Lance Armstrong of Austin, Texas broke the course record for the bike and for the overall time as he won the half Ironman distance Superfrog Triathlon Sunday in Coronado, California. Beth Walsh of nearby Encinitas, California, topped runner-up Jayna Moss by a comfortable margin to take the women's overall title.
Thanks in part to ideal, nearly windless conditions, Armstrong set a new course record for the 56-mile bike leg in a time of 2:02:48 and for the overall finish in a time of 3:49:45, which gave him a 4:18 margin of victory over 2006 ITU short course Duathlon World Champion Leon Griffin of Australia. Tyler Butterfield, a two-time Olympian from Bermuda, took 3rd, 3 minutes and 50 seconds behind Griffin.
While the world class element of the field in this longest continuously contested half Ironman triathlon in the United States was limited to Armstrong, Griffin and Butterfield, the win came with some struggle.
Griffin posted a 24:52 time for the two-lap, 1.2-mile swim in 4 to 5 foot surf, 26 seconds ahead of the 41-year-old Armstrong, followed 1 minute, 2 seconds later by Butterfield. On the 56-mile bike contested on four out-and-back loops of super-flat highway 75, Griffin soon pedaled into the lead, only to be followed a legal distance the entire way by Armstrong. Butterfield, taking a more conservative pace, trailed the two leaders by 3 minutes into T2.
While it seemed that Armstrong was toying with Griffin on the bike, experienced onlookers wondered if he might be cutting too fine a line as Griffin is a dangerously fast half marathon runner. But all three leaders had a reason to be tired or off form -- both Griffin and Butterfield had competed in the high-speed, flat out Formula 1 sprint event the day before and Armstrong had competed in an 8k running race the same day.
After the race, Armstrong explained that his training since the USADA decision banning him from nationally sanctioned competition had focused solely on long runs and little or no biking. Once his power meter reached his self imposed watts limit, he decided to remain behind and measure Griffin through the rest of the bike. Griffin admitted he went a little harder than was prudent as he was stalked by Armstrong. Armstrong completed the bike in a race record 2:02:48 and Griffin, who clocked 2:03:05, entered T2 with the Texan. Butterfield, who is training for Ironman Arizona this November after his second Olympic appearance, was content to stay in his comfort zone and finished the bike three minutes back of the leaders.
The deciding test would be the 13.1-mile slog south and back on a course consisting entirely of Coronado beach sand at high tide - much of it deep and soft and likely to wear down the svelte and skinny. On a course rewarding strength, Armstrong and Griffin took off together but the Texan powered best through the sand and drew away to a 2 minute 30 second lead by halfway. At the finish, Armstrong finished the run in a 1:19:58 split - 6:08 faster than Griffin, who admitted he was out of gas on the run. Butterfield, who stayed in a well balanced pace throughout, ran a second-fastest 1:23:57 split to take 3rd.
Maurin Scheetz of San Clemente, California led the elite women's swim with a 30:25 split that gave her a 2:27 advantage on Walsh, 5:10 on Gina Corell and 8 minutes on Jayna Moss. Walsh and Moss took control of the women's race with nearly matching bike splits of 2:30:17 and 2:30:04 respectively, with Scheetz dropping back with a 2:37:35 split and Deborah Wittich and Correll rounding out the top 5 with nearly identical 2:43 splits.
Walsh then put the race away with a women's race-best 1:32:10 split for the half marathon run that brought her to the line first in 4:37:09 with a 9-minutes, 40-seconds margin of victory over runner-up Moss and a 27:39 margin over Scheetz.
The Superfrog Triathlon continues to grow after race director Mitch Hall and race founder Moki Martin - both Navy SEAL veterans -- decided to move the race off the Coronado Navy base with its limit of 200 contestants a few years ago. Sunday, crowds filled the Silver Strand Beach parking lot and more than 800 competitors enjoyed the clear blue skies, mild temperatures, light breezes - and the true challenge of the deep sandy run.
September 30, 2012
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) 3:49:45
2. Leon Griffin (AUS) 3:54:-03
3. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 3:57:53
4. Patrick Parish (USA) 4:11:44
5. Keith Butsko (USA) 4:13:48
1. Beth Walsh (USA) 4:37:09
2. Jayna Moss (USA) 4:46:49
3. Maurin Scheetz (USA) 5:04:49
4. Deborah Wittich (USA) 5:12:08
5. Gina Correll (USA) 5:16:59