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It was humid, windy and already 70 degrees outside when the pros jumped into the Ohio River to start the fifth edition of Ironman Louisville.
Written by: Erin Beresini
The pro field included previous Louisville champions Chris McDonald, Paul Ambrose and Nina Kraft back to defend their titles. Ironman Wisconsin champion Hillary Biscay was also in the mix, racing her 50th Ironman today. But nothing could stop race favorites McDonald and Kraft from dominating the men’s and women’s respectively. Both ran away with their second Ironman Louisville titles.
Twenty-six year-old Frenchman, Romain Guillaume, led the men in the swim with Paul Ambrose right on his feet. Ambrose wasted no time on the bike, dropping Guillaume early on, while Chris McDonald started to make up time on the course that winds through horse country. (Louisville is home of the Kentucky Derby, after all—the run goes right by it.) Ambrose rode like a wiggly fish trying to evade capture while McDonald stayed still like a shark determined to catch him. But Guillaume wanted in on the action and surged past McDonald around the 35-mile mark, trading places with him throughout the bike. The super-three broke up by the run. McDonald took the lead with Ambrose close behind, but Guillaume faded big time, starting the run over 11 minutes behind. McDonald ran like he biked—all smooth and confidant, while Ambrose fidgeted, shaking out his arms and losing time. McDonald ran it into the finish in 8:27:36, becoming the first person to win Louisville twice. American Patrick Eveo crossed the line in second after pounding out a wicked fast 2:52:26 marathon. American Justin Daerr, who trained in Boulder the past few months along with Eveo and McDonald, came in third.
Seven-time Ironman champion Nina Kraft led the women through the water with Hillary Biscay right on her wake. Kraft charged into and out of T1, holding her lead onto the bike. But Biscay wouldn’t let her get away, and the two rode together—as close as legally possible—throughout the first 15 bike miles. Then Kraft made her move and began to pull away. Around mile 50, Jackie Arendt, a 26-year old research chemist from Wisconsin who is a first-year pro, pulled into second place ahead of a fading Biscay. Kraft came off of the bike with a three-minute lead on a pack of ladies that included Donna Phelan, Arendt and Ironman Malaysia champ Marilyn McDonald. Kraft’s MO is to lead the race from start to finish, and it looked like this race would be no different. She continued to put a dent in the competition throughout the run, where the only woman who even looked like she could try to scare Kraft was Arendt. But Kraft ran it all the way to the finish uncontested, despite looking like she was hurting badly around mile 17, crossing the line in 9:38:14, and becoming one of the oldest women to ever win an Ironman at age 42. (Paula Newby Fraser won Korea in 2004 at age 42.) Arendt finished only two minutes behind for second while American Stephanie Jones grabbed third.
Louisville, Ky. – Aug. 28, 2011
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Chris McDonald 8:27:36
2. Patrick Evoe 8:30:35
3. Justin Daerr 8:34:35
4. Dave Harju 9:20:01
5. Ivan Albano 9:21:39
1. Nina Kraft 9:38:14
2. Jackie Arendt 9:40:28
3. Stephanie Jones 9:52:40
4. Donna Phelan 10:01:34
5. Terra Castro 10:02:40
* Includes pro results only.