Meet 70.3 world championship qualifier Reilly Smith.

Over the next couple of days we’ll introduce you to a mix of age-group triathletes who all punched their tickets to Vegas—some in more harrowing circumstances than others. The athletes also give training advice that helped them get to the level they are at today. The 2012 Ironman World Championship 70.3 race will take place on Sept. 9, 2012 in Henderson, Nev. Visit Triathlete.com/Vegas2012 for complete coverage from the race.

Reilly Smith
Age: 30
Qualified: 8th at Ironman 70.3 Panama

Fifty-five miles into the bike leg at Ironman 70.3 Panama, Reilly Smith was in the top three of his age group and mentally preparing to run for a slot to the world championships. Then he overshot the final turn. Smith locked up his rear brake in an effort to stay on course and skidded across the road, shredding his tire in the process. He didn’t have a spare and the wheel wouldn’t turn, so Smith picked up his bike and started walking toward transition. After a quarter mile, he put it back down and tried to knock the wheel into place. It slotted back in, so he jumped on and rode his flat rear tire back to T2. Having lost substantial time but still wanting to qualify, Smith ripped out of T2. “I think my biggest mistake was trying to overcome the mechanical problem by booking out of T2. It killed me; I blew up very early,” he said. Despite losing time on the bike and fading during the run, Smith finished eighth in the 30–34 age group and earned a roll-down slot to the Ironman World Championship Vegas 70.3.

Since Panama Smith has had more success on the race course, with four podium finishes at 70.3 races across the country.

The takeaway: “Don’t get overwhelmed by a problem because the issue probably isn’t going to be that big of a deal,” recommends says Smith. Even when something goes wrong, stay focused on your goals, “but don’t try to be a hero.,” he says. “That isn’t going to work either.”

Meet other 70.3 Worlds age groupers.