Run Like Rinny
I am a runner. I like to see a crushing run in a triathlon. I saw one today.
The Ironman World Championship was held today in Kona, Hawaii.
Sebastian Kienle of Germany won the men's title, finishing more than 5 minutes ahead of the second place finisher Ben Hoffman from the United States. The race was settled early on the run as Kienle came off the bike with a good lead and held on to cruise to fairly easy win.
While his 5-minute victory is certainly a dominating performance by anyone's standards, to me, the women's race was more dramatic and inspiring because I'm a runner.
Mirinda "Rinny" Carfrae of Australia won her 3rd Ironman World Championship in 4 years, beating second place finisher Daniela Ryf of Switzerland by 2 minutes and 2 seconds.
Hidden within that 2-minute margin of victory is the fact that Carfrae came off the bike and started the run 14 minutes and 38 seconds behind the leader, Ryf.
Carfrae is little. She is 5'1'' and weighs about 115 pounds. She is a good swimmer and cyclist (of course, she rides a Felt), but there were several pro women in the race that are bigger and stronger in the water and on the bike, and that is exactly how things played out going into the marathon portion of the race.
But Rinny is a runner, and the setup today was a runner's dream.
Up until about mile 15 or so in the marathon, the TV announcers were concentrating on the top 2 leaders in the women's race, Daniela Ryf and Rachel Joyce, speculating which one would likely win. Carfrae was so far behind, the announcers never mentioned her.
Everyone was completely oblivious to what was going on behind them.
And what was going on behind them was that Mirinda Carfrae, one of the greatest Ironman runners ever (whether male or female), was rolling!... gaining on the 2 women ahead of her at the rate of almost 40 seconds per mile.
Suddenly, the announcers became aware of what was happening when Carfrae was only 9 minutes back.
Then 5 minutes back.
Then she eased around second place Rachel Joyce. And then with a few miles left, she was still accelerating and crushed the leader Daniela Ryf, blowing around her like she was standing still. Daniela Ryf made a feeble attempt to run with her, but could only keep Carfrae in reach for a couple hundred meters before her form collapsed and she faded.
And Carfrae looked fantastic.
A few minutes later, Carfrae had built such a lead the TV cameramen were unable to keep her and Ryf in the same shot. Carfrae outran the leader by over 16 minutes... gained on her at the rate of nearly 40 seconds per mile... for 26.2 miles straight.
What Carfrae did today is what every strong runner in triathlon wants to do... have the experience and confidence to trust your running ability so you can erase a big deficit coming off the swim or bike. There is no better feeling than to fly past that competitor in the last few miles or few hundred meters, knowing that they are physically or mentally unable to respond.
As she was running, Carfrae no doubt was getting information about the race leaders ahead of her, using that information to calculate that she was going catch them. That's having confidence in your running ability. Confidence gained from pounding out miles in training. And she did so with a lung-blistering 2:50:27 marathon, the fastest by any woman in Ironman Hawaii history.
Running is mysterious and difficult for most people. A lot of people approach racing triathlon just hoping to be able to hang on during the run and get to the finish, especially after the pressure and physical/mental effort required to race competitively on the swim and bike.
Today, Carfrae's performance reinforced the importance of racing the run as well as the swim and bike. Ironman legend Dave Scott said that Carfrae's previous Ironman win was the greatest sporting performance he had ever seen... in any sport. This year's performance may have been even better.