Just when you think you're tough enough


Germans Patrick Lange and Julia Gajer dominate 2016 IRONMAN North American championships

Patrick Lange win the 2016 Ironman North American Championship in his debut. (Ironman.com)
Patrick Lange win the 2016 Ironman North American Championship in his debut. (Ironman.com)

Patrick Lange and Julia Gajer battle the heat to become 2016 IRONMAN North American champions.

First-time IRONMAN competitor Patrick Lange kept a consistent pace in the humidity at the 2016 Memorial Hermann IRONMAN North American Championship, Texas, and came out on top, earning himself a championship title and an automatic slot to the IRONMAN World Championship.

Fellow German Julia Gajer faced some timing chip troubles on the bike, but made her way to first place on the run and never let it go.

Ironman debut win for Patrick Lange

Warm water temperatures in the low 80’s greeted athletes, making the race a non-wetsuit swim. Clemente Alonso-Mcker (ESP) was first out of the water for the men with a time of 48:43, followed by Barrett Brandon (USA), Harry Wiltshire (GBR), Jeremy Jurkiewicz (USA), and Andrew Starykowicz (USA) all within nine seconds.
Starykowicz entered T2 with a comfortable 14:23 lead on the bike while Jordan Rapp (USA) came out second with others chasing closely. The challenging technical course landed quite a few pros in the penalty tent before making it to T2.

Heading into the run, it looked like no one would be able to catch Starykowicz, but as he reached a turnaround point near the seven mile marker he re-aggravated a pinched nerve and began to walk.

Lange was 6:53 behind as he reached the third run split at Lake Robbins, but passed Starykowicz before the fourth split. From there, the German would go on to extend his lead to over eight minutes before he crossed the finish line, claiming the North American championship in his first IRONMAN attempt.

Lange joins the likes of Tim Don, Brett McMahon, and Jesse Thomas as athletes who finished in first place during their IRONMAN debut:

“Never, ever did I think I’d win. I can’t believe it, I was hoping for top ten,” Lange said after the race.

Julia Gajer win the women's title at the 2016 Ironman North American Championship
Julia Gajer win the women’s title at the 2016 Ironman North American Championship (Ironman.com)

Speedy Gajer wins on the run

Lauren Brandon (USA) maintained a big lead from early on in the swim and through the entire bike. She clocked the fastest swim of the day for the women and the men with a time of 48:32—also the fastest time of any female at this event. Alicia Kaye (USA) finished the swim in second at 3:53 back, and Rebekah Keat (AUS) clocking a 53:40.

Brandon followed up her impressive swim by smashing the bike course and taking a six-minute lead into the run. Julia Gajer (DEU) had the second-fastest bike of the day (4:01:44), and was alone coming out of T2. A small pack including Jocelyn McCauley (USA), Keat, and Kaye were roughly three minutes behind her.

Gajer plugged away on the run, closing the gap from 6:03 to 4:02 by the first mile. By the second mile, she had Brandon in her sights with less than a minute between them. She passed Brandon around the 5-mile mark, after which Brandon would continue to fall back in the run and end up finishing 12th.

Pushing her way through the rest of the marathon, Gajer maintained her lead to take her first regional IRONMAN championship. She’s no stranger to the podium though, having placed second at the 2015 IRONMAN European Championship, and winning her first IRONMAN in Arizona in 2013.

After battling the Texas humidity all day, Gajer was speechless as she crossed the finish line:

“I don’t have any words. The crowd kept pushing me forward, I couldn’t have done it without them—I left it all out there.”

Read more on  Ironman.com