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Meet the Age-Groupers Who Qualified for the World Championships in a Pandemic

3,000 athletes will hit the start line of the 70.3 World Championships in St. George. Who are they?

With races pushed or canceled over the last year and the 2020 70.3 World Championships canceled, it can be tough to even earn a spot and make it to the start line.

What does it take? Who supported you to get here?

Before the race starts in St. George, Utah on Saturday morning, we talked to some of the age-groupers who were checking in their bikes to find out what it took for them to qualify and who helped them to this point.

RELATED: How to Watch the 2021 70.3 World Championships

Photo: Nils Nilsen

Nick Blaser, 51, Ocala, Florida

  • Done 10 half-iron distance races
  • 1st World Championships
  • Qualified at Gulf Coast 70.3

“The bike was custom painted and my helmet matches. If you can’t perform you might as well look like you can. Everybody should have a personal purpose, a why, and I preach that to my team. My personal purpose is to inspire and live a healthy, happy life. I’m 51, those years, they’re going to go by like that. So you might as well live the life you love.”

Photo: Nils Nilsen

Kaitlyn Jones, 23, St. Augustine, Florida

  • 1st World Championships
  • Qualified in first triathlon at Chattanooga 70.3

“My dad bikes and I ran marathons. We did a relay like that and then wanted do one ourselves. I love it. My dad is my support. I wouldn’t be putting the bike together by myself. I’ve never flown with a bike before. They actually took my bike with them from North Carolina and they dealt with it, and I flew from Florida with ease. My goal is just having fun and enjoying the views.”

Photo: Nils Nilsen

Harold “Gee” Garner, 53, Hope Mills, North Carolina

  • Dozens of long-course races all over the world
  • 2nd World Championships
  • Qualified at Gulf Coast 70.3

“I was Special Forces for 25 years. Didn’t get into triathlon until after I got out of the military. I couldn’t swim in open water, so when I first started I did 23 pool triathlons and then I was like ‘this isn’t a real triathlon.’ So I started with baby steps, and I’ve done 12 Ironmans now. I’ve traveled all over the world, I’ve done Morocco, Brazil, Couer d’Alene, Mexico. I got a rolldown spot to South Africa at Monterrey 70.3. Now I’ve got a Legacy spot for Kona and it’s been canceled for two years, but it’s OK, it keeps me motivated. We don’t know when we’re going to get that call. I swim 12,000 to 14,000 yards a week, ride about 300 miles, but if it’s inside I do 12-15 hours on the trainer, and I run 30 miles per week. If I could give any advice to someone starting out: If you make this a way of life, it’s easy.”

Photo: Nils Nilsen

Patty Garone, 64, Hollywood Beach, Florida

  • Done seven half-distance races
  • 1st World Championships
  • Qualified at Panama City 70.3

“I’ve been running since I was 45, started running in my 40s. I was a special ed teacher in Queens for 37 years. I love the retired life. I miss the kids, but now I’m working with my coach on a kids’ tri program, TriDi Kids, some as young as four. My coach Diane is here with me, she’s also racing. It’s my first world championships. It was my first USAT Nationals too last month. We all went together. She’s coaching me, and I’m doing my first Ironman in November. This is the year to do everything. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Photo: Nils Nilsen

Alejandro Porras, 33, Mexico 

  • Been doing triathlon for five years
  • 2nd World Championships
  • Qualified at Acapulco 70.3

“I’ve been doing triathlon for five years. Flew into Vegas two weeks ago and rented a car. I’ve never been here before. My brother and son, who’s 8, and mother and wife are all here with me. Family is important.”

Photo: Nils Nilsen

Pam Booth, 37, Phoenix, Arizona

  • 1st World Championships
  • Second 70.3 ever, qualified at Arizona 70.3

“I didn’t even know what Worlds was. I was so new to it, I just wanted to finish. I’m a runner and all of my friends got into triathlon, so I followed, borrowed someone’s bike. I like it. I love the cross-training and it’s a challenge, it’s new. There’s always room for improvement. I came with my friend who got me into it, Naomi. We made our own group, Arrowhead Road Warriors, in the West Valley area of Phoenix. There are 11 of us staying in a house here, four racing. I’m here for the experience, just to enjoy the beauty and the atmosphere. My running group got me here and, of course, my coach, Charlie, and my husband and my boys. I have two boys, 6 and 9 years old. My husband watches them while I’m out training every day all weekend. I try to get my workouts in in the morning before their soccer and sports, so I can be around for them. It’s all about balance.”

Photo: Nils Nilsen

David Rios, 22, Muncie, Ohio

  • Done four half-distance races
  • 1st World Championships
  • Qualified at Ohio 70.3

“This is my first Worlds. I don’t really belong here. It’s definitely intimidating to be around the best in the world. I’m just going to try and race my race, try to go sub-seven, but I’ve heard from a few people the run’s kind of brutal. The hill on the bike didn’t seem that bad, we drove it yesterday, but it didn’t seem as steep or intimidating as it looked online. I came with my parents, I’m from Chicago, really Morton Grove, so we flew out of Chicago. My dad rides a lot. That’s how I kind of got into endurance stuff and started running in high school. I have an older brother and they’re going to try to all do a relay while I do the regular half at Panama City later this year.”

Photo: Nils Nilsen

Korrie Hicks, 42, Portland, Oregon

  • Done 13 or 14 half-distance races
  • 2nd World Championships
  • Qualified at the new Oregon 70.3

“I was supposed to do Ironman Italy. This was my back-up option. The Oregon race was almost like an Xterra in the swim. You climbed down a hill and jumped off a rock. I couldn’t do this without the support of my family. If they’re not on board none of this can happen. My husband’s flying in; he actually lands in 20 minutes and is doing the Sherpa thing. I flew him first-class.”