Graduate student wins Ironman 70.3 Collegiate National Championship triathlon

Riley Neuheardt

To Jacob Bremer, every second of a triathlon matters. He constantly reminded himself that as he prepared for the Austin Ironman 70.3 U.S. Collegiate National Championship race on Nov. 8.

But the kinesiology graduate student didn’t know the race would be a four-hour, 48-minute adventure that crowned him a national champion.

“It was a grueling event,” Bremer said. “The bike course was no joke, and it was hilly and very windy out. But just seeing everyone out there on the course helps motivate me because we’re kinda all in this together.”

The Ironman 70.3 spans the distance that its namesake suggests: 70.3 miles. Athletes complete a 1.2-mile swim and 56-mile bike ride capped off with a half-marathon run of 13.1 miles.

The race takes a physical toll on competitors, but Bremer said overcoming aching muscles and burning lungs isn’t the most challenging part of a triathlon.

“You have to have a silent conversation with yourself for however long you’re out there about just putting one foot in front of the other,” Bremer said. “You just keep going, and hopefully things will get better.”

The grind of the sport is nothing new for Bremer. He was on the Michigan triathlon team as an undergraduate student, and he continues to train 20 hours a week to stay ready for competition. He also coaches triathletes at the Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy.

“I was not surprised on his win, especially with his athletic background,” said Natasha van der Merwe, director of triathlon and Bremer’s supervisor at the Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy. “I have ridden with Jacob on one of our team training rides and was able to see firsthand just how extremely strong he was on the bike.”

Even so, the Austin Ironman 70.3 presented unexpected obstacles.

During the biking leg, a police officer directed Bremer and a few other riders the wrong way. They found themselves separated from the course by almost two miles. The accident seemed like a death sentence to Bremer’s chances at winning.

“You can’t win the event on any one of the legs,” Bremer said. “But you can certainly lose on one of the legs if you’re not careful.”

But Bremer was able to adapt to racing conditions and make up the time in his run.

“It comes back to having that patience and discipline,” Bremer said. “I had a good run, and I was very happy with it, so things just kind of worked out.”

Bremer’s win in Austin automatically qualifies him for the World Championship competition in Australia next September. The world stage will be bigger, but Bremer says his top goal is to enjoy it.

“The reason I started this sport and the reason I keep doing it is because I have fun with it,” Bremer said. “As the opportunities arise, I’ll see where I go from there.”