Hoffman, Lehtonen Auto-KQ at Ironman South Africa

Greetings from South Africa! Ok, not really. While the pros are lining up in the heat and humidity of Port Elizabeth for the African Championship race, your dedicated reporter is stuck somewhere with snow in April. But don’t worry, the giant telescope that we spent all your Patreon money on is fully functioning. Get ready for all the highlights from Ironman South Africa, and probably some lowlights (see: speculation about ostriches!) Short attention span? Stick to the lists and bullet points.

Ones to Watch: Jodie Swallow (in her hometown race), Lucy Gossage, and Susie Cheetham – the top 3 from last year’s race. Also in the running for podium slots: Annabel Luxford, Kaisa Lehtonen, Asa Lundstrom. In the men’s race, look out for Ben Hoffman, Boris Stein, Tim Van Berkel, Kyle Buckingham, Ben Collins, and James Cunnama.


Marko Albert (Estonia) led a pack of seven through the ocean, coming out of the water in 49:36, followed closely by Eric Watson (Bahrain), Bas Diederen, Ben Collins, and Mark Oude Bennik.

  1. Marko Albert 49:36
  2. Eric Watson 49:37
  3. Bas Diederen 49:46
  4. Ben Collins 49:50
  5. Mark Oude Bennik 49:50

Out of T1: Albert, Kyle Buckingham, James Cunnama

Jodie Swallow and Annabel Luxford were off the front of the swim early. Swallow ultimately swam away, giving herself a nice little 4 minute lead into T1.

  1. Jodie Swallow 52:11
  2. Annabel Luxford 56:07
  3. Dede Griesbauer 58:16
  4. Kaisa Lehtonen 58:21
  5. Susie Cheetham 58:21


Marko Albert held onto his swim lead until km 40, when Bas Diederen passed him. Ben Collins was also hot on Albert’s heals, with a chase pack just under 2 minutes back that included Cunnama, Buckingham, Tim Van Berkel, and Christian Kramer.

  • Fun fact: Bas Diederen’s nickname is “Boom Boom Bas.” We’re not joking. Apparently this has something to do with his win at Ironman Maastricht last year.

Over on the women’s side, Swallow was also doing her best to hold onto the lead. She’s known for being a particularly strong cyclist, so not surprising. At 43k, she still had a 3:02 lead over Luxford, with the rest of the top 10 strung out 15 minutes behind her.

  • Mechanical luck was not in the air for our leaders. Albert came off his bike briefly at one point after an issue with his chain, and Jodie Swallow took a fall later in the race (etiology unknown at time of reporting. Internet speculation suggests that she hit something in the road, perhaps an ostrich? Fun fact: South Africa has the largest population of ostriches in the world!)

The dreaded “tough conditions” didn’t materialize until about 2.5 hours into the race, at which point things got a little uncomfortable. As in, rising heat and humidity, and then wind picking up. Suck it up, buttercups.

  • Halfway point: On the men’s side, Albert, Diederen, and Collins (6 second spread). On the women’s side, Swallow, Luxford, Kaisa Lehtonen – but with Gossage and Cheetham moving up significantly behind them.

After Swallow’s fall, Luxford took the lead away and continued to put time on her. After a pretty boring, static 130 or so km, things also shuffled up in the mens’ race. Coming into T2:

  1. Bas Diederen
  2. Marko Albert
  3. Tim Van Berkel
  4. Ben Hoffman
  5. Boris Stein

Dónde está Ben Collins??? After sitting in 3rd place for most of the bike course, just seconds off of Albert/Diederen, he mysteriously disappears. Someone please find Ben Collins. Thanks.

And the women off the bike?

  1. Annabel Luxford
  2. Jodie Swallow
  3. Kaisa Lehtonen
  4. Lucy Gossage
  5. Susie Cheetham


The men’s field had some pretty strong runners, and it was time to see who had burnt themselves up on the bike. Brett Sutton had already taken to Twitter to humble-brag about Matty Trautman’s impeccable pacing judgment (hashtag #patience), and Trautman did make a nice little move up to 4th by the second lap. Albert was still hanging onto the lead (who is this guy?), with Hoffman and Van Berkel 17 seconds behind him.

Shortly after starting the run, Jodie Swallow pulled off the course. Too banged up to continue, as evidenced by the bloody elbow she had wrapped in T2, and (we presume) less visible injuries, since you don’t really need your elbow skin to run. This left Luxford with a pretty big lead…like 12 minutes.

  • Halfway mark: For the men, it was Hoffman, Van Berkel, Albert, Trautman. Women: Luxford, Lehtonen, Cheetham, Gossage…with Luxford reportedly slowing.

Don’t mess with this woman:

From there out, Hoffman took over the lead, finally pulling away from Van Berkel, and flew through the finish in a winning 8:12:36. Van Berkel followed in 8:14:50, Albert 3rd in 8:18:51, Matty Trautman 4th in 8:19:24, and Boris Stein 5th in 8:19:50.

James Cunnama, also a DNF:

Now let’s talk about the back half of the women’s race. Annabel Luxford may have overbiked. Just maybe. Her half marathon split was 1:37, to Lehtonen and Cheetham’s 1:28s. So much for those 12 minutes. First Kaisa Lehtonen sailed past her, then Cheetham and Gossage and Lundstrom. Lehtonen’s 3:02:34 marathon carried her to the win in 9:06:50, followed by Susie Cheetham (2nd, 9:09:49, and a 3:02:43 marathon), Lucy Gossage (3rd, 9:11:43), Asa Lundstrom (4th, 9:15:34), and Luxford (5th, 9:28:32).

photo credit: Amazing Morning Sky, Johannesburg via photopin (license)

About the Author

Adrienne Taren
Adrienne is a MD/PhD in Neuroscience researching stress, your brain & the neuroscience of mindfulness training. She is also a fairly decent triathlete/runner/writer and an average ultra-distance swimmer, if there is such a thing. Visit her blog: http://www.adriennetaren.com/. Follow @SeeSpondyRun