by Chris Brewer
Survive the swim, do well on the bike, and win on the run. Every triathlete in the world knows this is Tri Strategy 101, it’s the executing part that’s difficult, even if you’re Lance Armstrong racing for Team LIVESTRONG. “It’s hard,” Lance said. “It’s a very hard race, and I’ll just have to get better if I want to win.” What he was referring to was leading for most of the race – his second half Ironman – but ultimately coming in 7th overall in the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas, with Tim O’Donnell winning in a time of 3 hours, 47 minutes and 40 seconds and becoming the 2012 US Pro Champion in the process.
How It Unfolded
A very strong men’s pro field got off to a solid swim start with 2-time Iroman 70.3 World Champion Michael Raelert leading the men out of the water in a time of 23:17 with a group of 15 – including Lance – hot on his heels heading into transition. The bike / run courses were very flat but with head and crosswinds, so sustaining energy on the bike and having enough left for the final run would be the keys to overall victory.
O’Donnell had a great transition, and despite cycling being his weaker discipline lead the men out onto the bike course in first place. This would not last long as Lance roared back from 15th position, picking riders off one by one with his signature high cadence pace. Raelert was now on point but clearly had a target on his back and within 13 minutes Lance was on the front and literally riding away from the rest of the pack. Without question Lance was taking a page from his pro cycling career, but something he rarely did back in the day: he was in the early break off the front, forcing those behind him to decide whether to chase now, and risk going too hard too soon, or let him go and hope to have the energy to run him down in the half marathon.
Ten miles in Lance used an unusual strategy as the wind changed to a tailwind, letting off the gas and sitting up, forcing several of his rivals to come to the front and bunching up eight of the lead men (as much as you can within Ironman rules). Seventeen minutes later Lance showed his cards – he’d been recovering and waiting – and attacked once again as the race went into a headwind, driving a mental stake through the field as he blew by all his competitors and went to the front again. At the halfway mark Lance had almost a minute lead on O’Donnell and a few others, Raelart now far back after a flat tire dropped him back. As the race came back into transition, it was France’s Stephane Poulat making the best move behind Lance, closing to within 15 seconds.
Out of transition and Lance still held onto his now slim lead heading into the run. Poulat passed Lance, who then used the Frenchman as his pace man, remaining 20m behind in second place. But the man on the move was Sebastian Kienle, followed closely by O’Donnell, as Raelart drove through the field trying to get back to the front. At the halfway mark it was now Keinle in the lead, followed by O’Donnell, and Lance in third.
With just a mile to go Kienle and O’Donnell were literally shoulder to shoulder, attacking each other as each tried to break his rival. O’Donnell would finally force Keinle to succumb and cross the line just 10 seconds ahead of the clearly exhausted German, with Ronnie Schildknecht nabbing third. The effect of the heat and the pace caught up with Lance at the end as he could be seen roadside fighting off cramps, eventually crossing the line 7th overall, high fiving supporters along the rail down to the finish line. “Sometimes you’re the hammer, and sometimes you’re the nail,” he said laughing in a post race interview.
And while the race result wasn’t what Lance really wanted, congratulations to Tim O’Donnell for his US Pro Championship, and a big THANK YOU to our Team LIVESTRONG athletes! They raised a stellar $32,000 for the fight against cancer and our mission of providing direct services to people affected by cancer as well as a platform for advocacy in the fight. Our partnership with Ironman plans to raise more than $1 million for people affected by cancer via funds raised through Team LIVESTRONG, and we have a limited number of entries in each race Lance does. People interested in joining us should visit www.TeamLIVESTRONG.org for more information, but note athletes who are already registered for one of these Ironman or Ironman 70.3 events can still race as part of Team LIVESTRONG!
Lance’s Numbers for Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas
1.2 mile swim: 23:38 ( 1:13 / 100m)
56 mile bike: 2:05:10 (avg 26.8 mph / 43.1 kmh)
13.1 mile run: 1:22:38:01 (avg 6:18 mi / 3:56 km)
Total time: 3:54:32
Jessie & Kirsten Flores