Will we see records fall in Kona?  

The Ironman World Championship returns to Hawaii after a three-year absence in which the sport has only become faster. Yet it won’t necessarily translate to quicker times, says Tim Heming…

Jan Frodeno of Germany celebrates after winning the Ironman World Championships on October 12, 2019 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii.

A first visit to the Big Island for three years, a host of new and established contenders, and two days of racing. If that wasn’t enough to get your lava flowing, there’s another aspect to consider: Will the Kona records be smashed too?

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Much has changed since Jan Frodeno set the fastest time in Hawaii of 7:51:13 in 2019.

Firstly, we no longer have the big German, at least not for another 12 months. Secondly, even though we’ve not yet returned to the Pacific island, the fastest time in the Ironman World Championship has been broken again thanks to Kristian Blummenfelt’s 7:49:15 in St. George in May.

Racing across the board has just got hotter. On the men’s side, Blummenfelt posted 7:21:11 on debut in Cozumel, Gustav Iden a 7:42:56 in Florida, Alistair Brownlee took the tape in 7:38:47 in Ironman Sweden (although the two-time Olympic gold medallist is now out of Kona 2022) and Magnus Ditlev a 7:35:48 at July’s Challenge Roth.

None of these names have yet to perform in Kona.

That’s without considering Frodeno’s own Tri Battle Royale in Germany last year or Blummenfelt and Joe Skipper smashing the 7hr mark in the Phoenix Foundation’s Sub7 Project in June.

On the women’s side, Germany’s Laura Philipp came within a couple of seconds of Chrissie Wellington’s longstanding iron-distance record with 8:18:20 in Ironman Hamburg.

In Roth, Anne Haug has delivered two spectacular performances, and Daniela Ryf also finished in 8:34:58 to regain her Ironman crown (her fifth) in St. George.

So, the racing has been hotting up, but enough to predict records tumbling in Hawaii? Let’s break it down…

The Kona 3.8km swim

Lucy Charles (before she was married) exits the swim having clocked a women’s course record of 48:14mins at the 2018 Ironman World Champs. (Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman)

Currently held by Jan Sibbersen (46:29) and Lucy Charles-Barclay (48:14), both in 2018. Sibbersen set out to deliberately break the swim record that year and jogged through the marathon.

Josh Amberger, who has a time 40 seconds slower from 2017 and is likely to be the early frontrunner, could target it to help spread the field early and earn him a nice sponsor bonus.

Charles-Barclay looks to be the only one capable of breaking her own record, but it would be the furthest thing from her mind. After three consecutive runner-up spots in Kona, full focus will be on getting top spot.

The Kona 180km bike

Cameron Wurf on his way to the Kona bike course record of 4:09:06 at the 2018 Ironman World Championships. (Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images for Ironman)

Ryf’s record of 8:26:18 from 2018 is 12mins faster than any woman has biked on the Queen K course and probably the only woman capable of lowering it is the Swiss.

Whether that happens will depend as much on the conditions as her form, which – after successes in St. George and the Collins Cup – looks to be approaching her best.

The men’s bike record (4:09:06) is held by Cam Wurf, again in the record-busting race of 2018. Wurf has since spent two years at INEOS Grenadiers and will believe he can chop off more.

His preference would be for a windier day, slower times and bigger gaps, but either way he knows to have any chance of grabbing a podium place he must bike the house down.

The Kona 42.2km run

Patrick Lange finishes third at the 2016 Ironman World Championship, having posted a record run split of 2:39:45. (Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman)

Only one male triathlete lining up makes the top 10 marathon times list in Hawaii and that’s Patrick Lange. The German’s 2:39:45 when he finished third in 2016 is the fastest, and if he wants to land a third Kona title that will probably have to be beaten.

Unlike previous years though, Lange doesn’t look the only one capable. Undoubtedly better aided by shoe technology since our last visit to Hawaii, Blummenfelt and Iden lead a clutch of triathletes capable of running in the 2.30s. If there’s one record likely to go, it’s this one.

On the women’s side Mirinda Carfrae’s 2:50:26 from 2014 is the current mark. Germany’s Haug heads a handful including Philipp and Kat Matthews – who is now out of the race due to a recent accident – who could beat it on their best days, and probably will have to if Ryf is to be deposed.

The overall Kona finishing time 

Daniela Ryf celebrates after setting the course record of 8:26:16 to win the 2018 Ironman World Championships. (Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images for Ironman)

There’s no doubt conditions have been kinder in recent Hawaii races, and if is does blow a hot hoolie then any record times will be blown away, too.

If not, Frodeno’s 7:51:13 time could go if we get head-to-head racing deep into the marathon. The Norwegians seem the most likely, but Lange, Skipper and Ditlev could all be capable.

Ryf’s women’s record of 8:26:18 from 2018 looks a tougher proposition. Five of the top 10 women’s times come from that race, with so much of the damage done through that 4:26:07 bike split.

It’s a reminder of just how formidable the Swiss is at her best, and if it’s a record to go, it’s Ryf that seems the most likely.

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Top image credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for Ironman