What follows is the interim coverage of the Hawaiian Ironman as it happened
Australian Josh Amberger, enjoying a career year already, added an unexpected to many - no surprise to him - big breakaway lead out of the water to his 2017 palmares.
Amberger's swim time of just over 47 minutes flat was the fastest in years, and 1min20sec ahead of a front pack of almost 3 dozen men.
Amberger's lead may well be eaten up in a hurry once on the bike... or not... since winning from wire to wire is not foreign to Amberger.
Jan Frodeno and Aussie Nick Kastelein hauled the follow pack to the finish, with great swimmers Andy Potts and Harry Wiltshire choosing not to stick their noses into the lead this year.
Today's washing machine water was a little bumpy - much less so than yesterday! - but enough to give an advantage to great surf swimmers. Like Amberger. Fast swimmers don't slow down in conditions like this, but the less-adept swimmers find themselves - no pun intended - asea, corks bobbing, hands caught by swells every several strokes, unable to generate a tempo. No problem for Amberger, who stuck the swim.
Sebastian Kienle found himself out of that front pack fairly early.
Lauren Brandon and Lucy Charles proved that, bumpy water or no, this was a fast year. This duo swam together, Charles leading, Brandon moving to Charles' side at the end in a bid to take the swim leg win, and as they exited the water they caught a 53min pack of pro men. Daniela Ryf, herself no slouch in the water, finished 5min behind this leading duo.
More to follow as the 2017 Hawaiian Ironman World Championships progresses.
UPDATE: 4 hours into the race
In the men's race, the überbiker pack has already caught the leaders. Lionel Sanders, Sebastian Kienle, Boris Stein and Cameron Wurf all exited the water near each other, found each other, and struck out in search of the lead. That search didn't take long.
To recap, Josh Amberger (above) tore through the swim in 47 minutes. In other races in other places Josh might've held his lead to the end of the bike. Not here.
When the überbike pack caught the lead swim pack before the turnaround at Hawi, that seemed a quick catch. Now what, after making up 6 minutes in 60 miles? Lionel Sanders - aka the Colonel - move right through and stuck his nose in clean air. But he didn't pull away.
That lasted until 75 miles and Mr. Kienle decided enough was enough, time to earn the paycheck. As of this writing Kienle and Cameron Wurf have taken over the workload, Sanders is in 3rd, and the 9 or so other riders who're trying to stick are going to peel off one by one.
Lucy Charles has also rounded the u-turn at Hawi and the distance swimming specialist-turned-triathlete has kept her 5-plus-minute lead over the dangerous Daniela Ryf. Lauren Brandon has remained in her runner-up position.
After a swim exit in 48 minutes - very fast for women at this race and just off the swim course record - these two must be pinching themselves. Ryf has gained nothing in the first 60 miles of riding, and is towing Annabel Luxford and Sarah Crowley.
Quietly, the best ride of the day to this point may belong to Heather Jackson. She swam 10 minutes slower than the lead duo, and is to this point about 8:30 behind the lead. Which means she's closing in on Daniela Ryf, and is at this moment only 2:30 behind her. She can see her up the road. Is Daniela feeling bad? Or biding her time?
UPDATE: 5hr30min into the race
Aussie Cameron Wurf showed his ex pro cycling chops with a monster course record of 4:12:54, besting Stormin' Normann Stadler's 4:18. Stadler is at the race observing this year; we'll catch up with him if we can and see how he feels about that. Either way, his record stood for a good many years.
Wurf clearly wanted this record and there is very little doubt he was highly incentivised to get it. Get it he did, by rolling away from ride partner Lionel Sanders by about a minute and a half in the last few miles. The Colonel himself clocked a 4:14:19.
Sebastian Kienle trailed by about :40 from Sanders, as has been the case for the last 15 or so miles. Trailing by another minute or so was the pack with Jan Frodeno, which include Nils Frommhold, Ben Hoffman (pictured), James Cunnama, Terenzo Bozzone, Igor Amorelli, and Tim O'Donnell.
By 3 miles into the run Ironman's life commentators were explaining that Lionel Sanders usually looks really bad on the run, but this is different. There is clearly something ailing him. As he ran into the lead and put another minute on Cam Wurf. It's tempting to think the Colonel is injured or hurting - no, really this time - but this is just the way he looks. Lopsided. In pain. As he runs away with it. So who knows?
Who does appear to be in trouble is defending champ Jan Frodeno. He's not currently a factor in the run.
As for the women, Lucy Charles remains in the front at 100 miles, with Lauren Brandon glued to her wheel. Ryf is mounting a late charge, now just 2 minutes down. Still, not vintage Ryf. Sarah Crowley is still in tow, Annabel Luxford has dropped off the Ryf train, and Heather Jackson's run to the front stalled.
UPDATE: 6 hours into the race
Daniela Ryf rode the last 13 miles 4 minutes faster than Lucy Charles (pictured below) rode those miles. It wasn't because Lucy Charles slowed down! Maybe this was a Brett Sutton plan. Who knows? We'll know later perhaps.
The point: Ryf entered T2 first, with Charles seconds behind. Ryf is the faster runner. But this being the Hawaiian Ironman...
At 8 miles into the run Sanders has 2 minutes on Sebastian Kienle. Kienle looks great! Sanders looks horrible! Which means, of course, that Sanders is continuing to put time into Kienle.
Ben Hoffman is pacing well, just moving past Cam Wurf and into 3rd place, just over 5min off the lead.
Sanders needs a 2:47 to finish this race, on this course, in under 8 hours. So he's running 2:46 pace, right? More like 2:37 pace. Maybe having missed out on the bike course record he'll make up for it by getting the run record. Frodeno is walking. It's not his day.
More on the women: Lauren Branden came through in 3rd, Sarah Crowley - who can run - 4th and then Heather Jackson. Jackson looked great. She finished 3rd here last year and she looks like she's prepared to try to improve on that.
UPDATE: 7 hours into the race
Sebastian Kienle has just been passed by Patrick Lange. Now it's only Lionel Sanders in front of Lange. Lange looks great. He went past Kienle so hard it wasn't funny.
But the Colonel is not folding. Lange has to run 40sec per mile faster than Sanders over the last 6 miles to catch him. Still, Lange has dug into the lead mightily.
The surprise of the day is David McNamee from Great Britain in 4th. Terrenzo Bozzone, James Cunnama, and Andy Potts are next, which is a great race for the 40-something Potts! Who picked Potts as the top American man in this race?
Daniela Ryf (above) is humming, with a 4-and-a-half minute lead over Lucy Charles, who's having a great debut pro race in Kona. Heather Jackson is charging. Will Ms. Jackson improve in her last year's 3rd place finish?
These were the final updates prior to the race finish, which we covered with race summaries for the men's and women's fields. The links to these are below.
Photos above of the men's and women's swim starts: Timothy Carlson