All Ironmen

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By Gregoire Molle

 

On Sunday, March the 24th, more than two thousand athletes, professional and non-professional, took part in the Urban Hotel Group Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship Melbourne, a 226km competition combining swimming, cycling, and running, from Frankston to St Kilda.

 

6.20am. Thousands of people have gathered in Frankston, 40 km south of Melbourne, despite the cold. The athletes, professional and amateur, were stretching, with their family and friends as supporters, getting ready for the long competition during which they will have to swim, cycle, and run.

 

The weather conditions were difficult; the wind was so strong that the swimming race had to be shortened: instead of 3,8km, the athletes swam only 1,9km. The race was also postponed by one hour.

 

The public was full of energy for a Sunday morning. Some people stayed with the athletes, to cheer them up, some enjoyed a coffee or a hot chocolate in the gardens, and others had a short walk on the beach, which was beautiful as the sun rose. Incrementally, everyone started moving towards the beach as the time of the beginning of the swimming race drew close. A lot of swimmers had swimming suits, as the windy night had made the water cold. The atmosphere, while tense, was mainly joyful and excited, as the athletes ran to the water.

 

The first athlete completed the 1,9km swimming race in less than 20 minutes, and straight away moved on to the 180km bicycle race. Meanwhile, some children played in a bouncing castle set up for the event, while parents got some food and coffee, attended the sand exhibition on Frankston Beach, or visited the charming city of Frankston.

 

Quickly, the crowd gathered along the final point of the biking track, and cheered the cyclists with earnest, even if the encouragements became less loud with time. By 1.30pm, the first athletes had started the marathon. The latter ended in St Kilda, where a busy activity prevailed, and where a tent displaying Ironman goodies, as well as a giant screen, had been set up.

 

The first man to complete the Ironman Competition was Eneko Llanos, in little more than 7h36mn.

 

The Australian Craig Alexander, who won twice the Ironman world’s championship, managed to get on the podium, arriving third behind the Belgium Marino Vanhoenacker, who finished the race but had to rest in the medical tent. Marino Vanhoenacker was ahead for the first half of the marathon. It is at the 34km mark of the run that Eneko Llanos managed to overtake him. “This is a huge boost for me, my last few years at Kona have been terrible. I’m very happy to win”, declared the winner of Ironman Melbourne 2013.

 

Corinne Abraham, from Wales, was the first woman to complete the race was in little less than 8h14mn.

 

The former Welsh judoka has been racing as a professional for only two years. She enjoyed biking, felling during the cycling race that her legs “felt good and then felt better and better the further [she] went”.

 

The other athletes had up to 17 hours to complete the whole competition. Whether they were first or last, the people who took part in this adventure, as said the commentator of the day “are all Ironmen”.

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