Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Who to Watch and Follow at the Ironman World Championship 2012

Oh, Kona. Credit: seanhagen
Chrissie Wellington has taken the year off from competition. Lance Armstrong is out--as we've all known for months. But there's way more to the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, than those two buzzwords. I could name a few more--Crowie, Chris Lieto, Macca, Mirinda Carfrae, Linsey Corbin, Meredith Kessler--except those names aren't enough to fire me up. I'm equally--maybe even more so--excited to track some of the age-groupers competing in the Ironman World Championship. Sure, it's tough to make it to the Big Island's big show regardless of your status--pro or amateur--but it's pretty inspiring when you recognize some of the competitors as your lane mates, camp buddies, team mates or neighbors.

Much like the list I jotted down last year, here's who I'll be following at the 2012 Ironman World Championship on October 13. And thank goodness I don't have a marathon to run the following day--I can stay up as late as I want to watch the live stream.

Dave Bartoszewski. His mom qualified for next year's World Championship at Ironman Wisconsin last month but turned it down. He qualified for Kona at Ironman Wisconsin last year.

Madonna Buder. How can you not love an 82-year-old nun who races triathlons? If Sister Madonna finishes Saturday's race, she'll be the oldest woman to finish the Ironman World Championship. And even if she doesn't, WTC had to create the W80+ category just for her, and she'll be the oldest female to start the race.

Patrick Chalmers. Could a trip to Kona be a birthday gift? This Barrington triathlete qualified for Kona at Ironman Louisville, which coincidentally fell right around his birthday.

Daniel Dziubski. Endure It!'s Dziubski has been waiting 13 months for this trip to Kona--he qualified at Ironman Wisconsin last year. But he's no stranger to the Big Island--it's been four years since his last trip to the World Championship.

Mary Beth Ellis. And I thought Ellis was having a good 2011. This Northwestern alum racked up even more victories in 2012--and now I'm really singing the NU fight song in hopes that she can make it to the podium on Saturday.

Ryan Frederickson. He has yet to graduate college, but one look at his bio and you'll know this Chicago-area native who's currently attending Purdue is a force to be reckoned with. At 21, he was fastest amateur at Ironman 70.3 Racine, he won the 18-24 age group at Ironman Texas, and he's finished second overall at a handful of races. Oh yeah, and he's part of the Well-Fit contingent competing.

Amy Gluck. Unfortunately this Michigan triathlete won't be treading water in the bay waiting for the swim start. Gluck, who is top competitor in her age group and a bit of a regular in Kona, was hit by a semi truck a few weeks ago and placed in a medically induced coma. The triathlon community is hoping she pulls through!

Tom Goth. Two years and two trips to Kona? I should have been better about pacing off him at the Boulder Endurance Corner camp two years ago--maybe some of his speed would have rubbed off.

Adrienne Hengels. Hengels used to live in the Chicago area and first went to Kona in 2009 after qualifying at the 2008 Ironman Wisconsin. Then she moved to California to open up a second branch of her Power of Your Om yoga studios, and started being atop the leaderboard at races out there. A trip to Hawaii earlier in the year for the Honu 70.3 gave her a Kona slot. Lucky!

Lew Hollander. He's a month older than Sister Madonna, but neither of them look their 82 years. What's equally as impressive is that Hollander has been here--and finished--several times. He's to hoping he can do it again, for what will I think be his 24th finish (I better watch last year's NBC coverage to verify that).

Steve Johnson. Big oops on my part: I overlooked tracking Johnson until after the 2011 race. That was a big mistake because the former Chicagoan who now calls Boulder home finished third in one of the toughest age groups out there. Yeah, he's fast!

Danielle Kehoe. She doesn't have a Chicago connection, but I'm fascinated by Kehoe's triathlon talent. In 2011, she was the only woman--even counting the pros--to finish the three triathlon world championships: Ironman, Ironman 70.3 and Xterra. And she wasn't slow at any of them. Scary to think what'll happen when she turns pro next year. (Update 10/25/12: Kehoe's final amateur race was Kona).

Erin Kersten. This Well-Fitter is a Penticton master. Kersten qualified for Kona yet again by racing Ironman Canada.

Russ Kuryk. Here's another Well-Fit team member racing on the Big Island this year. He qualified last year at Ironman Wisconsin, and rather than wait until this Ironman to log 140.6 miles, he raced Ironman Mont Tremblant and grabbed second in his age group.

Karin Langer. I can't think of a better way to put this, but I want to be in Langer's shoes. She went from a 12:25 Ironman to a 10:50ish one, which gave her a Kona slot. She's like the triathlete us average people wish to become with more hard work and training (and no flats on the bike course).

Jenny Lorenz. Lorenz lucked out last year, gunning for a top finish at Ironman Wisconsin, finishing third in her age group, and then still gaining a slot when someone ahead of her bowed out. Regardless, she makes this sport look easy at 51—she can kick my butt on the bike and run as I learned at the Endurance Corner camp and Chicago Triathlon.

Kimber Oliver. This Well-Fitter also had a stellar day in Penticton. I swear she placed within reach of going to Kona at Ironman Wisconsin 2010, yet this might be her first trip to the Big Island, either ever or in a while.

Chantil Ruud. I can’t imagine it’s easy to train for an inaugural Ironman, but this Vision Quester nabbed her slot in Mont Tremblant. Some other familiar VQ names also had great races in Quebec, but only Ruud is saying Aloha!

Bob Scott. I'm thinking this Naperville octogenarian is ready to have his way with Pele: He only swam and biked last year. Like Hollander and Buder, he's 82. I wonder who'll be fastest?

Tara Sheetz. Here's a Rockford, Ill., resident who is on top of her game this year. After grabbing her Kona slot at Ironman Wisconsin 2011, Sheetz has been on a role in her 45-49 age group.

Julie Shelley. Formerly living in Chicago, Shelley has been living abroad for a few years now but bouncing around the world to compete in Ironman races. Her Florida trip was successful last November--that's where she got this latest WC berth.

M.J. Slikas. What a year for Slikas. She thought she was going to be done with Ironman for a while and then qualified at IM Florida in November. But how's this for training: She spent the early part of the year rehabbing from foot, or rather toe, surgery.

Laura Sophiea. Now I know where her kids got their swimming skills (I swam against one of them in high school--or rather, got beaten by). She sets an age group record practically every time she ages up. Here's a crazy fact I read recently (I'll put the link in if I can track it down again)--she's missing the birth of her second grandchild to compete.

David Stanuszek. What a lucky Life Time Fitness member! Aurora's Stanuszek applied for the Ironman lottery and won the chance to compete. Kona will be his first Ironman, and he's traveled a long and inspiring road to get there.

Robert Verhelst. This Team Refuel athlete who has the nickname Fireman Rob has finished a lot of Ironmans this year. You might recognize him as the Madison-area firefighter who puts on his uniform, complete with 40-pound oxygen tank, for the marathon.

Adam Zucco. Like Johnson, Zucco can win his age group given the right race, conditions and field. Hawaii was good to him in 2010, maybe not quite as good in 2011, and now we'll have to see what 2012 brings.

Hard to believe there's still an underpants run, bike check-in, dinner, and I don't even know what else to follow online before this race takes place. But I'm ready to get tracking the Ironman World Championship--here's the link if you need it. Who will you be following come Saturday?

Photo grabbed from seanhagen at flickr.

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