Kelsey Withrow went to China to Race an Ironman 70.3 but never thought she'd experience this!


On August 27 I traveled to Qujing, China with Mike to race the Qujing 70.3.  This race was at an altitude of 6500 feet so we decided it was best to go ten days early to try and acclimate as best as we could.  I thought I was traveling to a small mountain town but was really surprised to see that Qujing has a population of 5,855,055 people!   Mike and I stayed pretty close to our hotel days leading up to the race focusing on getting enough sleep and eating the right food.  Unfortunately, my stomach didn’t love the food even though it was really delicious.  I chose to race in China because of the huge opportunity for me to have a really good race with a possible win or podium.


I started the swim off pretty quick with a strong kick but immediately went lactic so I had to dial the pace down a lot.  The sun was just coming up as we started, so sighting was a big problem for me.  I became a bit delirious trying to figure out where the turn bouys were.  I actually stopped twice during the swim, took off my goggles and made sure I was going the right way.  I exited the swim in first place with over 2 minutes on the next woman.  Swim time: 26:19



This bike course had over 3700 feet of climbing in it with lots of rollers. I tend to do well on hillier courses, which made this race even more appealing to me.  The streets were lined with locals and Ironman had several big screen tv’s for the spectators all over the course.  I felt ok for the first half of the bike, took in my normal nutrition, took salt and drank my fluids.  That ended up not being enough as I had one of the worst bonks during a race that ive ever had.  At around 75 km, Sarah Piampiano passed me like I was standing still and it was a death march for the remaining part of the bike.  I think not being able to get the proper nutrients in my system prior to the race contributed to the bonking because I did everything else right.



The run was pancake flat, hot and humid.  A really cool thing about this run course was we got to experience running through the Qujing Sports Stadium which was filled with locals cheering, chanting and waving huge flags.  That by far was my favorite part of the race and It really brought me out of the funk I was in.  I had a very rough run but I think most of my competitors probably felt the same as me.  Thankfully, I finished and it was good enough for 2nd place.   


Mike and I got to do some sight seeing the next day with a few other of the pro athletes( Sarah Piampiano, Brad Williams, and Ricardo Urbina)  We took a 3.5 hour bus ride to the 9 Dragon Waterfalls and also had some locals of the area make us an amazing lunch/feast! Overall my time in China was pretty amazing. We were all treated very well and Ironman put on a really clean and safe race.  Next up is Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3 on September 10.

David Verrecchia
David Verrecchia