Well, this one was easy. While one might argue that Alistair Brownlee, in defending his gold medal in Rio, deserved the nod in this category, it’s hard to put one stellar performance up against what Frodeno achieved this year.
Peter Reid, Canada’s own three-time Ironman world champion, used to always say that defending a Kona title is the hardest thing in our sport. Frodeno entered 2016 as the world champion over both the 70.3 and the Ironman distances. He started the year off by taking the first leg of the million dollar triple crown in Bahrain, but then disaster struck. A huge tear in his calf put him out of commission for a few months and caused him to have to juggle his schedule – he had to skip Ironman South Africa and jump into Ironman Lanzarote at the last minute to ensure he could validate his Kona slot.
Heading into that Lanzarote race Frodeno made it very clear that the goal was to finish and not jeopardize his planned world record attempt at Challenge Roth a few months later. Frodeno pushed hard throughout the day, though, and was only passed by Jesse Thomas in the last few km of the race.
Then came Roth. Frodeno piled the pressure on himself heading into that race, making his intentions clear to everyone that he was going after the record. His 45:22 swim set a new pro swim course record. His 4:08:07 bike split also broke the course record ( previously held by super-biker Andy Starykowicz). His 2:39 marathon was the fastest of the day for 20 minutes, until runner-up Joe Skipper came across the line eight seconds faster.
The end result, 7: 35: 39, broke the old world record time held by Andreas Raelert by almost six minutes. After pushing so hard, Frodeno decided he had to skip the Ironman 70.3 worlds if he was going to be in any sort of shape to defend his Kona title.
In Kona Frodeno shone once again. This time, though, he led a German sweep of the podium, a fitting sign of just how much he’s elevated the sport in his home country. His 8: 06: 30 was enough to hold off Sebastian Kienle and newcomer Patrick Lange.
Last year we couldn’t imagine any way that Frodeno could top his stellar 2015 performances. He did. Who knows what we can look forward to in 2017.– KM
Brent Mcmahon took the Ironman South American Championship in Brazil last June in a blistering 7:46:10, missing the (then) Ironman world record time by a dozen seconds. After a disappointing day in Kona, Mcmahon was in Tempe, Ariz. where he recorded yet another sub-8 hour day (7:50:15), only to find himself almost five minutes behind Lionel Sanders.
Returning from injury in 2016, Rachel Mcbride turned in another season of excellent results. The Vancouver-based pro missed most of 2015 due to stress fractures in her foot, but hit the podium several times over the summer.
Mcbride’s first race back, after more than a year out, was Ironman 70.3 Victoria in June.
“It was really exciting to get back into the mix in Victoria. It was a local race and my family was there.” she says. “It was really a tester race for me. I was not in top gear, but still finished pretty well.”
Mcbride came home fourth overall with top-five splits in all disciplines, showing that she was well on the way to full fitness.
Next up she headed south to California for Ironman 70.3 Vineman. Up against a very competitive field which included 2016 Ironman 70.3 world champion Holly Lawrence, Mcbride again put in a strong performance across the board to finish sixth.
Vineman was a step in the right direction for Mcbride, but the big breakthrough came two weeks later, at Ironman 70.3 Calgary. She’s the course record holder at the event, so hit the start line feeling confident. After a strong cycle, Mcbride headed out onto the run alongside American Jen Spieldenner. In the end, it came down to a sprint for the line, with the American winning by just four seconds.
After Calgary, Mcbride took a few weeks away from triathlon. In the meantime, she won the steepest 400-metre race in the world, the Red Bull 400. Held in Whistler, B.C., the race goes straight up a ski jump, and is a huge test of anaerobic fitness.
She then switched her focus to the ITU Long Distance World Championships in Oklahoma City in September. To prepare for the ITU long course distances (4 km/ 120 km/ 30 km) she began working with a run coach to specifically prepare for that leg, and came into the race in great shape.
Coming out of the water, in difficult conditions, Mcbride gave up about 10 minutes to a small lead group. She soon began closing the gap, though, using her traditionally strong bike leg to pass through the field. Her training then clearly paid off on the run, and she moved up to third place at the finish.
“To have another bronze medal at ITU Worlds was such an incredible experience. To be on the podium with two unbelievably talented athletes like [winner, Jodie] Swallow and [Caroline] Steffen was just pretty mind blowing.” says Mcbride.
Not content to leave her season there, Mcbride headed off to Mexico for her fulldistance debut at Ironman Cozumel. The ultimate goal is Kona. “2017 is going to be focused on Kona.” She also plans to compete at the ITU Long Distance World Championships in Penticton, B.C., and Ironman Canada if there is a women’s pro race in Whistler. this, and clearly the results are coming. Maybe I should try pursuing this.’”
Robinson then decided to step up to the half- distance. Having previously completed half-marathons and a marathon, the running part didn’t phase her, and the progression felt like the next natural step. She also began working with coach Clint Lien of Mercury Rising Triathlon in Victoria.
Her decision was rewarded when she won her age- group at Ironman 70.3 Victoria in 2015, her first race at that distance. Later in 2015, Robinson competed at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Zell- am- See, Austria, and her result in Victoria also qualified her for the 2016 ITU Long Distance World Championship.
This season began in similar fashion to 2015 for Robinson, as she again won her age-group at Victoria 70.3, where she was fourth in her age-group out of the water, but had the fastest bike and run splits to take victory by nearly seven minutes. “That was probably as close to my ideal race execution as I’ve yet to do,” says Robinson. Next up was the Great White North Triathlon in Stony Plain, Alta., where Robinson took second in her age-group. Her focus then turned to the ITU Long Distance World Championships in Oklahoma City last September. This was a step up in distance, to a 4-km swim, 120-km bike and 30-km run. As the race started, the swim conditions were terrible and, despite being a confident open-water swimmer, the first leg proved a real challenge. “I was genuinely uncomfortable and anxious. It was so wavy. It was so windy. The only reason I got through the first loop was because I told myself, ‘There’s no way they’re letting us go out to do a second loop.’” says Robinson. The organizers didn’t pull the athletes out of the water, and Robinson exited four minutes back from her competition. She soon set about closing this gap on a hot and windy bike leg. She recorded the fastest split of the day by nearly nine minutes, and headed out onto the run course in first.
Robinson had been limited in her run preparation due to a hip injury. This showed slightly over the 30 km, but she fought hard to finish second, just six minutes down on the eventual winner and more than eight minutes clear of third.
Next year, Robinson has already qualified for the ITU long distance worlds, which will be held in Penticton, B.C. in August, and is hoping to go one better.
“I haven’t actually said this out loud yet, but I guess my goal is to win my age-group. I think if I have a good race and I’m properly trained and injury free, that’s definitely a possibility.” says Robinson.