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Visitors rule Iron Man

Foreign athletes took home the main titles at Sunday’s fifth running of the Spec-Savers Ironman 70.3 triathlon held in East London, writes Mark Etheridge.

There was a new men’s champion in the shape of Belgium’s Marino Vanhoenacker who covered the 1.9 kilometre swim, 90km cycle and 21.1km run in a fine time of 4hrs 06min 25sec. And in the women’s category Britain’s Jodie Swallow defending her title with ease, clocking a time of 4:39:01, almost five minutes clear of Czech athlete Lucie Zelenkova (4:43:56).

Men’s runner-up was another athlete from Europe, Swtizerland’s Ronnie Schildknecht (4:12:56). Vanhoenacker worked this way through the field after the swing leg but Swallow was never headed and led from gun to tape.

First South African man was Kent Horner in fifth spot (4:21:34) while Claire Horner was first local woman home in 4:51:39.

There was much anticipation as to how Andrea Steyn would make the step up to the longer distance events after having utterly dominated the local BSG-Energade Series at the end of last year. But on this occasion the Pretoria based athlete found it a step too far and she faded badly in the final stages, losing three positions in the final 3km of the race and ending ninth in a time of 5hr 21min 07sec.

“It wasn’t a great experience,” Steyn told Road to London 2012 on Monday. “I could already feel on the first part of the cycle that my legs wasn’t there.

“On the run it just got worse, I started with cramps in my calfs and quads after about 8km. Then I also experienced a sugar problem. At one stage I was only seeing black and found myself on the other side of the road. I was still in 6th place with 3km to go but tt took me almost 30min to finish the last 3km. So after the finish I woke up in the medical tent ÔÇô had two drips and felt like a human again.”

Explaining her unhappy experience, Steyn couldn’t put her finger on one thing. “I think it was a combination of a lot of things. I know now that I haven’t trained enough to do such a long race. Maybe in two years again. And the stomach bug that I had this week didn’t helpÔǪ”

It’s back to the drawing board for the physiotherapist as she plans her 2012. “For now I will rest and then concentrate on the Olympic distance non-drafting events. If I want to be competitive in the Half Iron Man race then I will have to change my training. I guess you can’t expect to do well in January when I was racing the BSG series almost every weekend at the end of last year, and that is crucial time to prepare for the longer event.


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