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Daerr and Cunningham engaged in a two-man duel that quickly left the rest of the men’s field behind. Cunningham blasted to the lead with a 47:28 split that used up almost all of the acreage of Boulder Reservoir that gave him a 2:53 lead over Daerr at T1. Whereupon Daerr and Cunningham posted virtually equal bike splits of 4:24:56 and 4:24:48 to give the Australian 70.3 maestro a 3:01 lead starting the two-loop run on paths paralleling famed Boulder Creek.
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After the first half of the run, Cunningham held firm to his lead, but a failure to take in enough salt left the Australian fading fast in 82-degree heat on the final loop. Daerr kept to a steady pace and posted the only sub-3 hour run split – 2:59:41 – which brought him to the finish in 8:20:26.
Cunningham faded to a 3:12:56 marathon which left him 10:12 behind Daerr. Scott Defilippis took the final spot on the podium in 8:54:19.
As Daerr put it, his first Ironman win “was a long time coming,” and came after a series of excellent performances that left him on the outside looking in. Daerr’s previous bests include 4th at Ironman Lake Placid, a 3rd at 2011Ironman Florida in a PR of 8:18, 3rd at 2011 Ironman Louisville, 2nd at Challenge Wanaka, amd 2nd at Ironman Texas in 2012.
While Justin Daerr had a low key celebration with his wife Brooke at the finish line, Danielle Kehoe seemed to be propelled across the finish with a bolt of joyful lightning.
“I was very confident in myself, but I was not on anyone’s radar coming into this race,” said Kehoe.
Unlike the two men’s top contenders, Kehoe said she finished her swim (3rd-worst 1:03:53 split) and first transition (slow) dead last in the pro women's field and 9:51 behind Laura Bennett (54:02) and similarly lagging behind early contenders Carrie Lester (55:37), Christine Hammond (55:38)and Morgan Chaffin (57:56).
Lester led the women’s field through the bike leg with a race-best 4:52:32 split, followed by Bennett (4:59:30) and the hard charging Kehoe, whose 4:53:00 split did not quite make up for her swim and transition.
Unfortunately for the Australian, Carrie Lester suffered in the heat and dropped out after 4 miles. While Bennett held on to the lead through the first loop, she, too, fell prey to the heat and faded to second place with a 3:44:31 marathon.
Kehoe opened with a conservative first loop of the run, then accelerated to a negative split 3:16:42 run that brought her to the finish in 9:19:54 and an emphatic 24:05 margin of victory over Bennett and a 33:10 advantage over 3rd-place finisher Christine Hammond.
Kehoe, a Colorado native, has had a determined and relatively swift climb to the limelight that comes with an Ironman victory. As an amateur in 2012, she was first in her 25-29 age group and 2nd overall amateur at the Ironman World Championship, 1st overall amateur at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas, 1st overall amateur at Ironman St. George and 2nd overall amateur at Boulder 70.3.
In her first year as a professional in 2013, she was 2nd at Kansas 70.3, 4th at Buffalo Springs lake 70.3 and 5th at Ironman Lake Placid. Early this year, she led New Orleans 70.3 until she fell with heat exhaustion 2 miles from the finish.
“I learned so much from that race,” she says. Apparently, she learned how to seal the deal.