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Sub-9 iron women: UPDATED...
Posted on: Monday 9th December 2013
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All three podium finishers at Ironman Arizona, 17th November 2013, (as with Ironman Florida two weeks ago), went 'Sub-9' - here are the updated statistics following the Tempe race, PLUS another (Elizabeth Lyles) at Ironman Western Australia 2013 (8/12/2013)
Here's an interesting fact to note. In the 17 seasons since Thea Sybesma became the first female to record a sub-nine hour Ironman finish (8:55:29 at Ironman Europe (Roth)) in 1991, up to and including 2007, the nine hour barrier was broken a total of 19 times. In 2013 alone there have been TWENTY ONE sub-nine hour female iron-distance finishes...
[Updated following Ironman Austria 2013 (Erika Csomor), Ironman European Championships (Frankfurt) 2013 (Camilla Pedersen and Jodie Swallow), Challenge Roth 2013 (Steffen, Van Vlerken, Gajer), Ironman Kalmar 2013 (Swallow), Ironman Copenhagen 2013 (Wutti), Challenge Vichy 2013 (Diana Riesler), Challenge Barcelona 2013 (Wutti, Reed), the 2013 Ironman World Champs (Carfrae, Joyce), Ironman Florida 2013 (Van Vlerken, Clifford, Csomor), Ironman Arizona 2013 (Gajer, Kessler, Vesterby) and Ironman Western Australia (Lyles)]
It was - and will continue to be - widely written and reported that Chrissie Wellington "re-wrote the record books" at Challenge Roth in 2010, recording a breathtaking time of 8:19:13 for ironman distance. A year later, she did it again!
Well, here is one of those "record books", and it too has been re-written once again.
The Ironman World Championships 2011 was the first time that two ladies had finished under nine hours in the same Kona race - and that meant that Chrissie Wellington, Mirinda Carfrae and Paula Newby Fraser each had two 8:XX Kona clocking's each of the six instances it had ever been achieved on the big island ahead of the 2013 edition. This year (2013) Carfrae took her second Ironman World Championship in a course record time of 8:52:14, while Rachel Joyce also joined the "sub-9 at Kona club". Carfrae now stands alone with the most sub-nine hour times in Kona, with three.
Ironman Austria 2011 saw an all-time World Record from Marino Vanhoenacker in the men's race, which slightly overshadowed a fantastic win in the ladies race from Mary Beth-Ellis. Her 8:43:35 replaced the 2009 8:48:11 of Catriona Morrison (Challenge Roth) as the fastest debut iron-distance time ever and is currently ranked as the 11th fastest iron-distance time ever. She was followed home by Erika Csomor, Diana Riesler and Heleen Bij de Vaate who all broke the nine hour mark. Thus, Austria 2011 was only the third time ever (after Roth 2008 and 2009), that four ladies have recorded sub-nine hour times in one event. That then became four - as Joyce, Tajsich, Gajer and Crawford all broke nine hours at Roth 2012, where Gina joined the select group of ladies that have recorded three or more sub-nine times.
In total, 40 ladies have now finished an iron-distance triathlon with an 8:XX:XX clocking, and we now have 88 sub-9 female finishes recorded.
Number of sub-nine hour ladies iron-distance finishes?
Sport and numbers seem to be a perfect marriage. Whatever your sport, or whatever your ability, sooner or later you'll invariably be creating targets based on time. Whether that's making the 17-hour Ironman cut-off, running a sub-three hour marathon or beating 25 minutes in your club '10', everyone likes to break a barrier and set a personal best.
And, following the excitement from Quelle Challenge Roth (2009), and the fantastic world best figures of Chrissie Wellington, I thought it was a great opportunity to look, in depth, at ladies iron-distance performances. Recording a 'sub-nine' (hours) time for ladies, is a natural goal for many of the elite athletes in our sport, (just as going 'sub-eight' is for men), but, how often has it been done?
I didn't know. I researched extensively, and as far as I could see, nobody else knew either. I even found websites dedicated to this very subject - and realised I knew more than them anyway!
And so, it started... many hours of head-scratching, web surfing and historic magazine research - too many hours! - and I realised, not quickly enough, that I'd embarked on an "I'd started, so I had to finish mission". This definitely comes with a 'don't try this at home' warning. But I digress.
What follows is a result of that mission. Should you think I've missed any, please send me the details (email@example.com), as my aim is to create the definitive list of sub-nine hour female iron distance finishes. The only downside of all of this work? I then had to do the same task for the sub-eight hour men!
Sub-Nine Hour Female Iron Distance Finishes
Fastest Female Iron Distance Athletes (Best Time Only)
Athlete / Race Analysis
Not surprisingly, Roth wins in terms of course speed. Twenty two sub-nine's in the past seven races (2007-2013), 27 in total and of course the three fastest absolute times ever from Chrissie, plus five of the top-10... However Ironman Austria (Klagenfurt) comes closest now with 14 following the 2013 edition. Roth was also the venue of the first ever sub-nine clocking from Thea Sybesma (NED) in 1991.
Following Chrissie's quite staggering performances at Roth 2009, Roth in 2010 and Roth 2011, added to her figures from Ironmans Arizona and South Africa, Chrissie held the five fastest iron-distance times ever. Those top five times, along with her Kona course record (2009) were all achieved in consecutive races...which she followed up with arguably her greatest performance ever at the 2011 Ironman World Championships, even if it wasn't (quite!) a Kona record. Quite a form line... Caroline Steffen's heroics at Melbourne 2012 however mean that she now has the fifth fastest time ever, pushing Chrissie's Arizona result down to sixth. With another swift 8:40:35 at Challenge Roth 2013, Xena now has two of finishes in the all-time top-10 fastest listing, the only athlete asie from Chrissie to manage that statistic.
Want some more Chrissie stats? 2011 was the second time (2009 being the first) that Chrissie has achieved three sub-nine hour finishes in one year. Indeed, you have to go back to Kona 2008 for the last time Chrissie didn't finish with 8:XX on the clock - and that was the year that she spent 10+ minutes on the side of the road with a puncture... and still won with a finish time of 9:06:23. It's now eight consecutive sub-nine finishes 2009-2011 inclusive. Raising the bar for sure - though no more following Chrissie's Ironman retirement.
Chrissie also stands alone at the head of the most sub-9's list; her 8:33:56 at Ironman South Africa 2011 - the fastest M-Dot Ironman time to date - added to her absolute World Best at Roth 2011 plus 2011 Kona victory means nine times (in her thirteen unbeaten attempts at the distance), that Chrissie has crossed the line to see 8:XX on the clock nine times.
In 2008, Chrissie Wellington received much comment about celebrating 'too much' on the run-in to the line in Frankfurt, and thus missing the then world best of Paula Newby-Fraser (8:50:53). Things have moved on so quickly that Chrissie's 8:51:24 from that race doesn't even make the top 25 now anyway...
The performance of Cat Morrison at Roth 2009 was surpassed by Mary Beth Ellis as the fastest debut iron-distance performance following her Klagenfurt 2011 win (8:43:35). That said, Eva Wutti's 8:37:36 at Ironman Copenhagen 2013 was her first Ironman finish - but not technically a debut, having been a DNF earlier in the year at Ironman Austria. Eva has since added a second entry to this listing with another win, this time at Challenge Barcelona 2013 (8:51:01).
American Krista Whelen missed out on this list my just one second - she recorded nine hours exactly in 1992 at Roth. Ironically, for 17 years her bike time of 4:45:59 that day was the fastest women's Ironman bike split - smashed by Chrissie with a 4:40:28 at Roth 2009, and then again (4:36:33) in 2010. Chrissie's marathon (2:48:54) was also a world's best... until 10th July 2011 when she improved that yet again to 2:44:35. That bike mantle has now been taken by Caroline Steffen though, her 4:35:29 (Melbourne 2012) is now the gold standard, though Yvonne Van Vlerken was just 20 seconds short of that at Ironman Florida 2013.
Though somewhat lost in the majesty of the world best ahead of her at Roth in 2010, Rebekah Keat in second place (8:52:10) still recorded what is currently the 33rd best time in history, and she also became one of just 11 (at the time, it's now 21...) athletes to have broken the nine hour mark more than once, to which she then added another at Challenge Copenhagen just weeks later. Another sub-9 at Challenge Roth 2011 brought her total to four and with a second consecutive win at Challenge Copenhagen 2011 (8:52:42), she moved past the legendary Paula Newby Fraser and into sole second place on the 'most sub-9's' rankings with five.
Erika Csomor made it three sub-nine clocking's at Ironman Austria 2011 (and added a fourth in 2013 at the same event.... and then a fifth at Ironman Florida!), while Gina Crawford (née Ferguson) made it three for her at Challenge Roth 2012. Rachel Joyce achieved her third at Ironman Texas 2013 and fourth at the Ironman World Champs 2013.
Yvonne Van Vlerken recorded her first sub-9 clocking for more than four years when winning Ironman Florida 2012, which was the fourth time she has achieved that, leaving her tied for third place (with Paula Newby Fraser) behind Chrissie Wellington (nine) and Rebekah Keat (five) in the "most sub-9 finishes" all-time list. Not content with that, Yvonne came within seconds of her own PB figues while finishing second to Caroline Steffen at Challenge Roth 2013 (8:46:22) to join Rebekah Keat on five sub-nine's, only to then recorded her best ever time (8:43:07) when winning Ironman Florida 2013, just weeks after taking fourth place at Kona. With six sub-9's to her name, Van Vlerken is now headed by only Chrissie Wellington (nine).
The 36th name to join the 'Sub-9 Club' was Lucie Reed, Challenge Barcelona 2013 (second place, 8:57:34), with the 37th member Ashley Clifford with second place (8:49:03) at Ironman Florida 2013. Members 38 and 39 came via Ironman Arizona 2013 via Meredith Kessler (second place, 8:55:47) and Michelle Vesterby (third, 8:57:24), respectively with the last member to join (#40), Elizabeth Lyles, winner Ironman Western Australia 2013.
Tri247 Iron-Distance Statistics Library
Do you believe there is a performance missing here? If so, please do let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org.