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In the first-ever two-day Ironman World Championship, the professional women’s field stepped into the spotlight and owned it fully with a day of gutsy head-to-head racing. Chelsea Sodaro used a balanced swim/bike attack paired with a blistering run to write her own history as the first Kona rookie since Chrissie Wellington to win the Hawaii Ironman World Championship and the first American woman to do so in over a quarter of a century with a time of 8:33:46.
As promised, giving the female pros their own day produced some of the tightest racing ever, and fans were treated to an exhilarating Hawaii Ironman World Championship after three years away.
Hawaii Ironman World Championships 2022: The Swim
At the sound of the start cannon, it was a race of the super-swimmers. With a lineup that contained Lucy Charles-Barclay, Lauren Brandon, Hayley Chura, Rebecca Clarke, Lisa Norden, and Pamella Oliveiria, many expected a tight, competitive swim. Charles-Barclay had other plans, however, and surged ahead from the very beginning. A chase group containing Brandon, Clarke, Oliveria, and Fenella Langridge attempted to stay in her draft, but it proved futile as Charles-Barclay sliced steadily through the choppy ocean waves. Her 50:57 swim split was more than 40 seconds over the chase pack of four and 3 minutes and 40 seconds over the next group, containing Chura, Norden, Jocelyn McCauley, Sarah True, Chelsea Sodaro, Sarah Crowley, and Skye Moench.
— Triathlete Magazine (@TriathleteMag) October 6, 2022
The waves in Kailua Bay were a major factor in spacing out the race, with a span of over 28 minutes from Charles-Barclay to Kylie Simpson, the final pro woman out of the water. Daniela Ryf, Laura Philipp, and Anne Haug especially had their work cut out for them upon exiting the swim, setting out on the bike with a 6:40 gap to bridge to the front of the race.
Hawaii Ironman World Championships 2022: The Bike
Charles-Barclay wasn’t the only one looking to make a statement early in the race. It took Langridge less than 10 miles into the bike leg to push her way to the front, where she pulled ahead alongside Charles-Barclay and dared her fellow Brit to keep up.
Meanwhile, cooperation was the name of the game as large packs formed to bridge the gap to the front. 3:30 down at mile 25, Moench, Norden, Crowley, McCauley, and Sodaro bunched together; 6 minutes back was a cluster containing Ryf, Philipp, Haug, Chura, Daniela Bleymehl, and Sara Svensk.
But some athletes in those packs found themselves in hot water. Crowley was the first to land in the penalty tent, taking a five-minute blue card position penalty near mile 30; shortly thereafter, Philipp joined her for the same infraction.
As they watched their position in the race slide, the action continued up front. Charles-Barclay and Langridge traded leads up until the turnaround point at Hawi, where Langridge finally separated herself, stretching her lead to 15 over a span of only a few miles.
The overall density of the women’s field was also evident at the turnaround, where only 10 minutes separated the top 16; about 4 minutes separated the top 11. Hawi was also the spot where more density-related punishments were doled out by the refs: At the halfway point, the penalty tent hosted Norden (five minutes), McCauley (30 seconds) and Clarke (1 minute).
These punishments proved fortuitous for Sodaro, Moench, and McCauley. The trio of Americans took advantage of the opportunity to form their own train in hopes of getting closer to the front, and it looked as if that strategy would pay off – that is, until mile 70, when Daniela Ryf entered the chat. Ryf had been biding her time in the chase pack during the first half of the race, sitting comfortably in the middle of the group (albeit with a smart cushion to avoid penalty), and as penalties decimated the field in front of her, Ryf only had to stay consistent in order to move her way from 14th place out of the water to third place at mile 85.
When Charles-Barclay reclaimed the pole position around mile 80, some wondered if the move would be a decisive blow to Langridge. But as they rolled through aid stations and fans along the race course, Langridge seemed unfazed – in fact, she fist-pumped and cheered along with the crowd, fully committed to her longstanding ethos of having fun, even in the hardest moments.
Ryf was having fun, too – just in a different kind of way. Where Langridge drew energy from the crowds, Ryf seemed to get hers from picking off the competition one by one. From mile 70 to mile 100 Ryf gained two-and-a-half minutes on the leaders, dropping anyone who tried to go with her.
At the same time, a dense group behind the top three was still together—Sodaro, Svensk, Moench, McCauley, Haug, and Norden were all less than two minutes apart and under five minutes behind the leaders at mile 100 as they approached T2 in town.
Ryf finally made the pass with roughly 4 miles to go and went by Langridge and Charles-Barclay—coming into T2 with a 4:36:11 bike split, 17 seconds ahead of Charles-Barclay and about a minute ahead of Langridge. Just behind, a fast-moving Norden, Sodaro, and Svensk came in together around three minutes behind Ryf, as Haug, Moench, and McCauley were still only two minutes behind Norden’s group. All in all, nine women would enter T2 less than six minutes apart.
— Triathlete Magazine (@TriathleteMag) October 6, 2022
Hawaii Ironman World Championships 2022: The Run
Almost immediately out of T2, Charles-Barclay retook the lead from Ryf, as the duo pulled away from Langridge early in the marathon. Through the initial miles, Charles-Barclay was running at a tough-to-sustain 2:47-marathon pace, while behind her Sodaro was also moving impossibly fast, along with Haug.
Four miles into the marathon, Sodaro passed reigning champ Ryf, and continued on at a blistering pace. At about mile 8 Sodaro passed Charles-Barclay to take her spot at the front of the race. Little by little, Sodaro began to build a cushion – 34 seconds at mile 9, 46 seconds by mile 10, 2:02 by mile 12, 5:02 by mile 19.
The blistering pace set by Sodaro had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the women’s field. Haug, on the hunt to defend her 2019 Kona title, set out at a 6:06 min/mi pace, while Crowley and Philipp looked to make up lost time from her earlier bike penalty by running 6:40-6:50 min/mi splits. By mile 11, Haug had moved from seventh off the bike to third; Crowley moved into the top ten. Philipp soon joined in, moving to seventh place by mile 16. Could these heroic paces actually be sustained on a day with 84-degree F temperatures and 81 percent humidity? Certainly, the conditions took their toll on many – Ryf’s pace began to fade, and so did her standing in the field. Langridge made a mighty effort to hold on to her third-place standing off the bike, but soon found herself overtaken by Haug, then Philipp.
But Sodaro seemed immune to the tough conditions of the day, never showing any weakness as she made her way through the grueling Energy Lab and the steaming pavement of the Queen K, extending her lead to finish in an overall time of 8:33:46 and a 2:51:45 run split.
“My mind is a little bit blown right now, but I think this is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective,” Sodaro said moments after the finish. “This is freaking incredible. The greatest gift at the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”
“This is a real family operation,” Sodaro added about her training situation. “I don’t have a super big, flashy team around me, but I have an incredible team. My dad has sagged all of my rides for the last month. My mom has helped with childcare. My husband is a Reno firefighter. This is for them.”
Though Charles-Barclay was unable to claim the title, her fourth second-place finish in a time of 8:41:37 was a personal victory.
“At the start of the year,I didn’t think I’d be here,” Charles-Barclay said, immediately after her finish after a year plagued by injury. “Just never give up, when things aren’t going to plan, have some patience, believe in yourself, and you can get there.”
Anne Haug was unable to close the gap, and rounded out the podium with a time of 8:42:22.
“I think I burned my candle a bit too much on the bike, so there wasn’t too much left for the run. It’s hard for the mind to run 30 seconds behind Lucy,” said Haug. “I gave it all, and that was it.”
MAKE IT HAPPEN CHELSEA 🏆
— IRONMAN Triathlon (@IRONMANtri) October 7, 2022
Ironman World Championships 2022: Women’s Race
Thursday, October 6, 2022
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