Gajer_600x400 © Dennis GrombkowskiSunday proved to be a very fast day for the women racing the 2013 Ironman Arizona with the top three – Julia Gajer of Germany, Meredith Kessler of the United States and Michelle Vesterby of Denmark — all finishing in under nine hours. 

From the start 2013 Ironman New Zealand Champion and seventh place Kona finisher Kessler swam as if Arizona was her race to lose pulling away from the lead pack (which included Ironman swim course record holder Amanda Stevens) to a clock a 50:14.  It wasn’t until over three minutes later that Gajer (53:24), Katja Konschak (53:27) and Vesterby (53:30) emerged from the waters of Tempe Town Lake and entered T1.

Kessler, who has competed in all ten editions of Ironman Arizona, maintained her grip on first place throughout the three loop bike and entered T2 first with a 4:45:33 bike split and a new bike course record (Chrissie Wellington set the previous bike course record in 2010 with a 4:47).  Kessler’s record lasted only moments as Vesterby, the 2012 Ironman Lanzarote champion, finished the bike in a blistering 4:42:57.  Ten minutes later Gajer entered T2 in third position with a 4:51:46 and was closely followed by Sarah Piampiano, who also broke Wellington’s bike course record with a 4:46:23.  With three women besting Wellington’s 2010 mark on the bike the question was whether Kessler and Vesterby would have the run legs to hold off Gajer on the marathon.

Heading out onto the run the race became a math problem for Kessler.  Kessler had a ten minute lead on Gajer but Gajer was running about 20 seconds per kilometer faster.  By the 22 kilometer mark Gajer passed Vesterby to take third position and then at the 38 kilometer mark Gajer passed Kessler to take over the lead.  Gajer completed the marathon in a race best 3:02:02 for a total time of 8:52:49 to claim her very first Ironman title.  Kessler, after leading the race for over eight hours, finished in 8:55:47 with a 3:16:05 marathon to take second place (the exact same place as 2012 albeit her 2013 time was 11 minutes faster than her 2012 time of 9:06:41).  Vesterby followed in third in 8:57:24 with a 3:16:43 marathon.  All three women bested Lindsey Corbin’s 2012 race winning time of 9:01:41.  Rounding out the podium were Little Red Racing Triathlete Piampiano in 9:05:57 and Ironman Lake Tahoe Champion Asa Lundström in 9:12:20.


Text by Kelly Gallagher

Photo credit: Dennis Grombkowski | Getty Images

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