On the long road back after illness and injuries during “a year to forget” in 2015, Linsey Corbin passed race-leader Rachel McBride at 17 kilometers of the marathon and held on for the victory today at Ironman Canada.
Just as Ironman Lake Placid had a dedicated pro purse for men only, Ironman Canada offered its entire $40,000 pro purse for women pros.
Corbin emerged from the swim in 7th place with a 4:43 deficit, advanced to second place but 6:55 behind race leader Rachel McBride at T2, then surged to the front with a women’s-best 3:08:12 marathon to finish in 9:17:12 with a 7:43 margin of victory over Canadian Jen Annett and 10:03 over long-time leader and 3rd-place finisher Rachel McBride of Canada.
When asked how it felt to win an Ironman again Corbin told Ironman media: "I had a really frustrating few years and you wonder what's the point? So even today after I had the lead I had to just hold onto that feeling. It's getting harder and harder to win these."
Interrupting a stellar career that included Ironman wins at Coeur d’Alene in 2010, Arizona and Austria in 2012, Austria and Los Cabos in 2014, plus a 3rd place finish at Kona in 2011, Corbin endured a year she called “a bad domino effect” in 2015. It started when she got sick early in the year in Mexico. Then she was stung in the ear by an insect while on a training ride in South Africa and had an extreme allergic reaction with fever and chills and was diagnosed with bacterial and viral infections. Back home in Bend, Oregon, Corbin plunged back into training too hard too soon and got a chest infection. After a dismal experience racing St. George 70.3, she woke up with a sore hip and sore calves and quads. An MRI showed she also had a stress fracture in her femur and so she shut down training and racing for the rest of her misbegotten year.
The road back was gradual. In October 2016 she finished 13th at Kona. This year she started with a 7th at Puerto Rico 70.3, 4th at Ironman 70.3 Texas, 3rd at Peru 70.3, and 5th at Ironman Brazil before it all came together at Whistler.
McBride led the swim in 51:21 which gave her a 2:28 lead on Rachel Joyce of Great Britain, 2:29 on Karen Thibodeau of Canada, 4:00 on Jessica Smith of the U.S., 4:08 on Steph Corker of Canada, 4:43 on Linsey Corbin of the U.S., 4:44 on Melanie McQuaid of Canada, and 4:46 on Christine Fletcher of Canada.
At 35km, McBride was tapping into her vaunted bike strength and had a 6:13 lead on Corbin, 8:19 on Thibodeau, 9:11 on Annett, and 9:14 on Joyce. Halfway through the 180 kilometer bike leg, McBride was holding on to a comfortable 8:05 lead on Corbin, 10:56 on Annett, 13:18 on Thibodeau, 16:29 on Danielle Mack, 17:38 on Fawn Whiting of Canada, and 18:01 on a fading Rachel Joyce.
After 151km of the ride, McBride seemed to relax a shade and stopped expanding her lead, which was 8:54 on Corbin, 11:28 on Annett, 22:10 on Thibodeau, and 22:14 on Joyce.
After a race-best 5:06:41 bike split, McBride hit T2 with a 6:55 lead on Corbin and 9:05 on Annett. In T2, McBride picked up 35 seconds on Corbin and gave back 27 seconds to Annett. In the first 2.2km, the momentum shifted as Corbin cut her deficit to 6:05 and Annett sliced her gap to 7:41.
Rachel Joyce also cut her deficit from 22 minutes plus to 21:27 back of the leader and held 4th place. However, with three women well ahead, Joyce could only hope to crack into the podium – but not threaten for the win. Joyce hoped to break into second or third place to gain points to qualify for Kona, but a 4th place - which offered 960 KPR points - would not earn her an assured qualification.
By 12km of the run, McBride’s lead was quickly evaporating as Corbin closed to within 2:33, Annett advanced to within 6:01, and Joyce closed to 19:21. At that point, McBride had to take a “nature break” to surrender more time.
At 16km, Corbin closed to within 10 seconds and passed the long-time leader at 17km. Annett, too, could sense vulnerability and reduced her deficit to 5 minutes.
Clearly moving faster than all her rivals, Corbin stretched her lead to 4:53 on McBride, 6:14 on Annett and 21:29 on Joyce at 28km.
At 32km, Corbin had leads of 6:50 and 6:56 on McBride and Annett and seemed assured that she would notch her first Ironman win since 2014 Austria. Joyce’s hopes for a Kona qualifying result looked dim unless someone ahead had a catastrophic turn for the worst.
Corbin finished with a big smile after a women’s-best 3:08:12 marathon brought her to the finish in 9:17:12 with a 7:43 margin of victory over Annett, who closed with a 3:14:48 marathon. McBride hung on to the final spot on the podium, closing with a 3:25:46 run that left her 10:03 short of the win and 2:20 behind Annett.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
July 30, 2017
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:17:17 S 56:04 B 5:08:02 R 3:08:12
2. Jen Annett (CAN) 9:24:55 S 58:32 B 5:08:31 R 3:14:48
3. Rachel McBride (CAN) 9:27:15 S 51:21 B 5:06:41 R 3:25:46
4. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 9:43:34 S 53:48 B 5:26:15 R 3:19:33
5. Fawn Whiting (CAN) 9:46:07 S 58:31 B 5:24:38 R 3:18:42.