Katrina Matthews took home an incredible 2nd place at the Ironman North American Championship in Tulsa. Even a 5 minute penalty, couldn’t stop Matthews claiming the silver. Katrina posted a unbelievable 2:49:49 marathon, the 3rd fastest female marathon of all time in Ironman history. The BMC Pro athlete crossed the finish line in a time of 8:45:35. Daniella Ryf (SUI; 8:40:34) won the race with Sky Moench (USA; 8:47:45) finishing in third position.
The race of Katrina Matthews didn’t start the way she wanted to. Katrina exited the water in 9th place, with a deficit of 6 minutes over the leader at that point of the race. Despite all that, Katrina started the bike very strong. She immediately found a good rhythm and started to make up time over the athletes in front of her. After 50 kilometers, the BMC Pro athlete had cut down her disadvantage over the first chase group to 2’30. Halfway through the bike, she made the connection with that chase group, riding 6 minutes behind leader Ryf. Once Katrina had reached that chase group and was battling for 2nd place, she didn’t overdo things. So, she stayed well inside that chase group with Moench and Morrison. Unfortunately, Matthews had to serve a 5-minute penalty due to drafting, just before entering T2. That caused her to lose connection with the podium spots. Eventually, the British athlete racked her bike in 5th place, 5 minutes back of 2nd place. Once again, Katrina decided to not let that setback affect her race. Just like on the bike, she settled straight into her rhythm and started to catch up. After 10k, Matthews already moved up to 3rd place, but she wanted more. Kat kept her pace high to put pressure on 2nd place. Where the difference between her and that 2nd place was 5 minutes at the start of the run, that difference was reduced to only 1’17 at the halfway mark of the marathon. 6k later, Matthews made her move and took over control of 2nd place. She immediately opened up a gap to run that second place home towards the finish. With an astonishing closing marathon of 2:49:49 and fastest run split, Katrina Matthews concluded her race to cross the line in a time of 8:45:35. That left her just 5 minutes and 1 second behind winner Daniela Ryf. After the win in IM Florida last year, this 2nd place at the Ironman North American Championship is another confidence boost towards the Ironman World Championship on the Big Island later this year.
Really proud of my performance
Afterwards Katrina reflected on her performance: “I am really proud of my result here today. It was a hard day to battle some of those challenges, but this 2nd place is an amazing result. I am dissapointed with my swim. I am better than that. Even with 10 weeks out of the water in January/February I should have held that group. I am really pleased I 'let go' on the bike. Out of my comfort zone to do that to catch Kim and Skye. Frustrated at the penalty. It was going into an aid station and it was on a steep short hill so we bunched slightly very quickly and I was at the back, so they got me. Real shame. But due to the first half of the bike I was in a good position to still take a podium which was great”.
In the aftermath of the race the realisation also sunk in that without the 5 minute penalty Katrina would have been finishing in the same time as winner Ryf. So definitely an element of dissapointment and feeling of 'what if', but in the end overwhelmingly a positive feeling of proudness in the BMC camp for the performance put out there by Matthews.
Dubious penalty cost Leiferman podium
In the men’s race, the BMC Pro Team had 3 representatives in Chris Leiferman, Kristian Hogenhaug and Patrik Nilsson. The trio came out of the water rather close to each other. On the bike, it was Kristian Hogenhaug who rode a strong bike leg in the first chase group. Chris Leiferman was part of that group as well during the first half of the bike, until a dubious penalty blew Leiferman's chances for a podium spot. Patrik Nilsson suffered from a tough day out there and had to withdraw from the race at T2. Kristian started the run with the first chase group, battling for 5th place. He also had a strong first 10k on the run as he tagged along with some strong runners to come closer to 4th place. Halfway through the run, Hogenhaug was forced to let go and had to settle for his own pace. Meanwhile, Chris was on a charge. Due to the 5' penalty at the half way mark, Chris had to ride the remaing second half of the bike completely by his own. Despite the set back he put together a very strong marathon. He started the run in 18th place and moved up to 14th place at the half way point. Eventually, both Chris and Kristian kept battling through and crossed the finish line in 12th and 14th place respectively.
Had the legs to finish on the podium
A dissapointed Leiferman looked back afterwards: "I was feeling so strong today. I was sitting very comfortably in the big chase group. I made a pass at some point and felt I had plenty of space to slot in. The referee thought differently and it cost me a penalty. Because of the 5' stop I lost the group which meant I had to ride the final 90K completely on my own costing much more energy. I am happy with the fight that I put up today, but really dissapointed as I had the legs to finish on the podium. I was where I needed to be on the bike, I felt super strong all day and deep down I know I had the running legs to fight for the podium places today. So it is a very hard one to take. The only positive is that my fitness was right up there where it needed to be to compete with the best".
Strong swim - bike
Also Kristian Hogenhaug reflected on his performance: "Swim fitness is progressing - barely missed the front group on the swim and lead the second group into T2 the last 2/3 of the swim. Onto the bike and a 15-20 man big group quickly formed. Really chaotic and it felt like we lost time to the guys in front. It’s hard to form good teamwork with such a big group. You want to commit but don’t want to tow people along. Somehow got a gap with another guy and we quickly agreed on 5 min turns at the front. Later on we were caught by Sam Long, Joe Skipper and Bart Aernouts. Took some turns at the front and then more or less sat in the last 90 min. Felt really good at the start of the run and run way too fast in the first 8km. In the end I think the fast opening pace cost me, I had to settle in my own pace and fight for each position. Definitely a lot to take away in the lead up to my next Ironman in 6 weeks time".
Unfortunately not the day for Nilsson: "I didn't have that extra gear all day long. The first part of the swim was fine, until I start losing time at the 2K mark. I couldn't push through to hang on in the lead group. The same on the bike were I couldn't keep the power I expected and planned for. I just didn't have the legs today. Really dissapointed as everything in training showed I was ready for this. I will find a new race soon and get back on track".