Written by: Brad Culp
Before today’s Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3, no woman had ever broken the four-hour mark at the half-Ironman distance and no man had finished in under 3:40. Both those records were shattered today, thanks to Brit Julie Dibens and Germany’s Michael Raelert. Dibens, who won her third consecutive XTERRA world title three weeks ago, opened up today’s race on the bike and went on to finish in 3:59:33—four minutes ahead of runner-up Mary Beth Ellis of the United States. Raelert won the men’s race on the run, averaging 5:16 per mile to finish in 3:34:05—the fastest 70.3 of all-time by over six minutes.
At the recommendation of the United States Coast Guard, race officials made the decision to move the 1.2-mile swim from open Gulf to Clearwater’s sheltered harbor. The unique, point-to-point swim included a brief walk over a sandy shoal in the harbor, which may have contributed to the lack of separation among the pros at the swim exit. Leading the way out of the water for the women, who were given an eight-minute head start on the men, was American Amanda Stevens in 24:07. Just behind Stevens was a pair of Brits (Julie Dibens and Jodie Swallow) and a pair of Americans (Sarah Groff and defending champ Joanna Zeiger).
Dibens moved to the front at the start of the bike and opened up a lead of almost three minutes near mile-20 before the rest of the girls tried to reel in the Brit. Leading the chasers was Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen, who pulled to within a minute of Dibens by mile-40. Right with Steffen was Swallow, Ellis and Stevens. By the time Dibens hit T2, her lead was back up to three minutes on Steffen, four minutes on Ellis and almost five minutes on Swallow.
Dibens started the run at a torrid pace, making things look bleak for anyone else with thoughts of a win. After stretching her lead during the opening miles of the half-marathon, Dibens slowed her pace on the second lap of the run, but the rest of the field couldn’t make up any ground. Dibens crossed the line in 3:59:33, over three minutes faster than Joanna Zeiger’s course record of a year ago. Ellis grabbed second for the second year in a row, finishing in 4:03:49. French Canadian Magali Tisseyre, who started the run over nine minutes behind Dibens, finished third with the day’s best run (1:20:33).
Leading the way out of the swim for the men was Estonian Marko Albert (21:35) with American Brian Fleischmann only three seconds behind. Just a few meters behind the pair of leaders were Brits Fraser Cartmell and Philip Graves, Canadian Brent McMahon and American Tim O’Donnell. Raelert exited the swim in 12th position, 23 seconds off the lead.
The lead men remained in a tight bunch throughout the bike leg but all of the leaders kept a close eye on the gaps and few drafting penalties were handed out. Setting the pace on the bike were American Andrew Starykowicz, Aussies Joe Gambles and Greg Bennett, defending champ Terenzo Bozzone, Graves and Italy’s Daniel Fontana. The lead seemed to change every minute, but it was Starykowicz, the 27-year old from Chicago, hitting T2 first after a 1:58:43 split. Bozzone was next into T2, only a few seconds back, followed by Reed and Bennett. Raelert was 12th off the bike, but only a minute behind Starykowicz.
Reed surged to the front at the start of the run, but only held the lead for a couple of miles before Raelert came storming by. The German never looked back after taking the lead away from Reed, building his advantage at each mile check. Raelert broke the tape in 3:34:04, more than six minutes faster than Bozzone’s course record from a year ago. The 29-year old finished the run in 1:09:05 (5:16 per mile), by far the fastest 70.3 run of all-time. Fontana posted the second-best run of the day en route to finishing second (3:36:44), with Reed rounding out the podium in 3:37:50.
Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3
Clearwater Beach, Fla. – November 14, 2009
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run
1. Michael Raelert (GER) 21:58 1:59:30 1:09:06 3:34:04
2. Daniel Fontana (ITA) 21:55 1:59:25 1:12:01 3:36:44
3. Matt Reed (USA) 21:59 1:59:02 1:13:12 3:37:50
4. Sylvain Sudrie (FRA) 21:57 1:59:36 1:12:47 3:38:02
5. Joe Gambles (AUS) 22:19 1:58:52 1:13:24 3:38:19
1. Julie Dibens (GBR) 24:12 2:07:09 1:24:38 3:59:33
2. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 24:31 2:10:52 1:24:43 4:03:49
3. Magali Tisseyre (CAN) 26:00 2:15:11 1:20:33 4:05:27
4. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 25:42 2:08:23 1:26:49 4:05:33
5. Laura Bennett (USA) 24:27 2:17:01 1:22:43 4:07:39