KAILUA-KONA — Patrick Lange didn’t collapse at the finish line of the Ironman World Championship from exhaustion on Saturday.
He collapsed from pure emotion.
For a second consecutive year, Lange set the world’s best benchmark at the storied 140.6-mile race, clocking a course record time of 7 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds, and becoming the first triathlete to break the mythical 8-hour barrier in Kona.
He crushed the previous course record he set last year of 8:01:40 in the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.
The 8-hour barrier has stood at the race for four decades and the aura of the accomplishment is similar to Roger Bannister running the first 4-minute mile.
“It’s overwhelming, to be honest,” Lange said. “It’s just a couple of hours ago and I can’t believe it. I will need some days, weeks, months to finally get it. It’s a dream come true and I can’t put it fully into words.”
The German pro jumped with joy after crossing the finish line, but it wasn’t until he spoke to race announcer Mike Reilly that he would begin to feel a little wobbly — and not from the race.
“I promised myself when I break the course record — Julia, please listen — Julia!” he said to his girlfriend Julia Hofmann, who was waiting in the finishing chute.
Lange got down on one knee and proposed to Hofmann, making the race’s 40th anniversary an occasion no one — especially the newly engaged couple — will soon forget.
After the kiss, the two-time Ironman world champ hit the deck.
“Everything is good,” Lange said with a laugh in the post-race press conference. “When I was starting the run I was thinking about it. It motivated me.”
Oh by the way — she said “yes.”
With the ink not yet dry on Lange’s new record, a determined Daniela Ryf — seeking a fourth consecutive Kona title — was closing in on the finish line at a historic pace.
It was a situation few could have predicted earlier in the day, when she exited the swim in 57:26 — more than nine minutes behind the leader, Lucy Charles.
Before the opening cannon went off in Kailua Bay, Ryf said she suffered a jellyfish sting while treading water.
“It hurt,” Ryf said. “It was not in the best place, on both my arms. I thought worst case, the paddleboarder would take me out.”
She said the sting numbed her arms and she contemplated pulling out of the race.
“I knew there would be young kids watching, and as a champion, you can never give up,” Ryf said.
The Swiss star overcame the early adversity to better her own 2016 course record, stopping the clock in 8:26:16.
“It’s unbelievable, I really can’t believe what happened today,” she said. “It shows to never give up. I’m speechless really.”
On top of the sting, Ryf had to chase down Charles, who had made a bit of history of her own, pounding through the morning swim in 48:13 — a new record. The previous mark of 48:43 had stood for nearly two decades.
Ryf more than made up for the deficit with yet another record on the bike. The “Angry Bird” took 18 minutes off the previous mark, clocking a 4:26:06 on the ride to Hawi and back.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I jumped on the bike and made something happen,” Ryf said. “I just started hammering. If Lucy wasn’t up in front, I wouldn’t have pushed that hard. I have to thank her for getting such a fast time.”
Charles finished runner-up for a second year in a row at 8:36:32, while Anne Haug was third at 8:41:52.
“I guess it felt like déjà vu from last year,” Charles said. “I gave it everything today. I can’t be disappointed. I had nothing left in the end. Daniela and I are getting the best out of each other and it gives me motivation to keep getting better.”
Four women in all broke Ryf’s previous Kona course record (8:46:46) on the stellar day of racing.
“Daniela is changing the game,” said three-time Kona champ Mirinda Carfrae, who won the race in 2010, ‘13, ‘14 but finished fifth on Saturday. “She doesn’t have a weakness. She can swim in the front pack, bike with them men and run a sub three-hour marathon. It’s a little disheartening to be honest.
“The game is changing, so we have to get with it or die.”
On the men’s side, Bart Aernouts (7:56:41) and David McNamee (8:01:09) rounded out the podium. It was the first Kona podium for Aernouts and the second straight bronze for McNamee.
“I always said I wanted to come back to Kona until I have a perfect day,” Aernouts said. “Today felt like a perfect day.”
On a day where records dropped like flies, the conditions — which were very much in question for much of the lead-up — were the difference.
“Madam Pele was with us today,” Lange said. “She gave us probably the best conditions we have ever had at this race. She probably knew this was the 40th anniversary of the best race of the world.”