There was justifiable excitement about Daniela Ryf's 8:46:46 smashing of Mirinda Carfrae's race record by 5:28. And deep respect for Patrick Lange's 2:39:45 split taking down Mark Allen's 1989 Kona marathon record by 19 seconds.
But don't let those fine marks overshadow what Jan Frodeno did on Saturday. Frodeno's 8:06:30 finish was the 4th fastest time in Kona history, coming behind only Craig Alexander's 8:03:56 in 2011, Luc Van Lierde's 8:04:08 in 1996 and Thomas Hellriegel's 8:06:07 for second place in 1996. In addition, Kona two-peats among the men are indeed rare. Frodeno's 2015-2016 double was the fifth in 38 years, coming after Dave Scott's 1982-1983-1984 and 1986-1987 repeats, Mark Allen's 1989-1990-1991-1992-1993 string, Tim DeBoom in 2001-2002, Craig Alexander's 2008-2009 double.
After all, Frodeno is not really invested in numbers - outside of the bottom line of Olympic gold and Kona wins. Here he reveals that even the greatest are tempted to quit the pain and agony before they reach the respite awaiting at Ironman finish line.
Slowtwitch: Were you surprised that Sebastian Kienle pushed so hard at the start of the run?
Jan Frodeno: To be honest he started off pretty quickly. I was just trying to follow his footsteps.
ST: Were you confident enough to let him go for a while?
Jam: Yeah. But I only let him go for about five minutes. It's one of those things. You can't give Sebi room. This is the kind of guy who feeds off that. He just loves it. When he's leading off the front he's the happiest man on earth. It's a very dangerous situation to put myself in. So, I didn't giver him too much room. And then, to be honest, history has shown that his first half of the marathon is very strong.
ST: You figure if you can hang with him for the first half of the marathon, that will suffice?
Jam: I just know I die less than him. Basically.
ST: Looking at the record, he has run 2:44:12 at Frankfurt. How much better are your run times?
Jan: I have a 2:39 fastest marathon [2:40:35 at Roth]. And I've run 2:43 on the same course in the heat whereas Sebi had perfect conditions in Frankfurt. So I do have confidence in my marathon. But still, you never know. On the day, especially at Kona, statistics and numbers all really goes to shit on the day.
ST: It's unpredictable because it had fantastically changeable weather and wind.
Jan: Fantastical for the spectator. It is pretty much awful for the athlete. That's what makes it so exciting.
ST: How hard were you two pushing it those first 9 miles on Alii Drive?
Jan: Sebastian really pushed hard. I was really hurting quite a few times. It was a very optimistic pace. But you just never know. Sebastian is the kind of guy who gets the most out of a one-on-one battle. And he out did himself on that first out and back on Alii. He just showed why he was one of the best in the world.
Kienle was dead game, ready to kamikaze on the run despite spending gobs of energy climbing back into contention on the bike [4:29:00] after a 52:27 swim - 4:25 behind Frodeno.
ST: What happened on your the swim?
Sebastian Kienle: I had a sub par swim. Perhaps I regressed to normal, as last year I was within 2 minutes of the leaders. Of course I would have loved to be in a better position after the swim. But today my bike legs were fairly good. It is just interesting that any weaknesses Jan had last year .. he didn’t have any weakness this year. So I felt I had to close the gap.
ST: What did it take to pass so many men to get to the front on the bike?
Sebastian Kienle: When there are 35 guys in a line, you have to make 35 passes to make one pass. You have to go 10 minutes pretty much all out. It is racing with pretty much all you have for the whole way back.
ST: Still, you ran hard for the first 9 miles. What was your breaking point?
Sebastian: That was where the string that connects us broke for the first time. I didn’t really expect to go that fast. On the other hand I had a bad last 30k on the bike last year and I had pretty good last 30k on the bike this year. I also had a watch on and I was aware that probably at some point we can't run at this pace [sub-6 minutes] any more. But I slowed down first.
BACK TO FRODENO
ST: What happened when you reached Palani at 9 miles?
Jan: When we hit Palani it was bizarre because I think we both slowed down and wanted to reduce our pace. I saw I was faring worse on the hills along Alii and better on the downhills. Therefore at the top of Palani I just thought I'll try and lengthen my stride and that is where the string that connected us broke. I thought that was quite fortunate for me.
ST: Were you aware how far back Kienle was when you passed him?
Jan: I never really looked back and nobody today ever told me the splits. I asked the motorbike probably 10 times They just put on a stone face. I don’t know if that is a new thing. and they are not allowed to talk to you. But that would be nice if they had something like the Tour de France. with splits on a board on a motorcycle for the front runners.
ST: Were you aware of where Patrick Lange was? I guess not because he started the run in 23rd place, 10:24 behind Sebi and 9:44 behind you. thanks to a 5 minute penalty for blocking on the ride.
Jan: I saw him running and I saw he had a good stride. But the guy was miles back, in a different postcard. That being said, I saw him running and running well. The last time I saw him was outside the Energy Lab. I was just climbing out of there and he was descending. It was a big lead and I've been around. My training these days allows me to substantiate my effort so that I don't die as much as I used to.
ST: Any tense moments?
Jan: I did have a couple of moments with serious cramping, They started about kilometer 24. That was probably the scariest moment I had. But then again - and I know this sounds very wrong - the whole race say was so awful today. I was feeling off form. Just nothing came easily. Because that's just what this race seems to be about for me. Sticking it out and mentally overcoming the hard parts.
ST: A Japanese journalist described you as looking terrible in that last mile. How bad was it?
Jan: Why wasn't I stopping to high five everybody on the way? You know what? It just hurts. It hurts whether you run 8 minute miles or 7 minute miles. By that time I was absolutely gone. The last 10k I had nothing left and I just wanted to stop. But I kept running.
ST: Were you afraid Sebastian might come back on you?
Jan: Not really. I knew he was four and a half minutes back. The lead was still growing even though I was feeling pretty horrible. Which allowed me to very much conserve my effort. That is one of those things. This is a championship race. A championship race means that the time in the end is really irrelevant. If you look at it, records are meant to be broken by someone somewhere some day. Hawaii is so condition dependent. I really couldn't give a rat's ass if the winning time today was 8:30 or 8:06, or, of course, the big talk of a sub-8 hour race. Yeah maybe one day. But that's more for the fan and the media to speculate and talk about. Whereas now I am a two-time World Champ. And I am pretty stoked.
ST: Did you have moments of doubt and fear?
Jan: Not fear. But I did want to give up three times actually.
Jan: I wanted to pull off. I was thinking: I will make up some excuse. Make it sound good. and go home. It was properly tough for me today and I guess that's what makes it all the sweeter when it works out and you end up with a healthy margin in time. It's a happy day at the very end.
ST: You realize to repeat here is not a usual thing?
Jan: Yeah. I think Crowie was the last guy. It seems like a pretty cool club to be a part of. I must admit I'm quite proud. I never repeated any of my successes before [2008 Olympic gold, 2015 Ironman 70.3 Worlds] and everybody's asked me about that this week. It's pretty sweet - a very, very nice moment.
ST:Do you feel a tiny bit overshadowed by Daniela Ryf's epic crushing of the women's race record? Or even by Patrick Lange breaking Mark Allen's 26 year Kona marathon record?
Jan: Patrick had a great run. But he also had a five minute rest by the side of the road [for a blocking penalty, for which he admitted fault]. It's one of those things when it all comes together. We were on course for a long time for a fast run. I guess I fell apart at the end. But that that doesn't take anything away from Patrick's run record or from my win. Certainly I think a repeat win is still better than a course record in one of the disciplines. Because that is the great thing about triathlon. It is three disciplines. You put them together, and that is who wins the race. And for Daniela, great racing! What a woman! Absolutely amazing. That's one of those things. We both had a great year. I broke the course record in Roth and she broke it here. I guess I’d take this one over Roth. But what a great performance!
ST: You overcame the February calf injury pretty well. How hard is it to keep it from reoccurring?
Jan: It was tricky in the beginning . A 9 centimeter tear means a 9-10m centimeter scar. It will never tear on that same place again. But that is rigid fiber within your muscle. It means anything around it can easily tear. But I think we did well to break that tissue up. It was a very painful process. And I feel like I've recovered from it and but at the end of the day, it does show. You are missing seven weeks of running in the middle of your season. It's never an ideal way to prepare.
ST: Did you enjoy fighting it out with Sebastian?
Jan: Honestly it doesn't get much sweeter than it did today. That was pretty awesome. We have talked about this duel for the last three years. Today was the first time it materialized and it was epic. It was pretty cool.