North American Champs Crowned In Texas

Photo Credit: Zac Zlatic

2015 Memorial Hermann Ironman North American Championship Texas

Some of the world’s most elite long course athletes head to the Woodlands, TX to compete for the third of five regional Ironman Championship races. The timing of the event is ideal for those looking to grab their KPR points early. The North American Championship race will be a terrific showdown featuring world champions and some of the fastest long course triathletes on the planet. Professionals will be competing for $150,000 in this P-4000 event.


The Course

Temperatures at the event are almost always Kona-like and the non-wetsuit swim is almost always a given. The warm, fresh water swim takes place in a fairly constricted body of water. The swim is an out and back, followed by a right hand turn into a fairly narrow canal.

The bike course consists of a one-loop ride that takes athletes west through the Woodlands before heading north to the rural and rolling farmland of this region of Texas. The course usually has a bit of a tailwind on the first half and can be feel deceptively easy. The bike course doesn’t have any sustainable climbs. However, the heat, humidity second-half wind and rough roads can make it a challenging ride.

The flat three loop run course takes athletes around a canal, into neighborhoods and a few paved trails. It’s fairly densely populated with spectators and fans. Expect a party atmosphere and incredible support every time you run under the Moxie Bridge on each lap. Runners must tackle heat, humidity, and unforgiving concrete with minimal shade for 26.2 miles.

Men

Swim

Todd Skipworth, Barrett Brandon and Ben Hoffman were off the front early and led the men early. Soon that group of 3 would become 5 as Faris Al-Sultan and Jeremy Jerkowicz bridged ahead to join the front pack roughly 20 minutes into the swim. As the men made the final turn into the canal, Skipworth and Brandon stretched their lead to string out the front group on their way to T1.

Bike

Jeremy Jurkiewicz took the lead early with Skipworth and Al-Sultan sitting in second and third. Ben Hoffman and Andreas Raelert, who raced St. George 2 weeks ago, rode well together to eliminate their swim deficit. At mile 20, Matt Hanson led a chase group that was 5 minutes down to leader, Barrett Brandon. A bit further back, Lionel Sanders drove the third pack of riders that included Jordan Rapp and Chris McDonald. Unfortunately, a broken chain would end McDonald’s race and Rapp withdrew due to reasons unknown at this time. By the 60-mile mark, Hoffman was in front with five sitting behind. That group included Andreas Raelert and Ronnie Schildknecht who were both given drafting penalties. At this time, we don’t know where the penalties were given.  At mile 75, Lionel Sanders bridged to the leaders and continued to press with new leader, Joe Skipper, who was riding incredibly hard but looked smooth. Through the century mark, Joe Skipper surged to the front with Lionel Sanders roughly 40 seconds behind and Hoffman a minute back. As the men hit T2, Skipper led posting a race best 4:10 bike split.

Run

Joe Skipper was first onto the now steamy run course with a charging Lionel Sanders 2 minutes back and Hoffmann 3:30 back. Through 2 miles, Skipworth, David Plese and run course record holder, Matt Hanson sat 9 minutes behind race leader, Skipper. Hanson ran a sizzling 2:41 last year in similar conditions and he’ll need to tap into that speed to take the win. At the 6-mile mark, Sanders was just 40 seconds behind Skipper, but he was working hard and the effort showed on his face. Ben Hoffman began to fade slightly as Hansen was gaining time by the time they hit mile 9. Through 10 miles Hansen cut his deficit on Skipper from over 9 minutes to 5 minutes. Ronnie Schildknecht, who served his bike penalty, ran 10 minutes behind the leaders and the dangerous Andreas Raelert fell to eighth, 17 minutes back. Through 13 miles Skipper still ran in front with Sanders 3 minutes behind and hanging tough. However, a storming Matt Hanson was running strong just behind. A few minutes back, Pedro Gomes was running well and moved into eighth position. Seven hours into the race, Matt Hanson took the lead and looked impressively strong as he made the pass. By 17 miles, Schildknecht ran his way into fourth position as Hoffman dealt with the effects of a nosebleed, according to spotters. Through 21 miles Hanson was in control and his lead ballooned to over four minutes on his closest competitor, Skipper. Schildknecht ran well and passed a fading Sanders late to slip into third. Meanwhile, Pedro Gomes continued to press and run toward fifth place. Hanson crossed the line first to take his second Ironman title in an impressive 8:07:03 and set a new Ironman Texas course record.

Photo Credit: Joe Feaga

Photo Credit: Joe Feaga

1. Matt Hanson USA 55:02 4:21:25 2:45:47 8:07:03 $30,000
2. Joe Skipper GBR 55:09 4:10:07 3:04:35 8:16:26 $15,000
3. Ronnie Schildknecht CHE 55:07 4:24:27 2:55:54 8:21:03 $8,000
4. Lionel Sanders CAN 57:19 4:11:25 3:11:22 8:24:54 $6,500
5. Pedro Gomez PRT 54:48 4:32:02 2:54:43 8:26:42 $5,000
6. Jeremy Jurkiewicz FRA 48:45 4:31:34 3:05:45 8:31:30 $3,500
7. Matthew Russell USA 59:35 4:27:01 3:00:51 8:33:28 $2,500
8. Ben Hoffman USA 49:29 4:20:38 3:18:30 8:33:55 $2,000
9. David Plese SVN 54:59 4:21:20 3:14:37 8:36:32 $1,500
10. Jarmo Hast FIN 52:57 4:37:12 3:03:41 8:39:48 $1,000

 

Women

Swim

Rachel Joyce and Leanda Cave took to the front of the women’s race early. At 500 meters they had roughly a 20 second gap on Katy Blakemore, Tami Ritchie and Kelly Williamson. However, there was a group of contenders two minutes back who were working well together. As the leaders made the final right turn into the canal opening, Joyce continued to lead with Cave and Blakemore on her feet.

Bike

2013 Ironman Texas champion, Rachel Joyce was first on the bike course with Cave just 7 seconds back. The two would yo-yo for much of the ride early on. As the professional women hit mile 10, Cave took the lead with Bree Wee and Kelly Williamson sitting third and fourth. By the 20-mile mark, Joyce led, with Cave sitting 5 seconds back and Katy Blakemore 23 seconds behind. Heather Wuertele made up over a minute from her swim and moved up to 1:50 back. Angela Naeth and Heather Jackson also began to reel in leaders as the miles clicked off. At mile 40, the front of the race remained the same but Naeth was moving well as she made up 2 minutes in her last 10 miles. By mile 50, Naeth slipped into second just behind Cave eliminating more than a 6-minute deficit and by 56, she was sharing the lead. 70 miles in, Naeth moved to the front with Cave just behind. Heather Jackson and Corinne Abraham rode well just 5:45 back, while Joyce fell to 2 minutes back of Naeth and Cave. Naeth and Cave rode first and second in the closing miles of the ride as they headed toward T2. The biggest mover over the 112 had to be U-Place BMC athlete, Corinne Abraham, who posted the fastest bike split on the day, clocking a 4:40. She was third into T2.

Run

Naeth was first off the bike and onto the run course but Cave was just behind and looking strong. Corinne Abraham ran out of T2 roughly 3:30 behind the leaders and fellow Brit, Joyce was about a minute back. Heather Wurtele came off her bike 2 minutes back with Katy Blakemore in pursuit as well. Early on in the run, Cave ran just behind Naeth, but she didn’t enjoy the company and separated herself. Kelly Williamson came off the bike with quite a bit of work to do on the run course, but that is what she does; exceptionally well. Through 5 miles Naeth began to separate from Cave and she gapped the 2012 Ironman World Champion by 15 seconds. Abraham ran in third 5 minutes back and Joyce sat in fourth, just 4 seconds behind her fellow countrywoman. At the 10-mile mark, Naeth’s lead on Cave grew to 40 seconds and Joyce moved into third, passing Abraham. Meanwhile, Williamson was running her way through the field. Halfway through the marathon, Naeth’s gap on Cave grew to 1:15 and to over 2:30 minutes by mile 18. She was beginning to close the door on her challengers. By mile 19, Cave and Joyce remained in second and third, but Kelly Williamson flew into fourth. At mille 25, Naeth had 3 minutes on Cave and had now been leading the race since mile 56 on the bike course. After backing up her strong 4:41 ride with a 3:09 marathon, Naeth crossed the line first in an impressive 8:55:19. Cave and Joyce maintained their positions and finished in second and third respectively. Williamson ran a race best 3:01 marathon and ended up fourth.

Photo Credit: Joe Feaga

Photo Credit: Joe Feaga

1. Angela Naeth CAN 59:35 4:41:38 3:09:13 8:55:19 $30,000
2. Leanda Cave GBR 53:13 4:47:43 3:12:02 8:58:12 $15,000
3. Rachel Joyce GBR 53:08 4:52:35 3:14:00 9:05:02 $8,000
4. Kelly Williamson USA 55:17 5:06:43 3:01:02 9:08:34 $6,500
5. Corinne Abraham GBR 1:03:24 4:40:39 3:22:45 9:12:20 $5,000
6. Sarah Piampiano USA 1:04:04 4:49:52 3:13:54 9:13:47 $3,500
7. Heather Wurtele CAN 56:15 4:51:35 3:21:55 9:15:11 $2,500
8. Katy Blakemore USA 53:13 4:54:51 3:24:22 9:18:02 $2,000
9. Rebecca Preston AUS 59:45 4:58:36 3:22:11 9:26:22 $1,500
10. Sofie Goos BEL 59:37 4:55:50 3:26:44 9:27:58 $1,000

 

About the Author

Jason Lentzke
Jason Lentzke is a coach, athlete and owner of Toro Performance. He is a multisport industry veteran and lifelong athlete. Follow @twitterapi

Most Recent Articles