Chrissie Wellington holds off Mirinda Carfrae to win Ford Ironman World Championships
Julie Dibbens determined to improve on her 3rd placing from last year setting a cracking pace in the swim exiting the water in second place at 51:58, just 4 seconds down on Amanda Stevens from the US. Fellow Brits Leanda Cave and Rachel Joyce were a further 2 minutes down. Other pre-race favourites then exited Mary Beth Ellis (4mins down on Dibbens), Caroline Steffan and Mirinda Carfrae (5 mins) and Chrissie Wellington no doubt suffering the effects of her recent bike spill exited the water in 1:01:03. Concern about Wellington was further heightened by the sight of her appearing to limp as she went through T1.
Once onto the bike Dibbens started to tear the field apart, setting a new woman’s bike course record of 4:44:14, over 6 minutes quicker than the second fastest split which was recorded by Steffan. Cave maintained her form with the third fastest split and Wellington started to stage her assault with a 4:53:56 bike split the 6th fastest split of the day.
Dibbens set off on the run leg looking strong and maintaining a good pace, with an 11 minute lead over second placed Steffan, over 20 minutes on Wellington, and a massive 25 minutes over her great friend and rival Carfrae, it looked like it could just be the Brits day. However, it was not to be, within the first 5 miles of the race Dibbens was reduced to a limping walk as a result of an ongoing serious foot injury. She made a sad sight as she desperately tried to keep running but no matter how tough she was she could not resume her rhythm. The rest of the woman showed her no sympathy and she was soon passed by the swiss miss Steffan, who despite her heavier build was running powerfully in the hot Kona conditions. Wellington was also coming into her own, charging through the field as she relentlessly hunted down the leaders, she fair skipped up Palani hill while others laboured. Â
As the approached the Energy lab Chrissie made a decisive pass of Steffan as they went through an aid station. Steffan mentally gave up the lead at that point not looking to counter-attack and looking down the road to see how far back it was to third-placed athlete Leanda Cave.
Carfrae continued to run through the athletes ahead of her, but with Wellington, Steffan and Cave all staying strong as the race progressed it became apparent that she would not retain her crown, and a podium finish began to look like the best she could hope for.
Wellington was not able to dominate the race as in previous years, no doubt the impact of both her crash, but also that many of the other female athletes have lifted their game to the new standards set by Wellington.Â Behind her Steffan continued to threaten, and Carfrae closed on Cave in third. Carfrae was to catch Cave and soon had Steffan in her sights who, in the closing stages of the race started to suffer cramps.
Carfrae caught Steffan at mile 22 but with a 3.45 gap to Wellington the win was always improbable against an athlete of Wellington’s standard. Wellington dug deep to hold off a fast finishing Carfrae, who managed to break her own course run record in the chase,Â and regain the crown that she feels is rightfully hers. This was by no means the fastest of Wellington’s races or the most dominant, but after last year it would have been one of her sweetest, as was evidenced by her pain and emotion at the finishing line.