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    Due to some technical problems (things freeze up whenever I try to use my camera software) . . . there are no images with this report. Point your browser to ironmanlive.com for up to the minute reports on race day.

    The Friday before Saturday's Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon is always a day of mixed emotions. For spectators, sponsors, organizers, and volunteers, it's a day of anticipation. The spectacle of the swim start, the controlled frenzy of the transition areas, the tenacity and emotions of 1500 athletes facing 140-miles of brutal conditions. When you're sitting in the shade with a mai-tai only an order away, the event can be downright enjoyable. For athletes, however, it wavers between anticipation and flat out fear. The excited, happy ones are probably here for the first time. Some of these "rookies" are a little fearful but it's a fear of the unknown. They're on an adventure where they will be charting new territory. They're going where their body's never been before. Basically, they don't know any better. Then there are the veterans. Many of these otherwise perfectly logical people forgot what it felt like at the finish line last year (or whenever it was that they last did this event). Only a day after last year's finish (for some it took a month) they'd forgotten the brawl called the swim, the maddening sound of wind in their ears on the bike, and leg muscles that felt as though they would rip from the bone with each step during the run. Now they're starting to remember. For those who've done this event before, it becomes fear of the known.

    By the time anyone reads this, the gun will be about to go off and you should be pointing your browsers at: www.ironmanlive.com for up to the minute reports throughout the day. As I said in the last report, I'd be giving a new race finish prediction and an update on the Underpants Run. I don't yet know if the photos of the underpants run will be accessible but some of the other sites out there seem to already have them up.

    The press conference on Thursday (after the pro meeting) had Wendy Ingraham, Melissa Spooner, and Joanna Zeiger present on the women's side. From the men's side of things, there was Lothar Leder, Christophe Mauch, Thomas Helreigel, Luc Van Lierde, and Chris Legh. All of the usual questions were asked and answered but there was not much new learned. Eg. Q: Thomas, what did you learn from last year's race that you can take into this year's event? A: "Well, I was over-trained last year and too skinny. This year, I think I was smarter and am 3kg heavier." You get the picture.

    Speaking of Thomas, we ran into him today and had a déjà vu experience from '97 when he won. He's very relaxed and confident and, in the absence of Jurgen Zack, made no secret of the fact that he intends to blow the field apart on the bike. "I think I can swim maybe 52 minutes and then I will not wait for anyone." He mentioned Luc, Christophe Mauch, and Andreas Neidrig as some of the athletes who he expects to follow. "Christophe is riding strong. His time was not as fast as Luc at Nice this year as it was when Luc won in '96 but it was a different bike course - there was one more hill in the course this year." Another name being mentioned is England's Matthew Bellfield. Known for his phenomenal cycling abilities, Bellfield won the '99 Ironman Lanzarote. I don't know. Once again, there are a dozen guys who could win but only one of these will. So, who's in the top ten?

    1. Chris Legh - this might appear a long shot but his training has gone very well and he's hungry.
    2. Thomas Helreigel - Thomas has that look and sound in his voice. Last year he was too skinny but not this time around.
    3. Christophe Mauch - He won Nice (just like Luc did before winning in '96) and was 4th last year in his rookie performance.
    4. Peter Reid - It's ridiculous to predict Peter as anything less than first but rumors of a back injury are the only thing against the defending champion from Canada. These are probably just rumors.
    5. Luc Van Lierde - He's the course record holder and was a very convincing second last year to the dominant Reid. Anyone who does a 100-mile motor pace at 30mph around the 4-mile loop in San Diego known as Fiesta Island has to be on a mission.

    Phew! Those are the top five and all of them could well win! Don't think this is hard? Get a pen and paper and put some names down before the gun goes off.

    6. Rainer Mueller-Horner - A break in July from his medical studies led to a strong second at Nice and owns the only rookie performances I remember that included a 2:45 marathon . . . while smiling.
    7. Tim DeBoom - Tim has the capability to win this race but has yet to put it all together. He didn't train with Peter this year but must have learned from his experience in '98. Will '99 be his year?
    8. Greg Welch - Welch has won this event before but the question mark is his cycling. He certainly has the running talent to out split ANYONE but it's been a while since he's had to ride 112 miles alone. If he's there off of the bike, look out!
    9. Matthias Klump - This German has been steadily gaining ground and chipping away at the top ten of this event. 11th in '99, he's due to move up.
    10. Jimmy Riccitello - Yeah, he's a sentimental favorite but he's also honestly done the work and has the ability. The key for Jimmy will be pacing on the bike and staying on top of nutritional and hydration (electrolyte) issues he's not used to facing.

    Who else? That's the problem with this predicition thing - there are about 30 guys who should be in the top ten (at least). Here's a list of other guys who definitely should be mentioned (and I'll probably forget a few):
    Kenny Glah - another sentimental favorite who is on his 16th Ironman Hawaii and won I-man Brazil in '99.
    Cameron Widoff - Will the dreaded one break through?
    Olaf Sabatschus - Haven't heard of him? Top five in Roth, 2nd to Peter Reid at Ironman Austria (in 8:07!) and a GREAT runner - with a twin brother.
    Ingo Sabatschus - See above - 5th at '99 New Zealand Ironman.
    Peter Sandvang - From Denmark, Peter won Ironman Switzerland and was 12th in Hawaii last year.
    Chucky Velyupek - Ironman Canada's winner and nice calves
    Matt Bellfield
    Shingo Tani - This guy can RUN.
    Frank Heldoorn - two time Lanzarote winner back from injury.
    Olivier Bernhard - Needs to overcome a notoriously big swim deficit but looks extremely fit.
    Alexander Taubert - 14th last year
    Andreas Neidrig - look for Andreas to lead the swim and have a blazing bike split - 3rd at the '99 I-man NZ
    Chad Hawker - Steadily improving and a deadly cyclist.
    Tobias Behle - yet another German.
    Peter Kropko - Dangerous runner who WON I-man Switzerland in '99.
    Bryan Rhodes - steadily improving this year but the heat could take it's toll on the New Zealander
    Alexander Lang - What, another German?
    Jurgen Hauber - 3rd at Ironman Australia
    Jason Shortis - Strong Aussie.
    Siegfried Ferstl - Who? He was 6th at Roth in 8:30:47 - let's see how he does in the heat.
    Stefan Holzner - This German has been around and was 3rd at the '99 I-man Austria.
    . . . and the list goes on.


    What about the women? Don't do this to me. Ok,

    1. Lori Bowden - I don't know exactly why but I think Lori is due. She's raced extremely well this year turning in yet another great time at Ironman Canada (9:14) and has been marching up the ironman Hawaii placings for a few years now. It's time.
    2. Karen Smyers - I think it will be a close race among the top five women (just as it will be among the men). The one think I may be overlooking is Karen's great swimming ability which will place her in a GREAT group of swimmers who all can bike (Joanna Zeiger, Mary Ellen Powers, Wendy Ingraham). She's won here before and looks fit and relaxed.
    3. Heather Fuhr - Winner of the '99 I-man Brazil AND USA (Lake Placid), the conditions we expect tomorrow (HOT) will favor Heather. A second win will depend on a strong bike ride that has her within striking distance (10 minutes) off of the bike.
    4. Joanna Zeiger - With the experience of '98 under her belt, this woman will be tough to stop. Look for Joanna to go off the front during the swim and bike.
    5. Fernanda Keller - Huh? It's going to be HOT tomorrow and Fernanda loves a race of attrition.
    6. Wendy Ingraham - Looking better this time around that I ever remember, Wendy could just as well end up in the top 3.
    7. Melissa Spooner - Great race last year and the winner of the '99 Ironman New Zealand but looks a bit on the thin side this year. I Could be mistaken and the tough Canadian could well move right through the field in the heat of the Kona Coast.
    8. Joanne King - You can't not mention Joanne as a favorite. She was second at Ironman Australia and won Ironman Germany but I don't think she'll hold up well in the heat . . . unless she's discovered the salt. Lothar Leder considers her the woman to beat this year.
    9. Katja Schumaker - Experienced and has paid a lot of attention to her speed this year.
    10. Sian Welch - 8th in '99, Sian has the talent to be in the top 3. It will take a well planned race.

    Who else? There are a lot!
    Susanne Neilsen - 9th in '99
    Isabelle Gagnon - 7th in '99
    Robyn Rooke - 13th in '99
    Sara Cox - 6th at I-man USA in '99 (rookie performance)
    Beth Zinkand - Hot new U.S. woman who was 2nd at I-man Austria
    Louise Davoren - The Australian was 3rd at the '99 I-man Austria and 7th at New Zealand.
    Lisa Bently - 3rd at '99 I-man New Zealand
    Lena Wahlquist - Winner of the '99 Ironman Lanzarote
    Bianca Van Dyk - 2nd at '99 I-man Lanzarote
    Andrea Fisher - 5th at I-man USA
    Gina Kehr
    Dolorita Fuchs-Gerber - Winner of the '99 I-man Switzerland

    And on and on and on . . .

    The women's race could change in complexion with the number of strong swimmers who will also be strong on the bike. Wendy Ingraham should have company in the form of Joanna Zeiger, Mary Ellen Powers, Andrea Fisher, and Karen Smyers. A group at the front could make it difficult for Lori Bowden, Heather Fuhr and Fernanda Keller to catch up. Sian Welch should also make the front group. The others are difficult to judge simply because there are a lot of new talented women who've proven their metal at the other international ironman races. The heat we expect tomorrow will play a big role in weeding out those from cooler climes.

    So much more to write but I'm getting up in 5 hours . . . for a 17 hour day. It should be interesting to say the least!

    Aloha