IRONMAN World Championships 2017

With the excitement of the world championships over and most of the athletes back on home soil, we take a quick look back at how TTH athletes fared on the course.

The race seemed to pan out as expected. The course was looking fast, and hot. Unexpected weather in the week before Kona made people speculate that it was going to be a hot one...and that certainly didn't disappoint!

This was probably exacerbated as the last few days, when most athletes arrive on the island, when it was stormy with heavy rain and cooler temperatures. This meant that those athletes who had spent extra time out in warmer climates and had more time to acclimatise could possibly fare better. 

Lucy Charles on her way to 2nd Lady Overall!

Madame Pele did not fail to disappoint. The swim was on average quicker than usual (1). Lucy Charles, eventual second place FPRO, found herself within seconds of a swim course record.

The bike was unfair! (All triathletes say that!). Low winds (in the beginning of the day) meant that the stronger athletes flew round the bike (Cameron Wurf broke the bike record by about 5 minutes). However, some of the less strong athletes (and due to the starts, usually female athletes) ended up having the headwind on the way out and the way back. These winds seem to have changed later than normal, meaning several athletes were certainly dealt a different race – However, generally speaking that is true for the same age groups!

As all those who have raced or tried to get to race on the Big Island, it isn't easy getting there, and it certainly isn't any easier when you arrive! The lower winds meant that the usually hot marathon was hotter than ever, generally slowing the run times down and making the results look like an average Kona (1).

The older age groups tended to be impacted equally, but definitely had a bit more wind to contend with!

The Men's pro race as has been documented was an exciting competition as Patrick Lange raced through the field with David MacNamee taking third place. The ladies race was a display of dominance, with Lucy Charles taking a very impressive 2nd place on her debut as a professional athlete on the big island and Daniella Ryf securing her third consecutive title.

Daniella Ryf too fast for the camera, on her way towards Palani

For our own TTH athletes, we had Elaine Garvican and Pat Cooke-Rogers. Both of whom had raced here before, Elaine in 2015 and 2013 and Pat in 2008 – to still be competing on the world stage after almost 10 years is very impressive!

Elaine with some stellar support from her sister Laura on Ali'i Drive

Pat, who is probably more accustomed to the frozen trails in Yukon Glacier (being the first european to complete the 430km trail on bike (and only woman ever) and one of three ladies to have completed 100mile Yukon ultra marathon), she was certainly aware of the heat in the days before the event. Promising me she would swim more like a 2-2:15 hours swim, she clocked in at 1:47. 

Pat heading up Palani Hill ready to tackle the bike course. Photo courtesy Mike Cooke-Rogers

Knocking over 30 minutes off her run time meant she finished in just over 16 hours and was striding down the Queen K with ease on her way to the finish line at Ali'i Drive – in spite of the "Pesty winds" on the bike working against her! Getting faster by about 34 minutes over the 9 year gap in Kona races really is proof that age certainly doesn't slow you down and we can't wait to see how she gets on in her next challenge!

Pat heading out from T2 ready to take on the marathon. Photo courtesy Mike Cooke-Rogers

Elaine was going to Kona to turn heads and do some damage. She certainly didn't fail to disappoint. After a quick swim (ahead of even our best predictions) she headed out on the bike to take back the slight deficit. She stuck to the plan and pulled her way back to 6th in her age group. Her aim of an age group podium (top 5) was within reach. 

Elaine heading out to the Lava Fields

After a solid first half of the run she was looking at 4th place, to-ing and fro-ing with several ladies in her age group. She took an incredible eighth place, missing out on a podium slot by just over 4 minutes after over 10 hours of racing. With such an impressive performance, there was no dwelling in disappointment, rather celebrating the incredible journey of the last two years! (More on that to follow in a separate article). The level of improvement this year, to go from from top 120 female age grouper to 20th age grouper at the world championships is phenomenal. The sharp end of long course triathlon racing is exceptionally challenging. However, a huge congratulations must go to Alison Rowatt from Team Freespeed who ran through the 35-39 category to take 1st place after several attempts (and a second place last year) at world domination. It was very well deserved and great to watch.

Ruth Purbrook smiling her way to third place in the 25-29 category. 

As a slight parenthesis, it is worth reflecting on the ladies field. Elaine qualified at Weymouth where there was one slot for her age category by running her way to first place by 90 seconds. The lady who took second place (AG) at Weymouth (and missed a chance for a Kona slot) finished over 30 minutes ahead of third place.

If the lady who finished 2nd had continued improving at the same sort rate of improvement as Elaine had then she would have finished top 9 AG in the world championships. Furthermore, Elaine took the 20th Amateur female overall at the world championships*.

This is not a rant at things being unfair, that is sadly life, more to celebrate just how tough the ladies field is (at all age groups).  It is very common for someone to be within touching distance of a place in the world championships, and theoretically be an overall amateur contender, and yet not not quite make the qualification AG "cut". The margin for error is counted in seconds: every single second counts. 2 seconds faster per km in the marathon could well be the difference between a podium or not; a slot or not; to a successful outcome goal, or not. Racing is brutal, but in many ways that is why we do it!

*[This is a big assumption as the lady who took first place overall at Weymouth – a few minutes ahead of Elaine – actually finished almost an hour after Elaine at Kona – Kona can be a race of it's own!]

Dean enjoying himself on Ali'i Drive

A special mention should also go to Dean Ratcliffe, a long time friend of TTH and has been out to Portugal more times than some of the coaches! He raced his debut on the big island and is now off for a very envious trip around the world on his bike!

Congratulations to all those who competed and here is to a fantastic set of GB results (again!) in Kona. It is most definitely time to put your feet up and rest!


Philip HatzisAG, RacingComment