Observations from the Women’s Only Ironman World Championship

I had some hesitation about going to Kona which was fueled by various reasons, but I set aside my personal ambivalence to be present on the ground and support my athletes who had earned their ticket to the big show.

Throughout the entire week, the spotlight of the triathlon world illuminated the incredible achievements of our female athletes, and they truly shone brightly! Despite skepticism and doubters, many questioned whether the women could rise to the challenge. Well, the answer was a resounding “Hell yes!” Every single woman not only met the swim cutoff, but a remarkable 97.2% of them also crossed the finish line within the 17-hour cutoff window. This astonishing success rate speaks volumes about the incredible toughness and determination of women in the sport.

The atmosphere on the island was electric, with countless women proud to be there, brimming with confidence as they tackled the challenge, and bringing their fellow endurance sisters along for the journey. It was like stepping into a world of empowerment, and while I cringe at the “Barbi land” reference, I now understand it. It was a place where supportive women took center stage, kicking ass, with the men cheering them on from the sidelines. It was good to see supportive partners and dads in the mix as well, great to see them stepping up and supporting on the sidelines.

At the sharp end of the race, the pace was as blistering as ever, and the women on the podium were as kick-ass as in any other year. Watching the pro race unfold, it was crystal clear why this needed to happen. The helicopter was Lucy’s alone, not just following the men and then the women. The finisher chute was hers alone, and boy, did she earn it.

While the expo had a different vibe, it was more than fine; it wasn’t tampons and tutus. Yes, there were battle braids and nails, but there were also incredible brands bringing great product to the racers. The women brought their own unique flair to the event, making it a sight to behold.

One noticeable area of difference was the equipment level, with a higher percentage of rim brakes, lower percentages of power meters, older bikes, but a rainbow of colors on the pier.  This mirrors what I often see with couples, where the man has a top-end bike while the woman has a lower-level one. In my own household, it’s the opposite, which is likely not surprising!

This is the future of Ironman, with more women racing on the big stage! The once seemingly unreachable Kona is now within reach, whether it’s Nice or Kona itself. When NBC airs the IMWC show, I believe many more women will watch and think, “I want to qualify,” rather than “I’ll never be good enough to go.”

So, I challenge every woman with the desire to race at a World Championship level: say it out loud, make a plan, hire a coach, choose the right race, and go all in! You only live once—YOLO!

Julie Dunkle

CO-FOUNDER, COACH, CHIEF MARKETING MAESTRO / Julie is the badass; the ultimate leader. Her self-belief is contagious. You’ll want to rally behind her, and you’ll feel her rally behind you.