Ed. Note—this is part two in our series of the Wattie Ink. racers—professional and amateur—at this year's championship races: ITU LD Worlds, 70.3 Worlds, and next month's Ironman World Championships in Kona. Check out our post from last week, recapping the ITU LD World Champs in Penticton, B.C., here.
All of us target certain races throughout the year, picking out a race or two, circling them on the calendar, and focusing on those big days throughout long hours of training. It takes a special athlete, though, to shine on those big days, to shake off the stress and fear and anxiety and do what needs to be done to take home a result. This Sunday was a big day for thousands at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, held this year in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and amid a field of Olympians and World Champions Wattie Ink. professional Sam Appleton rose up and claimed another top five result, taking a powerful fourth to go with his fifth from last year. “I’m really, really happy,” Appleton said afterwards. “To come fourth, it sucks, but I’m still proud, and it left me wanting. And that’s a good sign. It’s really left me motivated.”
The course was a worthy Worlds venue. After swim in the Tennessee River that forced competitors upstream for 1100 meters, athletes dashed onto the bike for five miles of flat riding before the road pitched up a four-mile climb up Lookout Mountain. The hillside, fought over between union and confederate forces during the Civil War, became a battleground for a men’s field that included Javier Gomez, Sebastian Kienle, and Tim Don.
“The bike wasn’t pedestrian by any means, but the pace was on/off, with guys playing games,” Appleton said. “To be honest, I wished the climb was a bit longer, because you can bluff your way up a three-mile climb, just hurt yourself for those miles.” Once the climb leveled, Appleton settled into the main chase in pursuit of American Ben Kanute. It soon became clear that the bike group would remain intact, and the fight would be taken back to Downtown Chattanooga for the half marathon.
Gomez immediately set the tempo, one that would pay off as he passed Kanute for the win. But in the chase, Appleton was resolute, even if he didn’t think the run was gonna be his finest. “I’ve been running well and backed myself, but it was super hard, even harder than the bike; you were either running up, or running down, and the running down was so steep, you couldn’t ever enjoy it.”
Appleton dashed out of T2 in seventh position and had his work cut out for him. He ran with Britain’s Tim Don early as the two captured Germany’s Maurice Clavel. Appleton shook the dogged Clavel, and then passed Kienle late for fourth position.
Onto the red carpet, Appleton surfed the fans across the finish line, enjoying the moment, his 80s-inspired paint splash custom Speedsuit resplendent. It was a wild departure for Appleton, who’s typical kit features solid designs. “I was kinda on Pinterest and liked the paint splatter effect,” he said. “It’s out there, but not too in-your-face, and really matched my bike and the new Oakley sunglasses well.”
It was a step up from his fifth-place result of a year ago. As his star continues to rise, Appleton will take a bit of downtime in Boulder before wrapping the season at Island House International. Then it’s home to Australia to look forward to 2018 and another crack at 70.3 Worlds in South Africa, where he aims to again move up the podium.
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