Schildknecht is 8x Champion, Gerdes Runs to the Top: Ironman Switzerland

Gerdes wins first Ironman; qualifies for Kona. (Photo by Always Curious)

Roll call: Mary Beth Ellis, Beth Gerdes, Michael Raelert, Ronnie Schildknecht, Jan Van Berkel, Michael Aigroz

The course: Ever tasted gasoline, sewage, or the loch ness monster during an open water swim? Ever had giardia? Lake Zurich may be the swim for you! Boasting drinking-water quality and crystal clear water, swimming in Switzerland is far better than neutral. We can’t promise you won’t be punched, clawed, or kicked in the groin though. Coming out of the water (via the classic Australian exit), athletes will bike through the center of Zurich before hitting rolling country roads, where they will face two major climbs: “The Beast” and “Heartbreak Hill”, famous for spectator support and more cowbell than an SNL re-run. Then it’s off the bike and onto the mostly flat 4-lap run along the lake and through the city parks.

Photo by Always Curious

Mary Beth Ellis on the run course. Photo by Always Curious.

Ladies First!

Swim

A warm 25.5 degrees C Lake Zurich meant a non-wetsuit swim to start off the day. Mary Beth Ellis wasted no time at the start of her first full Ironman of the year, taking the lead by a large margin and coming out of the water in 55:12, the 10th best overall time in the pro field. Start time gaps did not appear to be sufficient, as Ellis was the only pro woman not caught by the age group men, setting up a dynamic the rest of the women’s field would have to deal with on the bike course.

Bike

Mary Beth Ellis biked unopposed, with a 6 minute lead on Mareen Hufe and Beth Gerdes in 3rd another minute back after 33km. By the halfway point at Heartbreak Hill, Ellis had extended her lead to 10 minutes on Hufe, with Gerdes still following a minute back in 3rd, and Regula Rohrbach moving into 4th. Ellis came in with a 5:02:07 bike split, looking great after a windy ride and with a 15 minute lead to boot. This race wasn’t over yet though…

Run

After coming into T2 17 minutes behind Mary Beth Ellis, Beth Gerdes hit the pavement and took off. By 27km, only 8:30 separated Gerdes from MBE. With 14km to go, Gerdes was within 6 minutes of Ellis, and the race heated up further as leading lady Ellis started the third and final lap – Gerdes now trailed by only 4 minutes, and the predicted finish times for the two women were exactly the same. With no live feed, those of us not in Zurich waited impatiently, refreshing our Twitter feeds every 10 seconds. Finally, Gerdes passed Ellis, but didn’t seem content to cruise it in – impressively putting another 5 minutes on her competition before breaking the tape. It was her 3:01:24 marathon that carried her to the top; Gerdes should now be able to join fiancée Luke McKenzie at Kona.

 Ironman Switzerland Results Swim Bike Run Finish $$$ Points
Beth Gerdes 1:00:53 5:13:40 3:01:24 9:21:05 $10,000 2000
Mary Beth Ellis 55:12 5:02:07 3:24:13 9:26:37 $5,500 1600
Maureen Hufe 1:01:42 5:10:33 3:18:06 9:35:26 $3,250 1280
Dimity-Lee Duke 1:03:56 5:18:26 3:23:32 9:51:24 $2,500 960
Lina-Kristin Schink 1:14:00 5:26:57 3:25:27 10:11:12 $1,750 720
Alena Stevens 1:04:39 5:26:41 3:35:22 10:11:40 $1,250 540

Note: 5th overall woman was age grouper Lucia Erat in 10:00:06.

Ronnie looking strong on his way to win #8 at Ironman Switzerland. Photo by Always Curious.

Ronnie looking strong on his way to win #8 at Ironman Switzerland. Photo by Always Curious.

The Men

Swim

Speedy swimmer Manuel Kung pushed the pace in the water, leading Michael Raelert and Jan Van Berkel by over a minute after the first lap. Into T1, it was Kung with a 1:51 lead on Raelert, Van Berkel, Alberto Casadei, and Kevin Everett. After a solid swim, Mike Aigroz dropped out of the race due to foot problems.

Jan Ban Berlel. Photo by Always Curious.

Jan Ban Berlel. Photo by Always Curious.

Bike

After 30km, Michael Raelert was showing his strength on the bike, catching up to Kung and setting the pace. Off the front pack of 5 men, Ronnie Schildknecht was in a familiar spot – making up time, he had crept up to 6th and a 5:22 gap after a slow start on the swim. The group of 5 thinned to 3 after 50km, with Raelert, Van Berkel, and Kung dropping Casadei and Everett. Schildknecht continued to move, passing Casadei and Everett to take over 4th position. At 123km, Kung made a move to put 47 seconds between himself and Van Berkel, while Schildknecht passed a struggling Michael Raelert to move into 3rd. Schildknecht’s efforts gave him the fastest bike split of the day, but over 4 minutes still separated him from the lead – would he be able to make it up on the run?

Run

Coming off the bike, it was a Swiss showdown: Manuel Kung maintained a 56 second lead over Jan Van Berkel, with Ronnie Schildknecht on the hunt 4:09 back in 3rd. Meanwhile, Raelert had dropped back by a wide margin, hitting T2 down by 15 minutes and change. Van Berkel got off to a fast start, overtaking Kung as they ran past the 5k mark – Schildknecht was also making up time rapidly, chipping away at his deficit minute by minute, and passing Kung at 12km. At the half marathon, Schildknecht had run up to within a minute of Van Berkel.

Meanwhile Raelert dropped out, reportedly due to cramps.

Ronnie Schildknecht has won Ironman Switzerland 7 times previously, and was clearly looking to make it 8 today. Past 28km, Schildknecht moved into the lead, while a suffering Kung dropped to 4th behind Alessandro Degasperi. Schildknecht ran his heart out, putting over 6 minutes on Van Berkel by 40km, and coming into the finish chute with fans roaring for the now-8 time champion.

 Ironman Switzerland Results Swim Bike Run Finish $$$ Points
Ronnie Schildknecht 55:14 4:32:11 2:50:02 8:21:19 $10,000 2000
Jan Van Berkel 50:47 4:33:04 3:00:53 8:28:57 $5,500 1600
Alessandro Degasperi 55:16 4:44:47 2:47:07 8:31:36 $3,250 1280
Mike Schifferle 1:03:07 4:39:30 2:56:23 8:46:44 $2,500 960
Pascal Ramali 1:01:56 4:37:08 3:06:47 8:50:44 $1,750 720
David Plese 55:12 4:48:15 3:08:29 8:56:19 $1,250 540

Mary Beth Ellis summed up her race for us in picture format:

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/.