The Warmup Lap | 3.30.12 - Ironman 70.3 California And Texas Mark Start Of Triathlon Season

WALCHSEE, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 04: Athletes swim during the Challenge Walchsee-Kaiserwinkl Triathlon on September 4, 2011 in Walchsee, Austria. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images for Challenge Walchsee-Kaiserwinkl)

Welcome to the unofficial (official?) start of the triathlon season, what with both Ironman 70.3 California Oceanside and Ironman 70.3 Texas this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, respectively).

Oceanside has put together a strong professional field, led by Andy Potts, who will be looking to defend his title there, but all eyes this weekend will likely be on Galveston. Not only does Texas serve as the U.S. Professional Championship, it will also mark Lance Armstrong's second race as a pro. Armstrong finished second in his debut, at Panama, and surrendered the race lead in the final mile-and-a-half of the run. And Sunday in Texas, his home state, should be even more competitive.

The men's pro list includes numerous Ironman 70.3 and Ironman champions, including two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Michael Raelert. Another late entry is Marino Vanhoenacker, a six-time champion at Ironman Austria who recently won the shortened racae (to 70.3 distance) at Ironman New Zealand. American Timothy O'Donnell, who won Ironman 70.3 San Juan a couple of weeks ago, will also be on hand. Five-time Ironman Switzerland champion Ronnie Schildknecht, who became the first man to break eight-hours for a full distance race in on American soil in winning Ironman Florida last year, is also in the field.

A small bit of good news for Lance, though: Chris Leito, the defending champ in Galveston, is reportedly not racing this weekend. And apparently that's enough for at least some to pick Armstrong to emerge from a crowded field for his first pro win.

Triathlete Mag Editors' Picks For 70.3 Texas

Courtney Baird, Editor-in-chief, Inside Triathlon magazine

Men: Lance Armstrong (USA)

"Because he's Lance, and it's Texas."

Here's the link to follow all the weekend's action.

In non-triathlon news ...

Young runner's undaunted by distance

Ask Emilyn Sim about running. She'll talk about it like a veteran athlete with a calling. She's been running for nearly 10 years. She began when she was six. The 15-year-old from Salmon Arm is the youngest participant registered to run the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 6. Sim turns 16 - the minimum age requirement - two days before the race.

Shalane Flanagan surprises herself with the half-marathon victory in Lisbon | OregonLive.com

... Race organizers wanted Flanagan front and center with Zersenay Tadese. They were the anointed race favorites. Flanagan was horrified. "I thought they were on crack," she said.

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