At age 40 IRONMAN has seen many eras. There was the origins with John Collins. The bridge from fun to race happened with Dave Scott in the ’80’s.
Paula Newby-Fraser put the bar for women in the stratosphere with her eight-victories in the late 80’s and early ’90’s. Natasha Badmann answered back and set another dynasty with a string of six IRONMAN World Championship titles. I was in the mix for many of those same years, lowering the world mark three times in six victories..
Most recently the invincible Chrissie Wellington and now the current record holder Daniela Ryf continued the charge to set new standards. 2017 saw the men’s record fall at the hands and feet of Germany’s Patrick Lange, taking things ever so close to break 8-hour barrier in Kona. And there was another relative newcomer last year, who I think is going to be the game changer for years to come. Her name is Lucy Charles from the UK.
Originally a swimmer, Lucy made a seamless transition into triathlons. In 2015 she won the 18-24 age group at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Zell am See-Kaprun, Austria and then again at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona.
After the race in Hawaii she applied for a pro license, but had it rejected because she didn’t meet the UK requirements to be within 8% of the winner, who was Daniela Ryf. Even though Lucy crushed her age group coming in around a half-hour ahead of second place, it would take until 2016 before a review finally bumped her up to pro.
Lucy Charles raced Kona for her second time in 2017. This time she was in the big leagues.
She’d cut her teeth in Kona 2015. then further sharpened her experience at IRONMAN Lanzarote in both 2016 and 2017, finishing 3rd and 1st respectively. But even though that course is perhaps the most physically demanding IRONMAN on earth, there is no race with as much overall demand and pressure as the IRONMAN in Hawaii.
Her goal was simple: Race Hard.
“I’d been to Kona twice before, I won the 18-24 age group in 2015 and I watched my partner Reece [Barclay] race in 2016. I guess you could say I knew what to expect in terms of the climate and the atmosphere.”
“My personal expectations were that I was going to race hard as I always do whilst also trying to enjoy the experience.”
She wasn’t flying too low under the radar though. The press was keen to reveal a new true threat and they found it in Lucy Charles.
“Leading into the race was the most intense, exciting and media filled ten days of my life, it was a whirlwind for me.”
Lucy crushed the swim with a 48:48 split. That gave her a 4:22 buffer on Ryf. Daniela pulled back 3:09 of it on the bike. Ryf eventually did what she came to do, which was to win. But Charles held tough to finish in second place. And that, in my opinion, is what makes this so deserving of a 40-Greatest Moment at IRONMAN.
At 24-years of age, Lucy placed second in her first IRONMAN World Championship as a pro. She’s only beginning her curve to what will eventually be her ultimate performance. And she handled the pressure way beyond her years, which is a huge key ingredient in Hawaii.
“The race itself was incredible, I couldn’t have predicted I could put together a performance like I did. The best part was that I was able to soak up the atmosphere and the crowd’s energy.”
“I will never forget running down the red carpet in Kona and seeing the faces of my family and friends. I have never been so emotional on a finish line before.”
“The race definitely cemented a confidence within me. I have been in this sport since 2014 and I feel I am continuing to learn and grow as an athlete. Kona 2017 was a real turning point for me. I have big goals within this sport and now I have the belief that I can achieve them.”
Her finish time? A sub-9 hour performance! She posted a blistering 8:59:38.
“Time targets weren’t something I was focusing on last year. I went sub-9 hours in July 2017 on a slightly shortened course at Ironman European Championships. So I knew it was something I was capable of.”
“Going under 9-hours in Kona wasn’t even something I had thought about, though. I would have been satisfied with a top ten finish! So to make a top-three podium finish was a dream scenario.”
Lucy shared her thoughts with the press just moments after her professional debut and an incredibly fast second place finish:
As spectators we saw the future of the sport in her performance. Lucy Charles is the real deal. And even she knows she’s just beginning!
“I am a natural born competitor, I’ve never known anything else. Coming second to one of the best ever was probably the best case for me. It has given me the motivation to go away and work even harder towards that top spot.”
To see what Lucy is up to these days, click HERE.
I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.