When you add up the current fastest swim, bike, and run times by women, you get just a little over 7 hours and 53 minutes. This is why conventional wisdom says that a woman achieving a sub-8 hour time is not a matter of if, but when.
“The world record currently is set by Chrissie Wellington. She went 8 hours, 18 minutes on her own at Challenge Roth, so clearly I think the eight-hour barrier is well within range for the women,” said Ironman legend Mark Allen in his latest Mondays with Mark Allen video podcast episode.
But the six-time Ironman Hawaii winner has calculated that the Pho3nix Sub8 Project, powered by Zwift will provide conditions for an even faster time: 7:33.
Based on Lucy Charles-Barclay’s performances winning the 2021 Ironman 70.3 world championship in St. George as well as her full distance personal record at Challenge Roth in 2019, Allen projected the swim, bike, and run times that she could potentially muster especially with a team of elite pacemakers assisting her throughout the course.
Amanda Stevens swam the fastest-ever full distance swim in 45:04 at the 2012 Ironman Germany.
Allen estimated a more conservative time from Charles-Barclay, saying, “Lucy in a fast swim is going to go around 49 minutes. So if she’s drafting… she’ll go probably 48 minutes.”
Not many female athletes can keep up with the former long-distance open water swimmer; she generally sets the pace and has very rarely had anyone tapping her toes. The question might be: can she even find a female pacemaker for the swim?
The fastest full distance bike split was set by Daniela Ryf in 2018 at Ironman Hawaii, clocking 4:26:07 or an average speed of 25 miles per hour.
“Lucy at Challenge Roth went four hours, 39 minutes… She averaged 24 miles an hour. That’s pretty good on her own; if you add in drafting, generally you’re going to go between two and four miles an hour faster. That means she could potentially average 27 miles an hour for the 112-mile bike ride.” According to Allen, Charles-Barclay could hop off the bike in four hours, nine minutes.
After a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike, the fastest a woman has ever run the concluding marathon is 2:41:57 (set by Kristin Moeller at 2011 Ironman UK). If Charles-Barclay simply equals this time in addition to the swim and bike times estimated by Allen, she would break the tape in 7:38.
But if the conditions are right with fellow Sub8 athlete, two-time Olympic medalist, and formidable marathoner Nicola Spirig on her heels, Charles-Barclay could go even faster.
“Lucy in St. George in the half ironman – a 70.3 world championship – she ran a 1:18 on probably the toughest 70.3 world championship run course ever. So what I’m going to do is just give her double that time for her potential marathon in the Sub8 Project. That would put her in at 2:36. That all adds up to 7 hours, 33 minutes.”
Charles-Barclay’s current personal best over the full distance: 8:31:09. Can she go nearly an hour quicker and Defy the Impossible? That’s what we’re here to find out.