Ironman World Championships 2017: Race Highlights

There is something about this race, which happens on the birthplace of the Ironman triathlon which brings out the best out of the athletes. Like the commentators said on RedBull TV yesterday “This is the time of the year when the body fat percentages are at the lowest and everyone is ripped and raring to go”. (Well atleast most of them). As it happened a lot of records “almost fell” and a lot them “actually fell”. The big island is a place of mystery as described by triathlon legend Mark Allen. The island has its own energy and even just seeing the athletes run and ride through the dark hot lava fields, you can feel the island casting a spell, testing everyone mentally. The island is ultimate test of human endurance. While doing a 2.4 mile (3.8k) swim, 112 mile (180.2k) bike and a 26.2 mile(42.2k) run in a matter of 17 hours is not easy in itself doing it on the windy, hilly, hot lava fields of Hawaii against the best athletes of the world, who have qualified to be here is the ultimate test of human endurance. The island has produced many iconic images. Like this, of Julie Moss crawling to the finish line after leading for most of the day in the 1982 Ironman Triathlon.
Seeing this on TV inspired, 6 time Ironman champion Mark Allen to take up the sport! Even Mark, found himself being toyed by Madam Pele and the island, losing to Dave Scott and mechanical failures from 1984 to 1988, till in 1989 he shut down all the noise in his mind, accepted and enjoyed the island’s challenges as his own and out-duelled Dave Scott in the now famous IronWar running a 2:40 marathon course record in the process, which stood for 27 years.

In 2017, the men’s field was stacked with amazing talent. 2 time defending champion (and 2008 Olympic Gold winner, former 70.3 world champion, former Ironman Europe champion and Ironman Africa champion) Jan Frodeno came in as the favourite despite some rumours of an underlying injury. 2014 champion and bike genius Sebastian Kienle, drug addict to Ironman champion Lionel Sanders-Professional Triathlete, 2013 champion Fredrik Van Lierde, perennial podium finishers Ben Hoffman and Timothy O'Donnell and the guy who broke Mark Allen’s 26 year old record (Well, technically Mark ran his 2:40 including the time for Transition 2, but anyways) Patrick Lange. In the women’s field 2 time winner and defending champion, Swiss Daniela Ryf was the favourite to win with other women like Rachel Joyce, Heather Jackson, last year’s AG winner and now professional triathlete Lucy Charles and Sarah Crowley also in the mix. The current course records stood as follows:

Men: Swim: 46:41 Lars Jorgensen (USA, 1998); Bike: 4:18:23 Norman Stradler (GER, 2006); Run: 2:39:45 Patrick Lange (GER, 2016) Overall: 8:03:56 Craig Alexander (AUS, 2011) Women: Swim: 48:43 Jordi Jackson (USA, 1999); Bike: 4:44:19 Karin Thurig (SUI, 2011), Run: 2:50:38 Miranda Carfrae (AUS, 2013) Overall 8:46:46 Daniela Ryf (SUI, 2016)
As the cannon went off to mark the start of the race, the organised chaos in the water began. 1st with the Men professional athletes and then the Women’s professional athletes.
Immediately in the men, Australia’s Josh Amberger - Triathlete took the lead 800 meters into the swim and solidly started to build a huge gap between himself and the race favourites. Surprisingly, missing for the swim mix was Andy Potts who has often won the “FOTW”(first out of the water) at Kona and many other races. Josh looked like he would break Lars Jorgensen’s course record but fell short in the end, despite an astonishing swim of 47:09. Jan Frodeno came out in 2nd place 48:27 and Brazil’s Igor Amorelli in 3rd place with 48:28. On the women’s side Lucy Charles, who is a brilliant swimmer broke away with Lauren Brandon and came out of the water in 48:48 missing out on the swim course record by a mere 5 seconds. Daniela Ryf finished her swim in 8th place at 53:10. But as well know, Ironman is not a swimmer’s game. On the bike, the conditions were favourable with some tailwinds for the riders as they rode towards the bike turnaround at Hawi, even though there were some punctures in the lead pack because of the rains the day before. Kienle, Sanders and former Olympic Rower Cameron Wurf began to push the pace on the bike even as Frodeno remained calm and in the mix. Also in the mix were Tim O’donell and Ben Hoffman. On the women’s side, Lucy Charles led the charge into Hawi closely followed by Lauren Brandon and had a 5 minute lead over Daniela Ryf at the Hawi turnaround.

Wurf and Kienle really pushed on the pace and finally Wurf fully committed, with his head down between his aerobars broke through and recorded an astonishing bike split of 4:12:54 (average speed: 42.8 kmph) breaking Norman Stadler’s record by almost 5 minutes

Cameron Wurf riding to T2

2nd in was Lionel Sanders with ( 4:14:18) , 3rd was Sebastian Kienle with 4:14:57 , while Jan Frodeno clocked a 4:20:59. Top 10 Men Bike Splits were: 1 4:12:54 Cameron Wurf 2 4:14:18 +1:24 Lionel Sanders 3 4:14:57 +2:03 Sebastian Kienle 4 4:20:59 +8:06 Jan Frodeno 5 4:21:02 +8:09 James Cunnama 6 4:21:46 +8:52 Nils Frommhold 7 4:22:00 +9:06 Ben Hoffman 8 4:23:59 +11:05 Boris Stein 9 4:25:09 +12:16 Tim O'Donnell 10 4:25:16 +12:23 Igor Amorelli At T2, the Top 15 men were as follows: 1 5:09:04 Cameron Wurf 2 5:09:58 +0:54 Lionel Sanders 3 5:10:39 +1:36 Sebastian Kienle 4 5:11:19 +2:16 Jan Frodeno 5 5:12:22 +3:19 James Cunnama 6 5:12:38 +3:34 Nils Frommhold 7 5:12:49 +3:46 Ben Hoffman 8 5:15:43 +6:39 Tim O'Donnell 9 5:15:49 +6:46 Igor Amorelli 10 5:16:59 +7:55 Terenzo Bozzone 11 5:19:27 +10:23 Patrick Lange 12 5:19:30 +10:26 Boris Stein 13 5:19:33 +10:29 Patrik Nilsson 14 5:19:38 +10:34 David McNamee 15 5:19:45 +10:41 Josh Amberger
Given that Patrick Lange and Ternzo Bozzone are strong runners, they seemed to in the mix for a Top 5 finish.
2 miles into the run Lionel Sanders moved into the lead running at a destructive Sub 6 min/mile (Sub 3:45/km pace). 5k into the men’s run leg, Lionel Sanders had moved 50 seconds ahead of Cameron Wurf and 75 seconds ahead of Kienle. Somehow, men’s defending champion Jan Frodeno was no where to be seen and when the visual shifted on him, he was writhing in pain, walking. Seeing a guy, who holds the world record for Iron distance triathlon at 7:35:39 walk like that was a truly humbling sight. Even the mighty have a bad day or two.

Even legends walk alone. (This also proves he is not a Liverpool fan)

Meanwhile in the women, Daniela Ryf was showing why she is so feared and respected making up 5 minutes and 25 seconds in the last 40k of the 180k bike ride, completely destroying Lucy Charles and taking the the lead on the bike finishing her bike leg in 4:53:10. Lucy Charles had a 4:58:19 split.
Top 5 women on the bike: 1 4:53:10 Daniela Ryf 2 4:53:55 +0:45 Heather Jackson 3 4:57:51 +4:42 Sarah Crowley 4 4:58:06 +4:56 Mareen Hufe 5 4:58:19 +5:09 Lucy Charles

Angry Bird

Just look at Jan Frodeno here: Spoiler: He still finished after this! Back to the men’s race, Lionel Sanders was really pushing a Sub 2:45 marathon pace covering the 1st 10 miles (16.1k) in 1:01:59 after a 4:14 bike split. He was being chased by Kienle, 2 minutes behind and Ben Hoffman in 3rd at 6:27. Ryf on the other hand had started to destroy the women’s field on the run already gaining 1:30 on Lucy Charles and 5:25 on Lauren Brandon by 5k. At 20k into the men’s race Sanders and Kienle had a gap of 2’23 but Lange was coming. He had 3 minutes on Sanders in 20k and was in 4th overall at 7:57. Hoffman was 3rd at 7:33. Given that Lange held the run course record, hearing his name must have sent down a cold sweat down the back of Sanders despite the searing heat of the Lava fields. Kienle was cutting into Sanders as he brought down the gap to 1:56 at the Half Marathon mark. Lange, running at 3:45/km was now in 3rd place, 6:28 behind Sanders. At 22k Sanders 1:26:38 Kienle 1:27:57 Lange 1:23:37 (These are the actual run times, from T2 to 22k). As you can see, Lange was making up time. And he was making it up FAST. Really FAST. Mindbogglingly FAST. By 26k even though Sanders was in the lead, the gap between Sanders and Lange was less than 5 minutes, while Kienle and Sanders were at 2:15. Daniela Ryf was building a solid lead and by 15k was already 4 minutes ahead of Lucy Charles

By 32k in the Men’s race, the raging Lange had reeled in Kienle and now had his sights set on a flailing Sanders, who trying to fight back but from the looks of it, the head and the bike split had done their damage on him. Lange was running almost 45 seconds a mile faster than Sanders and was 97 seconds behind Sanders at 33k.

Sanders, all but done

Lange, the hunter

At 37k the gap was less than a 100 meters and by 38k it was done. Patrick Lange, the man who broke Mark Allen’s run course record now led the race and was running so fast, he was threatening to break Craig Alexander’s 5 year old course record at Kona. David McNamee moved up a lot of places to reach 3rd overall, overtaking Kienle making it clear that it isn’t a biker’s race anymore. Just being very fast on the bike and then holding on the run (which had been a trend since 2013) will not win you Ironmans anymore.
PS: Lange covered 37k to 42k at a pace of 3:35/km. That’s almost a 17:30 5k. And then Lange stopped the clock, at 8:01:39! Breaking Crowie’s record by 2 minutes and running a 2:39:59 marathon in the process and becoming the 2017 Ironman World Champion!

His splits were 48:45 swim, 4:28:53 bike and then an astonishing 2:39:59 run. Top 10 Men Pro athletes: 1 8:01:40 Patrick Lange 2 8:04:07 +2:27 Lionel Sanders 3 8:07:11 +5:31 David McNamee 4 8:09:59 +8:19 Sebastian Kienle 5 8:11:24 +9:44 James Cunnama 6 8:13:06 +11:27 Terenzo Bozzone 7 8:14:43 +13:04 Andy Potts 8 8:18:21 +16:42 Patrik Nilsson 9 8:19:26 +17:46 Ben Hoffman 10 8:22:24 +20:44 Boris Stein Jan Frodeno, despite everything, finished in 35th place with a 9:15:44 finish! He went out there and finished it! Daniela Ryf was simply unstoppable though. She ran through the course in 8:50:47 (53:10, 4:53:10, 3:00:02) winning by 9 minutes and completing a hattrick of Ironman World Championships!

Women Top 10: 1 8:50:47 Daniela Ryf 2 8:59:38 +8:51 Lucy Charles 3 9:01:38 +10:51 Sarah Crowley 4 9:02:29 +11:42 Heather Jackson 5 9:04:40 +13:53 Kaisa Sali 6 9:16:00 +25:14 Susie Cheetham 7 9:19:49 +29:02 Carrie Lester 8 9:20:31 +29:45 Liz Lyles 9 9:20:58 +30:11 Annabel Luxford 10 9:21:08 +30:22 Jocelyn McCauley
What an year it was. Oh and, and, and Ultraman Australia Champion, legend and my idol Arnaud Selukov finished in insane time of 9:58:59 (S: 58:26, T1: 2:57, B: 5:04:06, T2: 3:26, R: 3:50:07) And our Indians: Subramani Venkatesh 10:58:02
(S: 1:20:05, T1:5:07 B: 5:29:52 T2: 6:05 R: 3:56:56)
Deepak Raj in 12:07:32
(S: 1:22:12 T1: 7:06 B: 6:10:53 T2:11:10 R:4:16:13)
And Kaustubh Radkar in 13:46:47 (S: 56:18 T1: 5:03 B: 7:01:43 T2: 7:37 R: 5:36:08)

Hope you guys enjoyed the coverage! Thank you for reading!


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