were winds that were forecast to exceed 20 mph and temperatures in the mid-90s at Boulder’s 5,200-foot elevation. Even under the best of conditions, anything can happen 1n a 140.6-mile ironman, Wendel added.
“It was hot during the bike, but I actually had a PR for an ironman,” she said. “It was so hot — at one point, my bike registered 90 degrees — I had to make five stops and I even stopped once to take my socks off. I decided I wanted to be smart under those conditions. If you don’t pay attention to their hydration on a day like that, you’re not going to recover.”
Don’t forget, there was still a marathon to run at the end of that bike ride.
“The run was hard for everybody. By the time we got to the run, it was the hottest time of day … I actually walked a lot.”
“Under those conditions, I was just trying to pace myself. Of the six women in my age group, only two of us finished.”
She won with room to spare, as the women’s 65-69 runner-up finished nearly two hours behind.
Wendel has enjoyed a number of triathlon successes in years past. In 2017, she won her age group at the Lake Tahoe Triathlon, plus she placed third in her age group at Lake Placid on July 23 and seventh at the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Half-Triathlon on May 21.
In 2014, she won the women’s 60-64 age group at the Subaru Ironman Canada in Whistler, B.C. And in 2013, she won her age group at the Ironman Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, then placed fifth in her first trip to the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
Wendel admitted her result at Boulder came as a pleasant surprise.
“I was sick most of the month of May,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, I’ve waited all year for it, I just want to be healthy enough to do it.’ You never know how you’re going to do.”