Ironman Mont Tremblant

Near-perfect race conditions and a competitive field led to course-record performances at the North American Ironman Championship. Despite having to stop numerous times because of cramps during the marathon, Luke Bell ran his way to his second Ironman title, while Mary Beth Ellis continued her incredible string of wins, taking her eighth title over the distance. The American has won every full-distance race she’s entered other than the World Championships, where she finished fifth last year and 15th in 2011.

Thanks to the high number of points available because of the race’s championship status, a stacked field of Kona contenders was on hand, with many of the competitors hoping to earn themselves a spot at the start line in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in October.

After taking three Ironman titles in 2011 and 2012, Ellis has been working at a slightly easier schedule in 2013—she took the win in Nice in June before arriving in Mont-Tremblant as the prohibitive favorite in the women’s race.

Early on, though, it didn’t look like the other women had read the pre-race prognostications. Ellis was third out of the water, just over two minutes back, with Ironman Switzerland champ Anja Beranek another 90 seconds behind in fourth. Last year’s North American Championship runner-up, Rebekah Keat, found herself in chase mode after a 55:18 swim that put her almost six minutes behind.

Out on the bike it looked like Beranek was going to be the woman to beat, but early on in the second lap of the two-loop course, Ellis made her move and pulled away from the rest of the women. Coming off the bike only Beranek was within 11 minutes of Ellis.

As she’s come to do in so many of her races, Ellis quickly put the win out of reach for the rest of the competition as she steadily worked her way through the marathon, finishing in 9:07:56. Beranek hung on to second for much of the marathon, but in the last few kilometers she found herself in a close battle for that spot. In the end it was Keat who crossed the line in the runner-up position, just 31 seconds ahead of Beranek and 49 seconds ahead of Blatchford.

After being known for years as the “best Ironman athlete without an Ironman title,” Luke Bell eradicated that moniker by winning Ironman Australia in May. Like Ellis, the Australian arrived in Mont-Tremblant as the race favorite, but also faced a tough field full of IRONMAN champions. The swim and early parts of the bike had a championship feel as a group of 11 men formed in the water and stayed together for much of the first loop of the bike.

American Brandon Marsh led after the swim, but he was joined on the bike by Bell, Ironman UK champ Daniel Halksworth (GBR), Canadian full-distance rookie Sean Bechtel, Kiwi-turned-American Matty Reed, Australian Paul Ambrose (the 2011 Ironman Australia and Louisville champ), defending champion Romain Guillaume, Germany’s Dominik Berger, four-time Ironman champion Bryan Rhodes (NZL), two-time Ironman Lanzarote champ Bert Jammaer (BEL) and Italy’s Daniel Fontana.

By the 80 km point of the ride Guillaume, Ambrose, Berger and Bell had managed to ride clear of the group and would ride in to T2 with a healthy five-minute lead over a group of five.

Through the early stages of the marathon Guillaume and Ambrose looked like they were racing a 10 km road race rather than a marathon, leaving Bell 25 seconds behind through the first 10 km. By the next split at 16 km, though, Bell had put himself back in control of the race and enjoyed a 1:24 lead over Ambrose, who continued to duel with Guillaume for second.

Bell kept the crowd on the edge of its seats as he stopped at the 20 km point with a cramp in his leg. Forced to stop three more times before the end of the marathon, he hung on for the win, clocking a course-record 8:26:06. Behind him, Marsh put together a fantastic run split to move himself to second in 8:31:01, just 33 seconds ahead of Jammaer.

Ironman Sweden

After a choppy swim and a windy bike, Portugal’s Pedro Gomes managed to hold on to take the men’s race, while Great Britain’s Jodie Swallow led from start to finish to win the women’s race by more than 20 minutes.

The morning started with light winds and temperatures around 20°C, but the conditions in the Baltic Sea for the swim were very challenging. Jonas Djurback (SWE) took the early lead, chased by Jodie Swallow (GBR), who quickly started what would become a lonely day. In the end Swallow was first out of the water in 48:30, followed closely by Djurback.

Djurback fell back on the bike and Karl-Johan Danielsson (SWE) took his turn at the front of the men’s race, followed by Gomes. It didn’t take long for those two to separate themselves from the rest of the field. Eventually Gomes took the lead and kept it. Behind him Danielsson fell back and found himeslf behind Andrey Lyatskiy (RUS), Djurback and Anton Blokhin (UKR). A 4:33:43 bike split put Gomes in T2 ahead of the rest of the men.

Swallow, in the meantime, was on her own the entire way. She fought the strong winds through the first 122 km of the bike out to the small island of Öland and back. By the time she was done with the bike she held a lead about 20 minutes over the rest of the women. The next two into the transition were Britta Martin and Sweden’s Eva Nyström.

Out on the run course Gomes maintained his lead, but behind him Slovenia’s David PleÅ¡e was trying to make up a 15-minute deficit. The crowd spurred Gomes to the line (he would say after the race that the crowd was so loud he couldn’t hear himself think), which he reached in 8:19:30. PleÅ¡e ran the fastest marathon split (2:48:40) to finish second in 08:22:01, followed by Blokhin in 08:26:09.

Swallow joined the exclusive sub-nine hour club with an 8:54:01. Over 20 minutes later Nyström ran in (09:17:56), followed by Martin in 09:22:18.

Ironman 70.3 Timberman

Andy Potts (USA) exited the water (22:21) with a commanding two-minute lead over a chase pack of four that included Mark Bowstead (NZL), Leon Griffin (AUS), Andreas Dreitz (DEU) and Sebastian Bleisteiner (DEU).

Out on the rural roads of New Hampshire, the men’s race tightened up after 28 miles as Potts’ lead was reduced to 33 seconds over Dreitz, 1:26 on Griffin and 1:36 over Bowstead. The remainder of the field was seven minutes back and already out of contention for a podium placing as the leading quartet pulled away with each passing mile. Over the closing half of the ride Dreitz moved into the lead for a 1:33 advantage over Potts, who dismounted his bike in second with Griffin 4:06 off the pace.

On the run Potts quickly reduced Dreitz’s lead to less than a minute after three miles. Griffin was also on the move and had gained a minute on Dreitz. Potts managed to pass Dreitz between mile five and six and was 33 seconds ahead at the halfway point, with Griffin sitting 2:22 back.

By nine miles Potts was 1:47 ahead of Dreitz, who had Griffin breathing down his neck 20 seconds back. The drama for the win was over as Potts crossed the finish line at 3:53:24. Griffin used the race-best run split of 1:16:28 to snag second place in 3:54:53, while Dreitz held on to finish off the podium with a 3:56:38 clocking.

Amanda Stevens (USA) once again demonstrated her swim prowess with a 24:23 swim that saw her start the bike with a three-minute advantage over Mandy McLAne (USA), Amber Ferreira (USA), Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) and Flo Chretien (USA). Ferreira and McLane kept pace with Stevens over the first half of the bike, but Hauschildt stormed towards the front and was only 32 seconds back at the halfway point.

Hauschildt was in front by the closing miles of the single loop bike course and was 47 seconds ahead of Stevens as the women ran into T2. Next came Ferreira, who was 7:38 back of the leader, while the rest of the field was over 10 minutes behind.

A former Australian steeplechase champion, Hauschildt took control of the race on the run. The 2011 Ironman 70.3 world champion had a four-minute lead by the halfway point of the marathon and was almost nine minutes ahead by the end of the race. Hauschildt crossed the line in 4:12:39, ahead of Stevens, who finished second in 4:21:45. Ferreira gamely hung on for the final podium place with a 4:26:54 finish time.

Ironman 70.3 Yeppoon

Tim Reed successfully defended his men’s crown, while New Zealand’s Gina Crawford claimed the women’s honors at Ironman 70.3 Yeppoon at Mercure Capricorn Resort on the northern Queensland coast.

Reed was pleased with his effort as a “shakedown” for next month’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas, while Crawford ticked the box towards her big goal of the Ironman World Championship in Kona.

Following Reed in 3:55:26 was Australian Tim Berkel (3:59:47) and New Zealander Adam Gordon in 4:01:33.  Crawford (4:23:05) beat Aussie Lisa Marangon by more than six minutes, and third-place finisher Michelle Wu by 12-plus minutes.