Otten said most of his memories from last year's EagleMan are related to the heat.
"It was really hot," Otten said. "That's the thing for anyone who has never done a race like that; that's kind of the wild card that you can't prepare for. When you're outdoors with your running groups and you're training, you're not saying, 'Hey, it's 95 degrees, let's go out and do a 70-mile race.'"
Otten joked that he has spent the past few days on the Internet "refreshing Weather.com almost every hour."
Della-Croce, who competed in the 2010 EagleMan, said making the jump from the Columbia Triathlon to the EagleMan is significant but not as daunting as going from a Half Ironman to a full Ironman, which is double the distance.
"I think it's a bigger deal going from a half to a full [Ironman]," said Della-Croce, 37, who has participated in a full Ironman in Mexico. "EagleMan is such a unique race because of the location. It's one of the nicer venues being right on the water. Triathletes enjoy racing challenging courses. You might think it's a relatively flat course, but you have wind to contend with and heat to contend with."
The EagleMan is among a small group of Half Ironman events that offer qualifiers to the Ironman World Championship. There are 30 spots up for grabs for what Della-Croce calls "the Super Bowl" of Ironman events, as well as 40 spots available for the national Half Ironman championships this year in Las Vegas.
Della-Croce believes that while most triathletes dream about competing at Kailua-Kona, getting there depends a great deal on the age group. For someone like Otten, the EagleMan is just the beginning of the road that could lead someday lead to the world championships. The top three finishers per age group get a qualifier.
"The talent pool is so deep, from the point where you're just finishing a race to where you're competitive in your age group, there's a tremendous gap to get there," Della-Croce said. "If you stick around long enough, the competition thins out a little bit."
EnduraFit Ironman 70.3 EagleMan Triathlon