Every time I watch an Ironman, it blows my mind. The athletes are amazing, of course, but what shocks me each and every year I see Kona is the sheer span of time they’re on the course. While the live broadcast is on, you can watch it in passing as you go about the business of your own day—you can go on a long ride or run, get some errands done, take a nap, wash the car, eat three square meals, watch a couple of full-length movies…but don’t worry, they’re still out there, the poor souls. You haven’t come anywhere close to missing the finish.
Austin had lots of quality representation in 2015: ATC was watching for updates from age groupers Mike Minardi, Jack Cartwright, and Toni Ferreira da Silva Neto. Kona tends to be extra windy and extra hot, so PRs for the distance are rare; not everyone’s race went as planned or hoped. The experience of qualifying for and attending this prestigious competition, however, is an accomplishment in itself. As an added bonus for Minardi and his fans back home, his photogenic good looks got him on IRONMAN’s highlight reel and Triathlete.com’s favorite finisher photos.
My husband and I were also following Jeff Symonds, a Canadian pro we’d hosted a few times for the Longhorn 70.3; he was racing his first Kona and looking good, but had a mechanical on the bike course. He still managed to finish the run in about 2 hours and 50 minutes (third fastest run time this year), so despite bad luck the first time around, he could be one of the favorites going into next year. There was a surprise in the women’s race that caught our attention, as well: Mirinda Carfrae dropped out midway through the bike; she’d had a crash on a training ride leading up to the race and was injured. You usually expect Carfrae, an incredibly talented runner, to give the strong cyclists a run for their money (literally) in the final miles. She’s the current course record holder for the women, with a time of 8 hours 52 minutes and 14 seconds.
In the end, the leaderboard was still very interesting, full of the latest and greatest names in triathlon. In the women’s race, Swiss pro Daniela Ryf, who also holds the 2015 70.3 championship title (and is often compared to Chrissie Wellington in her abilities and the decisiveness of her victories), took the win with an impressive bike split; Rachel Joyce (Great Britain) and Liz Blatchford (Australia) were second and third. Former ITU athlete Jan Frodeno (Germany) and Andreas Raelert (Germany) took first and second overall for the men, with Americans Timothy O’Donnell (Mirinda Carfrae’s husband) and Andy Potts (for his highest Kona finish yet, though he’s often first out of the water) finishing third and fourth. Early on, the men seemed to be on pace to beat the bike course record, but nobody did, and Normann Stadler, who still holds the bike course record from 2006 on a not-very-aero Kuota bike, tweeted this:
Updated with info from the 2015 race, Jack Mott’s Kona Bike Stats post on the ATC blog delves into bike tech and bike course records from the ’90s to the present day. Check it out here.
The NBC coverage will air November 14, so you’ll still have a chance to view the 2015 Kona highlights if you missed the live feed. The action and drama will be condensed to 1.5 hours, though, so there’s no way you’ll get a true perspective of just….how….long…an Ironman can be.