Kona 2018 - An Epic Year In Ironman History

by Cherie Gruenfeld October 24, 2018 3 min read

Kona 2018 - An Epic Year In Ironman History

This will always be remembered as an epic year in Ironman history.

In 1978, fifteen fearless souls stood on a Waikiki beach preparing for a day that would combine the 2.4 mile Waikiki Rough Water swim, the 112 mile Around the Island bike ride and the 26.2 Honolulu Marathon. They called it Ironman. The winner that day was Gordon Haller, finishing in 11 hours, 46 minutes.

Forty years later Patrick Lange became the first person to complete the Ironman World Championships in Kona in under 8 hours, crossing the finish line in 7:52:39. Thirty-four minutes later Daniela Ryf crossed the line, blowing away the women’s record with an astonishing 8:26:16. It’s possible, even likely, that these two records will be broken in years to come as athletes now realize what’s possible.

These outstanding performances were exciting to watch, but I’ll also remember 2018 as a milestone for racers aged 60 and above.

A record was set in the Men 85-90 category. Hiromu Inada, 86 years of age, was the first person 85 or older to complete this grueling event. Others have tried – Inada did it. In my opinion, his performance was every bit as amazing as those of Patrick and Daniela and perhaps even more so. I suspect Inada’s record will stand much longer than the two extraordinary pro records set this year.

I’m not a young pro but rather a proud member of the 60+ group. So I feel somewhat qualified when I speak of characteristics that I believe come into play as the older athletes continue to raise the bar. Here are some thoughts, based on no scientific data but rather years of racing experience and plenty of personal engagement with other older athletes.

Success on the field and off

Many of the older athletes are retired from their professional lives and I’ve discovered that a great many of them are simply applying the same skills to their sport that helped make them successful in their chosen professions. Work ethic, goal setting, attention to detail and focus on priorities are hallmarks of a winner – on the field or off.

Just do it

Inada has been racing for many years and always posting good times with each year of age. There’s no fanfare, no seeking of the spotlight – just getting the job done.

I’ve seen this same attitude in many others. I call it self-motivation and the keen ability to focus only on what’s important in achieving the goal.

Cautious denial

It’s a fine line one has to walk as the years pile up. You must continue to believe that you can still perform well at the same time you’re realistically adapting your training and racing goals. If you give in to age, your performance will surely drop. If you ignore the necessary changes required, you are at risk of disappointment and injury. It’s a tricky balance that the most successful older athletes have figured out.

Good technique is the magic bullet

At 60, 70 or 80, no one will have the raw strength of youth. So how does an older athlete continue to maintain speed? One answer to this is good technique. There are a couple of simple formulas that hold true for all ages, but are absolutely critical as we age:

Good form = efficiency and efficiency = speed

Good form = less injury = more consistent training

Those who are losing the least in their performances are those who continually focus on good technique.

Daniela and Patrick, along with many other amazing young athletes (pro and age group), have thrown down the challenge and we can expect to see many more exciting races in years to come.

The older athletes are rewriting the book on the aging body and mind every time they race. Who knows what’s possible?

Stay tuned. I expect the “oldsters” will also continue to excite us as they too set new records.

Cherie Gruenfeld
Cherie Gruenfeld

Sixteen Ironman Age Group Wins Worldwide Nine-time World #1-ranked Amateur Ironman Triathlete. 2000 WTC Female Age Grouper of the Year 2001, 2007 USA Triathlon Female Grandmaster of the Year. Multiple-time USAT All-American Team (#1 Rank) "Everyday Champion" featured on Wheaties Energy Crunch cereal box. “My first triathlon was a Half IM in ’92 which qualified me for the IM World Championships in Kona. In ’92 in lived in Santa Monica, but now live in the Palm Springs desert with my husband, Lee, who is my biggest fan and supporter. He also writes and takes photos for the World Triathlon Corporation at many of my races. At the end of 2015, I announced my retirement from Ironman racing and am now focusing on 70.3s. My 2016 goal is to win the 70.3 World title in the W70-74 and setting a new course record.” For more information: http://www.cheriegruenfeld.com/


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