The pro women produced a thrilling race from start to finish in Kona on Thursday, battling it out over 140.6 miles. American Chelsea Sodaro ultimately ran to the win, with Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay behind her in second and 2019 world champ Anne Haug of Germany placing third. Fresh off their incredible performances, the top women spoke to the press in Kona on Thursday evening, detailing how they felt in the build-up to the race and what was going through their minds throughout the day.
1st American in 2 decades ??@ChelseaSodaro, you are incredible! Congratulations on winning the 2022 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship.
— IRONMAN Triathlon (@IRONMANtri) October 7, 2022
Thursday was not only Sodaro’s first time racing in Kona, but also just the second Ironman of her career. She has had success on the 70.3 circuit (including a fourth-place finish at the 2019 worlds in Nice, France), but racing as a rookie in Kona is an entirely different beast. While Sodaro had never taken to the race course in an official setting before, she has put in a lot of training on the Big Island, which she says she believes helped her on Thursday.
“This is my sixth time coming to the island,” she says. “I know the course. I know how the conditions feel.” Most recently, Sodaro spent two weeks in September training in Kona. After many hard run sessions during that stay, she arrived in Hawaii this time around ready to attack the course on race day.
“I have been so nervous all week,” she says. “I think I knew something special could happen, because I’ve prepared so well.” In the end, Sodaro’s race turned out to be “one of those magical days” that most athletes can only dream of experiencing. The swim started well, and she exited the water in sixth place.
“I really had fun with it on the swim,” she says. “The bike was a different story, and Sodaro says the first chunk of the ride didn’t feel great. “It took a good 10 or 15K to catch the group in front of me. But I think that was a good decision, because I was able to settle in and follow the pace a bit.”
By the time she was leaving T2, Sodaro was in fourth place and gunning for the three women in front of her. “I kept trying to slow down the first 10K,” she says. “My coach told me to go out at 3:55 per kilometre pace. I did not follow that direction very well.” Soon enough, she had passed everyone in front of her, and she spent the final 30K in the lead.
“I can’t believe I didn’t freak out or panic,” Sodaro says. “I think that I just really trusted my training and I trusted that once I was able to settle in and relax into a more sustainable rhythm that I would be fine.” She turned out to be way more than just fine, as she continued to grow her lead over Charles-Barclay and Haug, eventually crossing the line in 8:33:46, almost eight full minutes ahead of second place.
“I can’t quite believe it,” she says.
The battle for second
For Charles-Barclay, simply toeing the start line in Kona was a win. Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her hip, and she didn’t think she’d be racing at all in 2022.
“A specialist told me to write off this year and focus on next year,” she says. “Today definitely exceeded my expectations. We didn’t know if it would be possible.” Despite all of the uncertainty she experienced leading up to the race, Charles-Barclay didn’t appear to be slowed down at all by her injury. She kicked the day off in typical fashion, opening up a lead right from the start of the swim.
She exited the water with a 40-second lead over the first chase pack. On the bike, Charles-Barclay swapped leads with fellow Brit Fenella Langridge for most of the ride, but in the final 10K, five-time world champion Daniela Ryf caught the pair. This was not a surprise to Charles-Barclay, and she says her “main goal on the bike” was to stick with Ryf when she eventually caught her. She did just that, and heading onto the run, Ryf’s lead was only a matter of seconds.
After T2, Charles-Barclay says she “felt the strongest I’ve felt starting the run here.” She caught Ryf in the first few hundred metres, but she says she knew her lead wasn’t safe. “I could see that Chelsea was running incredibly strong. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can hold that off, but I just have to stick to my race plan.'” Much like Sodaro, Charles-Barclay did well to not panic, and she executed her plan perfectly.
“I felt the strongest I’ve ever felt throughout the whole race in terms of a constant energy level throughout the whole day,” she says. In the latter stages of the marathon, Haug closed in on Charles-Barclay, but the Brit had enough left in the tank to earn her fourth straight second-place finish in Kona.
“It was just about trying to hold off Annie at the end,” she says. “She’s an incredibly strong runner. I was just really proud to hang on for second at the end.”
The men’s race will be held on Saturday, with the action set to kick off at 6:25 a.m. local time.