Fast Times at Clearwater Beach
Written by: Timothy Carlson
Date: Wed Nov 12 2008
First off, the negatives: Ironman Hawaii offers a $560,000 prize purse and Ironman 70.3 Clearwater offers $90,000. Winners at Kona get $110,000; winners at Clearwater get $20,000. Unlike Xterra Worlds in Maui, which offers a nice weekend a short island hop away, little pressure, (and a bigger prize purse) and a better post race party two weeks after the rigors of Kona, Clearwater offers blazing speeds and a talented albeit smaller field and a slightly less possibility of a meltdown. That’s why Kona champions like Chrissie Wellington and Chris McCormack and Craig Alexander didn’t take the bait. And why the scheduling of the race in November after Kona, while ideal for the Florida climatic conditions, discourage slightly rational Kona competitors (Rebekah Keat, Paul Amey, Sandra Wallenhorst, Yvonne Van Vlerken, Eneko Llanos, Kate Major, Joanna Lawn, Chris Lieto, Torbjorn Sindballe, Bella Comerford, Marino Vanhoenacker, Faris Al-Sultan) from further damaging their bodies and egos.
The positives: When Craig Alexander and Sam McGlone won the 2006 inaugural 70.3, they were clearly world class triathletes who could win short (McGlone was a 2004 Olympian and Crowie won a Life Time Fitness $200,000 payout in 2005) and long (both were killers at the 70.3 distance). They were also destined for Ironman greatness, with both Crowie and Sam shaking up the old guard with stirring second place finishes in their Kona debuts the next year – and Crowie taking the Big Papaya a year later. In 2007, Andy Potts used his ITU World Cup winning speed to run down Oscar Galindez by a nail-bitingly close 4-second margin in a duel to the line, while McGlone’s 70.3 rival Mirinda Carfrae dominated and served notice she was a future threat to the Duchess Wellington’s Kona reign.
While Clearwater is playing catch-up to Kona, the logic of a worldwide series that allows its best athletes to race four to six times a year without damaging their bodies, and lets athletes have an endurance test while going flat out will eventually rise to Kona’s level.
No! You don’t have a prayer of winning Clearwater after a full effort at Kona. Defending champion Craig Alexander hung on grimly for a 4th place finish at Clearwater last year a month after his debut second place at Ironman Hawaii. This year’s defending champion Andy Potts gutted out a tough 6th place finish at Clearwater a month after his impressive 7th place at Kona (after virtually no long distance bike or run training). Want further evidence? The 7th and 8th place finishes of Nina Kraft (who DNF’d at Kona) and Erika Csomor (a dominant 70.3 racer who whipped a healthy McGlone at California.) And so not forget Kate Major’s 8th place Clearwater finish in 2007 after a noble 3rd at Kona.
Zeiger called her first World title the second biggest thrill of her career after the Olympics. And she didn’t mind serving as a poster child for the elder set. “This has been a year for the old people,” said Zeiger. “A 38-year-old woman won the Olympic marathon and 40-year-old Tom Evans won Ironman Florida in the phenomenal time of 8:07! People who say that 38 is washed up don’t know what the capacities of the human body are. I just take care of myself and don’t make the same mistakes I made at 28.” Indeed, Zeiger was the complete triathlete while smashing Mirinda Carfrae’s course and world record for the distance by 4 minutes 37 seconds! On Saturday, Zeiger’s 23:06 swim was second best, her 2:13: 43 bike was third best, and her 1:21:58 run was best on the day. While her run was three minutes slower than Carfrae’s 2007 mark, Zeiger’s swim was 3:27 better and bike was 5 minutes faster - adding up to an incredible 4:02:48 day in the sun.
Indeed, Lavelle did dig deep for the podium. In the first mile of the run, former ITU World Cup star and two-time Xterra Champ Julie Dibens passed Lavelle. At Mile 3, long shot Mary Beth Ellis passed Lavelle as well, knocking her back to 4th. But at Mile 6.5, Lavelle marshaled up a rally and passed Dibens for the podium. “I hadn’t done any 70.3 races this year, so I was a little tighter than usual,” said Lavelle. “I fought off cramps the last 2-3 miles. So I wasn’t thinking how happy I was, just trying to not collapsing until I crossed the line.”
While the clock ran out on Raelert’s charge for the lead, had Bozzone’s transitions not been clearly superior, leaving the young New Zealander out of sight of the German near the end, the adrenaline boost that often goes to the hunter (citing Andy Potts’ come-from-behind win over Galindez last year) might have carried Raelert to the win. But no excuses are in order – both Raelert and Bozzone were fighting for Olympic slots on the transition-crucial ITU World Cup circuit early in the season.
The case for No: While the leading pros were watched like hawks by Jimmy Riccitello-led draft marshals, were Joanna Zeiger and Mary Beth Ellis really 4 and 3 minutes faster than an on-form Mirinda Carfrae last year? Did Terenzo Bozzone really smash Andy Potts’ 2007 race and world best time for the distance by 2 minutes? Was the 8th place finisher in women’s 40-44 bike split of 2:16:18 – just 2 minutes 25 seconds slower than Zeiger, 8 minutes faster than pro Nina Kraft, and 4 minutes faster than pro Erika Csomor – legit? Could the course have been short?
All things considered, yes, the fast times were for real: Many factors played into these amazing times. Number one, at age 20 in 2005, Terenzo Bozzone smashed to smithereens (by six minutes) the long-standing Wildflower course record achieved by the greatest names in the sport. Cutting two minutes off Potts’ 2007 winning time seems was well within Bozzone’s capabilities. Number two: Mirinda Carfrae surrendered 2 minutes on the swim and 5 minutes on the bike to Julie Dibens last year before finishing with a devastating 1:18: 41 run. Zeiger’s balanced swim-bike-run combination, albeit aided by being part of a legal pack of four women with superior swim-bike combos pushing one another the whole way, could have at least equaled Rinny’s mark. Number three: Let’s acknowledge that Clearwater’s super flat bike course, combined with a largely amateur field of 1,800 qualified World Championship competitors, with waves starting every five minutes, cannot be adequately policed for drafting. And let’s stipulate that a strong cyclist starting back in the field can legally pass an unending stream of slower riders for roughly an hour and get a tremendous draft effect. That said, 35-39 women’s amateur star Brooke Davison’s 2:16:14 bike split probably derived some benefit from riding among clots of amateurs – but she is still within range of the best women pros. And, Ironman Hawaii-weary Nina Kraft and Erika Csomor were riding alone and well off their usual pace. As for the 8th place finisher in women’s 40-44, if she is a cycling specialist, her time was likely improved by riding legally past a stream of slower age groupers, but
she could well have been Brooke Davison’s equal on two wheels. Was the course short? Not likely. Race director Steve Meckfessel ran St. Anthony’s for years and runs Ironman Louisville and distances were always on target. One age grouper reported that his cyclometer registered 55.9 miles at the end of the ride. Also: Perhaps the best measurement is the fastest men’s bike splits. Watched carefully by Riccitello, Oscar Galindez rode a second-best 2:00:28 last year. This year, Galindez rode a race-best 1:59:55, just 33 second faster. This year’s fastest women’s bike split of 2:13:18 by Mary Beth Ellis was just one second slower than Julie Dibens’ 2007 race best split. This year Dibens reported she could not break away as she had done in 2007, and rode 2:13:22.
At the recent 70.3 Worlds in Clearwater, Florida, Brooke Davison was the top female age grouper and finished 5th among a stellar field of professional women. Lars Finanger sat down with the rising star from Boulder. 11.22.08
Mary Beth Ellis out speeds Jenna Shoemaker for the gold in a crash-filled women’s race while Matt Reed beats Hunter Kemper for the PATCO Pan Am Championship Triathlon title Saturday in Oklahoma City 5.16.09
Joanna Zeiger is her sport’s Job of elusive-to-diagnose and tough-to-treat maladies. After winning a four-year battle with back and leg woes, now her toughest opponent is a recurring case of the dizzies. 8.11.09
Joanna Zeiger, the 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, comes back from baffling mid-season dizziness syndrome to win Longhorn Ironman 70.3 Austin in impressive time. Aussie Richie Cunningham defends title with a 1:48 margin over Brian Fleischmann. 10.25.09
Relentless northerly winds force Ironman 70.3 World Championship race officials to switch swim from ocean to inland harbor; Reed, Dibens, Bozzone, Bennetts, Zeiger confident on eve of battle in Clearwater 11.13.09
Ironman head referee and former pro Jimmy Riccitello brings a fierce opposition to drafting to the job; now he is the top sheriff at Ironman and non-drafting perfection remains elusive. 12.17.14
The youthful Terenzo Bozzone, 23, and the veteran Joanna Zeiger, 38, controlled the 2008 Clearwater 70.3 World Championships and smashed course records along the way. 11.08.08
As Crowie, the new King of Kona, takes a rest, and defending champ Andy Potts is presumably still recovering from his Kona debut, the men's field at the 70.3 World Championships is wide open. 11.07.08
With 2006 champion Sam McGlone sidelined by Achilles tendinitis and 2-time Ironman winner Chrissie Wellington resting on her laurels, can anyone beat defending champion Mirinda Carfrae? 11.07.08
Behind the scenes at the 70.3 World Champs
Reviewed by: Kristofer Ridgway, Nov 13 2008 7:54PM
Brazilian World Title
Reviewed by: Marcos, Nov 12 2008 7:33PM
Reviewed by: Collin, Nov 12 2008 4:29PM
My name is collin allin and i raced the race and the drafting was a joke....i biked 2.24hrs without drafting once. I was out bike by age group women by 8min and guys be 12min. I could see packs of 30 or 40 odd packs coming past me the whole day and saw drafting marshall once.
It was a joke, i won't be coming back to race, it left a sour taste in my mouth to be cheated like that, they need to split the racing, Saturday and Sunday maybe