Craig Alexander said that his second Ironman World Championship title was more rewarding than his first thanks to the dig deep effort he had to make to out-duel Andreas Raelert and overcome the big lead Chris Lieto earned with a 4:25 bike. Showing that nothing is a sure thing on the Queen K, Crowie found that Chris Lieto offered even more resistance than he showed in their killer duel at Boise Ironman 70.3 earlier in the year.
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Crowie's beautiful stride eats up ground on this first stretch along Alii by the sea. At this point he was 7-8 minutes back of Lieto, but fearsome runner Andreas Raelert was about arrive and challenge Alexander's crown.
Lieto not only had the best bike on the day, he had fortified his run with a long stint training with top US marathoner Ryan Hall at altitude in Mammoth, California.
Raelert, a two-time Olympian, came to this fight with a race-best 1:10 half-marathon run to take second at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and a win at Ironman Arizona. Starting the Kona marathon, Raelert was running down Crowie.
Crowie kept his cool all the way to the turnaround on Alii Drive, 5 miles into the marathon. Here he trailed Lieto and Chris McCormack.
Right about Mile 6, Raelert joined Crowie on the way back along Alii Drive.
Raelert and Alexander ran together up Palani through Mile 12 on the Queen K. Here Raelert tries a surge.
Crowie quickly bridged that gap.
Raelert fends off a cramp about Mile 13 or 14.
Raelert seeks ice with some urgency.
Right as they entered the Energy Lab about Mile 15, Raelert reported that he simply hit the wall and fell back. Lieto was still 4:45 ahead at this point and holding firm.
When Lieto came out of the hot bath that is the Natural Energy lab, he was struggling and his lead had shrunk to 2:20. But he wasn't ready to surrender.
A mile out of the Energy Lab, Lieto walked through the aid station, stuffing ice down his shorts to reduce his core temperature.
By Mile 21 and a half, Crowie arrived. All signs pointed to an early surrender, but Lieto wasn't buying.
Soon, Crowie and a revived Lieto were running in perfect unison.
They went through aid stations in synch, reviving memories of the Mark Allen-Dave Scott IronWar duel 20 years ago.
Both men drink on the run.
Crowie grabs water and it spills in the air
Back in synch again. Lieto entertained one last thought of surging past Alexander
Finally, Crowie breaks the invisible string that held them together at Mile 22 and Lieto's resistance just ran out of gas.
When he hit the line this time, Crowie appeared to roar like a lion who had slain his prey. The year before, he bowed his head in relief.