Of all the various venues where long course triathlon swims are held the Monterrey 70.3 swim has to be right up there at the top of the surreal-meter. No doubt you’ve seen the ocean swims with mass start athletes leaping and dolphining through pounding surf; likewise you’ve seen the chilly flatwater lake starts, and deep-water river starts and the like, but this one is absolutely and totally unique. Again, in this, the second year of the Ironman Monterrey 70.3, the swim was held in pool-like conditions in a man-made river. That’s right, at 1.55 miles long, the Santa Lucia River presents an ideal, but somewhat sterile environment for a 1.2 mile Half Ironman swim. Only 4 feet deep for its entirety and with fully coped edges, it meanders through the touristy Old Town Monterrey district. Thus the stage is set for the point-to-point swim course, with the bike and run routes following much the same course along the riverwalk area, this makes for a very nice compact and spectator friendly event.
With the starting line situated a convenient 1.2 miles up from the the finish line under overcast skies and a threat of rain, the fast field of Pros and the equally anxious hoards of age groupers made their way up from T1, ready to swim.
At the Pro gun, some of the sports best lined up, waist deep in the clear water, looking for all the world like a fraternity prank gone bad in a water park’s lazy river attraction. Nonetheless, they attacked the pristine course with a vengeance.
In his first showing here at the 2nd running of the Ironman Monterrey 70.3, Germany’s Faris Al-Sultan was first out of the water, bounding up the carpeted ramp, followed in quick succession by Mexico’s own Maurico Mendez Cruz, with race favorite Tim Don hot on their heels 8 seconds down at 23:10.
Starting 3 minutes after the men the powerful female Pro field took their mark, and quickly laid waste to the tranquil waters. The two Lauren’s from the USA (that would be Lauren Brandon and Lauren Goss), exited the water first and second at 23:41 and 23:58 respectively. Making for an exciting dual 3rd place exit were Canadian Pro’s Karen Thibodeau and Magali Tisseyre, less than 2 minutes behind the Lauren ladies.
Once on the bike, the athletes navigated a combination of closed roadways and manufactured-cobblestone riverwalk promenades. With the damp surfaces from recent drizzles, it had the potential to be a technically tortuous course. But the Pro leaders did well and set some blazing times. More excitement would follow at T2 with more rain coming in.
At 18 km, with everyone settling in after the swim, the front leaders were setting the pace, tightly bunched with Kevin Collington, Drew Scott, Tim Don and Christian Kemp; the swim leader Al-Sultan was hanging on for 5th almost a minute back, and the 2nd place swimmer lost in the crowd not even in the top 10.
Meanwhile, the women were likewise racing at the top of their form, with Lauren, Lauren, and Magali refusing to budge from their swim finish places, even as they chewed up the bike course. A bit further back, in 5th, was race favorite Angela Naeth, also from Canada, trailing Ewa Budol of Poland, who would soon fall out of contention.
At the halfway point on the bike Australia’s Christian Kemp had navigated himself up through the crowd from 4th to take the lead from Collington. Back a bit further back at 1:21 Richie Cunningham had also overtaken Al-Sultan.
In the women’s contest Lauren Goss had drifted back a good bit while Naeth was steadily moving up.
At 63 km, with 17 miles to go, a pivotal point in any 70.3 bike race, Tim Don took the lead, pacing ahead of Kemp and Collington, and a surprise move up in the rankings to 4th by Jordan Rapp. In the same grouping with Rapp were Cunningham and Mendez Cruz (who had found his race legs now), all holding steady at a minute and half back, still all within comfortable territory with a good bit more biking to go and a lot more running to come.
Leapfrogging over to the women’s field we now see the same three powerhouses in place, but with some action in the rear ranks with USA’s Sarah Piampiano moving up steadily.
Holding on to the lead for the past 17 miles, Tim Don was first off the bike, followed quickly by Kemp and last year’s 2nd place winner Francisco Serrano racing in his home country. At this point Al-Sultan was 40 seconds back, still within striking distance, but a lot could happen on a 13.1 mile run.
At the women’s T2, Canadian Tisseyre had passed Brandon and was now almost 2 minutes ahead. Naeth was a minute further back – but with no other females in sight. As Collington mentions in the TRS Triathlon exclusive audio quote above, T2 became a battlefield once the rains started again.
At 6 and a half miles into the run Mendez Cruz had put the heat on and passed Al-Sultan, Collington, Serrano, and Kemp; and to the delight of the hometown crowd was gaining on Don.
On the ladies’ side Tisseyre was slaughtering the field, steadily outdistancing Naeth who had moved up to 2nd, and Piampiano who was now 1:50 back in 3rd at the 4 mile point. By 10 miles, Tisseyre, showing an amazing run performance would have a solid 10 minute lead.
Jumping ahead to the finish, though an exciting race overall, due to some impressive running by the race leaders, there was no finish line showdown, but a great showing nonetheless. Last year, having won the inaugural running of this race, Tim Don had laid down an impressive 3:46:59. So, he again wowed the crowd by beating his own course record, this time knocking off an astounding 4 minutes and 10 seconds, coming in at 3:42:49. Over 3 minutes back were Collington and Mendez Cruz taking silver and bronze.
For the female Pros, Tisseyre held that 10 minute lead to beat an impressive 2nd place move-up by Piampiano who now lead Naeth by 1:51. Sadly, later looking at the official IM results it seems that swim leaders Lauren Brandon and Lauren Goss both had bad days today; it looks as if Goss DNF’d, and looking at some social media updates, it seems that Brandon took a wrong turn on the run and finished a distant 11th.
So obviously the word got out last year by 2014 winners Tim Don and Heather Wurtele that this was a good race to make some fast cash, as most of the top finishers were new participants. That fast cash? Yep, Tim and Magali walked away with a cool 10 grand each.
And that crazy swim start? Just watch this amazing video from last year by Skycams Media, truly astounding coverage. Of course for Tim Don, a crazy swim start for a long distance triathlon is nothing new, check out how he started this weird 140.6 triathlon back in January.
Photo courtesy of Michael Lavato. Follow Michael on twitter.