Categorized | Featured, Multi-sport, Sports

More than 2,000 athletes ready for Ironman

(Photo courtesy of Ironman)

(Photo courtesy of Ironman)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

Now in its 35th year, the Ironman World Championship— long considered the most iconic endurance event in the world — brings together more than 2,000 triathletes to compete in what will be the largest and most international edition of the race in its history.

Set for Saturday, Oct. 12, this year’s World Championship welcomes a field from all 50 U.S. states and 52 countries around the globe, including 53 male and 38 female professionals.

Totaling 140.6-miles along the west coast of the Big Island, athletes will swim 2.4 miles in the Pacific Ocean, cycle 112 miles through the lava fields and run 26.2 miles, with its famed waterfront finish on Alii Drive.

Pete Jacobs, 31, of Australia, the reigning Ironman World Champion, looks to continue his country’s six-year dominance of the men’s race to become the fifth male athlete to repeat as champion.

Despite being an automatic qualifier, Jacobs validated his Kona slot by winning the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt in July, and most recently finished second at Ironman 70.3 Philippines in August.

“I am lot more relaxed and confident this year than I was last year,” Jacobs said. “I’m back here physically and mentally stronger than last year, and I’m very aware of the position that puts me in.”

He said he learned a lot about the course and the race during last year’s winning effort.

“It is coming out of the energy lab is where the race is won or lost at,” he said. “It is hot, and the uphill coming out takes it out of you.”

Jacobs will be challenged by 40-year-old fellow countryman Craig Alexander, who is the 2008, 2009 and 2011 Ironman World Champion. His 2011 title also earned him a slot in the record books as the oldest men’s winner in the history of the race.

Racing injured last year, Alexander finished 12th and will be looking to take home his fourth world title in what could be his final attempt.

After kicking off the 2013 season by taking third at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne, Alexander has picked up wins at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, Ironman 70.3 Kansas and Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens.

At Thursday’s press conference, Alexander indicted this will be his final year competing for the Ironman title, although he hasn’t ruled out racing in Kona again.

“I am in shape, I feel good, but it is how you go on Saturday that counts,” Alexander said. “I will be still racing next year, but this year is likely my last appearance here in Kona. You never say never, but …”

Last year’s second place finisher, Andreas Raelert, 37, of Germany, is another major contender in this year’s World Championship, and is perhaps the most consistent athlete in the world over the past four years in Hawaii, finishing either second or third in all four races.

Other men to watch:

* Sebastian Kienle – 29, Germany, fourth place finish in his Ironman World Championship debut in 2012

* Eneko Llanos – 36, Spain, 2013 Ironman Asia-Pacific Champion and Ironman European Champion

* Faris Al-Sultan – 35, Germany, 2005 Ironman World Champion; since 2003 has finished among the top seven in Hawaii on five occasions

* Frederik Van Lierde – 34, Belgium, a veteran of the sport who is coming off of his best performance in Hawaii 2012 with a second place finish

* Andy Potts – 36, USA, 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and former Olympian had his best performance ever in Kona last year, finishing as the top American in seventh place

The women’s field in Kona welcomes a stacked roster of talent with reigning champion Leanda Cave, 35, representing Great Britain, leading the pack.

With a hamstring injury slowing her down for much of the summer, the Welsh veteran looks to regain the momentum from her 2012 season, when she won both the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Championship and also earned titles at Ironman 70.3 Miami and the prestigious Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.

“I’ve seen a lot of people who’ve raced strong all year come here and totally crumble,” she said. “I probably don’t have the same bike miles in my legs but this course lends itself to my strengths.”

Cave will be challenged by 2012 runner-up Caroline Steffen, 35, representing Switzerland, who was bested by Cave in Kona last year with just two miles left on the run.

Steffen, who has been one of the busiest athletes in the sport over the past three years, was dominant on the bike in Kona last year, finishing the trip to Hawi and back more than five minutes faster than Cave and third-place finisher Mirinda Carfrae.

Carfrae, 32, Australia, is the 2010 Ironman World Champion and is looking to become the first Aussie woman to win multiple Kona crowns. She already owns the 2010 world crown and lower the women’s run record each of her first three visits to Kona.

“I found a way to put the puzzle together (in 2010), and I found what works,” she said. “Hopefully, I continue to make it work.”

Back with coach Siri Lindley after 18 months apart, Carfrae also will be one of the first pros to ride Felt’s new integrated aero superbike.

“They’re at home waving a magic wand over it,” she said.

Carfrae’s third place finish last year was down to a lost nutrition bottle early in the bike leg. She said was unable to make up the nutrition and learned that she needs a ‘Plan B.’

This year’s plan, she said, is “drink, drink, drink.”

Another contender is Mary Beth Ellis, who has a perfect 8-for-8 record in Ironman races not in Kona and is still recovering from a broken collarbone.

Ellis flipped off her bike during a training ride Sept. 9 and now has several plates and screws holding the collarbone together.

Other women to watch:

* Natascha Badmann – 46, Switzerland, six-time Ironman World Champion and the first European woman to win in Kona in 1998

* Meredith Kessler – 34, USA, newcomer who has already placed herself among the best Ironman athletes in the world; picked up wins at Ironman New Zealand, Ironman 70.3 St. George, Ironman 70.3 Vineman and Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens

* Heather Wurtele – 34, Canada, third race in Kona in 2013 and poised for a breakthrough; set a new course record en route to winning Ironman Coeur d’Alene

* Rachel Joyce – 35, UK 2013 Ironman Texas Champion and 2011 Ironman Lanzarote Champion

* Linsey Corbin – 32, USA, won Ironman Arizona last November and 2013 Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant

Further back in the field, among the age-groupers, will be two names familiar to fans of football and reality TV. Retired Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay will be on the start line hoping to hear those words:
‘You are an Ironman.’

Ward, also a former “Dancing With the Stars” champion, has been training with triathlon legend Paula Newby-Fraser and knocked out a 5:53:18 at a qualifying race in Kansas.

“It’s truly an honor for me to be here and take it all in. The training is going really well. I’ve done everything coach Paula has asked me to do,” he said. “I had no idea what it would take to be an endurance athlete. Not a day goes by when I don’t ask myself what I was thinking.”

Ward said the training curve was quite steep, but he’s loving his new quest.

“When I first started it was raining one day and I even asked Paula if I should be running in the rain. I never thought I could run further than a mile. This has been a life-changing experience for me. I am happy about the process,” he said. “I’ve learned so much. Seeing the professional men and women – I am just in awe.”

Meanwhile, Ramsay also is thrilled to be in Hawaii.

“You step off the plane and you literally start crapping yourself. I’ve done marathons and ultra marathons, but nothing at this level. Humbling. It’s really exciting – a dream come true,” Ramsay said. “The only way I got here was when I told my wife that we were coming back to Hawaii to renew our vows – we got married here. I just didn’t tell her I was going to do the marathon.”

Ramsay said he has a new appreciation for triathletes.

“I have been as passionate in my training as I have been in my career. I am taken aback by the amount of support and everything that is required to make this happen,” he said.

However, it’s tough for him to keep him mind off food.

“When I was swimming all I could think about was lunch,” he said. “Those fish looked gorgeous.”

Underpants Run

List of Hawaii triathletes





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