Kona: Our final thoughts on what happened at the Ironman World Championships for 2016

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman

The Ironman World Championship in Kona on October 8th, 2016 saw a day of course records, remarkable results, and heart-warming pride and inspiration. From the pro champions who led the fields; Daniela Ryf and Jan Frodeno, to the inspiring Australian burns victim Turia Pit and blind athlete Michael Somsan, it sure was a Kona to remember.

Pro Recap – Kona 2016

Trizone predicted who’d make the podiums at Kona, and we’re thrilled to report we were right on both the men’s and women’s first and second place finishes. What we didn’t see coming were Patrick Lange and Heather Jackson, who truly wowed the crowd with their incredible run speeds. How did Jackson and Lange make it to the podiums? Read more to find out…

Kona Swim 2016

The pros launched into the water as the lights still flickered over Kona. The men started first and set a cracking pace with all eyes watching to see if a course record could be broken. It wasn’t to be though, despite a thick lead pack led by Wiltshire, Frodeno and Potts. With the strongest swimmers including Wiltshire at the lead, the crowd waited to see if these powerful swimmers would last throughout the event.

The women’s swim was similar, with a solid lead pack of Jodie Swallow followed by Meredith Kessler, Annabel Luxford, Alicia Kay, and Daniela Ryf in fifth. Kessler made it to land first, but she was closely surrounded by a thick pack of ten women, all racing toward the transition.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman

Kona Bike 2016

The men’s bike leg was the decider of the race. The scene at the transition was hectic as the huge swarm of leading men threw on their bike gear, causing some riders to suffer drafting penalties – including the man who’d finished third, German Patrick Lange. Michael Weiss led for half the race on the world’s fastest bike created by Diamondback and Kevin Quan racing. Despite coming out of the water in 38th place, German Sebastian Kienle was soon in the leading pack of eight men. Leaders of the tight knit pack constantly changed, leaving the crowd wondering who’d make the podium.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for Ironman

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for Ironman

The women’s bike was significantly different to the men’s, with stand-out leader Daniela Ryf boasting a huge lead out of T2. Anja Beranek, Mary Beth Ellis and Heather Jackson, meanwhile, seemed to be strong contenders throughout the first half but it was Ryf who had a huge five minute lead by the 99 mile mark. Once at the transition, she was light years ahead of the rest.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman

Kona Run 2016

The men’s run began as spectators would have hoped, with Germans Sebastian Kienle and Jan Frodeno neck and neck, chatting as they surged forward ahead of the pack. By the 16 mile mark, though, Frodeno’s long stride length had extended his lead over Kienle by 2:34, with Hoffman and Boecherer chasing a few minutes behind.

Frodeno’s lead only grew, but it was the action a few runners back that was truly remarkable. Another German, Patrick Lange, who’d been delayed by drafting penalties in the bike, surged forward. As the town of Kona loomed once more, Lange was on track to claim a new run course record, which he did, taking his spot on the podium in third. It wasn’t only Lange’s remarkable run that wowed the spectators, but also his genuine amazement and gratitude at his result at the finish line. As the three Germans hugged; Frodeno, Kienle and Lange, it was hard to take your eyes of Lange’s beaming smile.

The women’s run was an incredible show of athletic prowess, with Daniela Ryf showcasing her true power, culminating in a new course record for Kona. At 13.8 miles, Ryf had a 18:12 minute lead on Beranek, a 19.34 lead on Heather Jackson, and 22:46 lead on crowd favourite Australian Mirinda Carfrae. She powered on but as with the men’s race, it was the drama behind her that kept the crowd intrigued. At the 17 mile mark, Jackson passed Beranek and found herself in second place. Those who discounted Carfrae were to be surprised, as the podium regular surged forward in the final decline, racing passed Jackson to finish a distant second. Jackson, a fierce runner, made her Kona podium debut and finished third.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman

Age Groupers Impress at Kona 2016

The pros were definitely impressive this year, but it’s important not to forget that 96% of the athletes at Kona are age groupers! The event started with a bang, with every single competitor making it out of the water with a few minutes to spare, an incredible achievement. No fewer than 20% of all finishers at Kona were out of the water with times under one hour, a huge rise from just 6.7% last year.

If you’re thinking that surely most people who attempt Kona don’t actually make it to the finish line, you’re in for a surprise. This year, just 8.6% of the entire 2315 athletes made the DNF/DNS (didn’t finish or didn’t start) categories. This result is similar to previous years and is truly indicative of the commitment to the race that all the age groupers continue to share year after year. All the age groupers are truly remarkable, particularly the men’s 75-79 age group who had a remarkable average time of 15:09:05 and the women’s 70-74 age group with an average time of 14:58:79.

Kona finishers inspire

Special acknowledgement must go to Turia Pitt, the Australian speaker and business women who finished Kona for the first time. The crowd was also thrilled to see blind athlete and gunshot survivor Michael Somsan finish Kona for the first time. The participation of these remarkable survivors at Kona helps everyone remember that IRONMAN showcases people’s strength to overcome adversity, as well as their athletic ability.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for Ironman

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for Ironman

Shawn Smith

Shawn is a cyclist and tech geek at heart with a passion for new shiny things and a huge appetite for triathlon. He spends most of his time between managing two of Australia's best triathletes and a traditional corporate life. Unconventional, very blunt and straight to the point, he's continually searching for getting beyond the superficial and exploring what lies at the heart.