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Daniela Ryf overcomes jellyfish stings, breaks Ironman Kona course record by 20 minutes

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Two minutes before the 6:40 a.m. start of Ironman Kona, three-time champion Daniela Ryf felt something unusual during her warm-up drills in Kailua Bay.

“Jellyfish under my armpits on both sides sting me,” Ryf said in a Triathlete.com video interview. “Yeah, it was a bit of a shock. I was like, oh no. I tried to convince myself this didn’t happen.”

It’s just about the worst place to get stung before Saturday’s 2.4-mile swim. Ryf said it was “very painful” to make it out of the water in 57 minutes, 26 seconds, more than nine minutes behind the race leader.

She made up the deficit on Brit Lucy Charles on the 112-mile bike and ended up winning her fourth straight Ironman world title after the marathon run. Ryf prevailed by 10 minutes in 8:26:18, shattering her course record by 20 minutes in perfect, windless weather.

Ryf came “very, very close” to quitting in the water. She was surprised to find that she wasn’t in last place going into the bike.

“I really didn’t know if I’m going to make it, actually, if I’m going to just drown,” Ryf said in a Triathlonworld.com video interview. “I could barely lift my arms and they start to get numb.”

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Ryf, a Swiss who converted to distance triathlons after finishing 40th at the 2012 Olympics, was asked the next morning how she treated the stings once she got out of the water and into the transition zone.

“I’m not sure if I should tell you that because there’s two things you can do,” she said in a video interview with triathlon historian Bob Babbitt. “You can put vinegar on it. They didn’t have vinegar in that tent. I did some, how do you call it?”

Did you pee on it, Babbitt asked her.

“I improvised,” Ryf said, averting the question.

The sting may have caused Ryf to miss her goal of finishing within 30 minutes of the men’s winner. German Patrick Lange was 33:49 faster in shattering his men’s course record by nine minutes.

But as Ryf swam, she lowered her expectations, thinking about finishing in up to 15 hours.

“I just wanted to get out of that water and, hopefully, it would burn a bit less if I don’t need my arms anymore [on the bike and run],” she said.

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VIDEO: Lange wins Ironman, proposes to girlfriend

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Patrick Lange wins Kona Ironman World Championship, first to break 8 hours, proposes to girlfriend

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German Patrick Lange became the first triathlete to break 8 hours at a Kona Ironman World Championship, repeating as winner of the 140-mile endurance test in Hawaii on Saturday. Then he proposed to his girlfriend.

“Amazing, but, but, I promised myself when I break the course record — Julia, please listen,” Lange said in a finish-line interview, looking about 20 feet away at girlfriend Julia Hofmann. “Yeah, I think I have to go there.”

Lange walked to her, knelt, clasped his hands together and said, “Julia, do you want to marry me?”

Lange, 32, broke the tape in 7 hours, 52 minutes, 39 seconds, after a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon run. He lowered the course record he set last year of 8:01:40.

Belgian Bart Aernouts was second, 4:02 behind, followed by Brit David McNamee.

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When Lange crossed the line, Swiss Daniela Ryf was on pace to shatter her female course record and win a fourth straight title. She crossed in 8:26:16, taking 20 minutes, 30 seconds off the mark she set in 2016.

Only Brit Chrissie Wellington has covered any Ironman course in a faster time, and only at the Roth Challenge, known to be the fastest Ironman course in the world, according to tri247.com. (The men’s world record (7:35:39) was also set at Roth, by German Jan Frodeno, the 2015 and 2016 Kona winner who missed this year’s event with a hip injury.)

Ryf, who finished seventh and 40th in two Olympic triathlons, rallied from a deficit of 9:13 after Saturday morning’s swim, saying after that she got stung by a jellyfish. She was in the lead by the end of the bike, shattering the female course record on two wheels by 18:12.

“I thought I couldn’t lift my arms anymore,” Ryf said of the sting after clocking a time that would have won the men’s division as recently as 2004. “I thought I’m going to quit.”

Brit Lucy Charles was second, 10:16 behind, followed by German Anne Haug.

Sarah True, a two-time U.S. Olympian who finished fourth at London 2012, was in third place halfway through the marathon in her Kona debut but later walked at aid stations and ended up fourth. Her time — 8:43:42 — was also faster than Ryf’s previous course record from 2016.

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2018 Kona Ironman World Championship results

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2018 Kona Ironman World Championship top-10 and notable results (full searchable results here) …

Pro Men
1. Patrick Lange (GER) — 7:52:39 (Course Record)
2. Bart Aernouts (BEL) — 7:56:41
3. David McNamee (GBR) — 8:01:09
4. Tim O’Donnell (USA) — 8:03:17
5. Braden Currie (NZL) — 8:04:41
6. Matt Russell (USA) — 8:04:45
7. Joe Skipper (GBR) — 8:05:54
8. Andy Potts (USA) — 8:09:34
9. Cameron Wurf (AUS) — 8:10:32
10. Michael Weiss (SUI) — 8:11:04
11. Javier Gomez (ESP) — 8:11:41
28. Lionel Sanders (CAN) — 8:30:34
32. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) — 8:38:48
DNF. Sebastian Kienle (GER)

Notable Age-Group Men
Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) — 9:13:38 (2012 Olympic road race champion)
Laurent Jalabert (FRA) — 9:30:39 (rode 11 Tours de France)

Pro Women
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 8:26:16 (Course Record)
2. Lucy Charles (GBR) — 8:36:32
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:41:57
4. Sarah True (USA) — 8:43:42
5. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) — 8:50:44
6. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 8:52:29
7. Kaisa Sali (FIN) — 8:54:26
8. Angela Naeth (CAN) — 8:57.34
9. Corinne Abraham (GBR) — 8:57:54
10. Linsey Corbin (USA) — 8:58:57

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VIDEO: Lange proposes to girlfriend after breaking 8-hour barrier