Under picture perfect conditions, Timothy O’Donnell and Julie Dibens smashed course records while winning the Boulder 5430 long course triathlon Sunday.
Coming off a knee and leg injured in a bike crash three weeks ago, Xterra World Champion Dibens used a sizzling 2:12:10 bike to top two-time defending Ironman World Champion and Boulder training partner Chrissie Wellington by 1 minute 17 seconds. Dibens’ 4:10:58 finish also broke Samantha McGlone’s 2007 course record for the Boulder half Ironman distance by 6 minutes 10 seconds.
In the men’s race, US Naval Academy graduate Timothy O’Donnell followed breakthrough 2009 wins at the St. Croix and Calgary 70.3 events with a dominating win in Boulder in 3:45:51. O’Donnell’s performance broke David Thompson’s 2007 course record by 3 minutes 47 seconds and left runner-up and 2004 Bermuda Olympic triathlete Tyler Butterfield 5 minutes 58 seconds back. While Thompson’s 2007 bike split record of 2:02:56 withstood O’Donnell’s onslaught, the 2009 winner won swim (25:34), bike (2:03:3:44) and run (1:15:16) primes and left third place Leon Griffin 7:24 back and fourth place David Thompson 8:19 in his wake.
After her 5th-best swim and course-record bike, Dibens had a 5-minute 33-second lead on the undefeated Ironman champion but knew she had to run like Ichabod Crane from the Headless Horseman to hold off Wellington’s run. Halfway through the 13.1-mile, two loop run around the Boulder Reservoir, Dibens still held a 3:30 advantage. “I know Chrissie is a better runner than me,” said Dibens, who has finished 4th two years in a row at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship with a similar go-for-it-on-the-bike strategy. “Because she is a great biker, too, I had to work hard to get a lead and try to hold her off.”
On the second run loop, Dibens had to dig deep to fight off a lack of conditioning due to a painful bike crash three weeks ago that prevented her from running for 10 days. “I was hurting,” she said. “I was in a whole lot of pain. I knew that Chrissie was taking me down. So I just tried to take it one mile at a time and get to that next mile marker. “
Wellington, coming off a record-smashing Ironman-distance world best 8:31 last month at Quelle Challenge Roth, was smiling but her stride did not look as smooth and fluid as it did in Germany. “I was quite happy with my run here,” said Wellington of her race-best 1:24:54 effort which was still 2 minutes slower that the run course record set by Fiona Docherty during her second place finish at the 5430 long course last year.
Still, Dibens’ win was significant. Wellington had not lost at the half-Ironman distance since her third place at Singapore 70.3 in September 2007 and a 5th place at the UK Ironman 70.3 a few months earlier. “I was quite disappointed with my run in Roth,” said Wellington of her 2:57:32 marathon that gave back two minutes to Quelle Challenge Roth overall runner-up Rebekah Keat in July. “Of course three or four weeks after an Ironman you still have a little bit of soreness in your legs. But I have no excuses. Julie and I train together so I know how strong she is and knew my work was cut out for me even on the run.”
With two miles to go, Dibens had a 2 minute, 30-second advantage but was looking like she was on a death march. “During my recovery from the bike crash, my running suffered a bit and my swimming too because my hand was splinted up for a while, but I managed to maintain the bike,” said Dibens. “But the last few miles, my lungs and my legs gave out a bit.” By the finish, Dibens’ 1:29:13 run surrendered 4 minutes 19 seconds to Wellington. But it was enough to smash the record on this course with a fast, largely flat bike but tough run at altitude.
Defending 5430 long course and 2008 Ironman 70.3 champion Joanna Zeiger was running third until she collapsed halfway through the run and was taken to a local hospital by ambulance. Most competitors and fans were in the dark about Zeiger’s malady until she explained the problem was recurring dizziness under the stress of long course racing.
“Last season came to a screeching halt at Ironman Arizona,” said Zeiger. “I was coming off a great day winning Ironman 70.3 worlds and I had a great swim, a great bike and a great first 10k of the marathon at Arizona. But then I ended up vomiting and so extremely dizzy I could not continue. So I decided to not do the Ironman distance any more. Unfortunately, I encountered extreme dizziness at the New Orleans and Vineman 70.3 races and had to drop out. I was feeling great and optimistic going into this race, and set up some heart rate limits to offset the dizziness. But it hit me hard again about 7 miles into the run.”
With Zeiger’s misfortune, Boulder resident and mother of three Brooke Davison charged into the final spot on the podium in one of her best performances since turning pro last year at age 37. With her 27:47 swim 14 seconds faster than Wellington, Davison held off the legend until 8 miles into the bike, then proceeded to record a third-best 2:23:01 bike that out-split Zeiger (2:23:36), Kat Baker (2:23:25) and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Susan Williams (2:23:14). Davison’s 1:31:54 run gave her a 4:24:00 finish and a 2-minute 32-second advantage on veteran pro Amanda Stevens and 3 minute- 8-seconds margin on 5th place Kat Baker. “I am thrilled with my time today and I feel honored to be out there on my home course with such great athletes,” said Davison. “I was really happy with my bike (2:23:01) today, but I was worried on the run because I had a bit of a niggle in my knee and it didn’t feel great.”
Before the race, the good sportsmanship of last year’s top two finishers was evident as 2008 winner Simon Thompson helped zip up the wetsuit of 2008 runner-up Tim O’Donnell. In last year’s duel, 2004 Australian Olympian Thompson solidified a comeback from injury with a last lap pass of O’Donnell with a mile to go.
O’Donnell, who was in the process of proving he was more than a swim-bike sensation, did not quite have the run to close the deal. In the off season, O’Donnell embraced that painful moment and vowed to overcome. “After last year, I looked at pictures of that pass and saw my head was tilted one way, my eyes were closed and it looked like I was about to fall over,” said O’Donnell. “I used that picture as a screen saver to remind me that I am a better racer now.”
Indeed. O’Donnell moved to Boulder in January and has proved over and over again he has moved up to a different level. With victories at St. Croix and Calgary 70.3 and a strong second at Kansas 70.3 and close third at the Rev3 half Ironman distance event, O’Donnell has reached the top tier of the 70.3 world with a realistic dream of making the podium at Clearwater. On a day which O’Donnell called his “strongest performance,” he led start to finish for a race record-breaking 3:45:51 that put him nearly six minutes ahead of runner-up Tyler Butterfield at the finish.
“My running is better this year,” said O’Donnell. “I proved it at New Orleans 70.3 when I had a bad bike and came off 8 minutes down. But I ran back up to third so this year is a whole different ball game for me.”
Butterfield, a Bermuda-born triathlete who at 21 was the youngest male triathlon Olympian at Athens in 2004, took up cycling for four years until returning to swim-bike-run last year. “I was 5th or 6th after the swim and picked off people through the whole race,” said the new Boulder resident. “David Thompson passed me near the end of the bike, and I left the bike-to-run transition Leon Griffin. Halfway through the first lap of the run, Leon caught David and the three of us ran together for a little while. Knowing I am not a great sprint finisher, I made a surge and got a bit of a buffer until the finish.” Butterfield’s 1:16:15 run was second-fastest and brought him to the line in 3:51:49.
Griffin, the 2006 ITU short course Duathlon World Champion, in heavy training for Ironman Wisconsin, did not have his usual short course run speed and had to let Butterfield go. Griffin’s third-best 1:18:50 run split was enough to hold off Thompson for the final spot on the podium.
2009 Boulder 5430 Triathlon
2009 Boulder Kids Triathlon
5430 Long Course Triathlon
August 9, 2009
S 1.2 mi./ b 56 mi./ R 13.1 mi.
1. Julie Dibens (GBR) 4:10:58* course record
2. Chrissie Wellington (GBR) 4:12:15
3. Brooke Davison (Boulder, CO) 4:24:00
4. Amanda Stevens ( ) 4:26:32
5. Kat Baker (USA) 4:26:58
6. Susan Williams (Littleton CO) 4:28:44
7. Kelly Jarrett (AUS) 4:34:44
8. Tracy Thelan (USA) 4:34:49
9. Karen Melliar-Smith (USA) 4:37:03
10. E Ohara (USA) 4:36:36
DNF Joanna Zeiger (Boulder CO)
1. Timothy O’Donnell (Boulder CO) 3:45:51
2. Tyler Butterfield (Boulder CO) 3:51:49
3. Leon Griffin (AUS) 3:53:15
4. David Thompson (St. Paul MN) 3:54:10
5. Lars Finanger (Boulder CO) 4:01:57
6 M. Coppit (USA) 4:07:21
7. Simon Thompson (AUS) 4:07:27
8. Chris Bagg (USA) 4:10:17