Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf came out of the swim in a slower (for her) 57:26 after being stung by a jellyfish, then crushed the bike course record in 4:26:07 and posted a sub-three Kona marathon (2:57:05)—crossing the finish line in 8:26:18.

Before the race, Great Britain’s Lucy Charles made no secret that she planned to smash the swim and distance herself from the competition, and she executed that plan perfectly. She came out of the water in 48:14—establishing a new swim course record for the women. Next out of the water were the United States’ Lauren Brandon (51:06), New Zealand’s Teresa Adam (52:00), Denmark’s Helle Frederiksen (52:02), the United States’ Sarah True (52:06), and Australia’s Liz Blatchford (52:09).

But more and more time went by without the appearance of three-time Ironman world champion Daniela Ryf (SUI). She finally emerged a full 10 minutes behind Charles after dealing with the effects of being stung by a jellyfish before the start of the swim. She was part of a group that also included contenders Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) and Heather Jackson (USA).

With Charles’ lead well established, she took to the bike course and looked to see what she could accomplish off the front all alone. Australia’s Sarah Crowley managed to solidly place herself in the second spot, with a long group forming behind her. Further down the road, Ryf worked to regroup from the frustrating swim. The Angry Bird first caught up with the group and then passed Crowley, putting herself at about eight minutes back a third of the way into the bike. Crowley saw the champion ride by and then quickly worked hard to maintain the same pace. At mile 50, Charles continued to hammer out front with Ryf and Crowley slowly making up ground at 7:40 back. Twelve minutes back, a huge pack that contained several strong runners worked to minimize the damage before T2.

At the turnaround in Hawi (mile 59), Charles continued to lead with Ryf and Crowley as the closest chasers at seven minutes back. Great Britain’s Corinne Abraham sat at 11:26 back, with that large group continuing to lose time—now nearly 14 minutes behind the race leader. On the way back to town, Ryf took her pace to a new level in an effort to find the front of the race. She was able to pass Charles in the final miles, coming into T2 with a 1:38 lead over the young Brit. Next into T2 were Abraham (12:28 back), Crowley (12:44 back), Naeth (16:49 back), True (16:52 back), Haug (17:13 back), and Hufe (17:45 back).

“It was a really tough day,” Ryf said at the finish line. “It was the hardest swim I’ve ever had in my life. I got stung two minutes before the start. My arms got numb. To be honest, I was really close to quitting.”

“It’s unbelievable, I really can’t believe what happened today,” she continued. “It shows to never give up. I’m speechless really.”

Ryf remained solid throughout the entire marathon—never showing any sign of weakness. She finished the day with her second-fastest marathon ever in Kona—2:57:05—to cross the finish line in 8:26:16. The epic race marks the first time a woman has gone under 8:30 at an Ironman. Charles remained steady all the way to the finish, crossing at 8:36:32 to replicate her runner-up placement from 2017. Haug ran her way onto the podium in her Kona debut with a 2:55:22 marathon, finishing at 8:41:58. True, also in her first Kona race, was the first American across the finish line in fourth at 8:43:43. Three-time champion Carfrae rounded out the top five at 8:50:45.

2018 Ironman World Championship
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – Oct. 13. 2018
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run

Women
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 8:26:18
2. Lucy Charles (GBR) 8:36:34
3. Anne Haug (GER) 8:41:58
4. Sarah True (USA) 8:43:43
5. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 8:50:45
6. Sarah Crowley (AUS) 8:52:30
7. Kaisa Sali (FIN) 8:54:28
8. Angela Naeth (CAN) 8:57:34
9. Corinne Abraham (GBR) 8:57:54
10. Linsey Corbin (USA) 8:58:57