In the sport of triathlon, the Ironman is the biggest name. In the world of Ironman, the World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii, is the pinnacle of the sport. To a triathlete, Ironman Hawaii is the Super Bowl, World Cup, and Christmas Day of triathlon.
The distances are daunting and certifiably crazy to most normal human beings: a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride. Top that off with a 26.2-mile run, which is a full marathon, and you have a 140.6-mile crazy train ride.
While every triathlete that races is a winner, there can be only one champion. Here are my top five contenders for the crown, the ones hoping to find concert tickets and car keys instead of coal in their stocking on October 9th.
1.Craig Alexander (Australia) – Alexander has raced at IM Hawaii three times. The first time, he came in second to fellow Aussie Chris McCormack in 2007. In 2008 and 2009, Alexander took the top prize. He looks to make it three in a row using his strategy of a good swim and bike ride followed with a demolishing run.
2.Chris Lieto (USA) – One of the strongest cyclists in the field, Lieto held a 12-minute lead on the bike race last year, only to watch Craig Alexander reel him in by mile 22 of the run. Lieto has reportedly focused on his run this year and hopes to improve on his second place finish in 2009.
3.Andreas Raelert (Germany) – Raelert dominated in the half Ironman distance before moving up to the full version. He laid down a 112-mile bike leg in a staggering 4:20:35 in a race in Germany this year. If he can replicate that in Hawaii, Raelert will be tough to beat.
4.Rasmus Henning (Denmark) – Henning broke his hand three weeks before the 2009 IM Hawaii. Despite that, he decided to race and finished fifth overall. Imagine if he weren’t injured. Henning is a well-rounded triathlete, meaning he is good in all three legs of the sport, but his potential is still unexplored at this distance.