Kelowna's Laurelee Nelson (Welder) competes at the Ironman World Championships 70.3 earlier this month in Henderson

Nelson strong in Nevada, preps for Hawaii

Kelowna triathlete second in age group at World Ironman (half) Championships

Laurelee Nelson insists she’s as passionate as ever about competing in triathlons.

When you take a look at the 57-year-old Kelowna woman’s track record in the sport over the last five years, it’s easy to see why.

Nelson (formerly Welder) is coming off yet another impressive result, a second-place showing in the women’s 55 to 59 age group at the World Ironman 70.3 (half iron) Championship earlier this month in Henderson, Nevada.

Nelson covered the 2 km swim, 90 km bike and 21.1 km run in the desert heat in five hours 34 minutes 40 seconds.

The result was good enough to qualify her for the World Ironman Championships (full iron) next month in Kona, Hawaii.

Nelson’s best showing at worlds came last year, in her third appearance, as she took fourth place in Kona in the women’s 55 to 59 age division in 11 hours 40 minutes.

She’ll head to Hawaii a week prior to the Oct. 8 race to both acclimatize and enjoy some R and R before the big day.

“I’d like to be on the podium,” Welder said of her goals in Hawaii. “Ideally, it would be nice to come second, but hey, a top five would be great, too.

“We’re going down there to relax, check out the sites and then, hopefully do well in the race.”

To call Nelson a natural at the sport of triathlon would be an understatement.

That’s not to say success hasn’t come without a high level of commitment and hard work, but she was a quick study from the outset.

In very her first ever attempt at Ironman Canada in 2006, she placed third out of 53 competitors in the women’s 50 to 54 age class.

Then from 2008 through 2010, Nelson won her age group each and every time, setting two course records in the process. Her time of 11:06 last year for the 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride and 42.2 km run stands as her personal best.

Spurred on by being physically fit and her will to compete, Nelson has never enjoyed her life as a triathlete more.

“It’s such a big part of my lifestyle, I really enjoy the racing itself,” said Nelson, who is sponsored locally by Fresh Air Experience. “At the same time you have to balance everything, you don’t want to shortchange your friends or family. It helps that (partner) Don (Debienne) competes, too, we understand what each other loves about it, and we can enjoy it together.

“As long as I can stay healthy and uninjured, I’ll keeping doing it.”

In addition to the thrill of her own accomplishments, Nelson takes satisfaction in the exploits of her fellow Okanagan triathletes.

Particularly inspiring to her at World Ironman 70.3 in Nevada earlier this month was the performance of Penticton’s Jeff Symonds, 26, a pro who placed third overall in a very tough international field in a time of 3:45:42.

“It was exciting seeing Jeff down there, really an unknown, a young Canadian guy who came across the line smiling with a fist-pump” said Nelson. “There were 108 Canadians in the race, and Jeff did us all proud.”

One other local triathlete completed the race in Nevada. Heather Wurtele, 32, finished seventh among pro women, and 111th overall in 4:35:36.


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