Bracht hangs tough, Wellington dominates in AZ

Timo Bracht weathered the specter of two speedsters in a heated footrace and held on to win the 2010 Ford Ironman Arizona. Chrissie Wellington put on a dominant performance to win the women's title in 8:36:13 and finished 8th overall.

The men

Arizona's version of the 140.6 distance is often a nail biter, contracting rather than expanding as the men's race draws to a close. In 2008, the top four men crammed into two minutes by the time they reached the tape.

The 2010 edition was almost as close, with Timo Bracht holding off Denmark's former short course star Rasmus Henning, 8:07:16 to 8:10:58. British IronRookie Tom Lowe, came third in 8:11:44. Defending Ironman Arizona champ Jordan Rapp crossed next in 8:16:45.

The day started with Kevin Everett and Brandon Marsh exiting the swim along with John Dahlz, James Bonney, Henning and Reed. Everett, Henning and Reed gained separation quickly and put two minutes on the chasers. Meanwhile, Bracht, Jordan Rapp and Chris Lieto each commenced their attempts to close down gaps of 4 and 5 minutes out of the water.

Just after halfway into the bike, Rapp—racing his first Ironman after a horrific bike crash in training almost cost him his life—took over the lead. He towed Lieto, Henning and Bracht, almost never relinquishing the front, until mile-90, when Bracht made a move.

Within a mile the German's pace dislodged Lieto. Meanwhile, Lowe, a duathlon specialist, steadily kept pace with the leaders, albeit while hovering 3 to 4 minutes in arrears.

Rapp and Bracht and Henning entered the final straight into T2 together, with Lieto :45 back. But Henning had to make a stop to serve a 4-minute penalty for drafting—he might have won the race had he not tried to calibrate to calibrate the draft zone a little too closely.

Bracht immediately ran to the lead, putting several seconds a mile in Rapp. The hot pace on the bike appeared to take its toll on Lieto, who lost ground on the leaders from the marathon's first mile.

While Bracht, Rapp and Henning were each running 6:15 to 6:20 pace, Lowe was racing over the pavement as a pace close to 6-flat. By 12 miles into the marathon the Brit—who happens to be Chrissie Wellington's boyfriend—had closed to within 3 minutes of Bracht. Henning hovered at just over 3 minutes down. By mile-14 Lowe was only 2:11 down on the leader.

At mile-20 Bracht still held the lead, yet, as is the habit at this race, the leaders were coming together. Lowe was a scant 80 seconds back, with Henning less than 2 minutes out of the lead. Rapp was in fourth, but, still only a very few minutes down.

Lowe's torrid pace in the early miles required repayment. Henning found good legs during the marathon's second half and retook the second spot from Lowe.

But Bracht—who has a habit of strong marathon finishes himself—stretched out his lead, while running a 2:48:59. Lowe and Henning ran the fastest two run splits, 2:48:12 and 2:48:35 respectively.

"I wasn't sure if 6 weeks after Kona I would be again or still in decent shape. It was an experiment, but sometimes in life you have to try out something new and take a risk. My start (in Arizona) was hotly discussed in Germany as I am really viewed as a very calculated and forward planning athlete. In the end, it has worked out quite well," said Bracht to slowtwitch. "Rapp rode the bike really well and in the end I had to give everything to get the win."

Rapp's 4:22:38 bike was only 7 seconds slower than the course record he rode last year, and his 2:58:02 run just 2:17 than his run when he won the race in 8:13:35 and set the overall course record Bracht erased today. It's good to see Rappstar back.

The women

"This was my Kona!" shouted Chrissie Wellington. This, after demolishing the field at Ironman Arizona in a World Best time (for an Ironman branded full distance event) of 8:36:13. Wellington already holds another World Best at this distance, set at Roth earlier this year in 8:19:13.

Wellington, who finished 7th place overall at Roth during her record run, crossed the line in 8th place here. Her 2:52:55 marathon would have put her only 4:44 behind the fastest men's run of the day. In fact, Wellington's swim was only 32sec slower than that of men's winner Timo Bracht, and her run was only 3:56 behind Bracht's run (and this, while executing the Blazeman Roll at the finish). It's a good thing the German bikes well!

The day started without Wellington displaying her dominance. Her two countrywomen, Rachel Joyce and Leanda Cave, gave the Brit a go for the first three hours. The trio were in a virtual dead heat 50 miles into the bike ride.

But Wellington, perhaps her 2010 Kona demon exorcised, chose that moment to stomp on the pedals, and Cave and Joyce were left to eat Sonora Desert dust.

By T2, Wellington had 12:20 on Cave, with Heather Wurtele and Linsey Corbin giving chase 17 and 18 minutes behind.

Corbin proved the best of the runners—Wellington excepted—coming home in a very credible 9:05:33. Corbin's time was an improvement on her 9:13:46 she posted last year as runner up, and had she done this year's time last year she'd have enjoyed holding Arizona's course record for the past year. Cave followed in 9:13:50.

"We are narrowing the gap between the men's winning times and the women's winning time. I have been criticized for saying that women can do more and that I like beating the men. I think people take me out of context," said Wellington to slowtwitch. "I think all I want to say is that women are capable of more and we are achieving it, and hopefully I am showing that."

Ford Ironman Arizona
Tempe, AZ / November 21, 2010

Top 10 men

1. Timo Bracht (GER) 8:07:16
2. Rasmus Henning (DEN) 8:10:58
3. Tom Lowe (GBR) 8:11:44
4. Jordan Rapp (USA) 8:16:45
5. Jozsef Major (HUN) 8:26:15
6. Matt Reed (USA) 8:33:08
7. Max Longree (GER) 8:33:28
8. Ian Mikelson (USA) 8:41:18
9. Joe McDaniel (USA) 8:43:23
10. Anthony Toth (CAN) 8:46:57

Top 10 women

1. Chrissie Wellington (GBR) 8:3613
2. Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:05:33
3. Leanda Cave (GBR) 9:13:50
4. Meredith Kessler (USA) 9:15:01
5. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 9:19:10
6. Erika Csomor (HUN) 9:22:38
7. Mackenzie Madison (USA) 9:24:11
8. Heleen bij de Vaate (NED) 9:29:15
9. Uli Bromme (USA) 9:31:22
10. Lauren Harrison (USA) 9:33:53