A consistent and balanced Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium won the 2013 Ironman World Championship Saturday in Kona, Hawaii, while the women's title was won by Australia's Mirinda Carfrae, who set a new course record in the process. It was the 35th annual running of the Ironman World Championship, the defining race in triathlon that has competitors swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles (a full marathon) in grueling conditions.
Carfrae's historic day was made possible by her 2:50:38 marathon, a blistering time that was not only a new course record for the women, but also the third-fastest run split on Saturday, men included. She was 30 seconds faster than the men's champion, Van Lierde.
Van Lierde came out of the water in seventh place (51:02), just 11 seconds behind the fastest swimmer, Brandon Marsh (USA). On the bike, American Andrew Starykowicz and Australian Luke McKenzie took turns leading the race, with Starykowicz eventually pulling away and arriving first into T2 with a 4:21:50 bike split. Van Lierde stayed consistent and came in lass than four minutes later.
Starykowicz quickly faltered on the run, allowing McKenzie to grab the race lead by the 5K checkpoint. But it was clear McKenzie's lead would not last -- his suffering was apparent, and a strong Van Lierde was closing in, fast. Van Lierde eventually caught McKenzie around Mile 17 in the Energy Lab, and quickly passed him with a machine-like pace that no one could match on Saturday.
El belga Frederik Van Lierde ganan el Campeonato del Mundo Ironman de Kona- Hawaii pic.twitter.com/4Jfguf2fpC— Correduria.info (@correduriainfo) October 13, 2013
Van Lierde came across the finish line in 8:12:29, winning the championship with a race that was the model of consistency -- 7th-fastest swim, 4th-fastest bike and the 4th-fastest marathon. McKenzie held on to finish second with a gutty final 10 miles on the run (8:15:19), easily the breakthrough performance of his career.
For Van Lierde, who finished third in Hawaii last year, it was his second Ironman win of 2013, having also taken first-place at Nice, a race he has won three years in a row.
Germany's Sebastian Kienle took third-place on Saturday, improving on his fourth-place finish from a year ago. South Africa's James Cunnama and America's Timothy O'Donnell rounded out the top-five.
While the men's race was full of breakthroughs, career days and disappointments (three-time world champion Craig Alexander and defending champion Pete Jacobs finished 23rd and 77th, respectively), Saturday in Kona truly belonged to Mirinda Carfrae.
Carfrae, the 2010 world champion, turned in one of the best performances the sport has ever seen. After a mediocre swim (58:50), Carfrae managed stay close to the women's leaders on the bike (4:58:20) and came into transition in 11th place. Some eight minutes behind, Carfrae set out on the run -- and absolutely crushed the field.
She ran the first 13.1 miles in 1:25, surging past Rachel Joyce at the halfway mark on record pace. The only question for Carfrae was whether or not she could maintain running at the historical clip. Not only did she keep it up, she got faster, seemingly getting stronger with every mile. Carfrae ran the 13.1-16.4 mile section in a 6:19/mile pace; 19-22.3 mile stretch was done in a 6:25-pace; the final 1.2 miles was covered in just 6:03. And all the while, her stride and form looked liked something out of a running textbook.
Carfrae's 2:50:38 marathon time broke her own women's record in Kona by 1:34, and her overall finishing time of 8:52:14 set a new world championship record, besting four-time winner Chrissie Wellington's mark by 1:48. In short, Carfrae turned in a day that was truly legendary, and among the best the sport has ever seen.
Just after crossing the finish line, Carfrae, jumped into the arms of Tim O'Donnell, the men's fifth-place finisher -- and the man she's marrying in December.
Great Britain's Rachel Joyce finished second in 8:57:28, a time that would have won last year's race by more than 17 minutes. Unfortunately for Joyce, she just happened to run into a Carfrae buzz-saw on Saturday. Joyce's time was the fifth-fastest ever for a woman in Kona, and makes her just the fourth member of the women's sub-nine hour club.
Third-place was claimed by Liz Blatchford (GBR), more than 11 minutes behind Carfrae. Yvonne Van Vlerken (Netherlands) and Switzerland's Caroline Steffen rounded out the women's top-five. The top American finisher was Caitlin Snow, who ran the final 1.2 miles in a 4:49/mile pace to out-sprint country-woman Meredith Kessler.
How fast was the women's race on Saturday? The top-nine women all turned in times faster than Leanda Cave's winning time in 2012.
1. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 8:12:39
2. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 8:15:19
3. Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:19:24
4. James Cunnama (RSA) 8:21:46
5. Tim O'Donnell (USA) 8:22:25
6. Ivan Rana (ESP) 8:23:43
7. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 8:24:09
8. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 8:25:38
9. Timo Bracht (GER) 8:26:32
10. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) 8:31:13
1. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 8:52:14
2. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 8:57:28
3. Liz Blatchford (GBR) 9:03:35
4. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 9:04:34
5. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 9:09:09
6. Caitlin Snow (USA) 9:10:12
7. Meredith Kessler (USA) 9:10:19
8. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 9:11:13
9. Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:14:17
Pro Race Recap from IRONMAN.com's Dave Erickson: