On Saturday, October 14, everyone on Earth was part of an annular solar eclipse. This happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, when it’s at or near its farthest point from Earth. In short, it’s pretty incredible.
Even more incredible was what happened in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, where the darkness from the eclipse wasn’t as obvious as it was in some places. It was the first ever all-women Ironman World Championship, and it was packed with excitement.
Lucy Charles-Barclay became the first woman since Lyn Lemaire (in the inaugural Iron Man race) to lead Kona from start to finish. She also set a new course record in the process, while Anne Haug broke the women’s marathon record. As we said, it was an incredible day.
No surprise that Lucy Charles-Barclay came out of the water first. The English “Mermaid” holds the record for the fastest women’s swim ever in Kona, from the 2018 World Championship, when she swam a 48:14 (that’s 1:14 min/100 m). This year she was out of the water in 49:36 looking confident and comfortable.
Lucy Charles-Barclay was first on the bike and out on the course. The name of the game was chasing Lucy from there on out. She’s come in 2nd at 4 different Ironman World Championships, so she has been in “carrot” position many times.
The day was surprisingly not windy. To the point that even 75-degrees likely felt scorching due to no breeze at all. At around 70 km. into the race, Daniela Ryf, who was in 10th place and nearly 8-minutes down on Charles-Barclay, seemed to switch gears. By 85 km. Ryf was in 3rd place and less than 6-minutes down. But by 110 km. Ryf was back in 6th place and more than 8-minutes down. Ryf never races without a full heart.
Taylor Knibb planted herself in second place on the bike and maintained a pace just 2.5-minutes down from Charles-Barclay for just about the whole ride. Knibb was given a 1-minute penalty at around 130 km. in for unintentional littering. She lost several bottles out of her rear cages throughout the race. She ended up riding with bottles down the front of her kit for the end of the ride.
Charles-Barclay came off the bike in 4:32:29 — her fastest ever Kona bike split by almost 6-minutes. After serving her penalty, Knibb was right behind heading to transition 2.
With 3:49 up on Taylor Knibb, Lucy Charles-Barclay had about 7 steps of looking wobbly and then was instantly strong and focused. Knibb was second on the run, and as the theme of the day, dropped her nutrition a few times coming out of T2. It’s her first time in Kona, and her first time ever running a full marathon. Before today, Knibb’s farthest run was 18.92 miles. But she looked strong in the first miles.
Anne Haug looked incredibly strong at the start of the run, as did Laura Philipp, Lisa Norton, and Daniela Ryf. The hunt was on.
Haug ran into third place, catching Philipp at around 15 km. on the run. Haug looked absolutely unstoppable at the halfway point. An announcer said she was running like her hair was on fire.
But she wasn’t done yet. Haug passed rookie Taylor Knibb at around 18 miles. Knibb, who trains at altitude in Boulder, Colorado, was clearly having a rough second half of the run in the heat and humidity.
In the end it was Lucy Charles-Barclay’s day, at last. After so many times taking silver, Charles-Barkley finally took the top step. A perfect race is pretty much impossible when you’re covering a total of 140.6 miles, but Charles-Barclay came as close as one can come. She also broke Daniela Ryf’s course record, coming in at 8:24:31. That’s a 49:36 swim, a 4:32:29 bike, and a 2:57:38 run.
In a day full of firsts, no woman has ever led an official Ironman World Championship wire to wire. Very few athletes have ever pulled off such a feat in any Ironman. The athletic strength of leading the entire swim, bike, and run is just nuts. Charles-Barclay executed such a strong, steady day. What an incredible way to kick off the first ever all-women Ironman World Championship.
The podium was rounded out with the Germans: a course record run from Anne Haug (2:48:23) for second place, and Laura Philipp, who passed Taylor Knibb with just about a mile to go.
Women’s 2023 Ironman World Championship, Kona - Top 10
Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) 8:24:31
Anne Haug (DEU) 8:27:33
Laura Philipp (DEU) 8:32:55
Taylor Knibb (USA) 8:35:56
Daniela Ryf (CHE) 8:40:34
Chelsea Sodaro (USA) 8:42:25
Skye Moench (USA) 8:43:34
Sarah True (USA) 8:47:06
Lisa Norden (SWE) 8:49:36
Jocelyn McCauley (USA) 8:50:39