Oceanside 70.3 has long been considered the North American long course season opener. Early April in Southern California draws a deep enough field, but add some extra 70.3 World Champs points and you get a bona fide World Champs lineup, all ready to flex in the sun and show off winter trainer and treadmill work.
For Heather Jackson, Joe Gambles, and Ivan Dominguez, however, the day was a simply a process of stacking building blocks. Oceanside has opening day pomp and circumstance, but the race is just the first in a long series; there will be bigger goals later in the year, and today saw our heroes testing their form against rivals they'll see again and again over the coming months.
Ivan "The Cuban Missile" Dominguez opened his season on solid footing. After a rough swim, the former pro roadie was finally at home on the bike, “especially after mile 30, when it got awesome,” he said. He backed it with a solid run, despite the rolling course that wasn’t the “flat” course he was appraised of. “The time that I ran was actually what I was looking for,” he said.
Gambles gambled, and…well…sometimes you end up leaving your car keys at the poker table. After leading a bike chase of eventual men’s victor Lionel Sanders, Gambles paid for his efforts when a group pushed the pace early on the run, a pace that he tried in vain to match. Gambles ended up finishing eighth, a solid result in a stacked field.
Jackson’s day started on the back foot. At the cannon on the first stroke, a competitor reached over and hauled her goggles off her head—not an auspicious start. The move put her in scramble mode during the swim, and she lost precious time. Out of the water, Jackson moved on the bike, but was unable to bridge to the leaders. It wasn’t until the run when she was able to see the front of the race. In the last three miles, she closed on longtime foe Heather Wurtele, who had a tenuous hold on third place. “I was like “urrrrrgh… c’mon!!!” Jackson said, pumping her arms back and forth to accentuate that final stretch as she tried to close the gap.
Alas, Jackson needed just another half mile; Wurtele was able to hold off Jackson by just 30 seconds.