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Defending Champs Fall Short in Ironman Triathlon

May 7, 2006 – Three seemed to be the unlucky number as last year's male and female winners both came in third in Sunday's 18th annual St. Croix Ironman 70.3 Triathlon.
In major upsets in both divisions, Craig Alexander bested 2005 winner Shane Reed, while four-time St. Croix winner Joanna Ziegler gave up the top spot to Mirinda Carfrae.
Alexander and Carfrae each took home a $50,000 purse.
The triathlon — a test of physical and mental endurance which includes a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike and a 13-mile run — is an official qualifier for the 2006 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Alexander, who hails from Australia, had an overall time of 4 hours, seven minutes and 44 seconds. Second place went to Cameron Brown of New Zealand with a time of 4:07:55. Defending champion Reed, also from Australia, came in third with an overall time of 4:09:18. Richie Cunningham took fourth place with a time of 4:14:02.
It was a comeback win for Alexander, who won the St. Croix Half Ironman back in 2003 with an overall time of 4:08:13. In that race, Alexander was followed by Reed in second place and Cunningham in third.
Alexander sauntered over the finish line carrying his 12-month-old daughter, Lucy, who was handed to him by his wife, Nerida, as he neared the winner's tape.
"I passed Cameron late in the race," Alexander said. "Then he took up the pace and we went head to head."
Alexander had the best time in the run portion of the race; Reed had the best time in the swim, while Brown had the best bike time.
At the finish line Brown said he had a "steady run" and that the course was not as hot as last year but still "pretty grueling."
Brown said he did not go into the race at his best because he and his wife had a baby six weeks ago and he's been "changing nappies."
Reed, who was the first competitor to scale "The Beast" — the 0.7-mile-long stretch of highway that features a 600-foot climb with an average grade of 14 percent and a maximum grade of 18 percent — said it was an "exhausting" race.
"I would have liked to get the win," he said.
Reed was taken to the triage tent where medical personnel were seen tending to several blisters that had formed on his feet.
Women's division winner Mirinda Carfrae, who crossed the finish line with a time of 4:30:13, described the event as "a dream race."
After crossing the finish line, Carfrae took a few minutes to catch her breath – and to take off her sneakers. Her feet were bleeding in several places, because, as she said, she chose to run without socks.
"I'll make sure I put them on after today," Carfrae said. "It's a small price to pay."
Canadian Lisa Bentley, with an overall time of 4:39:38, was the second woman to finish. Bentley said that although the seas were choppy, the race "was a huge improvement" in her skill set.
Ziegler, who dominated the women's Ironman race for the past four years, expressed her disappointment at a third-place finish.
"I don't think I had the fitness I had in previous years," she said. "That one really hurt today."
Ziegler had the best women's time in the swim, while Carfrae came in first in the bike and the run.
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