Never trust the weathermen. As dawn broke over the Big Island for the 2012 Ironman World Championships athletes were promised a nice warm day, the occasional wind and a bit of cloud cover. Instead, they got a swelteringly hot and humid day with winds topping 35mph. Yes, the Big Island lived up to its fearsome reputation, forcing every athlete (not to mention volunteers and spectators) to work hard and dig deep. They did, and in the process conjured up two sensational races.
The Men’s Race
A three foot swell rolling into Dig Me Beach wasn’t enough to disrupt Andy Potts as the American once again led the field into transition in a remarkable 50:32 (given the conditions). Similarly impressive was Marko Albert who was close behind Potts (51:27) before a gap to a group of men that included Pete Jacobs (51:28) Craig Alexander (51:35) and Michael Raelert (51:37). Meanwhile, Marino Vanhoenacker emerged from the wet stuff looking a little bit perturbed in 52:11.
But appearances can be deceiving. Out on the bike Vanhoenacker started to close the gap on the lead men as the Kona Train took off at full hilt. It was quite a sight as first Luke McKenzie and then Pete Jacobs took up position on the front of the pack. Behind them, though, athletes were already beginning to suffer. Andreas Raelert was strangely out of sorts at the start of the bike, first closing in on – and then falling back from – the leaders. Chris McCormack, meanwhile, was never in contention. The two-time World Champion lost a lot of time on the bike before dropping out before the halfway point.
Up front, though, the pace was ferocious. Jacobs kept the tempo high but neither he nor the rest of the pack could live with the bike speed of Marino Vanhoenacker and Sebastian Kienle. The race looked to be going in favour of the cyclists until Kienle punctured, and was forced to rejoin the bike nearly five minutes down on the Belgian. Kienle’s misfortune signalled the beginning of the end of the Kona train as the pack splintered. Vanhoenacker continued to build a lead while Jacobs chased. It was too much for reigning World Champion Craig Alexander, though, who was one of a group of athletes who dropped off the back of the chase pack. He would finish the bike 17 minutes down on Vanhoenacker.
Jacobs, meanwhile, was riding superbly. In what has historically been his weakest discipline on the Big Island he was able to limit his losses going into T2 with an outstanding 4:35:15 bike. Vanhoenacker recorded the fastest split of the day (4:25:49), while Andreas Raelert pulled back some time in the latter stages (4:36:34).
It was perfectly set up for the run. If he could hold it together Marino Vanhoenacker had built enough of a lead to win the title based on historical split comparisons (Vanhoenacker’s Kona run best was 4:26 to Jacobs’ 4:21). But the heat had taken its toll. Although the Belgian slugged it out over the first ten miles Jacobs was slowly but surely eating into Vanhoenacker’s lead. Seven minutes became five, which became three and then reports came through that the Pete Jacobs was leading the race and Vanhoenacker was sitting on the side of the road. He was eventually a DNF. It was a tough turn of events for Marino who deserved to get more out of the race.
While Jacobs was powering towards the win, behind him Andreas Raelert was running his way back into contention. Going into the Energy Lab he joined fellow countrymen Faris Al-Sultan and Sebastian Kienle vying for second place. Coming out of it he had the place and it looked like he might be able to hunt down Jacobs. But the Australian was too strong. Despite the heat, the wind and the tremendous effort he put in on the bike, Pete Jacobs was still able to run an impressive 2:48:05 marathon (that time also included a mile or so of hand waving and high fiving). Averaging 6:16min/mile pace for the run, and topping out at 4:51min/mile, it was a sensational marathon from the Aussie and topped off what was a near-perfect day. Crossing the line in 8:18:37 there was just one thing on his mind: love.
“I’m in love!” Jacobs beamed. “In love with the sport, my friends and family – they’ve done so much for me. I was just saying the words ‘love’ to myself towards the end. I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do and have a good day out there. We’re going to have a party.
“For a while there I thought he [Marino Vanhoenacker] had it up until about 25km on the run – I thought he was the better athlete on the day – but he came back to me very quickly. I was already writing my losers speech!”
Behind Jacobs this enthralling race wasn’t done. Frederik Van Lierde had caught Raelert and briefly looked to have passed him. Raelert dug deep, so did Van Lierde and the pair ran elbow to elbow for much of the last few miles. Raelert was eventually able to open a gap, taking second with a 2:47:23 marathon in 8:23:40. Van Lierde rounded out the podium in 8:24:09.
The Women’s Race
For years the women at the Ironman World Championships have campaigned for a separate start from the men. This year they got it and we saw a spectacular race unfold as a result. Amanda Stevens led the women out of the water (55:09) ahead of Meredith Kessler (55:56) and Gina Crawford (55:59). Behind them, though, were the athletes we were looking for. Leanda Cave (56:03) and Mary Beth Ellis (56:06) emerged on one another’s shoulder, 1:30 up on Caroline Steffen (57:37) and way ahead of Mirinda Carfrae (1:00:06).
Stevens was able to stick with Cave and Ellis for a while, but it wasn’t long before Steffen joined the leaders and the three engaged in a fascinating bike battle that was intermittently interrupted by the officials. First Steffen was carded for drafting and spent four minutes in the penalty box. The Swiss Miss could only watch as Cave and Ellis disappeared up the Queen K, but wasted no time chasing them down. In fact, just after the turn Steffen was back with the leaders and trying to pull away. Just as it was getting interesting it was Cave’s turn to spend time in the penalty box, leaving Steffen and Ellis to fight it out all the way back to T2. Try as she might Steffen couldn’t drop Ellis, who tucked in doggedly as the winds picked up.
But the officials hadn’t finished. As the pair headed towards town they carded Ellis and handed her a four minute penalty (to be served in T2). The pair came into town, Steffen’s 5:06:49 bringing her in just behind Ellis (5:08:06). The American could only watch as Steffen disappeared on the run and she served out her penalty. When she emerged from the penalty box Ellis was alongside Leanda Cave (5:12:06), the pair exiting T2 just side by side. Crucially, for the race, all the work Mirinda Carfrae had done on the bike (coupled with the penalties) had paid off: Rinny was 8:09 back (6:14:19) – the closest she had ever been to the lead going onto the Kona run.
Carfrae immediately started to close the gap. As Steffen worked to maintain her advantage at the front Carfrae got faster and faster. The gap to Steffen decreased with every mile, and soon she was on the shoulder of Cave and Ellis. But while the Aussie passed Ellis with ease, she just couldn’t get around Leanda Cave. In fact, the Aussie’s presence was the impetus Cave needed. The reigning Ironman 70.3 World Champion found another gear and simply ran away from Carfrae and was soon closing in on Steffen. It was tremendous running from Cave, who rapidly bridged the gap to Steffen and with just three miles to go was leading the race.
There was no looking back for the Brit, who stormed away from Steffen – who was visibly suffering – to take the win. Crossing the line after a 3:03:13 marathon to give her the win in 9:15:54, Cave was emotional, slightly speechless but utterly ecstatic. She had done it – she had won the 2012 Ironman World Championships. Steffen held on for second (9:16:58), with Mirinda Carfrae rounding out the podium (9:21:41).
Check back later for a more in-depth, lucid race report (with quotes!)…
2012 Ironman World Championships
Top 10 Men
1. Pete Jacobs (AUS) 8:18:37
2. Andreas Raelert (GER) 8:23:40
3. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:24:09
4. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:27:08
5. Faris Al-Sultan (ARE) 8:27:08
6. Timo Bracht (GER) 8:30:57
7. Andy Potts (USA) 8:31:45
8. Tim O’Donnell (USA) 8:33:28
9. David Dellow (AUS) 8:35:02
10. Dirk Bockel (LUX) 8:36:21
Top 7 Women
1. Leanda Cave (GBR) 9:15:54
2. Caroline Steffen (SWI) 9:16:58
3. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 9:21:41
4. Sonja Tajsich (GER) 9:22:45
5. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 9:22:57
6. Natascha Badmann (SWI) 9:26:25
7. Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:28:54
8. Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:32:18
9. Caitlin Snow (USA) 9:36:18
10. Amy Marsh (USA) 9:38:15
FILED UNDER: News / Race Results TAGS: 2012 / About / Andreas-Raelert / Caroline-Steffen / Hawaii / Ironman-World-Championship / Kona / Leanda-Cave / Marino Vanhoenacker / Mirinda-Carfrae / Pete-Jacobs / Race / report / Result