One of the most talked about and competitive Ironman events this year just took place this past Sunday in Melbourne at the Ironman Asia Pacific Championships. It was an all-out battle from the time the gun sent a boom ringing through the morning sky as the pros put their heart and souls on the line on a very hard day. Many of our Colorado pros suffered through yet another tough Ironman with the hopes of standing upon the podium by late afternoon and nobody went down without a fight.
Steffan Astonishes, Von Vlerken Sprints to Second
The feminist in me just might come out in this article and I absolutely have to start with the women’s race. It. Was. Insane! Don’t get me wrong, the men’s race was exciting, but the women’s race was an all-day, epic battle between a group of ladies that are tough as nails.
I couldn’t turn off my Twitter feed as there were so many great tweets about the women’s race, which I feel isn’t always the case. Between other pros that were there to spectate and closely following the race, to my new favorite Twitter account to follow on race day—Witsup, which focuses on the women pros—I literally felt the excitement pouring out of the Ironman Melbourne course. Every minute or so, fans could see the leaders, the chasers, and the women who were battling the course that did it’s best to detour them.
For much of the race, Caroline Steffen was being chased down by first time Ironman competitor, and sixth place finisher, Annabel Luxford, Yvonne Van Vlerken, and Melissa Hauschild. Steffen set herself up nicely with a 52:40 swim, a speedy 4:45:3 bike, and a 3:16 marathon and was the one to beat for most of the day.
However, it is obviously a long day and when you have athletes like Hauschild, Von Vlerken, and even three-time Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae chasing you, it’s definitely not an easy lead to defend.
For Hauschild, it was her solid effort on all three events and relentless pace out on the run, finishing her marathon in 3:06, which allowed her to pass the rest of the field for her first Ironman win. Hauschild, who has trained in Colorado during the past summers, is the first Australian female to win this race.
Van Vlerken, who has also trained in Boulder in years past, added one of the most exciting moments of the day as she sprinted in the finisher’s chute to pass Steffan and take second place by less than a second. To see her actually sprint at the end of an Ironman was one of the most awe-inspiring athletic moments of this gal’s life. Not only that, Van Vlerken had the fastest bike split of the day with a 4:44 and still managed to run extremely hard. I am forever a huge Von Vlerken fan!
Not having her best race day, but yet still managing to finish seventh with the third fastest run time of the day (3:08), was fan favorite and Boulderite Carfrae. Most people aspire to run a 3:08 marathon ever, but Rinny managed to do it with a bout of the flu that attacked her the Monday before the race. Either way, the defending champ is validated and will be looking for her fourth Ironman World Championship title come October.
Another Boulderite who ran, literally, into some bad luck on race day was multiple-time Olympian Laura Bennett. According to her Twitter feed, she popped the third metatarsal while running into the water at the swim start and could not put any weight on her foot. We wish her a speedy recovery and know she will be back guns blazing.
To all of the pro women that competed, my hat off to you. Thank you for making this sports nut even a bigger fan of the women’s race. I am the first to admit that having a husband in the sport, I tend to watch the men’s races more closely, but I will be spreading the love to the women’s race as you continue to prove you are some of the toughest competitors on the course!
Symonds is Stunning, Berkel, Kahlefeldt’s Power to Podium
I have never heard any pro triathlete say that their Ironman win was easy and Jeff Symonds did not start that trend after his first ever Ironman victory in Melbourne this past weekend. Symonds told Ironman.com that he was “pushed to the limit, which is why I am wrecked!”
Symonds stayed strong and steady the entire race as veterans Nils Frommhold and Luke Bell put in a nine minute lead on the bike. However, it was Symonds’ day as he hung tough on the bike and ran a blistering, and fastest of the day, 2:44 marathon.
The Australians were not to be out done on this day as frequent Boulder trainees Tim Berkel and Brad Kahlefeldt came out fast in the swim, pushed hard on the bike, and both came out of T2 to run a matching marathon time of 2:49 to claim second and third place.
Berkel, who is now validated his spot in Kona, told Ironman.com, “I have never hurt so much. I just slugged it out and slugged it out.”
For Kahlefeldt, this was quite an Ironman debut, boasting one of the fastest swims of the day at 45:20. The Aussie has definitely captivated triathlon fans all around the sport and this is just the start of his Ironman distance career.
We cannot forget to mention the King of Cupcakes, New Zealand’s Callum Millward, who we claim as a Boulderite for the summers. Millward stayed smooth and steady all day posting a 46:50 swim, a strong 4:29 bike, and a quick 2:54 marathon. Obviously, there were no cupcakes weighing him down in this race. I am ready for him to get back to Colorado and treat us all to some Cupcakes with Cal!
One of the nicest guys in the sport, and summer Boulderite, Josh Rix of Australia also took his talents to the course. However, it was not his day as he was forced to drop out for unknown reasons. We cannot wait to see Rixie out there again!