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Schramm negotiated the 45mph gusts on the upper bike course on the Negev Desert the best, as his 5:33:07 bike split topped the next-best effort by 17 minutes and provided the majority of his 20:22 margin of victory over the Czech Republic’s David Jilek.
Schramm exited the swim in 4th place and by 50 kilometers into the bike leg passed into the lead. “I think I got 20 minutes better than the rest on the bike,” said Schramm. “This is not a course where you need to follow your watts. You need to follow your feeling. And eat enough. This was my longest Ironman race so far (9:39:20) – my slowest previous Ironman was 9 hours.”
Hywel Davies of Great Britain was 2:42 behind Jilek to take the final spot on the podium. Davies, who is 43, looks rugged like a special ops soldier but had no embarrassment talking about the fear he experienced riding in the high winds. “I’ve never been so scared on the bike,” he said. “Into the wind you grind it out. Running with the wind you get free speed. And you take it into downhill and you hang on for dear life with the side winds. It was super hard.”
Last year’s Israman champion, Dan Alterman, was topped by Israman elite rookie and fellow Israeli Bar Radansky, who took 4th place in 10:02:55, 51 seconds behind Hywel and 8:43 ahead of long time ITU veteran and 5th place finisher Alterman.
Schramm was surprised to have made such a top performance as he was still recovering from a leg injury late last year and beset by a debilitating cold earlier in the week. “I broke my fibula in August and wasn't able to run for seven weeks,” said Schramm. “My first run was the first week in December. I have to thank Lionel Sanders as I read his blog about training and did everything he said. During the German winter, I did all my bike training indoors on the floor with turbo resistance. And I did all my runs on the treadmill. I knew the Israman run was all hard concrete, so I gambled to go to Eilat after seven weeks on the treadmill.”
Schramm’s final hurdle was a fever and cough that hit hard when he arrived in Eilat a few days before the Friday start. “I had a horrible cold,” he recalled. “I felt dead. I was just sweating and felt my body burned up. So I am very thankful I recovered and could compete."
Schramm finished in 9:39:20, the second fastest time in Israman history, although the 9:24:40 time of Gilad Rotem in 2010 was set on what is generally regarded as an easier course layout. Israman has gained the reputation as one of the world’s toughest Ironman-distance events on the strength of the bike course which rises over 2,000 feet in the first 10k. The rest of the bike layout takes place on rolling hills on a high plateau on the Negev desert often buffeted by wicked winds that force riders to take a death grip on the bars and, on this day, by 45-degree Fahrenheit temperatures that left some entrants with frozen limbs and chattering teeth.
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Woman pro Antonina Reznikov of Israel, the 2016 winner in a then-record time of 10:59:29, improved her previous mark by 8:55 as she combined a 1:01:28 swim, a 6:35:31 bike split and a 3:24:3 run. Reznikov finished in 10:50:34 with a 22:54 margin of victory over Simona Krivankova of the Czech Republic and 28:29 over 3rd place finisher Carmen Macheritou of Cyprus.
Emphasizing the challenge of the course and the weather, Reznikov was shivering and exhausted at the finish and quickly withdrew to her room after making a short interview with the race announcer and posing for a few pictures.
The rising popularity of this unique race was proven by a record combined entry that topped 1,600 adventurous souls. The popularity of the Iron-distance race continues to wane as just over 200 braved the distance, the weather and the rigors of the course.
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Israman rookie Diego Van Looy of Belgium rode to victory in the half Ironman distance event on the strength of a race-best 2:49:08 bike split that propelled him to a 4:41:46 finish and a 5:41 margin of victory over Diederik Scheltinga of the Netherlands and 8:51 over 3rd-place finisher Roee Zo-Arets of Israel.
Alice Hector of Great Britain won her third Israman 113 women’s crown with a 5:03:58 finish led by a sizzling fast 1:18:31 run that was only 1:53 slower than men’s winner Diego Van Looy. Hector’s winning effort brought her a 26:19 margin of victory over 2nd-place finisher and fellow Brit Tara Grosvenor and 49:59 over 3rd-place finisher Irina Mazin of Israel.
Hector is 35 and works as a freelance copywriter near London. She won Ironman 70.3 Rügen in 2016, and Israman 113 three times. Her proudest performance came in the 100 mile ultra marathon Northlands Way. Her dream goal is the Badwater 135. “It absolutely has to be done,” she said.
Hector says Israman us her favorite triathlon. “It is so one off,” she says. “There is nothing like it. It suits me. I like running downhill and I like undulating terrain. The one thing that doesn’t suit me is that we go home so soon after. I always think we should spend more time. I like to take a journey through Scorpions Pass on the way home and get some photos. I love it here. It is beautiful.”