IRONMAN New Zealand was full of excitement in the women’s race this year, with five-time winner Meredith Kessler disappointed with a third place finish. Trizone recaps this thrilling race from last weekend in Taupo.
Ironman New Zealand 2017 Swim
The women’s swim started fiercely as early morning darkness shrouded the exquisite Taupo lake. Meredith Kessler, renowned for her ferocity in the water, dominated the swim with Australian Annabel Luxford hot on her heels. The two swimmers were so far ahead of the field, the had a solid five minute lead on the chase pack.
Ironman New Zealand 2017 Bike
Annabel Luxford, fresh off her victory at Geelong 70.3, was in fine form as she powered forward on the bike with Meredith Kessler. The pair weren’t able to maintain their lead though, as behind them, the pack was chasing hard.
Jocelyn McCauley (USA) was pedalling fiercely alongside Kiwi based (but British) Laura Siddall and Dutch woman Yvonne van Vlerken. The three worked hard to catch Kessler and Luxford, and by the second half of the devastatingly hilly bike leg, they’d caught the leaders.
“They really pressed us that way back [on the bike],” Kessler said of McCauley and second place finisher Laura Siddall of the United Kingdom.
Ironman New Zealand 2017 Run
In last year’s race, Jocelyn McCauley had DNF’ed and been sick, so she was propelled by a fierce determination in 2017, and that showed in the run. After T2, McCauley dug deep and worked exceptionally hard, but she was worried it wasn’t enough. During the race, she remember what Kessler had said to her when she’d shyly approached her last year.
“She said you’re going to do awesome and rise to the occasion, and I’ve kept that with me since then. I DNFed last year, got really sick, so coming back this year I was definitely wanting a podium.”
This determination fuelled her run, and she ran to victory in a sub-three hour (2:59:40) marathon, an exceptional result especially considering the mountainous course. She finished in a total time of just 9:09:47.
“The day unfolded like it would in my perfect dream, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” McCauley said. “I was up against a world-class field and was running scared – I was terrified out of my mind with Siddall (Laura) the comeback-queen behind me – and Meredith, who is a legend,” McCauley told the NZ Herald.
Elated McCauley tops the podium
McCauley’s elation on the podium was thrilling to see, and her love of the sport was clear during her post-race interviews. “When I did my first Ironman, I decided this was a one and done thing,” McCauley said. “I just wanted to do an Ironman. It’s something my sister does, my sister got me into this, and I didn’t think this was something I was going do four years ago… but it’s something that I love,” McCauley told Stuff.co.nz.
Kessler was disappointed with her race, and was teary at the finish; though she said she was upset for letting down the Taupo residents, as she considers the lake region to be a second home. “I’ve been sick as a dog the last two years leading up to this day. In bed in the foetal position, and got the record the last two years. This year, I had a perfect build. But as my old coach used to say, if you don’t have adversity before a race, I’m going to buy you a puppy and shoot it.”
This may be extreme, but it was clear from her result, Kessler wasn’t quite at her best at this year’s race, placing third in 9:27:19 behind Great Britain’s Laura Siddall who finished in 9:21:53.
Age grouper finishes race with just seconds to spare
Trizone wants to congratulate age grouper Suzanne Stokes, who finished just seconds before midnight, the vital cut-off time for allowing an athlete to call themselves an Ironman finisher. To see Siddall and McCauley help carry her across the finish line is one of this year’s top shows of sportsmanship already!