THE WOODLANDS, TX—Malindi Elmore took the nation on her shoulders and charged her way into the top-10, finishing eighth in the women’s Ironman North American Championship in The Woodlands, TX.
The 37-year-old from Kelowna, B.C. battled through the warm and windy conditions to complete the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run in a combined time of nine hours, 11 minutes, 34 seconds (9:11:34).
“The race was good by the second part of the run, but it seemed to take me a long time to hit my groove,” said Elmore. “The crowds were great and there was great energy on the course with some top notch competition in the field.”
As the sun rose on the picturesque suburb north of Houston, Elmore dove into the waters of North Shore Park with 21 other professional women in search of the North American title.
Coming out of the water near the back of the pack, Elmore maintained focus as she hopped on the bike and charged out of The Woodlands for the 112-mile journey – two loops – down one of Houston’s quickest highways to set herself up for the marathon run.
“I found the swim challenging as I ended up swimming solo, and having trouble staying on course so that always makes for an added challenge for me to try to make up time on the bike course,” said Elmore. “The bike course was fairly flat and fast with some “hills” on the highway overpasses.”
The former Olympic middle-distance runner took advantage of her strongest discipline to bolt up the leaderboard after setting a torrid pace on the pancake flat 26.2 mile run course which winds along the water canal and Lake in the centre of town that is carved out by the tall pines. One of only two women to clock a sub-three hour run, Elmore posted the second-fastest run time at 2:59:10.
“The run course was amazing with lots of great energy and I was trying hard to move up some spots towards the end of the run,” said Elmore.
Despite picking her way up the standings, Elmore ran out of real estate and finished off the podium. Jodie Robertson, of the United States, took over the lead at the 10 mile mark of the run, and never looked back, charging to the Ironman North American Championship victory in the women’s division after stopping the clock at 8:56:32.
Austria’s Michaela Herlbauer and Maja Stage-Nielsen ran shoulder-to-shoulder with three miles to go in the battle for the final two spots on the podium. When the dust finally settled in the middle of The Woodlands’ waterfront, Herlbauer finished three minutes off the lead in second place at 8:59:31. Stage-Nielsen settled for third place in a hard-fought battle with a time of 9:01:00.
In a star-studded affair in the men’s pro division, Stephen Kilshaw was the lone Canadian in the 35-man field who dug deep to crack the top-15.
“To be honest the race outcome was a little devastating, but I learned just how bad I can feel and still find the finish line,” said Kilshaw. “When you’re racing well, the hurt feels so good. It lets you know you’re doing it right and that hurt is an awesome thing.”
After coming out of the water in 18th place, the Victoria-based triathlete tried to make time up on the field in a 4:20:24 jaunt on the 112-mile out and back bike course through North Harris County, but it was not to be.
“After pouring the last 20 weeks into preparation for this race, having things fall apart halfway through the bike made for a long ride home and even longer few loops running around Lake Woodlands,” added Kilshaw, who posted the 12th-fastest bike and run times to secure 13th spot with a total time of 8:16:08.
“For a variety of reasons, the body just isn’t firing on all cylinders. The only answer though is to keep going, keep fighting every step and reflect on it once I get home,” added the Canuck.
Matt Hanson, of the United States, took over the lead in the men’s race at the 15-mile mark of the three-loop run course. Hanson smashed the American Ironman record with a time of 7:52:44 to take the North American men’s crown.
Switzerland’s Ronnie Schildknecht finished just over three minutes behind Hanson for second place at 7:56:21. Tyler Butterfield, of Bermuda, was able to hold off a hard-charging Will Clarke, of Great Britain, to lock up the final spot on the podium. Butterfield clocked-in at 7:58:29 for the bronze medal. Clarke finished 33 seconds back in forth after posting the fastest run time on the day at 2:42:01.