The 40th anniversary of the Ironman World Championship was an event to remember. The 2018 race saw record after record fall as the triathletes made their way through the legendary—and extremely challenging—Kona course.
Records were set on the men’s and women’s side, and things ended with a major surprise: a proposal from champion and Oakley athlete Patrick Lange. The German-born triathlete set a course record, while on the women’s side, Daniela Ryf took home her fourth-straight title, setting another course record in the process.
The 2018 course took the competitors on a 2.4 mile swim out in Kailua Bay before sending them on a 112 mile bike ride on the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. The riders then flipped around at all-important turn in Hawi, where they were allowed to fuel up with nutrients before heading towards the final course, the 26.2 mile run. Course conditions were good on Saturday, which allowed Lange to complete the first-ever sub-8-hour finish at the event.
An In-Depth Broadcast From NBCSN
Preparing for the race is no easy feat—no matter what skill level you are. Mike Ryan, the NBC Sports Medicine Analyst and one of the NBC broadcasters for the TV coverage of the Ironman, knows this all too well. As a former NFL head athletic trainer and a six-time Ironman finisher, Ryan understands the ins and outs of what people need to do to get ready for the event.
“It’s such an exciting week it’s the Super Bowl for triathletes,” Ryan said. “Kona is one of the toughest ones out there, and there’s immense respect for what the athletes have to do just to get to the starting line. One thing that’s great about this race is that the racers come in all different shapes sizes and from all parts of the world. There’s a commonality in this international field of athletes; they may not speak the same language, but they all know what it takes to get there and they’re all out there together. This is a great place, and the athlete in me gets really excited.”
One way Ryan tried to enhance the broadcast for viewers this year was by looking into the stories of the athletes and the roads they took to get to Kona.
“For the broadcast component, I always try to look into the athletes and try to get to know them more as people,” Ryan said. “You can do that through their past race results and medical history, and we try and bring people inside what these athletes go through as they train and then give context of what we see from them on race day. There’s a ton of work that goes into it and these athletes are managing injuries constantly. I’m coming from that sports medical background and I have great respect for what they do. I want to be able to convey that and show the audience that these people work very very hard at what they do and give that element to the broadcast.”
— MIke Ryan (@RyanSportsMed) October 13, 2018
The race, which originally started by combining the the 2.4-mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim, 112 miles of the Around-Oahu Bike Race, and the 26.2-mile Honolulu Marathon, had over 2,400 total entries in 2018, making it one of the biggest championship races ever. Back when Ironman founders John and Judy Collins started the race, it only had 15 entrants and was on a completely different island from where it is now.
“There’s no way back then anyone expected things to get this big,” Ironman announcer and Hall of Famer Mike Reilly said to the crowd at the finish-line when he brought out the Collins’ to honor them for their contributions to the sport. Reilly spent over 15 hours out on the course greeting finishers, from Lange, to Ryf, to the 86-year-old man who finished just ahead of the cutoff, shouting out his classic “You are an Ironman” line to every one of them.
A Stellar Field of Athletes
Before the start of the race, Ironman race commentator and 1994 Ironman World Championship winner Greg Welch told Men’s Journal that this field was a very talented one. While triathlete Jan Frodeno would have been one of the favorites, he suffered an injury a few months before the event and had to pull out, leaving his fellow countryman Patrick Lange to take the spotlight.
“This was a very strong field on the men’s side,” Welch said. “Lange won the 2017 race, and the group of David McNamee, Braden Currie, Javier Gomez, Andy Potts, Andrew Starykowicz, Josh Amberger, and Lionel Sanders all had a chance to place high here.”
Welch predicted that Amberger would be one of the early swim leaders, and that Wurf and Starykowicz would battle it out closely when the bike portion of the race started. Welch ended up being exactly right.
Amberger had the lead for the men coming out of the 2.4 swim portion, and at the 77 mile mark of the bike race, it was Wurf, Amberger, and Starykowicz in the Top 3. Wurf ended up setting a Kona course bike record with a time of 4 hours, 9 minutes, and 6 seconds, but even that wasn’t enough to hold off Lange.
Lange’s Historic Finish
Lange was able to make up a lot of time during the running portion of the race, finishing with a course-record 7 hours, 52 minutes, and 39 seconds, four minutes ahead of second-place finisher Bart Aernouts. During the race, Lange was aided by his Oakley eyewear equipped with Prizm, which helped improve his performance with precise color tuning and clarity on the course. For as incredible as Lange’s performance was, he had one major surprise up his sleeve when he finished.
— IRONMAN Triathlon (@IRONMANtri) October 14, 2018
As Lange was being interviewed by Reilly at the finish line, he turned towards his girlfriend and said that he “promised himself” that if he broke the course record he’d have something else to do in Kona. With his body likely barely holding itself up, Lange got down on one knee and asked his girlfriend to marry him. As Julia Hofmann started crying, Reilly screamed out to the crowd, “she said yes!”
Daniela Ryf’s Record Performance—and Lucy Charles’s Record Swim
The proposal wasn’t the only amazing feat at the finish line. The women’s pro group had an incredible performance from Ryf as well. After coming out of the water around 12 minutes behind swim leader and Oakley athlete Lucy Charles—who Welch predicted would swim into the back of the men’s group, which she did and set a swim course record in the process at 48 minutes, 13 seconds—Ryf quickly made up time.
Here’s a look at Charles’s swim:
— IRONMAN Triathlon (@IRONMANtri) October 13, 2018
Ryf passed by Charles on the bike course despite being nine minutes back when she started on the route, and she never gave back her lead. Ryf kept pushing hard and ended up setting a bike course record at 4 hours, 26 minutes, and 7 seconds, setting up another amazing finish by the Swiss star. Both Lange and Charles were aided by Oakley eyewear equipped with Prizm technology, giving each of them a clear and detailed look at the course.
Just like Lange, Ryf set a course record by finishing in 8 hours, 26 minutes, and 16 seconds, giving Ryf her fourth straight win at the Ironman World Championship.
Here’s a look at Ryf’s finish:
Congratulations to @danielaryf, your 2018 IRONMAN World Champion brought to you by Amazon! This is Ryf’s fourth IRONMAN World Championship in a row, setting a new course record of 8:26:16! #IMWC pic.twitter.com/jq7NBrp3H1
— IRONMAN Triathlon (@IRONMANtri) October 14, 2018
Here are the full Top 10 finishers on the Men’s and Women’s sides of the 2018 Ironman World Championship from Kona:
1. Patrick Lange (GER) — 7:52:39 (Course Record)
2. Bart Aernouts (BEL) — 7:56:41
3. David McNamee (GBR) — 8:01:09
4. Tim O’Donnell (USA) — 8:03:17
5. Braden Currie (NZL) — 8:04:41
6. Matt Russell (USA) — 8:04:45
7. Joe Skipper (GBR) — 8:05:54
8. Andy Potts (USA) — 8:09:34
9. Cameron Wurf (AUS) — 8:10:32
10. Michael Weiss (SUI) — 8:11:04
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 8:26:16 (Course Record)
2. Lucy Charles (GBR) — 8:36:32
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:41:57
4. Sarah True (USA) — 8:43:42
5. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) — 8:50:44
6. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 8:52:29
7. Kaisa Sali (FIN) — 8:54:26
8. Angela Naeth (CAN) — 8:57.34
9. Corinne Abraham (GBR) — 8:57:54
10. Linsey Corbin (USA) — 8:58:57