Karin Stanton/Hawaii247.com Contributing Editor
Craig Alexander and Belinda Granger, both veterans of Big Island triathlons, added the 2009 Ironman 70.3 Hawaii crowns to their trophy cabinets Saturday on the Kohala Coast.
Alexander, who won the Ironman world championship last October in Kona, chased down Chris Lieto to capture the men’s title, while Granger fought off a challenge from previous title holder Samantha McGlone.
Alexander, 36, said he has raced and chased Lieto many times, and was not surprised to find himself nearly 8 minutes down coming off the bike.
“Chris is one of the best, if not the best, bike riders in the sport. He’s a great athlete,” Alexander said. “I was pretty comfortable in the swim. Full credit to John (Flanagan) though.”
The Australian said the run course – which was only revealed to athletes the morning of the race – was challenging.
“It’s tough. There’s not a lot of shade and it tough to get into a rhythm,” he said. “On these longer races you look to get into a rhythm on the run.”
Alexander said although he has both the Ironman world championship and the 70.3 Hawaii titles, he has not lost respect for race conditions on the Big Island.
“You don’t have the heat and humidity anywhere else,” he said. “It’s always challenging.”
Top Hawaii finisher on the men’s side was Tim Marr, a pro from Oahu.
On the women’s side, Granger, 38, crossed the finish line ahead of McGlone, two-time defending champion.
“Whenever they say there’s no wind, I have to laugh because there is always wind in Kona,” Granger said. “It’s one of the toughest run courses I have ever run. You just can’t get into a rhythm.”
The Australian said she, McGlone and Kona pro Bree Wee were bunched together at the swim-to-bike transition, but she managed to drop both by about 3 miles into the cycling leg on Queen Kaahumanu Highway.
Not having the final run course until the last minute did not change Granger’s strategy.
“We had a map but you can’t train on the golf course,” she said. “That actually makes it kind of exciting. It keeps your mind working.”
Granger, whose husband Justin also competed, said she loves the 70.3 Hawaii race.
“It’s a much different atmosphere from the world championship,” she said. “That race is just so full-on. This is grass roots triathlon and the reason I got into the sport. There’s such a family feel to this race.”
Granger, who heads to Connecticut for a 70.3 race next weekend, said she enjoys her visits to the Big Island.
“This island is completely different,” she said. “This island is so special.”
Granger said she was thrilled to win her first race following surgery in March to correct a problem with the main artery to her right leg.
“Sam’s coming off major surgery, too. You can never count her out,” Granger said. “I picked this race as my first one back because I knew it would be fun and also it would be a good challenge.”
Granger, who has run 31 full Ironman races including seven world championships in Kona, said she takes inspiration from the growing number of Hawaii athletes who are challenging the top pros.
“They are competing all around the world. It’s a real credit to this race, that the local athletes are coming along,” she said. “It’s really cool for me to see. They’re pushing me along.”
Top Hawaii state and Big Island finishers:
* Tim Marr, 30, Honolulu, 4:14:11, first Hawaii man, professional division, fourth place overall,
* Eric Neilsen, 44, Kona, 4:42:41, first Big Island man, 7th in 40-44 age group, 37th overall
* Jessica Tranchina, 32, Honolulu, 4:56:25, first Hawaii woman, 2nd in the 30-34 age group, 5th woman/80th overall
* Rani Tanimoto, 34, Kona, 5:03:04, first Big Island woman, 4th in 30-34 age group, 14th woman/111th overall
Up for grabs were 78 slots in this year’s Ironman world championship – including age group qualifiers from the Big Island and across the state.
Athletes came from 40 states and 27 countries. Hawaii athletes numbered 108.
Men’s three-time defending champion Chris McCormack competed last week in Austria and skipped the Hawaii race.
The Ironman Hawaii 70.3 race blasted off with 1,101 athletes jumping into the water at Hapuna Beach early Saturday morning.
The day started cool and ideal, but the sun soon warmed up the bike course and the notorious breezes kept the cyclists pumping. The winding run course took athletes through the grassy golf course, as well as lava fields, asphalt, gravel and even some sand.
All the athletes reportedly made the 1 hour, 15 minute swim cut off, with Honolulu’s John Flanagan out of water first. His time of 23 minutes, 26 seconds sliced more than 20 seconds off last year’s time.
Hometown athlete Bree Wee was the first woman out of the water, but ran into trouble somewhere out on the course and did not finish the race.
Chris Lieto, Ironman championship veteran, built up an 8 minute lead off the bike, with fellow pros Luke McKenzie and Ironman world champion Craig Alexander chasing him down.
Oahu’s Tim Marr was the first Hawaii athlete off the bike in fourth place.
The race is a half- Ironman distance, including a 1.2-mile ocean swim, 56-mile bike ride along Queen Kaahumanu Highway and a 13.1-mile run that weaves through the grounds of The Fairmont Orchid resort.
At the swim-to-bike transition, families offered their support to the athletes.
Laura Sullivan took the chance to shout encouragement to her father, Hunter Temple, and ask how he felt after the swim.
“He said he got a little off track in the swim, but he seemed fine,” she said.
Temple, 74, of Santa Fe, N.M., was trying to qualify for his third Ironman championship race, slated for October in Kona.
“He really wants to do the Ironman again, one more time,” Sullivan said. “He had knee replacement surgery, so the fact that he is even doing this is so awesome. My dad is my inspiration.”
The Ray children yelled loud enough to catch the attention of their father, Rick.
The 42-year-old Marine major joins in as many marathons and triathlons he can fit into his schedule, said wife, Krista.
Competing in the Hawaii 70.3 for the second time, Ray doesn’t have any expectations for the day, his wife said.
“He’s just hoping to finish. That’ll be enough for him,” she said. Ray accomplished his goal, finishing the race in 7:04:14.
Although Ray is the only family member out on the race course, it took the whole troop to get him there.
“All the training he does is tough,” said daughter Alexis, 13. “Sometimes I run with him, but not so much. I’m more like the cheerleader.”
Son Cameron, 7, said his major contribution is sitting on his dad’s feet while he does sit-ups, but he would like to compete with his father one day.
Youngest son, Quinton, 19 months, was just along for the ride, but mom Krista said triathlons do involve the whole family.
“It’s such a family event,” she said. “I guess I’m everything in between, the glue of it all.”
Top 10 Men’s Finishers
1 04:02:52 1 ALEXANDER, CRAIG 36 CRONULLA NSW AUS 24:59 2:17:50 1:17:12
2 04:05:34 4 LIETO, CHRIS 37 DANVILLE CA USA 24:49 2:10:08 1:27:16
3 04:11:58 2 MCKENZIE, LUKE 28 SUNSHINE B QLD AUS 24:47 2:17:56 1:26:26
4 04:14:11 3 MARR, TIMOTHY 30 HONOLULU HI USA 24:54 2:17:59 1:28:16
5 04:17:38 1172 OWEN, JARROD 28 WARANA QLD AUS 30:15 2:20:04 1:23:14
6 04:18:03 600 HAUTH, CHRIS 40 MILL VALLE CA USA 25:40 2:22:45 1:26:08
7 04:18:44 7 FLANAGAN III, JOHN 34 HONOLULU HI USA 23:26 2:19:13 1:32:49
8 04:19:14 9 ELLIOT, LEWIS 29 PHOENIX AZ USA 25:57 2:16:41 1:33:18
9 04:22:16 1274 REED, TIM 24 LORD HOWE NSW AUS 26:30 2:21:56 1:30:48
10 04:23:01 983 INKINEN, SAMI 34 SAN FRANCI CA USA 29:11 2:17:27 1:32:44
11 GRANGER, BELINDA 2/1/1 39/WPRO 00:27:08 02:27:18 01:34:56 04:33:16
2 MCGLONE, SAMANTHA 3/2/2 30/WPRO 00:27:11 02:30:04 01:37:13 04:38:02
3 SHAW, RHAE 1/1/1 34/W30-34 00:30:00 02:26:43 01:45:03 04:46:08
4 HART, ELLEN 4/1/1 51/W50-54 00:35:01 02:31:58 01:38:11 04:50:16
5 TRANCHINA, JESSICA 14/3/2 32/W30-34 00:35:44 02:38:05 01:37:46 04:56:25
6 STEPHENSON, NELL 26/5/1 35/W35-39 00:37:05 02:36:49 01:37:36 04:57:13
7 SCHAEFER, NATALIE 8/2/2 37/W35-39 00:32:47 02:35:03 01:44:40 04:58:05
8 BUSER, ARIANE 19/2/3 31/W30-34 00:37:08 02:27:53 01:48:33 04:59:26
9 TINGLE, LAURA 4/–/3 25/WPRO 00:27:28 00:00:00 05:00:45 05:00:45
10 BAKK, BRITNI 2/1/1 42/W40-44 00:30:49 02:40:43 01:45:53 05:01:26
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