Last year at Kona, Lucy Charles used her world class swim to carve out a 4:22 lead on two-time champion Daniela Ryf. At the front, Charles posted a stellar 4:58:19 bike split that only surrendered the lead to Ryf’s 4:53:10 bike split in the final miles. At the end, Ryf ran away to an 8:51 margin of victory with a 3:00:02 marathon that was 8:06 better than her British rival.
Along the way in 2018, Charles won Ironman South Africa in 8:56:06 by a 6:52 margin over Susie Cheetham and took second at Challenge Roth just 9 seconds behind Daniela Sämmler.
In the next meeting after 2017 Kona, Charles pushed Ryf just a bit at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship where Charles led Ryf by 1:24 in the swim, Ryf outbiked Charles by 1:44 on the bike, and Ryf put her foot down with a 1:16:59 half marathon that outpaced Charles by 3:37 for a 3:46 margin of victory.
While they were contesting at half the classic Ironman distance, Charles could take heart that she was inching closer on the swim, the bike, and yes, on the run.
Right now Charles has age in her side and she is hungry to come closer to the legend at Kona.
Slowtwitch: You have time on your side chasing Daniela, but perhaps you don’t want to wait forever? You have also come the closest to challenging her- especially in South Africa. Did that boost your confidence or whet your appetite to take on the champion?
Lucy Charles: Yes definitely. It gave me a good confidence boost. I obviously have been working on my swim, bike and run. It’s good to see the improvements - mostly on the bike. And it is encouraging that my run is constantly improving.
ST: Daniela Ryf is 31, six years older than you. Is it enough to think you have time to be patient?
Lucy: I am only 25, so I have time on my side and I am hungry for that win. I want it more than ever. So you’re going to see me going hard on Saturday.
ST: You have had stellar bike splits too. She just topped you on the bike at Kona last year [4:53:10 to 4:58:19].
Lucy: Yeah. It was pretty close and I think this time I still expect to be caught on the bike. Daniela is such a tough racer. But I’m not going to be letting her go. Yeah. I’m on a new bike.
ST: Tell us about your new steed.
Lucy: It’s a new Specialized Shiv. Just launched. And it is super quick. You’re going to see quick times on that bike.
ST: What is your process of working on your run?
Lucy: My coach is Reese Barclay. He is my coach and my fiancé.
ST: As a world class swimmer, the legs take a while to develop the hardness to put out winning marathons. How are you pacing this quest?
Lucy: Yeah that the thing with athletes. We have tried not to be too quick with how we improve the run. I have had injuries before. So it’s about being consistent and just gradually building it up and getting quicker. Which we have seen in every race. I am trying to just not get too hungry on the run and pace it so I build up gradually and not get injured as well.
ST: How dire was it last year late on your run?
Lucy: It is always tough late in the race at Ironman. It’s never NOT been tough in that last 10k. You know every single woman out there is suffering so you steel yourself and run hard all the way to the end. I will be suffering, but I’m not going to back down.
ST: How does this course and Lanzarote compare?
Lucy: Obviously this course is tough but Lanzarote is tough as well. I love tough courses. Normally. I haven’t ever run on a fast course. I always pick the tough ones. This course suits me well. I like the heat. I hate the cold. So. Kona is hot and it does suit me. I just love tough races.
ST: Did you share words with Daniela after races?
Lucy: Yeah. Of course. Me and Daniela have great respect for each other. After 70.3 Worlds we spoke a lot and we said what a great race it was. We both pushed each other to better performances.
ST: Seems like she has been waiting for something like this?
Lucy: For sure. The thing is we have great respect for each other and we know we are going to push each other Hopefully we are going to run away from the other girls.