New Zealand’s Bevan Docherty and the United States’ Kelly Williamson each ran their way to victories at Saturday’s Ironman Texas in the The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston.
Bevan Docherty would like to make something very clear: When it comes to Ironman, he is no one hit wonder.
“A lot of people said after Ironman Taupo, I was a one hit wonder,” an emotional Docherty shared at the finish, referring to his record-breaking performance in New Zealand in 2013 followed by a lackluster showing in 2014. “There have been times I thought I should retire from the sport. But now I’d like to think I’ve got a few more years to go.”
The two-time Olympic medalist from New Zealand drove home his point with a finishing time of 8:09:37, besting a strong men’s field that included 2013 winner Paul Amey and 2012 winner Jordan Rapp.
Fast times were expected in the swim, as it was the first time the historically hot race had been cool enough to be wetsuit-legal. Texas native Brandon Marsh led the way out of the water, clocking an impressive 46:37. Stephen Bayliss and Docherty exited over a minute behind, followed by a large chase pack of pro men, including 2013 winner Jordan Rapp.
Marsh was able to hold his lead for over half of the bike leg, but Rapp made a decisive move at mile 64 to drop the chase pack and take the lead. His move worked, as he built up a lead of more than four minutes before entering T2. Bas Diederen and Bevan Docherty were neck and neck as they started the run, but Diederen proved unable to keep up with Docherty’s blistering pace of 6:27 per mile.
That pace helped him to overtake Rapp at mile 10 of the run. Shortly after, Rapp faded significantly, eventually finishing fourth.
“Though I felt very strong, I was careful not to celebrate until the last couple hundred meters,” recalled Docherty. “Even with a six-minute buffer [ahead of second place], I knew I could blow up at any moment.”
Docherty wasn’t the only one who unleashed a strong run for a podium finish. Matt Russell worked his way from 18th out of the water to fourth off the bike, eventually running a 2:52:44 marathon to take second place with an 8:14:53 finishing time.
Justin Daerr rounded out the podium with a finishing time of 8:17:29. The race was sweet for the Texas native, who was disappointed to finish fourth in last year’s event.
“This race is very special to me. It’s my most important race. Two years ago I was second, and last year I was fourth. I wanted to be back on the podium more than anything.”
Kelly Williamson continued the Texas domination of the swim with a time of 51:49. Though she clocked a solid bike split of 5:03:51, it wasn’t enough to hold off German pro Julia Gajer, who took the lead in commanding fashion during the first few miles of the ride.
“I was really happy to have such a nice bike,” said Gajer of her 4:53:43 bike split. “I hoped to keep my lead on the run.”
Unfortunately, a six-minute lead out of T2 wasn’t enough to hold off Williamson, who worked hard during the run to close the gap; At mile 17, she not only regained her lead, but extended it by six minutes in the remaining miles of the race. A 2:54:46 marathon was the icing on the cake of what Williamson calls her “best race ever.”
“I knew I had it in me. I could feel myself, feeling strong,” Williamson shared after the race. She credits her stellar performance to the year-long reprieve she took from racing Ironman.
“In 2013, I needed a break. But this year, I knew I needed to come back. I feel stronger than ever.”
Amber Ferreira took third place in her first full Ironman podium appearance. Her 9:11:48 finishing time was a happy surprise after a long winter in New Hampshire, where she resides, posed several challenges to training. Though the 2014 United States Snowshoe Champion loved the cold weather, she admits she was hesitant about racing in the heat of Texas.
2014 Ironman Texas
The Woodlands, Texas – May 17, 2014
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Bevan Docherty (NZL) 8:09:37
2. Matthew Russel (USA) 8:14:53
3. Justin Daerr (USA) 8:17:29
4. Jordan Rapp (USA) 8:17:58
5. Chris McDonald (AUS) 8:22:51
1. Kelly Williamson (USA) 8:54:42
2. Julia Gajer (GER) 9:00:52
3. Amber Ferreira (USA) 9:11:48
4. Bree Wee (USA) 9:14:27
5. Tamara Kozulina (UKR) 9:15:19