Following a fierce 2011 season highlighted by two Ironman wins, multiple podium placings and a top 10 in Kona, Heather Wurtele was eager to kick off 2012 on a high note. Unfortunately, illness derailed her race in Abu Dhabi, and she struggled in the excessive heat and humidity at Ironman 70.3 Galveston. Then, she was leading Ironman Coeur d’Alene and experienced a mechanical on the bike. She borrowed a bike from another competitor and was forced off the run course by officials, resulting in a DNF. Just a couple of weeks later, Wurtele finished eighth at the Ironman European Championship and validated her spot to Kona.
The ever-optimistic Wurtele is embracing the months ahead with a “nowhere to go but up” attitude in hopes of improving on her 2011 eighth-place finish in Kona, and her recent win at Ironman 70.3 Timberman shows she’s on the right track. The four-time Ironman champion (St. George 2011 and 2010, Lake Placid 2011, Coeur d’Alene 2008) lives, travels and trains out of a tiny RV (less than 100 square feet of living space) with her husband, fellow pro Trevor Wurtele, and their cat, Manah. The couple is heading into their fourth year of calling the RV, where they spend all but a combined four weeks annually, home.
Tight quarters: We started living in the RV to save money when we were still working full-time. Trevor worked from 3 p.m. until midnight for a currency exchange, and I worked normal hours as a researcher. He’d get home in the middle of the night and try to quietly change 2 feet from where I was sleeping. I’d get up at 5 a.m. and try to tiptoe around and eat breakfast. That was pretty horrible. Since we’ve been living out of it and just training and racing it’s been much better. We love our home!
Snug as bugs in a rug: We feel really cozy and secure in our bed. It’s surrounded by windows and walls on three sides. When we do stay in a normal bed we feel like we’re going to fall off. It’s like we need an adult crib!
Keeping up with the Joneses: Some people at the Galveston race had one of those deluxe RVs with four pop-outs. We were admiring it and they saw us and said, “Hey, are you the Wurteles? We feel so guilty that our little weekend getaway RV is so much nicer than your home!”
Call me ma’am: Being mistaken for a dude gets kind of irritating. People don’t actually look at you sometimes, they just sort of glance and get a sense of your height [Wurtele is 6-foot-2] and assume that you’re a guy. They’re like, “How can I help you, sir?” And I’m like, “Um, actually …” And then they realize my voice is higher pitched.
Lofty achievement: When I started triathlon there was this perception that the fast women were these tiny things. If you were tall and you didn’t look like that, you couldn’t possibly be a successful pro. But that’s really not true. The long-lever swimming is a benefit, and height definitely helps with power on the bike. And if you look at the top men there are some tall and really fast guys. So it’s something that I perceive as an advantage and always try to stay positive about. I like being a role model for tall girls. When you’re in high school and you’re a foot taller than all the guys, you can really get insecure. I get all sorts of e-mails about that. It’s been motivating for me to have a lot of tall women say, “Wow! It’s so awesome to see you winning Ironmans!” Yes, tall chicks can be fast!