Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Who to Watch at the Ironman World Championship

For some, it's been more than a year in the making--qualifiers from Ironman Wisconsin 2009. For others, it's been only a few weeks in comparison--qualifiers from Ironman Louisville 2010 and Ironman Canada 2010 held on August 29. But if you're an Ironman triathlete, or just a triathlete who's into Ironman, all eyes are on this weekend's Ironman World Championship held in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii's Big Island. And not just for watching (or following online) Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington attempt to defend their titles, or hope anxiously that perhaps Chris Lieto and Mirinda Carfrae--the 2009 runners-up for the men and women--can usurp them. Oh no, I've got some locals in mind, or others with random ties (OK, call me a race-result stalker but I honestly only remember their names from races I've run), to follow come Saturday. They'll be running through the streets of Kona in their underpants today at the annual underwear run, fighting through the ocean with 1,800 other competitors, riding up to Hawi and back, traveling the Queen K, and running down Alii Drive toward the finish line. Here are some of those I'll be following online come Saturday (click read more in the lower left corner):

Matthew Ancona. He qualified last year at Ironman Wisconsin and has turned in some top finishes this year on the road to Kona. Ancona was featured in Competitor Chicago earlier in the year, and his podium finishes include a first at the Magellan Spring Half Marathon, second in his age group (third overall) at the High Cliff Half Ironman, first at the Twin Lake Triathlon, third in his age group at Ironman 70.3 Racine, and first in his age group at the Lake in the Hills Triathlon.

Christine Anderson. She qualified last year at Ironman Wisconsin after overcoming a stress fracture earlier in the season. Anderson has racked up numerous top finishes in 2010, even sharing the podium with her older brother Gavin at Hy-Vee. And rumor has it that she suffered a bike crash and broken collarbone earlier in the summer but still managed to race the Chicago Tri and resume training for the big dance.

Mark Beckwith. A coach with Vision Quest Coaching, he qualified at Ironman Louisville.

Slater Fletcher. I met Fletcher when I was at Gordo's Boulder camp at the end of June. This guy is FAST on the bike. And while I wasn't there, and didn't see his time until two months after race day, he made qualifying at the inaugural Ironman St. George seem easy.

Thomas Gerlach. When Gerlach was featured in Competitor Chicago in early 2009, his goal was to qualify for the Ironman World Championship. He's bounced between Chicago and Madison when it comes to living arrangements but he met his goal along the way, qualifying in August at Ironman Louisville then racing even faster two weeks later at Ironman Wisconsin.

Erin Harvego. Another Ironman Wisconsin 2009 qualifier, Harvego had a nasty bike crash back in July but she was determined to do whatever it took to reach Kona. Sounds familiar: at her qualifying race, she lost her nutrition on the bike course when her water bottles popped off.

Angela Kidd. OK, here's where some of that stalking comes into play. I've seen Kidd's name among top results but didn't realize she was heading to Kona until her name popped up on Facebook after I commented on a friend's status. I guess we're friends of friends?

D'Arcy Lynch. Raised in the Chicago area, Lynch called Chicago home until last year when she relocated to Indianapolis. She qualified for the 2010 dance at Ironman Lake Placid in July, marking her fourth consecutive year where she'll be at the World Championship.

Michael Rusin. An attorney in Chicago, Rusin said he got lucky at Ironman Coeur d'Alene to grab a qualifying spot to Kona. I met him in the pool at my gym on Labor Day when the waves in Lake Michigan forced me to finish my two-miler indoors.

Julie Shelley. When Shelley lived in Chicago, she didn't qualify for the World Championships. Since moving to Hong Kong for work, she's qualified twice. Last year she bested Ironman China's hot conditions, then repeated at Ironman Louisville this year.

Heather Smercina. Smercina's competition at Kona is one of amazement. She landed herself in a bad bike crash earlier this year while on a training ride with friends and broke her jaw among other things. But if you can qualify for Kona, you know you want to get there.

Laura Sophiea. This Georgian once lived a few towns down from where I grew up in Michigan. She had swimmer kids, I was a swimmer, and we all crossed paths at meets. And the local paper wrote about this Iron-woman on more than one occasion, so I followed along. She's also pretty darn good at winning her age group at Kona or finishing second.

Adam Zucco. Zucco makes qualifying for Kona look a little easy. He didn't expect to qualify when he did last year and then again this year he'll be treading waters in the ocean waiting for the swim start.

Is someone--pros excluded as I'll be following that race during the day--missing from this list who you think I should be following? Please tell us in the comments. I should also mention I'm rooting for Lew Hollander and Harriet Anderson, the oldest male and female racers, to cross the finish line. And be sure to follow some of these Iron-athletes live on Saturday at ironmanlive.com.

Photo grabbed from M Reza Faisal at flickr.

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