The Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii are less than one week away and my excitement for this event builds with every article I read. Kona is essentially the ultimate dream for triathletes, and is probably the number one reason any of us got into this crazy sport to begin with. The story of most triathletes goes something like this: I was watching the Kona race on TV and thought to myself why can’t I do that. Nobody ever thinks about what it takes to get to the finish of an Ironman race let alone what is involved in actually qualifying for the Ironman World Championships but rather: Why Not Me?
Al Trautwig gives each athlete, professional or amateur, a life bigger than the one we see unfold on race day. We are taken into the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean and then the grueling bike ride and the finish down Ali’i Drive. We are there every step of the way and Trautwig’s voice gives it a heightened sense of appeal. We are practically jumping out of our couch cushions ready to ride those 112 miles.
I know that for me Kona is the ultimate dream. I have no clue on whether or not I can get there but that goal/dream is alive and well inside of me. I find myself talking to Macca and Crowie during my runs. Through the hottest of days here in Texas I envision myself running through the energy lab step for step with Mirinda Carfrae. When I enter the water I am not drafting off of some person I never met before but instead I am swimming stroke for stroke with Andy Potts. This is my Kona and someday it will be the real thing.
And with that it is time to layout the predictions for this upcoming race. The fields are stacked to the brim with talent. Both the Men’s and Women’s races could be the second coming of the Iron War between Allen and Scott. There are so many talented athletes with a real shot at winning this event that when the finish line tape is broken there will not be a surprise because you will say to yourself: Yeah I can see how/why he/she won. They had the talent and a great year leading up to this race.
Here are my predictions for this years Ironman World Championships:
- Chris McCormack
- Craig Alexander
- Jordan Rapp
- Andreas Raelert
- Andy Potts
The easiest thing would be to predict that Crowie wins again and that is not lost on me. The guy is a machine when it comes to Kona and every year he seems to get better and better. The difference to me is that this year Chris McCormack did not race 140.6 mile races but instead tried to make the Australian Olympic Team. What does this mean?
It means that he left the long rides and run and focused his training on getting faster. He already has a base to complete the 140.6 miles at a fast pace so this attention to speed will serve him well I believe. For example, if it comes down to a sprint for the final 5K would you take the guy who has been training at fast speeds or the guy who has been training for long course? Give me the guy whose focus has been on speed.
I believe Jordan Rapp becomes a household name to those outside of the triathlon world. He has won Ironman Texas and Ironman New York this year and seems poised both physically and mentally to challenge the best in the word at Kona. Mr Raelert can never be counted out and maybe this year is the year that he puts it all together to put a charge into the field on the run. Andy Potts is my wild card in the men’s division. I say that because in the past he has not fared that well at this distance but this year he blew up the field at Ironman Lake Placid. He did the same again a few weeks ago at Branson 70.3. He passed up the Toyota US Open Championships this year to focus on Kona and based on his 70.3 Ironman World Championship results I would say he is ready to stay with the big dogs.
- Mirinda Carfrae
- Caroline Steffan
- Rachel Joyce
- Mary Beth Ellis
- Kelly Williamson
With Chrissie Wellington not racing this year the common theme will be: this is anybody’s race. My question is: Is it really? We have seen how well Mirinda can do based on results of the past two years. She is able to track down anybody on the run and that is her strength, but based on reports this year she has really focused her training on becoming a better cyclist.
As we have seen with the men’s field and Crowie last year and McCormack the year before this race can be won on the bike. If Carfrae’s training on the bike pays off she could easily run away with the title this year. But hold on……not so fast my friends. The ladies she is racing against will have something to say about that. They are not slouches and all bring a pretty impressive lifetime and 2012 resume to the party.
Caroline Steffan will be toward the front of the swim and it would not be a surprise to see her heading into T2 with the lead as she is a tremendous athlete on the bike. The one thing that I think that could hurt Steffan is how dominant she has been this year. Having dominated just about every race she entered she is now faced with a difficult course in a difficult climate with the best in the world chasing her down and will she be able to hang onto the lead I believe she will have heading into T2.
The next three are a toss-up. Joyce, Ellis and Williamson have all had terrific racing seasons and truth be told…..anyone of them could win this World Championships this year. Rachel Joyce has been steadily improving her performance at Kona to finish 4th last year and actually passing Steffan in the finisher’s chute. She also brings with her a sub-9 performance at the 140.6 distance at Ironman Melbourne.
Mary Beth Ellis would be the wild card here if not for Kelly Williamson, but Ellis is no slouch. Take a look at her wins this year and you may see a mirror image of Jordan Rapp. Ellis won both Ironman Texas and Ironman New York (as did Rapp) and is well rested heading to the big island this year. The rest may serve her well as she was not well rested going into last year’s event.
Finally, Kelly Williamson…..a local (to Texas that is) athlete who has not raced an Ironman event this year but is on this list because of her ability to run off the bike. She had the fastest run split at the HyVee 5150 Championships as well as the 70.3 World Championships. If you can run then you have a chance and Williamson can run.
That is my take on this awesome event…..what’s yours?