Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – The big surprise for the Colorado contingent this year is that both Ben Hoffman and Tim O’Donnell didn’t get the race they were hoping for. But veteran Andy Potts, who undoubtedly did not get anywhere near the attention of these younger competitors leading up to the race, drew on his extensive experience to remain steady throughout the race to snag his fifth top-ten world championship finish, his second time as the top American.
The race had an unusual start as Kona rookie pros Lucy Charles and Josh Amberger both came out of the water with over a minute lead on the chase packs. Potts, who had been first out of the water more than once here in Kona, exited the water in a stunning 28th position. Charles, a young new 24-year-old pro from the UK just barely missed breaking the long-standing swim course record set by Jodi Jackson all the way back in 1999. Charles won her age group last year, so she’s already a Kona veteran at age 24.
Josh Amberger kept the lead all the way to Kawaihae, setting a blazing pace that was seven minutes better than last year. Hoffman and O’Donnell moved up through the pack during the Kuakini out-and-back and were in the top ten by the time they all headed out onto the Queen K Highway. Hoffman, O’Donnell, and Butterfield all stayed in the top ten through the first half of the bike with Potts patiently hanging with the second ten. At Hawi, O’Donnell was in third and Hoffman fifth. Butterfield had faded back to 17th and was riding with Potts.
Although wind was not a factor in this year’s race, the temperature and humidity were absolutely scorching with temps registering 110 degrees out on the Queen K highway even before the humidity index was factored in. Despite the heat, Norman Stadler’s bike record from 2006 was broken by almost six minutes! The new record: an amazing 4:12:54. All three of the top men off the bike broke the record (Wurf, Kienle, and Sanders). In the end, a new course record was also set: 8:01:40.
Hoffman and O’Donnell came into T2 seventh and eighth off the bike, respectively. Hoffman made a big surge and moved all the way to third position just before the halfway mark but couldn’t hold the pace. Potts just kept chipping away at the competition, heading out on the run in 17th but moving up to ninth by the half-marathon point and into seventh (his final finishing place) by the Energy Lab. Hoffman and O’Donnell didn’t give up, though. Hoffman stuck it out and stayed in the money for ninth. His 8:19:26 was the same time that got him a second place in 2014. Tim faded to a disappointing but respectable 19th in 8:33:53.
In the women’s race, rookie Lucy Charles stayed incredibly strong throughout the bike, continuing to put time into Daniela Ryf until Hawi. Boulder favorite Rachel Joyce rode in the top ten on the bike for a period but dropped back into the second ten for the last half. Her big wins at IRONMAN Boulder and IRONMAN Mont Tremblant this summer left little gas in the tank for the big show this year. Watch for her next year.
In the age-group race, Boulder’s Greg Lindquist was not only our top finisher but he beat some of our local pros with a stellar time of 9:15:59. Diana Hassel, a perennial competitor from Fort Collins, who is a veterinarian at the world-renowned Colorado State University veterinary school, won her 50-54 age-group with an 11:01:51. Boulder Tri Cub member Simon Butterworth won the 70-74 division with a 12:29:35. Liz West was our fastest amateur female with a time of 10:57:27.