Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service
What it takes to win triathlon’s iconic IRONMAN World Championship.
It is the ultimate triathlon test and on October 14 some of the world’s best athletes will gather in Kailua-Kona to be crowned IRONMAN world champion.
For some, like New Zealand triathlete Braden Currie, it will be a first race in Hawai’i, for others like the experienced Daniela Ryf, from Switzerland, it will be a chance for a hat-trick of titles in the prestigious event.
A year ago, Ryf set the course record in a time of 8 hours 46 minutes and 46 seconds, and a year on will hope to emulate the feat despite a back injury earlier in the season.
The 30-year-old, an Olympian in the shorter triathlon distance in 2008 and 2012, said of her hat-trick attempt: “I don’t try to count the titles. That doesn’t mean that much to me. To me, it’s more that I win, and that means a lot.”
The form clearly looks good having taken victory in her final warm-up event, the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships but the challenge up ahead is infinitely longer with a 3.86-kilometre swim, a 180.25km bike ride and finished with a marathon (42.2km).
Among those in the women’s elite field is Lucy Charles, who has been preparing in the heat and altitude of Lanzarote to finetune her body for the unique challenges of Kona.
A previous under-25 age group champion at the event, the 23-year-old has been causing a stir globally this season with a string of podiums and a win in Lanzarote after which she said, in hope rather than expectation, “I am hoping this will make Kona feel a little bit easier”.
There is no denying that the IRONMAN World Championship is triathlon’s most iconic event, first run on the island of Oahu in 1978 before being moved to the Island of Hawai’i and Kona in 1981.
In the men’s race, the course record to beat was set by Australian Craig Alexander in the 2011 event – a time of 8:03.55 – while the world record for the distance belongs to Britain’s Tim Don, a 7:40.23.
Sebastian Kienle has only once in the past four years finished off the podium, the German looking for a second victory to back up his 2014 triumph.
A year ago, he was part of an all-German podium in Kona, and says the mind set is the same every year: “I think if you can’t say that you want to win this race you won’t be able to do it because then you don’t have the confidence.”
The aforementioned Currie will be lining up at the prestigious race for the first time and, to a certain degree, has no idea what lies in store.
“It’s my first time giving it a crack so I will be figuring it out,” he said. “I’m not very good at taking advice. I like to learn my own ways – everything is trial and error.
“And my strength lies in the back half of the run, and that is where the big time differences are made. If I can get to that point and turn up the throttle, I’ll be happy no matter what the result is.”
There are those that may not finish. A time limit is set for each event of 2 hours 20 minutes for the swim, 8 hours 10 minutes for the bike ride and 17 hours overall from start to finish.
In short, a DNF (did not finish), a brutal outcome for the hours of toil in training and the race itself.
Watch the IRONMAN World Championship live on Red Bull TV HERE.