Billy Edwards finishing the run (image via Michelle Buczkowski)
I wasn't there, but thanks to friends I was more or less able to keep up with the play-by-play. I know Billy Edwards from interviews with him in his capacity as a coach for the U.S. Naval Academy's triathlon team and the Race Across America. He's fast in the Iron distance and obviously knows how to ride a bike. I wasn't sure how he'd swim or handle a 52.4-mile run, though. Usually cyclists fall off the pace a little in the third stage. He obviously trained hard. Congrats to him.
I had pegged Christian Isakson for the win, especially with his experience in Canada and Hawaii in the bag. Word was that he developed stomach issues as in Hawaii again, though, and it slowed him down on the second and third days. He's due a good race, so if you're going to Hawaii this year and you see his name on the start list, you've got to start thinking that his number is coming up.
Regarding good races, I wonder how the cold snap and winds influenced the racing this past weekend. Billy was the fastest this year, but his time would have only put him in third place at the end of last year's event. Nobody touched Chuck Kemeny's 21:38:32. I thought they'd get closer. People have mentioned there are a few stoplights involved in the second day's ride, but all things being equal that doesn't amount to more than 5 minutes' difference. Comparing Edwards and Kemeny, Chuck is a lot faster on the swim and the run. Billy is about as fast on the bike. He finished Day 1 a little quicker and Day 2 nine minutes behind Chuck's 2014 performance. I might not be giving the traffic lights enough credit.
Billy has already said that he wants to go to Hawaii, but I'm not sure if it will be this year. I think Kemeny is planning to be there, as is Dave Matheson from Canada. It's hard to compare Florida and Canada much beyond the swim (they're both in lakes), and I wouldn't want to diss anyone, but that Day 2 course in Canada is no joke, and Dave posted a much faster time than either Kemeny or Edwards in Florida, and he ran as well as Kemeny on Day 3. I'd say you've got a battle between the record holders brewing, with a potential side drama of an Edwards/Isakson rematch.
There are a couple of x-factors left to consider. Miro Kregar doesn't always race the Ultraman World Championships, but when he does he he turns in a 6:30 double marathon like it's no big deal. Again, course comparisons are a bit apples-and-oranges, but I give the winning difficulty factor to the Hawaiian heat over the Floridian hills. And as fast as Miro swims, he could start Day 3 with a time gap over Dave and Chuck. That's a really great place to be for a guy who's used to crushing the run. I can't say how the bike legs will go, however, because the courses are radically different. Hawaii takes you up the volcano on Day 1 and down it on Day 2, which really skews the perception of effort and speed.
And then there's still any number of surprises that could pop up on the start list.
I don't have anything to say about the women's race yet. I've heard nothing about who has what plans for Hawaii. I am hoping it will be an exciting contest, though. There's plenty of talent in the women's field to race against. Someone just needs to pick up the glove.
Update: As of this morning, both Chuck and Dave have confirmed to me that they've cancelled plans to compete in Hawaii this year. I guess we'll just have to wait until the official start list is published.