OCEANSIDE — On Saturday, April 7, competitors will swim, bike and run their way from Oceanside through Camp Pendleton and San Onofre State Park and back for the annual Ironman 70.3 in Oceanside.
This year’s race draws 80 elite athletes, 20 racers from the Challenged Athletes Foundation and 3,500 age-group competitors. The event features a 1.2-mile harbor swim, 56-mile bike ride and 12.1-mile beachside run to the finish line.
A change in the course is the 6:40 a.m. kickoff swim will start on the beach rather than the harbor boat ramp.
Thousands will be up early to watch and cheer on competitors.
Gina Thomas, race director of Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, said what she enjoys most about the triathlon are the athletes who are competing.
“Hearing their excitement, nervousness and what they have overcome to get to this point,” Thomas said.
Among the elite athletes tackling the course is eight-time Iron Distance Champion Carrie Lester of Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The 37-year-old competitor relocated to Southern California six years ago, and to Cardiff-by-the-Sea three years ago.
This is Lester’s second time racing in the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, which is the first big 70.3 race of the year. She formerly competed in the Oceanside 70.3 in 2015.
Lester said it is a challenge to be at your peak performance so early in the racing season. “It is hard to be at your best in April when you want to be at your best in September or October,” Lester said.
This year Lester choose to compete in the race because it offers strong competition, does not involve travel and gives her local support.
The three-sport race draws different strengths from each athlete. Lester said biking is her strongest race component. Being an accomplished runner also helps.
“My bike is usually the strongest, but funnily enough I have raced sometimes and had a better run performance,” Lester said. “Putting all three together (swim, bike, run) in one day is a dream race for most.”
Lester is a strong competitor and a triathlete coach. She and her boyfriend, who will also be competing in the Oceanside 70.3, have trained eight athletes for this year’s race through their joint business KIS Coaching.
“Our athletes racing are highly skilled and are looking at placing top 10 in the age group with some looking at age group wins or podium finishes,” Lester said. “Outside of this race, KIS Coaching helps athletes of all abilities over any distance.”
An Ironman Village at the Pier Amphitheater runs from April 5 to April 7. A fun pre-event, the IronKids race, will take place there April 6.
The Ironman 70.3 Oceanside offers a $50,000 prize purse, and 30 age-group qualifying spots for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.