By Kristen McFarland
October 11, 2014 (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii) – Brutal headwinds and searing heat on the legendary Queen Kamehameha Highway challenged athletes today; and this generation’s crop of professionals found out that the stories of years past were not just the exaggerated tails of aging champions.
The pro field was deep in both the men’s and women’s races and there were no sure bets to be made. Although many correctly considered Mirinda Carfrae (Boulder, AUS) a favorite, there were several others that had a real shot at the win as well. Last year’s second and third place finishers Rachel Joyce (Boulder, GBR) and Liz Blatchford (Boulder, AUS) were both fit and gunning for their first win. Newcomer Daniella Ryf (SUI), a Brett Sutton-coached athlete, had been taking the triathlon world by storm all summer and was making everyone wonder whether she would be like Chrissy Wellington and go home victorious on her very first attempt.
The men’s field boasted four past Ironman World Champions, twelve athletes who had won at least two other Ironman races, and two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion Sebastian Kienle. All of this talent produced a truly memorable race. There was only a five minute spread between second and eighth places in the men’s race.
After a fairly choppy swim with some noticeable waves the heat and winds picked up quickly and by the time the pros got about a quarter of the way into the bike the wind was bending over the palm trees and slowing some of the age-groupers to a crawl. As often happens, a few foolhardy male pros went out way too hard and suffered the consequences. By the turnaround at Hawi the lead group was shaken up and spread out. Fortunately the wind direction stayed consistent and all (at least the pros) were rewarded with a tailwind that helped send them back to town with blazing speed, a few being clocked at over 45 MPH on a flat stretch!
Eventual winner Sebastian Kienle had been staying close to the front on the way out and really took off during the second half of the bike to get to T2 with a substantial lead, which he held for the entire third leg. Behind him, however, some of the competition began to falter and a real battle took shape.
Colorado native Ben Hoffman came into T2 in fifth after a stellar ride and found himself in third by mile 10 and still running strong. He passed last year’s winner Frederick van Lierde in the energy lab and astonished himself by holding onto that position for the final stretch of the marathon.
“I had a plan coming into this race. I thought the logical step for me would be to go to the top ten this year. I felt like I had the fitness and the ability and the mental strength as well. I did roll the dice a little bit on the way to Hawi. I saw a few opportunities and I took them. I think in Hawaii you have to be smart and you have to do your best race.”
Colorado Springs’ Andy Potts came off the bike in ninth and ran into fourth place with a finishing time of 8:21:38, his fourth top-ten finish and best ever at the world championship. After missing the race last year due to injury, Potts said he was “very appreciative to be here and be healthy. As athletes we just want a chance to show our good day.”
Hoffman and Potts were a welcome sight for American fans, as there has been quite a drought in recent years of US athletes in the top ranks of the Ironman world. The best finishes in the last decade before today were Chris Lieto, second in 2009, and Tim DeBoom, fourth in 2007.
Mirinda Carfrae stunned her competition and the spectators alike by running an absolutely astonishing 2:50:26 marathon, breaking her own course record for the fourth time! She came out of T2 down fourteen and a half minutes from leader Daniela Ryf and proceeded to pick off the women in front of her one by one. There is a huge Jumbotron screen at the finish line and the assembled spectators watched with bated breath as she passed Rachel Joyce for second and gasped, and then cheered, as she took the lead from Ryf.
“These girls pushed me all the way to the end,” said Carfae after the race, “There wasn’t any letting off the gas chasing these girls down all day. I was just trying to stay within reach. 14:40 wasn’t my plan going into the race whatsoever. I actually said to my coach [Siri Lindley] anything over ten minutes is too much. I hopped off the bike and was quite concerned—or actually was focused on getting into the top five because they were so far ahead. I was shocked to see that I was able to hold up the pace that I had set out with.”
Rachel Joyce (Boulder/GBR) had the second-fastest bike split among the women. In order to have a chance to beat Mirinda she knew she “had to go harder on the bike after last year,” when Mirinda passed her on the run to win with a marathon only 20 seconds slower than this year. After a “rough and tumble swim” she caught up to the lead group on the bike and saw that the gaps were growing. She hoped that a twelve minute lead at T2 would be sufficient but felt like she struggled at the beginning of the run and “was wondering how a marathon was going to happen.” Despite her inner doubts she started the run in second behind Ryf and would have held that spot until the end had Carfrae not passed them both in the last third of the marathon to push them back to the second and third place spots on the podium.
Multiple Ironman champion Mary Beth Ellis of Superior had a great ride and came off the bike in third. She held onto that position through mile 10 with Jodie Swallow behind her in fourth. Later in the run she faded a bit but hung on to finish ninth. Swallow held on to her fourth place position through to the end. Liz Blatchford (Boulder/AUS) rounded out the top ten.
|7||Tim||Van Berkel||East Ballina||AUS||8:23:26||0:51:21||2:04||4:36:46||2:23||2:50:54|
|372||Samantha B.||Morrison||Colorado Springs||USA||9:57:24||0:57:52||2:58||5:19:46||3:14||3:33:36|