Cycling star Lance Armstrong (USA) walked away with the victory at today’s SuperFrog Triathlon on Coronado Island in Southern California.
Armstrong exited the 1.2-mile swim a couple of minutes back of the leaders, which included former world duathlon champion Leon Griffin of Australia, and worked his way up on the bike. He posted the fastest 56-mile bike split of the day in 2:02:48 to establish a new bike course record, but chose to ride 10 meters behind Griffin for the majority of the bike and came into T2 right on Griffin’s heels. “The last few months have been a little complicated for me, so my training has been off and on,” Armstrong says. “The thing I’ve done the most is just long, long runs…3, 4, 5 hour trail runs. I looked at my power meter and halfway through I was at a 331 average and figured I don’t want to go any harder anyways so I’ll stay here and roll the dice on the run.”
He started the run a few seconds behind the Australian and quickly took over the lead after the first mile on the tough 13.1-mile run course, which starts and ends with two miles of deep, soft sand. “I was about 15 seconds behind Lance on the sand and I thought when we got back to the hard stuff I could catch him back, but he put more time on me,” Griffin says.
“I heard that he was the world duathlon champion so I figured he’d run strong,” Armstrong says. “But to be honest I didn’t come out here to win, I just came out here to participate. I got away from him on the run and thought, ‘Okay I’ll keep it here and see what happens.’”
The run course was slightly different than in years’ past, and many age groupers noted its increased difficulty upon crossing the finish line. After the race, Armstrong said, “Whoever invented that [run course] needs to be checked out.”
Armstrong was first across the line with a new course record. Griffin finished second just over two minutes later, also sneaking under the course record formerly held by Chris McDonald. Olympian Tyler Butterfield of Bermuda came off the bike in third and although he began closing in on Griffin during the run, he ran out of real estate and settled for third. Local pro Beth Walsh took the women’s title.
Griffin finished fourth at yesterday’s inaugural F1 Triathlon and started the year strong with a couple runner-up spots and a fourth among a top field at both Ironman 70.3 California and Ironman Australia. But, he says, training in the “endurance athlete heaven” of Boulder in his first year back after a brief hiatus from the sport may have had an adverse affect on his training—he recently had a few disappointing results at Ironman World Championship 70.3 (18th) and Ironman 70.3 Cozumel (DNF).
“I feel like I’m in a bit of a hole from overtraining,” Griffin says. “I went on a couple of big training rides a couple weeks ago with guys doing Kona, which I don’t think was a good idea.” He also said he could feel the affects of racing F1 yesterday.
Griffin was offered a roll down spot to race Kona just a couple weeks ago, but opted not to take in on such short notice and will instead head back to his native Australia for the Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie.
After focusing on short-course training heading into the Olympics, Butterfield did his first half-iron distance race of the year at today’s SuperFrog. He admits his training hasn’t been up to par since taking a break after London to visit family in Bermuda for a few weeks. “If you haven’t done the work, you’re going to get found out,” Butterfield says. “It’s good that the sport is progressing and you can’t get away with that anymore. Back in the day you could not train that well and still jump in and do well, whereas now the sport’s getting bigger and bigger.”
He treated SuperFrog as a training race for November’s Ironman Arizona. His plan is to qualify for Kona early—after Arizona he’ll take on Ironman Melbourne in March—with a goal of finishing top-10 there in 2013. “I’m definitely not young, but I’m not old,” he says. “I still want to chase the big races.”
Throughout the day, Armstrong was followed by the usual hoard of fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the celebrity athlete, who donned just a Speedo for the entire race (Griffin noted that spectators were yelling, “You’re getting beat by a guy in a banana hammock!”).
At the swim exit, the entourage chased him from the water to T1 to snap photos of his transition. Spectators were constantly asking one another, “Has he gone by already?” “Where’s Lance?” “Did you see him?” He was unsurprisingly bombarded with microphones and cameras upon finishing, and when Griffin ran in to finish, the attention was still on him. Armstrong spoke to race announcer Barry Siff about why he did the race.
“This is a special race that was started a long time ago by people who probably thought they were doing something really crazy and it wouldn’t take off and never be duplicated, and now people are doing it all over the world and in droves,” Armstrong says. “And the second reason: for our servicemen and women. The SEALs are at the top of that chain but everyone below them is just as committed and just as passionate–they’re special to me and special to a lot of people. The least I can do is come out and suffer for three hours and forty-nine minutes.”