Shortly after the finish line on the legendary Alii Drive nothing works anymore. Anne Haug has swum 3.86 kilometers, cycled 180.2 kilometers and run 42.2 kilometers in the heat of Hawaii and has extracted all the energy reserves from the furthest corners of her body. Now there's nothing left. She seeks support from her physiotherapist and wants to lie down on the floor. But you can't do it alone. With his help, she gets on all fours, then lies on the red carpet. Crouched on the side, completely exhausted, gave everything. She just lies there for two or three minutes and then struggles onto her back. Standing next to her and hugging are sensational winner Chelsea Sodaro from the USA and second-placed Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay. Haug is third in the Hawaii Ironman World Championship.
“My toes are completely wrecked. The body is so empty and exhausted, it just doesn't want to move anymore, just sleep,” says the 39-year-old from Bayreuth at the finish. "It was tough and brutal. I had to leave so much power on the bike.” And yet she moved up from seventh to third place in the final marathon - she just didn't have the strength to be at the very front. Sodaro won in 8:33:46 hours ahead of Charles-Barclay (7:50 min.) and Haug (8:35 min.). “Of course I wanted to win again after 2019, but first and foremost you have to go to your limit. And I'm absolutely exhausted - that's the way it has to be," says Haug. "Chelsea couldn't be beat today, super strong." When the first three line up for the winning photo and smile for the cameras, Laura Philipp crosses the finish line in fourth place (16:44 min.). She experienced a disaster on the bike.
But from the beginning. It's early in the morning when the day starts for Haug, Philipp and all the age group athletes. About 2,500 athletes make the pilgrimage to Kailu-Kona Pier in the dark, accompanied by thousands of spectators, fans and friends and family who have traveled with them. Along Alii Drive, locals have set up coffee stands selling cookies, cakes and bagels. As the sun slowly starts to fight its way up from 6 a.m., the paddlers push themselves from the beach onto the water to secure the swim course.
Drummers break the tense silence of this morning's race, and a little later a singer raises her voice to the US national anthem. Athletes, spectators - they all pause. Especially when “Hawaiʻi ponoʻī”, the state anthem of the state of Hawaii, is played afterwards. The singer's voice fills the bay. Epic, celebratory. The adventure begins.
For the first time in the history of this legendary race, the field is spread over two days. Today the professional women and Saturday the men, the age group athletes spread over both days. A total of 5000 athletes from 92 countries. With 504 qualified starters, the Germans are the second strongest nation after the USA - that's a tradition. Germany, land of long-distance lovers.
But why suddenly two days of competition? Because the number of qualified people grew steadily due to the corona-related cancellations of the Hawaii races in 2020 and 2021 with other normal Ironman competitions at the same time. So that the athletes' traffic jam doesn't get any bigger, more athletes are now competing here than ever before - and that's only possible by equalizing the competition over two days. "It's definitely positive that the first athlete at the finish line will be a woman and will therefore receive significantly more attention than was previously the case," says Philipp before the start. She would like to be the first.
6.25 a.m., a loud bang sends the professional athletes into the Pacific. 3.86 kilometers lie ahead of them. And Lucy Charles-Barclay quickly rushes away from the rest. The Brit is known as the best swimmer in the field, finishing second in Hawaii in 2017, 2018 and 2019. However: After a fatigue fracture in the hip, she is making her comeback at this moment. Your trainer: Dan Lorang, who also coaches Haug and Jan Frodeno and is now on the track.
Top favorite for many: the five-time Ironman World Champion Daniela Ryf from Switzerland. In Haug and Philipp, for the first time in the history of this race, two German athletes have the chance to win the Kona crown: Haug, 39, from Bayreuth, the first German Hawaii winner (2019) and the strongest runner in the field. For them it is important not to let the distance get too big when swimming and cycling. In addition, she has had a major problem with the intake of carbohydrates since her corona infection in 2021. Fatal in this sport.
Then Laura Philipp, 35, from Heidelberg, fourth at her Hawaii debut in 2019 and the woman with the fastest Ironman time ever (8:18:20 hours in Hamburg). A good ten years ago she taught herself how to swim freestyle in the first place. Also not to be underestimated: Daniela Bleymehl, 34, who qualified in March 2022 just eight months after the birth of her daughter.
The conditions are perfect: 27 degrees water temperature, hardly any wind, hardly any waves. Charles-Barclay continues to pull away. Two groups of pursuers have formed behind her. Ryf, Haug and Philipp swim in the second. After the half Philipp seems to have to fight. Just don't let it tear off. Just don't leave too much behind. She stays in the group while the Brit in front continues to swim a lonely race back to the pier and leaves the water for the transition area after 50:57 minutes.
40 seconds later the first chasing group, including Briton Fenella Langridge. Then another group, 3:45 minutes behind, including American Chelsea Sodaro. It takes a while before the Germans come: almost seven minutes after the leaders, Haug and Philipp have also completed the first act of the triathlon epic together with Ryf. A deficit, not small, but by no means a cause for concern. It's going according to plan. Bley flour follows a little later.
Meanwhile, many age group athletes are in the water. They have until midnight to finish the race, then the finish will be closed. There are also so-called cut-off times after swimming and cycling – if you arrive late, you have to get out. The dream of the finish would have ended prematurely. Also in the water now: the 82-year-old oldest starter of this Ironman edition, Warren Hill from New Zealand. Uwe Schinz (70) also crawls along the coast. It's going to be a long day, not just for the two of them.
The second act: 180 kilometers on the triathlon racing machines along the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway from Kailua-Kona to the turnaround in Hawi. At kilometer 15, Langridge is close to her compatriot Charles-Barclay. Philipp and Haug are a good 6:30 minutes behind - also Daniela Bleymehl, who has a very special fan on the route: her daughter, who is just one year old. The German trio is working its way forward, bit by bit. Almost 5:30 minutes behind at kilometer 50. And then the shock: Philipp has to take a forced break. Five minute penalty for slipstreaming, sitting in a penalty tent.
There is a general ban on slipstreaming on medium and long distances. How big the distance has to be varies. In Ironman races like here in Hawaii, there are twelve meters or six wheel lengths between the front edge of both front wheels. However: Even at twelve meters, the man behind saves a few forces. An athlete has 25 seconds to overtake. And: If you are overtaken, you are not allowed to counterattack immediately, but only when you are twelve meters behind. He is also not allowed to stay in the slipstream box of those twelve meters. Violations of the rules are punished with five-minute penalties - to sit in a penalty tent. And that's exactly where Philipp is now holding out.
Such a time penalty for Philipp is unusual: she is one of the strongest cyclists, advocates an even greater distance and is not known for hanging behind.
At kilometer 67.3 Haug and Bleymehl reduced their deficit to less than five minutes, one in front of Ryf, the other just behind. Philipp, however, is 9:47 minutes behind. Bitter, so her dream of victory doesn't seem completely out of reach, but it does seem a long way off. Her husband and trainer Philipp Seipp tries to calm her down from the side of the track. Just don't take the tempo too high with anger in your stomach - and pay for it bitterly later. "I guess she took the five minutes as a breakfast break," jokes Seipp on the ZDF microphone. But adds: "Sobering. A moderate disaster".
Meanwhile, Uwe Schinz walks to his bike: He survived his worry discipline after 1:43:40 hours. He comes from running, he only really learned crawl swimming in the past few months. Now he's pedaling. Warren Hill follows him a little later: 1:51:58 hours. I met him after Sunday's Hoala Swim, a training competition for everyone on the original course. I wanted to know what his secret was. He smiled. "Just keep going."
Philipp is not the only one with a time penalty, an unusually large number are distributed on this day - among others, the Swede Lisa Norden gets it. Later Philipp will say: “That really annoyed me. Five minutes can be a long time, especially when you think you don't deserve it."
After 100 kilometers, Langridge has pulled away a little at the front, Ryf is trying to break away from Bleymehl and Haug. The following applies to her: Before the final marathon, she needs a lead over Germany's Hawaii winner in 2019. And Philipp? While Bleymehl and Haug are only 3:30 minutes behind at kilometer 125, the woman from Heidelberg has 8:51 minutes to catch up.
Langridge cannot break away, Ryf rushes up, but Haug is holding up well: after 150 kilometers she is less than four minutes behind. Philipp fights but cannot catch up.
Anne Haug loses something on the last kilometers of cycling, Ryf pushes forward. But it is not the large distance expected by some that drives the Swiss back to the transition zone. 17 seconds ahead of Charles-Barclay, 1:15 minutes ahead of Langridge - and 5:53 minutes ahead of Haug, who is now seventh. When the Bayreuth native goes to the final marathon, the moderator on the pier calls: "Here she comes! Anne Haug, the 2019 World Champion. A weapon while running!” The race to catch up begins.
Bleymehl changes with 7:17 minutes, Philipp with 9:15 minutes behind Ryf. The heat is burning, the wind is picking up.
Uwe Schinz, who is approaching the 90-kilometre mark, feels it now, Warren Hill at 70 kilometres.
The big question now is: Has Anne Haug gotten her carbohydrate problem under control in the past few weeks and months? At the catch-up World Championships in Utah in May, she went into the marathon completely empty of energy. She later said: "After 20 kilometers I thought: Game over. I was wondering if I could get through this or just faint.” But she persevered. And despite everything, fought his way up to third place.
Sodaro has the highest initial pace, the American starts offensively. Philipp's style seems relaxed. But what is still possible with this deficit?
At kilometer 15 Sodaro has taken the lead. Haug has advanced to five (4:04 min.) and can already see Daniela Ryf in front of him. The podium is getting closer. A prominent volunteer is then waiting at the next aid station: Jan Frodeno, the injured three-time Hawaii champion, hands out the drinks.
Anne Haug gets faster, first overtakes Ryf, then Langridge. After just 16 kilometers she is on the bronze rank. Almost four minutes to another triumph, a good two minutes to second place. Laura Philipp, on the other hand, is now almost eleven minutes behind the leader in eighth place.
But then something happens to Haug. The easy step becomes heavier. The good thing: your cushion grows backwards. However, their backlog to the front. Sodaro is running a terrific race to this point. Kilometer 24 - and the American is 4:48 minutes ahead of Charles-Barclay, six minutes ahead of Haug. With ten kilometers to go to the finish line on Alii Drive, little has changed. The top three seem ahead of the rest. But if Ironman Hawaii has taught one thing, it's that nothing is certain.
One person who can report on this is at the track today: Julie Moss, who in 1982 looked like the sure winner as an outsider, collapsed and finally crawled to the finish line in second place. Iconic images emerged.
None of the world's best crawls on this day. Sodaro shows no weakness and runs towards triumph in an impressive way. Haug tries everything, reducing the gap to silver to less than 30 seconds, Charles-Barclay can be seen in the distance. A good seven kilometers to go. But she just can't get there...
Later at the finish she will say: "It's so hard on your head when you're chasing but just can't close the gap."
As she says this, Ryf finishes eighth, has had to give up Bleymehl and has a long day ahead of Uwe Schinz, Warren Hill and many others...