Anyone watching the women’s swim would have never bet a nickel on Donavan, no matter how generous the odds. Two-time middle distance world champion Jodie Swallow, in her Ironman debut, swam a 5th overall including the men 49:56 split, followed 3 minutes later by ITU short course and Ironman veteran Lucie Reed (née Zelenkova) and Serbia’s Svetlana Blazevic.
Donavan, a mother of three who turned pro last year after finishing 2nd in the 35-39 age group at the 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, was 18 minutes down to the internationally renowned Swallow after a 1:07:11 swim split.
On the bike, Donavan stormed to an impressive 4:50:27 mark that smashed every woman in the field but one. Swallow uncorked an even more spectacular 4:46:05 split that gave Swallow a 22- minute lead on her Vermont rival starting the marathon.
Once they started running, Swallow’s leg-injury-plagued last two years came back to haunt her as Donavan came hard with a run that would compensate for her manatee-slow swim. Somewhere near the 21 mile mark of the run, Donavan ran past the struggling superstar on her way to a race-best 3:09:11 run that brought a third career Ironman victory after wins at Lake Placid and Mt. Tremblant last year. Swallow, gritting gamely through a survival mode 3:36:44 run, hung on for 2nd place, 6:02 behind Donavan’s 9:10:58 finish and 10:07 ahead of third place Lucie Reed.
Despite all the heroics, Donavan’s finish was not as spectacular as Natascha Badmann’s victory at age 45 at this race last year and not nearly as fast as Chrissie Wellington’s fastest-ever Ironman race record of 8:33:56 set in 2011.
Dede Griesbauer, who at one point was 2nd overall woman on the bike, had a painful meltdown on the run but soldiered through for a 15th pro and 36th woman finish in 11:40:39.
Ironman South Africa
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
April 14, 2013
S 2.4 mi. /. B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 8:11:24
2. Cyril Viennot (FRA) 8:19:51
3. Bas Diederen (NED) 8:20:09
4. Horst Reichel (GER) 8:22:34
5. Francois Chabaud (FRA) 8:29:30
6. Herve Faure (FRA) 8:34:20
7. Kyle Buckingham (RSA) 8:34:35 * M30-34
8. Berger Dominik (AUT) 8:43:53
9. Kent Horner (RSA) 8:44:32
10. Karol Djalaj (SLO) 8:45:42
1. Jessie Donavan (USA) 9:10:58
2. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 9:17:00
3. Lucie Reed (CZE) 9:27:07
4. Simone Brändli (SUI) 9:32:34
5. Dianne McEwan (RSA) 9:37:45
6. Monique Grossrieder (SUI) 9:48:22
7. Katharina Grohmann (GER) 9:55:52
8. Nina Pekerman (ISR) 9:59:13
9. Svetlana Blazevic (SRB) 10:08:432
10. Joanna Carritt (GBR) 10:16:59