Having stopped twice during the bike portion of the race to repair flat tires, Emilio Aguayo Muñoz came to a decision at Ironman Wisconsin on Sunday.
He was going to Kona or he was going to the hospital.
The 28-year-old Spaniard offered that window into his thinking during the 140.6-mile triathlon minutes after he won his first Ironman event.
With a goal of earning the sole qualifying spot for the 2020 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, that was available Sunday for men’s pro competitors, Aguayo Muñoz was fourth after the 112-mile bike portion of the race.
He entered the run 11 minutes, 28 seconds behind leader Markus Thomschke of Germany and knew he had to push himself to extreme levels that could be hazardous to his health.
“I made a kamikaze decision and it worked, so I’m really happy,” Aguayo Muñoz said. “Kona or hospital. It was Kona this time.”
Aguayo Muñoz was victorious in 8 hours, 34 minutes, 20 seconds. Linsey Corbin won her second straight Ironman Wisconsin women’s pro race and a spot in Kona next year.
Corbin, of Bend, Oregon, took the lead over Canadian Melanie McQuaid more than 60 miles into the bike ride and finished in 9:13:34, more than 15 minutes ahead of McQuaid. Bruna Mahn of Brazil took third and Robin Pomeroy of Verona finished fourth.
As she overtook McQuaid, Corbin offered a comment to her fellow competitor.
“I said, ‘Isn’t this a fun course?’” Corbin said. “And she didn’t say much back to me. I’m like, maybe she doesn’t think this course is as much fun as I do.”
It has been a blast for Corbin, 38, these past two years. She set the course record last year and was only 55 seconds slower Sunday despite cool, windy and occasionally rainy conditions that she said were much tougher.
“The way back on the swim, the long stretch was like a washing machine,” she said.
Like last year, Corbin is only five weeks away from the world championship but decided Ironman Wisconsin was too good to miss. Plus, she had a 10th-place finish at Kona last year after winning Madison.
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She didn’t finish her previous Ironman event on a slog of a June day in Ireland when the swimming portion was canceled and she took a spill during her bike ride.
That made her eighth Ironman victory even sweeter.
“Each one is different, and the motivation for each Ironman I line up for is different every time,” Corbin said. “I just don’t take them for granted anymore. The sport’s getting more and more competitive. I’m appreciative to be out there, and when it does come together and you have a day like today that I had, it’s pretty awesome.”
It was the same for Aguayo Muñoz at the end, but the feeling was quite different when he returned from the 2.4-mile swim in Lake Monona to transition onto the bike and found his front wheel flat. He inflated it but continued to have trouble throughout the ride.
Thomschke held a lead of 9:06 at the start of the marathon, but Aguayo Muñoz made a charge over the first of two running laps. He reached the Capitol only 5:02 behind the leader after 13.1 miles.
After chasing for more than 19 running miles, a weary Aguayo Muñoz decided to go for the pass after the pair turned onto State Street and headed toward the UW campus.
“(I had) no power in my legs in this moment, no chance to fight him,” Thomschke said. “Emilio was a class better today, but I’m really happy with second place.”
Thomschke earned his 13th Ironman podium finish without a victory, finishing 4:04 behind Aguayo Muñoz. Kevin Portmann took third and Madison’s Blake Becker was the top Wisconsinite in sixth.
The 18th Ironman Wisconsin triathlon marked the first time since 2014 that pros of both genders competed. Twenty women and 13 men from the professional ranks were among the more than 2,400 participants.
Having finished third in his Ironman debut in the Canary Islands in May, Aguayo Muñoz originally planned to compete in South Africa next April. But that’s when he’s expecting a child with his girlfriend, prompting a change in his triathlon schedule.
His coach told him Madison offered a good chance to qualify for Kona, and Aguayo Muñoz did so while wearing a Danish krone coin on his right wrist, a present from his girlfriend from their first trip together.
“It’s to make me remember her and the baby,” Aguayo Muñoz said.
With a thumb-in-mouth salute to his child as he crossed the finish line in a light rain on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, he’ll remember his victory in Madison, too.