Iden, who in 2019 became the youngest Ironman 70.3 World Champion ever at age 23 and recently repeated his title, had already proven himself at shorter distances. After finishing top-10 at the Tokyo Olympic Games in July, he set his sights on the full Ironman distance. Iden had originally targeted Ironman California, but when that race was cancelled due to weather he pivoted to the Florida race.
The Norwegian started his day in Panama City Beach battling choppy conditions in the 2.4-mile swim. He came on strong on the second of two swim laps, closing the gap to a lead group and hitting the transition to the bike in first position. Canadian Lionel Sanders eventually took over the lead on the bike, but Iden, riding his Giant Trinity Advanced Pro with a CADEX Aero WheelSystem, stayed close to the front, turning in a time of 4:05:11 over 112 miles.
After a few miles on the run, it was clear that it would be a two-man duel for the win between Iden and Sanders. “I was hoping for Lionel to either go past me or drop off, because I couldn’t imagine fighting all the way to the finish with him because that would be too much,” Iden said.
The two stayed together until about 10 miles to go, when Iden upped the pace and Sanders couldn’t respond. Iden went on to post an incredible marathon time of 2:34:51, breaking the old course record by 1:17.
When asked afterward if he will continue to focus on the 140.6-mile Ironman distance, Iden said he’ll take time to consider it. “I think everybody after their first Ironman says ‘I’m never going to do this again.’ I kind of feel that way now, it was too hard for me. Give me a couple hours and then maybe I change my mind, but right now, no this is too much.”
Either way, whichever distance he decides to target in 2022, Iden sent a signal that he’ll continue to be one to watch at any triathlon event.