Colorado’s young gun, Justin Metzler, posted an outstanding season. With multiple podium finishes and his first ever half-distance win, it’s hard to ignore Justin’s rise in the 70.3 ranks. We caught up with Metzler, who is coming off a second-place finish at Ironman 70.3 Xiamen to hear about his stellar season as he dives into some much-deserved downtime.
How do you feel about ending your season with a second-place finish at 70.3 Xiamen?
I am really happy with my performance in China. This was a strong season for me, placing in the top six in every race I did. I go into every race that I start with the goal of winning and, this one in particular, I had a good feeling that I could do it. In the end, I was second, losing in a sprint finish by fifteen seconds to the experienced Aussie, Sam Betten. The win was so close that I could nearly taste it. So that stung a bit. But at the end of the day, I have to be pleased with a great performance. My training and racing are both consistent and I am continuing to develop as an athlete. At 24 years old, I am still one of the youngest pros on the circuit, so finishes like this are a great building block on what I hope to be a long and successful career.
What is it like being in multiple sprint-finish situations this season?
I don’t think that there is anything in particular that forces my hand into sprint finishing situations. I think it is more a product of the entire level of competition. All of the guys at the top are fit and hungry for results. Nobody is willing to back down or give an inch, so it often comes down to the line in order to see who is the best guy on the day. With the influx of ITU athletes and athletes like myself who have been doing triathlon our entire lives, the game is changing. I do not prefer a sprint as it is not my natural strength (I have been in three sprint finishes this year, winning one and losing two). That being said, sprint training has not been a part of my program because it is not typical for a four-hour race. But considering how often it has happened this year, it is something I will incorporate into my 2018 buildup.
What was your favorite race this season?
Challenge Iceland will forever be a special race to me. I was on the podium there in 2016 and I got my first pro victory in 2017. It is a uniquely picturesque and challenging race that suits my strengths. Winning there was emotional, and special victory that I will never forget. A close second would have to be Ironman 70.3 Boulder, my so-called “hometown” race. Racing at home in front of friends and family is always fun and I was also able to race well there which made it even better.
Have you started to map out the race calendar for next season?
I like to pick four key races that will be the focus for the season, then look at what I need to improve on in training and, after that, I fill in the remaining races. I still need to flesh out the majority of the schedule, but key events I am looking forward to include the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa, 70.3 St. George, 70.3 Boulder, and defending my title at Challenge Iceland.
With multiple podium finishes and your first 70.3 win, do you think this has been your breakout season?
Yes, I think this was a breakthrough season for me in terms of general development and I am glad my race results are a reflection of that. The majority of my career, up to this point, I was thought of as the underdog or the “kid,” but not a serious threat for a podium performance or win. I think my results this year have proven that I am a legit threat for any race across the globe. My competitors are starting to recognize that I have very few holes in my game and when looking at a start list, I am somebody that is hard to overlook.
What are your plans for the off-season and holidays?
I respect the off-season and consider it to be a critical component to my long-term development. Taking a planned break has allowed me to apply the right amount of training at the right times without ever having issues with injury or burnout. Jeanni (Seymour) and I will take one week completely off where we do the majority of the activities we did not do during the season, like eat pizza, drink wine, and stay up late. We will also take a short vacation to New York to spend some time with my parents who live there. They are somewhat wine aficionados, so we look forward to cracking into a few bottles with them. The build up to the season will be slow and progressive. I will likely not start racing until April 2018, so there is plenty of time to take a big reset and then push onwards into next year’s build.