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The tenth Ford Ironman Wisconsin was anyone’s race today. Both of last year’s record-setting winners, Joe Gambles and Gina Crawford, didn’t race, leaving France’s Romain Guillaume, who finished 2nd last year, as this year’s favorite. On the women’s side, a trio of Ironman champions including Heather Gollnick, Jessica Jacobs and Meredith Kessler promised to keep it interesting. With the weather similar to last year’s, when race records were set on a warm day with low wind, the course was ready for great performances.
Written by: Erin Beresini
While he didn’t set a course record, Brazil’s Ezequiel Morales ran away with the win today, earning his first IM title when he crossed the finish line in Madison in 8:45:18. Meredith Kessler lost her lead late in the run to today’s champion, Wisconsin-born Jessica Jacobs, who crossed the line in 9:41:03.
The men jumped into Madison’s Lake Monona under clear skies, with temperatures forecast to hit 83 degrees. Guillaume was first out of the water in 50:56, over two minutes ahead of the rest of the field. He flew out of T1 and continued to fly on his bike, leading the race by over six minutes by the halfway point on the bike. But Brazil’s Ezequiel Morales started to cut into his lead. Despite leading through the swim and bike this year, Guillaume swam and rode faster last year and was still overtaken on the run. Morales, who can run marathons in the 2:40s, was a real threat. He came out of T2 only five and a half minutes behind Guillaume. Madison’s own Blake Becker came out of T2 in third. Just 9 miles into the run, Morales started to blast away from Guillaume, who faded pretty spectacularly. Morales kept building his lead, bringing home the first Ironman title of his career in 8:45:18. He ran a 2:53:06 marathon. Coming in second and third were Germany’s Stefan Schmid and Mac Brown from California, respectively.
Meredith Kessler, who won Ironman Canada two weeks ago, was first out of the water in just over 53 minutes, over three minutes ahead of two-time IM Wisconsin champ (2002 and 2003), Heather Gollnick. By the halfway mark on the bike, Kessler maintained her lead, with Gollnick and Wisconsin’s Jessica Jacobs chasing her down. Despite cycling almost the exact same split as Kessler, Jacobs started the run over 11 minutes behind because she swam that much slower. Kessler came out of T2 first, followed by Jacobs, Boulder’s Whitney Garcia and Gollnick in fourth. It looked like Kessler had put an insurmountable lead over her competitors, but things got interesting around mile 18 of the run when Jacobs overtook her. Jacobs ran the last eight miles and change in the lead, charging down the finish chute to become the IM Wisconsin 2011 champion in 9:41:03 while her soldier husband cheered her on from Iraq. Kessler and Colorado’s Whitney Garcia came in second and third respectively.
Madison, Wisc. – Sept. 11, 2011
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Ezequiel Morales 8:45:18
2. Stefan Schmid 8:57:51
3. Mac Brown 9:08:14
1. Jessica Jacobs 9:41:03
2. Meredith Kessler 9:50:45
3. Whitney Garcia 10:03:53