By T.J. Murphy
Photos by Jay Prasuhn

In a performance reminiscent of names like Paula Newby-Fraser, Natasha Badmann and Chrissie Wellington, Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf, like Wellington coached by Brett Sutton, defended her 2015 Ironman World Championship performance in a masterful, utterly seamless way.

Starting off with a sub 53-minute swim in 7th place, a few seconds back from American Meredith Kessler who was first out of the water, Ryf began executing a race plan where she warmed up in the early stages of the bike and then claimed the lead. Her coach, Brett Sutton, tweeted out that she was executing the race plan perfectly and about to take out the “blow torch.”

ryfbike

Which she did, assuming full control of the bike leg by the 30-mile mark. Although racers like Anja Beranek and Americans Alicia Kaye and Mary Beth Ellis were able to hold on fairly close, she began to break it open during the last third of the 112-mile leg. The race plan was illuminated by a tweet from her coach:

A key measure was the time that Ryf was able to put on three-time Ironman World Champ, Australian Mirinda Carfrae, owner of the course record and one of the best runners the sport has known (she owns the women’s run record in Kona, set in 2014: 2:50:26). The blowtorch turned out to be lethal in this regard: When Ryf rumbled into T2, she had a 22-minute lead over Carfrae.

Ryf scampered through transition and into the marathon, with good posture, light on her feet and up on her toes, blasting 6:08 mile pace for the first 5K; it was hard not to succumb to the belief that she had the race won—which in Kona is almost always a premature prediction.

But again, this is where the memories of Wellington come to mind. Sutton trains his athletes the way a great boxing coach trains a fighter—they come in not only thoroughly prepared, but with the confidence that comes from winning. Ryf wins a lot (you can count them here.)

The big goal for Ryf was to break the 3-hour marathon. Despite being completely alone the entire run, she smashed it, recording a 2:56 split to break Carfrae’s record of 8:52:14 with an unofficial time of 8:46 and change.

carfraerun

Carfrae, in her legendary fashion, refused to buckle under any disappointment she might have felt being 22 minutes off the lead at the end of the bike, put her head down and punched tickets all the way up to a second-place finish.

American Heather Jackson, having run herself into second place during the marathon but unable to hold off Carfrae, continued her ascension in Kona, improving on her breakthrough 2015 fifth place showing and finishing in third, the best American performance today.

podium

Ironman World Championship 2016
Women’s Race
October 8, 2016

  1. Daniela Ryf (CHE) 8:46 (8:46:46)
  2. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) (9:10:30 )
  3. Heather Jackson (USA) (9:11:32 )