The Rappstar had something to prove to himself and he did on Sunday.
Jordan Rapp, 2009 Subaru Ironman Canada champ, took back his title from 2010 winner Viktor Zyemstev as he crossed the finish line in 8:28:09.
Second-place finisher Torsten Abel of Germany didn’t come through until 13 minutes (8:41:09) later. Belgium’s Bert Jammaer came third in 8:42:34.
As Rapp, who uses the twitter handle @rappstar, walked towards the finish line comfortably, he high-fived the crowd cheering him on. When he finally crossed the line, Rapp grabbed the ribbon with authority and raised it above his head then bent forward momentarily.
Rapp didn’t compete in the event last year after being struck by a vehicle in California while training. Rapp suffered broken bones, including his clavicle and scapula, as well as lacerations to his head and neck.
“It’s good to sort of feel like after everything that happened, I can still win big races and win them convincingly,” he responded when asked what went through his mind as he reached the end. “I think that was more than anything what I really wanted to prove. I think I did.”
Following the swim, which Rapp wasn’t among the top 10, he didn’t waste time on the bike to put himself in contention. Eighteen kilometres into the bike, Rapp was sixth. Near the bottom of Richter’s Pass, he was in second place; then heading into the out-and-back, Rapp took the lead and never gave it up. He had a lead on the bike that grew to three minutes and kept growing.
“I have been running well,” said Rapp, who resides in Penticton half the year with wife Jill Savege and their son. “I feel confident that I can come in on this force and I can put people in an uncomfortable position. I think that’s what I did.”
Asked about Zyemstev, who was seen walking at the 24-km mark and didn’t finish, Rapp said he knew it would be difficult for anyone to close the gap at his pace.
“Especially it being so hot (Environment Canada’s high for Penticton listed at 30.1 degree Celsius) and knowing we were going to have a headwind coming back in, I knew it was going to be a hard for someone to really close out a whole lot of time,” said Rapp, who completed the swim in 53:41, the bike in 4:38:06 and the run in 2:53:17. “I thought I had a good lead coming through the turnaround.”
Going into that wind, Rapp said it’s hard to slow down, but also for the runners to know how much is their own speed.
“It really is so punishing running into the wind like that,” he said.
Mary Ellis of Superior, Colo., set a new women’s record winning in 9:03:13. She broke Erin Baker’s mark of 9:05:28 set in 1990 en route to winning her third consecutive Ironman event this year. Her first win came in Austria. She busted out of the water in 53:36, completed the bike in 4:54:21 and the run, which was the hardest part for her, in 3:12:09.
“The run I suffered today,” said Ellis. “Man it was hot out there, I was just trying to get to the finish line.”
Assisting her in that feat was the crowd. Ellis agreed that they are energizing and said the support is especially helpful the last three miles.
“Everybody cheering. The athletes heading out too were really supportive, which is always nice,” she said.
Ellis, who came out of the water five seconds after defending champ Meredith Kessler (53:31), found the bike course windy. Her strategy was to bike as hard as she could.
“We were biking really fast out because of the tailwind,” she said. “I think we hit 60-km in an hour and a half. I was like oh my gosh. We turned into the headwind and I just tried to work the hills a bit.”
In second place was Kim Loeffler coming in at 9:34:54 and Kessler at 9:37:22. Canada’s Sara Gross was fourth and Vancouver’s Gillian Clayton fifth.
The first Canadian male finisher was Victoria’s Jasper Blake, who finished fifth overall in 8:50:30. Following Blake was Don Mills’ Nigel Gray. Kelowna’s Trevor Wurtele came in eighth at 9:05:19 and Kaleden’s Scott Tremblay was ninth at 9:07:03.
Blake said he was proud of his effort.
“It was a tough day I think for everyone,” said Blake. “We had head winds all the way from Osoyoos. A day like that really exposes my weaknesses, which are power on the bike. It took all my experience and all my patience to just sort of know on the bike I was going as hard as I could even though I was losing so much time.”
While fifth isn’t the same as first, Blake said it felt like “a big victory for me today.”
As for the champ, Blake had nothing but praise.
“The guy is a heck of an athlete,” he said of Rapp. “He’s really rolling the last couple of years. He’s got such a massive weapon on the bike. He’s a great runner now too and he’s a decent swimmer. He really doesn’t have too many chinks in the armour.”
Sister Madonna Buder, the 81-year-old Ironman veteran, narrowly missed the cut on the bike as she was cheered on by announcer Steve King. For full Ironman results, check www.ironman.ca.
Mary Beth Ellis above of Colorado gets high fives from the crowd at the finish line of the Subaru Ironman Canada race Sunday prior to breaking the previous women’s pro division record. Scott Tremblay (below) of Kaleden arrives at the transition area to prepare for the final stage of the race. He finished ninth in his premier pro outing. A total of 2,598 participants completed the 3.8-kilometre swim, 180-km bike and 42.2-km run, while 233 were not able to complete it.