No, not a new Marvel Comics franchise movie, but the situation I faced on Saturday night. My kids love the X factor (and to a lesser degree, Strictly Come Dancing) – note for overseas readers, both are appalling celeb/talent shows with no redeeming features. Fortunately, I had a laptop and a wifi connection so I could plug in to a feed to watch one of the great sporting spectacles on this planet: the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. With earphones in I could almost completely shut out the caterwauling television and concentrate on one of the most compelling races the Big Island has ever seen.
The really sensational news before the start of the race was that triple Ironman World Champ, Chrissie Wellington, was ruled out due to flu. I noted a few fairly spiteful comments by one or two pundits, which was unfortunate as Chrissie is one of the most gracious athletes you could hope to meet (she blogged about her non-start here). However, I suspect that the withdrawl of the outstanding favourite led to a far more competitive women’s race than might otherwise have been. It must have been truly gutting for her, though.
In the women’s race our own Julie Dibens tried to take up the vacant mantle of Chrissie by leading strongly on the bike and through the first half of the marathon before being overhauled by a hard charging Mirinda Carfrae (last year’s runner up). Julie eventually finished 3rd, not a bad effort for someone who had never run a marathon before!
The men’s race was truly astonishing. ?ber biker Chris Lieto led off the bike just as last year, but straight away he looked as though his running would lead to his downfall. Aussie legend Chris McCormack had charged through transition and set off on the run as if doing a 10k. He soon dispensed with Lieto (who faded to 11th) and set about establishing an insurmountable lead, or so he thought. Behind him was last year’s winner Craig Alexander and Austrian, Andreas Raelert, both regarded as super talented runners off the ?bike. Raelert, in particular, was looking amazing and set about hauling McCormack in. He caught him at about the 20mile mark and they spent the next few miles side by side. Clearly Macca knew that Raelert was catching him and made sure he had enough in the tank to not allow Raelert to breeze past him.
It was agonising to watch; 2 athletes at the business end of the greatest triathlon on the planet were matching each other stride for stride. There seemed to be no way to divine who would turn out to be the strongest. At a feed, Raelert dropped back slightly to take on fuel and water but came straight back. But then, incredibly,at the last feed, approaching the last mile, he did the same again. Macca needed no second bidding and put on a hard burst. He was clearly in difficulty himself as he was forcing his hand under his right ribs to hold off stitch or cramp, yet it was enough. Raelert couldn’t come back; Macca’s 2nd Ford Ironman World Championship was his.
Fraser Cartmell,who won IMUK back in August, finished 29th. Nick Saunders finished 34th. Stephen Bayliss and Scott Neyedli both retired.
Rachel Joyce finished 5th and Leanda Cave, 10th giving 3 top 10 places for Britain’s pro women. Way to go. Yvette Grice, the winner of IMUK, finished 28th and Joanna Carritt finished 35th. Cat Morrison retired.