We're a day away from the big kahuna and the wind is picking up almost as much as the hype. Pundits predict that this might be one of the most exciting races to watch in the 29 year history of the World Ironman Championships. Especially on the women's side.
Six-time winner Natascha Badmann of Switzerland failed to show for the pre-race media conference, leaving Michellie Jones, last year's runner-up behind Badmann in the spotlight.
Many predict that this will be the year for the uber-talented Jones, although she dismisses the pressure: "Natascha is definitely the one to beat. She has owned this race for the last couple of years."
Canada's Lori Bowden, Lisa Bentley and Heather Fuhr were not at the news conference (only the top 5 finishers from 2005 were invited) but Jones says not to discount the Canadians. "They're all great runners. It depends how well they come off the bike," she said.
This writer ran into Lori near the Ironman Expo last night. Bowden was talking a stroll with her mother, Sandra, and her 1-year old baby. Bowden was completely relaxed and looks incredibly fit. Motherhood looks good on her - she is absoloutely gushing. Many here say that Bowden is the most genetically gifted in the field and her ability to handle the Hawaii hype and heat, as well as her completely relaxed attitude this year, could mean a win is in the offing.
Even without Peter Reid and Tim DeBoom in the field, the men's race should also be close. Last year's second place finisher, Cameron Brown said "I think you'll be able to throw a blanket over the top ten. It's going to be very close. There are many guys who can win."
The toughest competition will come from defending champion Faris Al-Sultan, 2004 winner Norman Stadler, Cameron Brown and Rutger Beke of Belgium who was fourth last year.