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Carfrae Gets the Win

Kevin Mackinnon recaps the women's race at the 2010 Ford Ironman World Champioship

Published Sunday, October 10, 2010

Carfrae Gets the Win
The dynamics of today's race changed dramatically first thing this morning when we received an announcement from Chrissie Wellington that she wouldn't be able to compete because of flu-like symptoms that had put her out of commission starting yesterday. What had been considered a foregone conclusion suddenly became a race. What Mirinda Carfrae proved with her impressive race here today was that even with the three-time defending champion in the race today, she would very much have been a contender today.

The 29-year-old has got through many training sessions dreaming of the moment when she would come across the finish line as the Ironman World Champion. Today that dream came true thanks to the fourth fastest time in Ironman history, coupled with the fastest marathon ever run by a woman here in Kona – a blazing 2:53 run that simply devastated the rest of the field.

Carfrae’s win might have been solidified thanks to that impressive run, but it was her bike split today that ensured her second world championship – three years ago Carfrae won the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3.

It was last year’s 70.3 world champion, Julie Dibens, who set the pace through the early stages of today’s race. After trailing Great Britain’s Rachel Joyce out of the water (Dibens managed to go off course a bit when she followed a couple of male pros), Dibens quickly moved to the front of the race during her typically strong bike leg.
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Dibens and Carfrae are great friends, having spent much of the year cheerfully “trash-talking” and competing both at races and at just about everything else they could think of. They faced off over 100 m in the pool this summer – Dibens swimming her college specialty, backstroke, while Carfrae, a former basketball player who didn’t start swimming until she was almost 20, got to swim freestyle. Carfrae won that skirmish, and also managed to win a head-to-head half-Ironman race, too. Dibens is winning the “who can have the most twitter fans by the awards ceremony” competition, but according to Carfrae that’s only by “about 100.”

Which left the two to take each other on over 2.4 miles of swimming, 112-miles of cycling and a marathon run. Dibens was competing in her first, Carfrae in her second, after finishing as the runner-up in her debut here in Kona a year ago.

Dibens, one of the strongest swimmer/cyclists in the sport, was hoping to have a lead of about 15 minutes on Carfrae off the bike. Instead she found herself 11:45 up on the fast-running Aussie. In between the two was a surprising Caroline Steffen and Amy Marsh.

“Rinnie (Carfrae) had a great ride today,” Dibens said after the race. “Caroline was really strong, too. She held me at three minutes for a long time.”

Carfrae would eventually catch and pass Dibens at 16 miles of the marathon after going through the first half-marathon in a blazing 1:23. (“I was hoping to go under 2:50,” she said at the press conference after the race.)

Steffen would put together an equally as impressive run. Earlier this year she finished second at Ironman South Africa, where she ran a 3:17 marathon. Then, in Frankfurt for the Frankfurter Sparkasse Ironman European Championship, she also finished second, running a 3:08 PB. Today the Swiss athlete ran another personal best, this time a 3:05 marathon, that got her past Dibens and into the runner-up position behind Carfrae.

Virginia Berasategui, who didn’t even think she’d be able to compete today thanks to an injured foot, surprised herself with a fourth place finish, while Joyce hung tough to round out the top five.

Had Carfrae not put together one of the best Ironman races in Kona history, her win today would be forever asterisked because of the absence of Chrissie Wellington. Her 8:58 winning time, though, and that incredible 2:53 marathon, ended any of that speculation.

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