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You’ve heard the triumphs of Sunday’s Ironman World Championship 70.3 event, but here are some of the tribulations that affected pre-race favorites.
The combination of a difficult course and temperatures near 100 degrees left plenty of carnage on the Ironman World Championship 70.3 course. Many of the pre-race favorites didn’t have their best days—some just simply had bad races, others dealt with mechanicals, drafting penalties and nutrition issues. Here, a few of the races that didn’t go as anticipated:
Because she was absent from this race in 2011 in lieu of racing the Hy-Vee Triathlon 5150 U.S. Championship, many were expecting Mirinda Carfrae to take the 70.3 title. But a new nutrition strategy—trialed with success in training—left her with an upset stomach almost immediately into the bike.
She told us what happened:
“I’ve been playing around with my nutrition a bit. There are a lot of studies that show that the more carbs you can absorb the better off you are, and especially when you go to long-course racing the better athletes can absorb a lot more carbohydrate. You can train your stomach to absorb more. So I’ve been working on trying to increase my carb uptake and this new mixture I’ve been using has worked just fine in training, and I wanted to try it in Vegas—in the heat and under race conditions—before Kona.”
“I guess I underestimated how hot it would be. I never take plain water on the bike in a half—in an Ironman I always have a water bottle—but in a half I just have Coke in my last bottle and my first water bottle are just calories, like a sports drink. I was really thirsty and drank a fair amount of [the carb mixture] early on and, because it was higher in carbohydrates, it basically shut down my system right away and my stomach just didn’t like it. After 25K or so into the race it just all came back up and I was in a bit of bother because I was still feeling really thirsty but passed the first aid station and didn’t grab any water because I didn’t have any place to put it. It wasn’t until after that I started to vomit and it felt like forever until the next aid station where I could get some water to try to dilute the concentrate that was in my stomach. By then it was game over. I couldn’t bring myself back around and at that point was pretty disappointed.”
“Throughout my whole career I’ve stuck to the same [nutrition] plan and never had any issues. You’re always trying to find ways to better yourself, and I was looking at ‘Okay, if I can absorb more carbohydrate on the bike then that’s going to put me in a better place when I start the marathon in Kona.’ I’ve got a plan that’s pretty solid and that’s worked the last few years in Kona that I’ll go back to and definitely will be using this year. I just wanted to try something different, and it wasn’t ideal to try it at a world championship event but I didn’t want to try it in Kona.”
“It felt great in training; I thought it was the best idea ever because in training I had no issues at all. If that had been a cold race I’m sure I could have been able to handle it a lot better. Anyway, you live and you learn.”
RELATED: Mirinda Carfrae Looking For Second 70.3 World Title
Triathlete columnist and fan favorite Jesse Thomas was looking for redemption at this year’s championship, but he unfortunately didn’t get the chance he hoped for. After winning Rev3 Maine two weeks ago, Thomas wonders if he left his race on the east coast. “I’m not strong or experienced enough yet to bounce back just two weeks after an effort like that. I felt it all day,” Thomas says.
His race started out with a rough swim, where he struggled to make it into the second pack. On the bike, he led the group for the majority of the first 12 miles. “I was astonished to get a drafting penalty right after getting passed grabbing water at the first aid station,” he says. “It was a learning experience to say the least.” The rest of the race proved to be as tough psychologically as it was physically.
“After serving my penalty (four minutes) at 25 miles, I rode the last 31 miles solo way too hard, oscillating between intense anger, frustration and depression. I cramped badly just two miles into the run and had to stop for about four minutes. I wanted to quit, and honestly would have if it hadn’t have been for my family, sponsors, and ‘fans’ cheering ‘Go Aviator!’ and ‘I’ve got Jesse Bieber Fever!’”
“I’ve had lots of negative athletic experiences before and I always try to get something positive/valuable out of them both during and after the race. While there are some positive points (an improved swim, a five-minute faster bike including a penalty), it was really hard to do that yesterday. It was one of the most difficult mental (and physical) experiences of my life. I’m proud that I finished when every thought and ache in my body told me not to. And I want to sincerely thank all the people out there on the course and in social media land that didn’t care that I was having a crap house race and cheered me on like I was a superstar in the lead. It made all the difference.”
RELATED: Jesse Thomas Out For Vegas Redemption
Before the race, we learned that Meredith Kessler suffered a vertebrae break six weeks earlier. She struggled during the run to end in 23rd place—not exactly where the multiple Ironman champion usually finishes—but showed great determination to get across the line. She admits she could’ve taken the easy way out and skipped Vegas or done a race with a less-aggressive field, but she wanted to toe the line, even if it meant her goals had to shift. How did her injury affect her race?
In Kessler’s words:
“Sunday was a pure ‘Just get to that finish line and don’t quit!’ I didn’t want my injury to be an excuse,” Kessler says. “Ultimately, it affected my race, but truthfully I was just so happy to even be on the starting line. As of three weeks ago even, I didn’t think it was a possibility.”
“I think my race result was a culmination of things stemming from the crash and re-building my body and fitness physically. We forget that when our bodies go through a trauma like that, it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight. Patience is king and the goal is to focus on what you can do vs. what you cannot do. I knew I could toe the line, but I tried not to think about what I could not do in the race and goals shifted.”
“Mentally, I never doubted the ability to finish—even though there are always pockets of doubt in that capacity for us all when we are in the moment—and I think that stems from the 45 full Ironmans I have completed, many of which I have suffered through much like yesterday, despite it being half the distance.”
“I will never know how I would have done without the little blip, but I do know that I will learn from it all and do my best to get back to where I was pre-crash. I’m really excited for Kona and the rest of my season. I feel like Leanda, Kelly and Heather raced for all of us—truly world class performances!”
Last year’s third-place finisher Linsey Corbin moved from the field to the sidelines after getting a flat while heading into Lake Mead National Park, less than 10 miles from the start. Corbin says it was her first flat in a race since 2007 and the first time she didn’t pack a flat kit. She dropped out of the race and immediately turned into super spectator, supporting her fellow athletes by cheering wildly alongside coach Matt Dixon on the run course. She remains optimistic, noting that Kona is her ultimate goal this year.
As a two-time 70.3 Worlds champion, Michael Raelert was a pre-race favorite for the podium. But a drafting penalty, which Raelert viewed as unjust, took him out of the front bike pack and ultimately away from the podium. He finished in 4:03:11 for 8th place. He commented on Facebook after the race:
“wow, i have never felt so unjustified treated like today at the world-champs. i got a 4min penalty after 15mile on the bike for….drafting. wtf???? it’s like getting hit by a lighting out of the blue perfect sky or winning at the lottery without even playing. i blame on the referee to 100%. his ridiculous decision came from…..whatever….maybe out of space. he took my chance to have a clear race like anybody else.(actually i was the only one with a 4min penalty – and his decision looks so on purpose). oh my gosh. i am soooo freaking….aaaangry. and the best thing is, i cannot even put protest in because there is no institution for this case. this is absolutly ridiculous…… sorry, i am just very very emotional. i will come up with race-report. but first i have to replace a lot of the hotel-inventory.”
RELATED: Michael Raelert Aiming For Third 70.3 World Title
Even spectators could tell that something went wrong with Angela Naeth’s race. She headed out on the run covered in road rash, which was a result of a crash at mile 19 of the bike. Thankfully she came out with no broken bones, but she’s dealing with road rash on her shoulder, hip and lower legs, plus seven stitches in her ankle. As another top podium contender, Naeth had to shift her focus from placing to finishing. She got to the finish line in 4:52:52 and 17th place.
“At mile 19 I was getting ready to make an attempt at a pass on Heather Jackson, caught a rumble strip, and went off road. I managed to ‘surf’ the edge of the pavement/dirt and either hit something then or prior, as I then lost control and slid down the road. Unfortunately my front tire blew and I broke my front wheel either by hitting something or what, I’m not sure. It had a large hole in it and the tire was gashed. It’s hard to really know what happened. I received mechanical help and started riding again albeit in pain. I didn’t feel like anything was broken but my left hip wasn’t feeling too good. I lost my nutrition and tried to make up for it with [PowerBar Ironman] Perform. I definitely was losing it at times on the bike and felt like I was crawling into T2.”
“I decided in T2 that I was going to grin and bear it. It was actually very inspiring for me to see the race in a different perspective—where finishing is what mattered rather than trying to win! I was able to cheer on all my fellow competitors and also received more than my share of ’you’re a bad ass’ and supportive/inspiring cheers.”
For complete coverage of the 2012 Ironman World Championship 70.3 visit Triathlete.com/Vegas2012.