Ruth Astle continued her habit of winning IRONMAN races on Sunday, but she said her victory in South Africa was not quite the same as her recent success in Mallorca.
The British star held off the fast-finishing Annah Watkinson to claim another famous success, but it was not easy in a race she described as “immensely tough” and “relentless”.
Astle South Africa debrief
When asked if her success had been easy, she said: “I don’t think you were watching the cameras that closely on the last lap then, I found that last lap on the run – I was doing everything I could to not walk, stop.
“Definitely this was much harder than Mallorca – I really felt that Ironman in my legs on the run for sure, but yeah, the support out there was absolutely epic.”
Astle’s prowess on the bike is a powerful weapon in full-distance races, and she again used it here to take control of the race with the fastest split of the day (4:55:50). She did though admit it was a brutal test of strength and endurance.
“It (the bike course) definitely suited me. I think it would have suited me more had it been the westerly wind and having the tail wind back, because maybe in the tail wind that’s where I was making up most of my time.
“I have to say on the first lap when I’d caught Imogen (Simmonds) and Lauren (Brandon), I actually thought I’d gone straight past them, so it was a bit of a surprise to me that when we went round the corner that they were both on my wheel. I used the tail wind back out to kind of drop them again.
“But again it’s just that last 30k in that headwind, it’s just relentless, you’re just getting battered everywhere. This is definitely an immensely tough race, just dealing with the wind, knowing that you are gonna get that relief from the tail wind. But yeah, that’s one of the hardest runs.
“Joe Skipper was talking about this as a really fast course. Joe, I don’t know what the weather was like when you did it, but if it was like this, it’s not a fast course!”
Annah Watkinson reaction
Watkinson began the run more than 14 minutes down on Astle, but the South African produced a terrific 2:59:26 to at least put some pressure on Ruth in the closing stages. It came just five weeks after a broken arm put her participation in grave doubt.
She got the green light only in race week, and admitted at the finish: “I seem to find a lot of accidents running…
“I got onto the bike and I had a little bit of a build back – focused on making sure I kept the intensity with the wind because it’s easy to not when you’re going so fast, and then head down into the wind. And then the last kind of 45, just kind of time trial to get home.
“I think when I got onto the run and assessed where 1,2,3 were, focusing on what I needed to do to get to a Kona slot was first and then I suppose second was I’d love to win here in South Africa, being a South Africa. It’s a dream to win an Ironman and it would be so special to win it in my home country.
“I think I really started smelling blood on the last lap. I thought there was a possibility and I was pushing, but when I saw the confetti I thought ‘we’ll cruise the last 200 metres in’.”