Hillary Biscay, who seems to have taken over the unofficial title of pro Ironman glutton from Petr Vabrousek, took her first Ironman victory with a gutsy come-from-behind rally over Karin Gerber of Switzerland Sunday in Madison. Biscay, who finished eight Ironman-distance events last year, took her first Ironman title just one week after finishing fourth at Ironman Louisville in her eighth Ironman-distance event of 2008.
In the men’s race, Chris McDonald of Australia also completed the Two Ironmans in Eight Days double, improving his second place finish at Louisville last weekend with an 8:43:29 winning time that bested Chris Lieto’s 2002 race record by two minutes.
Unlike the week before at Ironman Louisville where McDonald surrendered the lead to a hard-running Maximilian Longree and faded hard, McDonald scored the fastest swim and bike splits at Wisconsin and was never challenged. From his 51:52 swim that was a few seconds ahead of eventual 5th place finisher Markus Fachbach of Germany, four minutes ahead of eventual 3rd place finisher Jason Shortis, and 8 minutes ahead of eventual runner-up Serge Meyer of Austria, McDonald was in control. His 4:48:40 bike may not have threatened Chris Lieto’s split record, but it gave him a 12-minute lead on Fachbach and Meyer starting the run. By the finish, his second-best 2:56:39 run left him 12:21 to the good, $10,000 richer and a two time Ironman winner (to go with his 2007 Ironman Louisville win).
Biscay, who funded her first years on the Ironman circuit with a loan meant for her PhD studies in American literature, wrote her own bravura happy chapter to a 33-Ironman career just one week after finishing a close fourth at Ironman Louisville.
Biscay, a former top collegiate swimmer at the University of Southern California who competed in the 2000 US Olympic Trials in the 200 meter breaststroke, fought hard for the win.
Biscay, who has been an Ironman-distance bridesmaid five times previously (second places at Ironman Wisconsin 2006, Ironman UK and Ironman Wisconsin in 2007, and at Challenge Wanaka and Ironman Brazil in 2008), led out of the swim with a 52:11, which gave her a 3:04 margin over Wisconsin native and top three threat Lauren Jensen, 12:22 over 37-year-old top Swiss cyclist Karin Gerber, and 15 minutes over Jessica Jacobs of Alabama, a manatee-slow swimmer who can bike and run like a gulf hurricane.
Biscay’s serviceable 5:21:50 bike on the hilly, technical Wisconsin course left her four minutes ahead of Gerber’s race-best 5:13:07 – a tribute to Gerber’s coach Toni Hasler, better know as Natascha Badmann’s life partner and sports training and strategy mastermind.
But on the run, the clutch mental and psychological focus of Biscay’s coach Brett Sutton trumped Hasler’s good influence on Gerber. With all the success enjoyed this year by Sutton’s Team TBB athletes – Chrissie Wellington’s undefeated season, multiple Ironman wins for Erika Csomor and Belinda Granger, more wins by returning triathlete Bella Comerford and breakthrough Ironman wins by men like Stephen Bayliss – Biscay felt she was overdue to join in the hit parade.
But it would take a fierce battle to join the ranks of Sutton’s winners, even against this not-so-prime-time field.
Halfway through the marathon, Gerber had cut Biscay’s lead to 1:25. Alabama's Jessica Jacobs loomed five minutes back.
By 17.6 miles, Biscay’s lead was cut to 17 seconds.
Half a mile later, Biscay was holding a 4-second margin.
Passing a hill on the University of Wisconsin campus at Mile 19.5, Gerber took the lead.
Through 21 miles, the gap grew to 30 seconds.
At 21.2 miles, the lead had grown to 56 seconds and the battle appeared to be over.
By 22.5 miles, Biscay hung tightly to the invisible rope that connected her to Gerber and the margin was 1 minute.
By 23 miles, the gap was 1:05.
Then, thanks to Biscay’s iron will and thousands of miles of racing and training she'd put in the past few years under Sutton's guidance, the tide turned and Gerber’s momentum ebbed.
At Mile 24, the gap was diminishing. Forty five seconds.
At Mile 25, the gap was 30 seconds.
At Mile 25 and a quarter, Biscay passed Gerber.
At Mile 25.5, IronmanLive correspondent Greg Welch reported that Gerber "seemed to have run out of gas." The gap was 38 seconds.
At the finish, Biscay gave her best approximation of a sprint. She had run 3:26:24 – about 7:55 per mile – and held off Gerber’s 3:24:23 surge by 2 minutes and 21 seconds.
Gerber held tough for second, fending off Jessica Jacobs’ 3:17:41 marathon surge by 59 seconds.
September 7. 2008
S 2.4 mi/ B 112 mi/ R 26.2 mi
1. Chris McDonald (Aus) 8:43:29
2. Serge Meyer (Sui) 8:55:00
3. Jason Shortis (Aus) 8:59:14
4. Bernhard Keller (Aut) 8:59:39
5. Markus Fachbach (Ger) 9:01:56
6. Gregorio Caceres Morales (Esp) 9:04:29
7. Zach Ruble (USA) 9:06:47
8. Justin Henkel (USA) 9:06:59
9. Justin Granger (Aus) 9:06:59
10. Bernd Hagen (Ger) 9:13:38
1. Hillary Biscay (USA) 9:47:25
2. Karin Gerber (Sui) 9:49:46
3. Jessica Jacobs (USA) 9:50:45
4. Heidi Jesberger (Ger) 10:02:18
5. Lauren Jensen (USA) 10:07:39
6. Gabriela Loskotova (Cze) 10:11:14
7. Prue Oswin (Aus) 10:17:00
8. Terra Castro (USA ) 10:17:58
9. Karen Melliar-Smith (USA) 10:24:43
10. Linda Muenster Scheucker (Ger) 10:31:16