Lucy Charles served emphatic notice of her full potential as a triathlete by finishing second in the pro women’s category at the Ironman World Championships on Kona on Saturday (October 14, 2017).
The 24-year-old from Hertforshire capped a superb season, one that had already yielded victories at Ironman Lanzarote and Challenge Prague, by finishing on the podium in the sport’s most challenging race.
Not only did Charles end a gruelling day on Hawaii’s Big Island as runner up, but did so by recording a time of 8:59:38, and so broke the nine-hour barrier that separates gifted female triathletes from the very best. The winner, Daniela Ryf, was the only other competitor to record a ‘sub-nine’ time, and by doing so wrapped up her third Kona title.
Numbers, however impressive, do not tell the full story of a gripping race, conducted at full gas from the moment the cannon fired. Charles, formerly an open water swimmer, sought to build an immediate advantage and serve early notice of her intentions for the race.
She left the water first, and in a time just five seconds from the course record. Her blistering pace was aided by close competition with Lauren Brandon, with each woman forcing the other to dig deeper. The lead changed hands within the final 100 yards, but Charles would not be denied.
Having established a slender advantage in the water, the Endura athlete set about maintaining it in the saddle, but succumbed to Ryf in the final 40km of a demanding 112km bike split. Charles had left T1 with a lead of four minutes and 22 seconds over her more experienced rival, but Ryf dug deep in the latter stages of the ride.
Despite failing to make inroads on Charles’ lead for much of the ride, Ryf finished the bike split with an advantage of around six minutes, and built on this foundation in the run, clocking 3:00:02 to Charles’ 3:08:09. This is not to discredit Charles, who just two years earlier had announced her presence on Kona as a future star by winning the 18-24 year-old age group.
As the full significance of her performance sank in, Charles Tweeted: “Second in the world! Absolutely no words, just a million thank-yous for all the support.”
Charles was not Endura’s only entrant in the pro women’s race. Rachel Joyce, twice a runner-up on Kona (and three times a podium finisher), suffered a disappointing day by her own standards and finished twentieth.
“Kona will eat you up and spit you out,” she later Tweeted, though it speaks volumes for Joyce that in the same Tweet she congratulated Ryf, Charles and Australia’s Sarah Crowley, who finished third.
Joyce’s still highly respectable finishing position should be placed in context. A little over a year ago, she gave birth to baby Archie, who formed part of her support team on Kona. Six weeks after bringing him into the world, she resumed training. Seven months later, she raced for the first time since giving birth, and two months after that, recorded the first victory of her comeback.
Endura’s male professionals suffered disappointment. Tim Don, who in May broke the world record for an Ironman-sanctioned ultra-distance triathlon by recording a time of 07:40:23 in Florianopolis, Brazil, was involved in a collision with a car while out training on his bike, just days before the world championships.
Nils Frommhold was another who suffered cruel misfortune. The German headed into the marathon in sixth place, but was forced to withdraw after a problem with his Achilles tendon. Like Don and Joyce, Frommhold was another who arrived in Kona among the favourites, after a season that had brought victory in the 70.3 race at Ironman Swizterland.
This year has been another in which Endura’s ground-breaking QDC technology, developed in partnership with Drag2Zero, has proven again to be triathlon’s fastest. In addition to the performances on Kona, and the aforementioned victories, Endura can point to Joyce’s wins at Ironman Boulder and Ironman Mont Tremblant, and Joe Skipper’s coronation as European Champion at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam last month.