Marino Vanhoenacker smashed the all-time Ironman record of 7:50:27 set by fellow Belgian Luc Van Lierde in 1997 and recorded a stunning 7:45:58 at the 2011 Kärnten Ironman Austria. Mary Beth Ellis in her first Ironman start also put on quite a show and took the win in 8:43:34.
Very cool temperatures of about 45 degrees greeted the athletes in Klagenfurt before the start but highs were predicted to be in the low 70s. Estonian Marko Albert led the Pro men out of the Lendkanal in 45:27 with about a minute lead on a group that contained Brit Stephen Bayliss, Austrian Dominik Berger and 5-time defending champion Marino Vanhoenacker from Belgium. For Vanhoenacker his swim time of 46:49 was already a minute faster than his time from the previous year where he missed the all-time Ironman record by 98 seconds. Michael Weiss exited the waters in 52:52.
Albert held on to the lead for the first 20k of the bike but Vanhoenacker was moving fast behind him caught the Estonian not much later. From there Vanhoenacker really started to pull away and had a lead of almost 6 minutes by the halfway point of the bike segment. Vanhoenacker's final bike split was 4:15:37, fastest of the day and one of the fastest times ever recorded in an Ironman. Those who had expected Weiss to take time back from the Belgian were disappointed though. Weiss rode a very fast 4:16:25 but that was still a minute slower than Vanhoenacker. Albert reached the bike-run transition in third place with a 4:30:56 bike split.
Out on the run Vanhoenacker continued his amazing pace and ran a 1:21:55 for the first half of the marathon and was well on the way now to break the record. But had he gone too fast early on? Weiss was running well too but continued to drift further away from the Belgian. Albert meanwhile was hanging tough in third. Vanhoenacker continued to move unbelievably fast though and recorded a 2:39:24 marathon and crossed the line in 7:45:58 - smashing Luc Van Lierde's all-time record by about 4 minutes. Weiss held on to second place in 7:57:39 and Albert rounded out the podium.
"This race surpassed anything in my sports life. There have been perfect conditions today, I was in perfect shape at the right time, my material was excellent again and the crowd in Kärnten was better than ever. This definitely is my second home," said a very happy Vanhoenacker.
American Mary Beth Ellis had picked Ironman Austria for her Ironman debut and she made quick work of the swim. Ellis was first out of the water in 48:07 and had a lead of 2:41 on the next female heading into transition.
Ellis pushed the pace on the bike too and managed to come back to T2 still in first place with a 4:48:10 split. Diana Riesler had the fastest bike split among the women and reached the bike-run transition in second position with a crazy 4:43:50 time, a new course record by about 5 minutes, but she had lost over 10 minutes to Ellis in the swim. Riesler was followed by Erika Csomor who combined a 52:06 and a 4:53:59 bike split to start the run in third position.
Riesler though paid for her effort on the bike and quickly lost time to Ellis, and Csomor came closer and closer. Csomor moved into 2nd position around the 16k mark but Ellis seemed to run even faster. At the halfway point of the run Ellis was 11:48 up on Csomor and 12:31 on Riesler and for a while it looked like Ellis might break the women's record. But Ellis slowed down towards the end and actually really seemed to struggle. But she took the win in 8:43:34 and with it earned her first Ironman title in as many attempts. Csomor finished in second place and Riesler third.
"I went into the Ironman just hoping to finish with a hoop dream of being around 9 hours. So winning Ironman Austria in an 8:43, the fastest debut time, fastest ever time by an American woman, and in a new course record was totally unbelievable; I am still pinching myself," said Ellis to slowtwitch. "The race went better than I could have hoped. The swim and bike went very well; the run started well and I was on 2:55 pace until 30k then the wheels came off and I had to gut it out to the finish."
Kärnten Ironman Austria
Klagenfurt, Austria / July 3, 2011
2.4m swim / 112m bike / 26.2m run
1. Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) 7:45:58 ***
2. Michael Weiss (AUT) 7:57:39
3. Marko Albert (EST) 8:08:17
4. Tom Lowe (GBR) 8:11:30
5. Stephen Bayliss (GBR) 8:16:47
6. Jozsef Major (HUN) 8:28:15
7. Anton Blokhin (UKR) 8:30:57
8. Mario Fink (AUT) 8:31:37 * AG
9. Rainer Schniertshauer (GER) 8:33:42 * AG
10. Robert Lang (AUT) 8:34:21 * AG
1. Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 8:43:34
2. Erika Csomor (HUN) 8:51:10
3. Diana Riesler (GER) 8:53
4. Heleen Bij de Vaate (NED) 8:56:11
5. Eva Dollinger (AUT) 9:05:13
6. Simone Helfenschneider (AUT) 9:11:36
7. Michaela Rudolf (AUT) 9:14:16 * AG W35-39
8. Joyce Wolfe (IRL) 9:15:42
9. Beate Görtz (GER) 9:18:57 * AG W40-44
10. Nicole Woysch (GER) 9:23:31
*** New all-time Ironman course record