Nils Frommhold of Germany, a 26-year-old ITU short course racer with but two Ironman 70.3 races under his belt, made a splash in his long course debut taking Ironman Arizona in dominating fashion. His 48:19 swim had him out of the water with the lead. Frommhold then posted a 3rd-best 4:22:45 bike split which kept him close to Andrew Starykowicz (race-best 4:16:31 ride to lead at T2) and TJ Tollakson (2nd-fastest 4:19:03 bike split). Frommhold then advanced from 3rd at T2 to pass Starykowicz near the end of Mile 8 and took down Tollakson at Mile 12 before closing out the opposition with a race-best 2:48:09 run.
Frommhold finished in 8:03:13 with a 1:45 margin of victory over fast-closing Paul Matthews of Australia who finished with a 2nd-fastest 2:48:27 marathon. Tollakson, two weeks before a planned second operation to clean up debris from a hip injury and fighting stomach woes on the day, posted a respectable 2:56:01 marathon to finish 3rd - 4:23 back of the winner.
Starykowicz, just three weeks after winning Ironman Florida and smashing the world-best Ironman bike standard with an amazing 4:04 clocking, led to T2 but then quite understandably ran out of gas while struggling to a 3:10:50 marathon which brought him home in 7th place.
Frommhold recently finished 5th at Ironman 70.3 Miami and said he brought some crucial lessons from that race to Arizona. "I tried to control my pace on the bike to avoid losing energy near the end as happened in Miami," he said. "But it's very hard to do it. At the beginning of the ride there was a big group of 10 or 12 riders. After two rounds, TJ started pushing the pace and 3 or 4 riders kept pace and I fell far behind. On the one hand I said to myself, 'Keep cool. Keep cool.' And on the other side, I decided to keep pushing. It turned out to be a good decision. I rode 10k with TJ, and I thought it was too hard for me and I kept my own pace."
After passing all his rivals, Frommhold did not have smooth sailing to the finish. "I fought some cramps and lacked the energy to keep pushing the pace. So I startted running 4:30 pace the last 10 kilometers and my lead fell from 4 minutes to 2."
Frommhold said his unexpected victory erased some of the disappointment of not making the German Olympic team this summer.
After three runner-up performances, Montana's own Linsey Corbin finally took the top step in Tempe on the strength of a dominating, race-best 4:51:34 bike split paired with a race-best 3:05:57 run. Thanks to a sub-par 59:11 swim that gave fellow Purple Patch Fitness team member and good friend Meredith Kessler a 9-minute lead, Corbin chipped 2 minutes off that lead with her sizzling bike, then seized the lead from Kessler at Mile 19 of the run. Finishing in 9:01:421 -- 6 minutes slower than her second place finish to Leanda Cave here last year -- Corbin had a 5 minutes margin of victory over Kessler, who closed with a 3:18:12 marathon.
Best of friends with Kessler, Corbin offered encouraging words to her teammate at the pass: "One-two punch!" for Purple Patch athletes.
Great Britain's Corinne Abraham came from even further back after a 1:04:59 swim, posting a 3rd-best 4:54:05 bike split and a 3rd-fastest 3:11:44 marathon to finish 3rd, 13:29 back of Corbin.
Kessler's runner-up finish was the icing on the cake for a great 2012 which included wins at Ironman New Zealand, Ironman St. George and Ironman Coeur d'Alene, as well as a win at Ironman 70.3 Vineman. All the more remarkable, Kessler posted the Arizona runner-up finish after two bone jarring bike crashes suffered in late summer.
Corbin called her 2012 season her best including a win at Ironman Austria , setting a Honu 70.3 course record and a return to the top 10 (8th place) at Ironman Hawaii.
"Although my time at Arizona was slower this year, it can be explained by my slow swim and the fact that I caught a cold from my husband Chris early this week and I wasn't sure I could make the start line. I am more proud of this race because I came from much farther back - and I think I was able to do that because I have developed a much greater belief in myself."
This year's Ironman World Champion Leanda Cave finally proved she was human, succumbing to inevitable post-Kona letdown with a 6th place finish in 9:24:54.
Tempe, Arizona / November 18, 2012
2.4m swim / 112m bike / 26.2m run
1. Nils Frommhold (GER) 8:03:16
2. Paul Matthews (AUS) 8:05:01
3. TJ Tollakson (USA) 8:07:39
4. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 8:14:44
5. Jarno Hast (FIN) 8:16:12
6. Ian Mikelson (USA) 8:19:41
7. Andrew Starykowicz (USA) 8:20:39
8. Matthew Russell (USA) 8:30:53
9. Christian Ritter (GER) 8:35:11
10. Thomas Gerlach (USA) 8:36:08
1. Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:01:44
2. Meredit Kessler (USA) 9:06:44
3. Corrinne Abraham (GBR) 9:15:13
4. Sarah Gross (CAN) 9:18:07
5. Mirjam Weerd (NED) 9:24:30
6. Leanda Cave (GBR) 9:24:54
7. Haley Chura (USA) 9:28:25
8. Malaika Homo (USA) 9:28:43
9. Charisa Wernick (USA) 9:30:30
10. Kim Schwabenbauer (USA) 9:30:57