[Editor's note: Timothy Carlson's odds, presented here, are those used by ProBikePool. The winner takes home a Kuota Kalibur bicycle.]
Look. The only reason the odds are so high for everyone else is that Chrissie Wellington had proved to be an Ironman phenomenon that comes around every decade or so. Anyone seriously looking at guessing the order of finishers should start with her. Unless you have a hot hand and a strong premonition that the best triathlete in the field has somehow run out of luck, CW, which also stands for Conventional Wisdom, dominates the chalk.
Still, folks like Catriona Morrison, Rebekah Keat, and Mirinda Carfrae have looked really really well prepared. If you are talking a bout top 5, you can’t write off great champions like Michellie Jones and – against all odds after her devastating crash in 2007 – six-time winner Natascha Badmann.
Really, the only sure thing is that Madame Pele is in charge – and she likes to play tricks.
Chrissie Wellington (GBR) – 3-2
Bib number: 101
After her dark horse, longshot straight-outta-nowhere win at Kona in 2007, Miss Wellington is unbeaten in seven attempts at the Ironman distance – plus an ITU long course world title -- and is the two-time defending champion at Ironman Hawaii. Not only that, she smashed the world best mark for the Ironman distance with an astonishing 8:31:59 clocking at Quelle Challenge Roth and on the day also smashed the women’s Ironman bike leg record with a 4:40 clocking. Whew! Perhaps even more impressive is her record of breaking the 9-hour barrier not only at Autobahns like Roth, but also managing that feat on much tougher courses like Frankfurt and Port Macquairie. She also runs sub-three hours at every venue. The only reason she is not going off at 1-2 odds is a series of slender hints of threads of potential vulnerability: (1) switched coaches from Brett Sutton to Simon Lessing and then decided to go on her own. Danger? Her inherent inclination to do massive amounts of work. Needs a governor to last. (2) While she finished 6th at Olympic distance Columbia Triathlon, that can be dismissed as not her forte any more. But loss to Julie Dibens at Boulder 5430 long course showed pretenders to her throne that Wellington can be beaten. (3) On Wellington’s amazing record-smashing day at Roth, Rebekah Keat was just 7 minutes behind – and Keat outran her, 2:55 to 2:57. Wellington beat Keat earlier by 20-plus minutes at Ironman Australia. Shows what Brett Sutton coaching can do for everyone, not just Wellington. (4) Also, hard-running Catriona Morrison came within two minutes of Wellington at Timberman 70.3 (5) Anything can happen at Ironman Hawaii – catch a virus on the plane or bacteria on the swim after rains, hit by a car riding or walking in town, get two flats and run out of CO2 canisters, etc.
Rebekah Keat (AUS) – 13-2
Bib number: 116
The good karma kid after lending the otherwise-dead-in-the-water Wellington her CO2 canisters at Kona. When Wellington left miracle worker coach Sutton because Team TBB contract limited her suddenly immense sponsorship opportunities, Keat signed on with Sutton and the results have been typically life-changing. After a third at Geelong 70.3 and a 23-minutes-behind second place to Wellington at Ironman Oz, Keat got in gear at Roth with an 8:39:24, a second-best-Iron-distance-effort-ever finish and outrunning Wellington 2:55 to 2:57. Under the radar since then, Sutton is likely devoting all his Henry Higgins mojo to give Keat her My Fair Lady moment in the Kona sun.
Sandra Wallenhorst (GER) – 7-1
Bib number: 103
Last year’s third place finisher at Kona whipped Kona runner-up Yvonne Van Vlerken and cracked 9 hours at tough Frankfurt course. Also won Austria 70.3 and ran 1:21 there for a 1:17 margin over ITU short course star Lucie Zelenkova. Potential negative; She IS 37, the age at which Paula Newby-Fraser retired from serious 24/7/365 professional status.
Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) – 8-1
Bib number: 131
The one and only reason Carfrae isn’t listed as second favorite is the fact that the mighty mite from Queensland has never done an Ironman before. That said, the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Champion has had a fantastic year: wins at five half Ironman distance venues -- California 70.3, Revolution3, Eagleman 70.3, Calgary 70.3 and Muskoka 70.3 – with a narrow loss at St. Croix to Morrison. During that spell, she beat the almost-new, revived Natascha Badmann twice, reeled off several sub-1:20 half marathons, and kept her yearlong focus on Kona. Under coach Siri Lindley, Carfrae has prepared perfectly for Ironman Hawaii. Having waited a few years to fully mature for the Ironman grind, Carfrae has the potential – tricky word - to actually defeat Wellington head up. But with no Ironman marathons under her belt, that will be much easier said than done.
Catriona Morrison (GBR) – 9-1
Bib number: 132
The Scottish charger has won six ITU World championship medals, mostly in duathlon. She took the ITU short course duathlon world championship silver in 2005 and gold in 2006; won ITU world championship long course triathlon silver in 2006; and won the ITU long course duathlons world championship silver in 2006 and golds in 2007 and 2008.
Taking on more triathlon, the Morrison is on fire this year. After a disappointing 7th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds last November, she scored a 2nd to a revived Natascha Badmann at New Orleans 70.3 with a second-best 1:22 run; beat Mirinda Carfrae handily while winning St. Croix 70.3, beat Julie Dibens (who beat Wellington at Boulder) winning UK 70.3, took second to Wellington at Timberman 70.3 while running 1:20, and took a strong 3rd in her Iron-distance debut at Quelle Challenge Roth, posting a strong 4:48 bike and a solid 3:03 run to finish in 8:48 and take third behind Wellington and Keat.
Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) – 10-1
Bib number: 102
Strong second last year at Kona was still 15 minutes behind Wellington – even after Chrissie’s 10-minute pit stop to repair a flat. While she cannot be ignored after breaking 9 hours three times at the Ironman distance, Van Vlerken’s 2009 was not as good as her three-win 2008. This year she took 2nd at Geelong 70.3 to Sam Warriner, 2nd to Wallenhorst at Frankfurt, and a win at Ironman Germany 70.3 over Tine Boman. Potential to run sub-three hours, but her bike gives away a lot to Wellington.
Erika Csomor (HUN) – 14-1
Her 2008 season with three wins outshone 2009, but the Hungarian 4-time winner of the classic Powerman Zofingen duathlon had a very good season for someone struggling with injuries: 4th at California 70.3, 3rd at Wildflower, 6th at Austria 70.3, and an off-form 4th place at Quelle Challenge Roth. If she has regrouped, very dangerous. Unless she has rested up and improved her health and fitness, won’t equal last year’s 4th place.
Bella Comerford Bayliss (GBR) – 15-1
Bib number: 107
Scotswoman Bella Bayliss has now won 11 Ironman titles, moving her into the top 5 all time. That total includes 4 wins at Ironman Florida, 3 wins at Ironman UK, and wins at tougher-than-tough places like Lanzarote and Gerardmer. Once thought incapable to making a big splash at Kona, Bayliss now has a reliable 3 hours flat Ironman marathon and her 8:50:13 finish at Ironman Austria marks her as one of the fastest ever at the distance. Her 7th place at Kona last year only whetted her appetite for the apparently unbreakable endurance athlete who regularly races half a dozen Iron distance events a year.
Michellie Jones (AUS) – 16-1
Bib number: 121
Masterful Michellie is the greatest competitive women’s triathlete in history with well over 130 wins, two Olympic distance world titles, an Olympic silver medal, and a second place followed by a win at the Ironman World Championship in 2005 and 2006. Illness forced the Empress Jones to drop out of Kona in 2007, and injuries prevented a 2008 start. Now, at 40, Wellington has taken charge of the race, and Jones has been under the radar this year but will start the race with her formidable will and discipline. Has wins at Rhode Island 70.3 and Cancun 70.3 to go with a 3rd at Lake Stevens 70.3 but withdrew before a scheduled start at Ironman Australia.
Samantha McGlone (CAN) – 17-1
Bib number: 126
After her perfectly executed second place debut at Kona in 2007, falling just five minutes short of derailing the Wellington Surprise, this mentally tough, highly disciplined, fast and strong Canadian was on track to make her rivalry with Wellington the second coming of Mark & Dave. Then puzzling injuries hit midway through 2008, leading to her withdrawal from a rematch at Kona and a frustratingly slow rehab through 2009. On paper, McGlone is not the same athlete this year – a 3rd at Ironman Lake Placid with a 3:15 run, a 3rd at Boise 70.3, a 2nd to Belinda Granger at Honu 70.3 had the appearance of a slow, steady, patient rehab. Under the radar coming into Kona, McGlone has the ability to win this race, but it’s not certain she can contend this year.
Tereza Macel (CZE) – 18-1
Bib number: 127
Czech born, Canadian resident and former ITU contender hit it big this year under Brett Sutton coaching. Started off with third places at Singapore 70.3 and in blistering heat at Ironman China. Then came breakthrough wins at Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Canada. Ready.
Virginia Berasategui (ESP) – 19-1
Bib number: 106
This Spanish star won the 2003 ITU long course World Championship, 2004 and 2005 Ironman Lanzarote, Ironman Germany 70.3 in 2007 and 2008. At Wildflower in 2009, she smashed the field in 4:35:00, with runner-up Leanda Cave 5 minutes and 13 second back at the finish and then took the European long course championship. After her 6th placing last year in Hawaii, Berasategui will be favored to crack the top 5 at the Ironman World Championship in Kona.
Joanna Lawn (NZL) – 20-1
Bib number: 113
Kiwi has record six Ironman New Zealand wins, before getting pipped by fellow Kiwi Gina Ferguson this year. Took 3rd at Florida 70.3, 6th at Quelle Challenge Roth, and 3rd at Buffalo Springs Lake. Always tough on the Queen K, liable to return to the top five this year if Kona prep in Boulder went well.
Kate Major (AUS) – 21-1
Bib number: 124
This former pro squash player from Australia is following in Fernanda Keller’s footsteps. The Brazilian scored an astonishing six 3rd place finishes at Kona, now Major has third places at Kona in 2004, 2005 and 2007, Proved she has a killer marathon with her 3:02:19 in 2005. Proven to prepare perfectly for Kona, her strength is at the longer distance. Thus you can ignore 4th at Geelong 70.3, 5th at Singapore 70.3, 8th at New Orleans 70.3, 5th at Timberman 70.3 and look more carefully at her 2nd at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2009.
Linsey Corbin (USA) – 22-1
Bib number: 105
Last year crossed the line wearing her Montana cowboy hat and well-earned exuberance as top US woman finisher with a 5th at Kona. This year, highlights include 2nd at Pucon 70.3, 2nd at Boise 70.3. But 7th at New Orleans 70.3, 4th at Vineman 70.3, 5th at Calgary 70.3 and 6th at Lake Stevens 70.3 were good but not great. Just like last year, Corbin parked her carcass in Kona a month before the race and has memorized every inch of the sacred course.
Leanda Cave (GBR) – 27-1
Bib number: 133
The 2002 ITU Olympic distance World Champion and Escape From Alcatraz winner started her tri career with world class speed, then showed she could fly at the half Ironman distance with several wins. But so far, this willowy charger is still pondering how to unlock her vast potential at the Ironman distance. At the 70.3 distance, she scored a win at Florida, a 2nd places at Wildflower and Steelhead, a 3rd at California. Her 2nd place at Ironman Arizona was promising, but slipped to 11th at Quelle Challenge Roth. On potential, Cave is 7-1.
Natascha Badmann (SUI) – 33-1
Bib number: 120
Miracle worker emerged from horrible 2007 bike crash at Kona 12 months after two extensive operations to start the race and soldier through the swim and bike just weeks after she was physically able to sling a leg over her race bike and swim a few strokes. Badmann is now 41 and has won this race six times and placed second twice. This year, showed world class form smashing a top field while winning New Orleans 70.3, posted a strong second to Mirinda Carfrae at Eagleman 70.3 and led well into the run at Rev3 half Ironman before surrendering to Carfrae and Rebeccah Wassner. Badmann loves the lava at Kona like no other, and is devoting all of her brilliant talent and discipline to showing what she can do against the new wave. With brilliant coach and life partner Toni Hasler on her side, do not be surprised if Badmann contends for the win. Odds on top 5 finish: 3-1
Belinda Granger (AUS) – 34-1
Bib number: 115
This 11-time Ironman-distance champion put off an operation to repair a blocked iliac artery to take on Ironman Malaysia and won it. After the complex operation, she won Honu 70.3, and took second at Ironman Canada and soldiered through Quelle Challenge Roth in 5th just days after a painful collision with a car. This gutsy lass is 38 and not slowing down. If back on form for Kona, should join any swim-bike break and crack the top 10 for sure.
Gina Ferguson (NZL) – 35-1
Bib number: 108
This violinist with the Christchurch Symphony broke through with a course record win at Ironman Wisconsin in 2007, continued in 2008 with an 8:57 and 3rd place at Quelle Challenge Roth, 2nd at Singapore 70.3, and wins at Challenge Wanaka and Ironman Western Australia with a sub-9 hours there. In 2009, she broke Jo Lawn’s win streak at Ironman New Zealand, won Challenge Wanaka again, took 3rd at Challenge France half distance. However, perhaps brought down to earth with a full plate of racing, she took 7th at Ironman Austria and dropped out of Quelle Challenge Roth. If and only if Ferguson got some rest and recharged her batteries, she will improve on last year’s 8th place finish.
Caitlin Snow (USA) – 36-1
Bib number: 112
If you are looking for a dark horse longshot who can do damage, it’s Caitlin Snow. Just 27, she took second to Tereza Macel at Ironman Lake Placid with a sizzling 2:57:11 marathon, 4th at New Orleans 70.3 with a race-best 1:21:58 run. She has a 2008 win at Ironman Lake Placid on her record and had the drive and guts to give up teaching to go pro.
Lisbeth Kristensen (DEN) -- 39-1
Bib number: 134
This charming, tall Danish new mom is back on track in 2009, taking 11th at Ironman Western Australia, 4th at Ironman New Zealand, 3rd at Ironman Switzerland and at Ironman Louisville. If she’s back on the from that won the Almere Iron-distance triathlon in 2000, the 2001 ITU long course world championship, and 2006 titles at Ironman Brazil and Ironman Western Australia, Kristensen is a contender for the podium at Kona. But so far, her best at Kona was 7th in 2004.
Gina Kehr (USA) – 40-1
Bib number 109
This California star placed 7th at Kona in 2003 and 4th in 2006. This year, the indomitable 40-year old took 7th at Vineman 70.3 and 2nd at Philippines 70.3.
Dede Griesbauer (USA) – 42-1
Bib number: 110
This Massachusetts star and pal of Karen Smyers scored 10th last year at Kona and won Ironman Brazil this year in style with a 4:59 bike and a 9:10:15 overall time. Along the way, she placed 3rd at Vineman 70.3, 4th at Timberman 70.3 and 8th at California 70.3
Edith Niederfriniger (ITA) – 44-1
Bib number: 137
This Italian veteran scored a 2nd at Ironman China, 3rd at Ironman Arizona and an 8th at Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
Charlotte Paul (AUS) – 45-1
Bib number: 111
This pocket-sized Aussie distance star won Ironman Western Australia in 2007 in a few ticks of the second hand over 9 hour, took second there last year, and won Ironman China in brutal heat. In 2008, she finished 11th at Quelle Challenge Roth and Ironman Hawaii.
Tyler Stewart (USA) – 50-1
Bib number: 125
Stewart, who set a world Ironman bike split best of 4:47 at Ironman Florida in 2007, knocked out a 2nd at Vineman 70.3 this year.
Kim Loeffler (USA) – 55-1
Bib number: 135
Loeffler, a great runner before taking up triathlon, placed 3rd at ironman Louisville with a race-best 3:05:07 run, 5th at the overheated suffer fest at Ironman China, took 4th at Rhode Island 70.3 and 5th at Kansas 70.3 with second-best (to Chrissie Wellington) 1:20:37 run.
Heather Gollnick (USA) – 60-1
This mother of three and former gymnastics star, 5-time Ironman winner and now a race promoter-director at the Rev3 Triathlon, posted a 1st at Pucon 70.3, a 3rd at Ironman Brazil, 7th at Buffalo Springs 70.3, and 11th at New Orleans 70.3 in 2009. This was coming off a 2007 win at Ironman Louisville, and in 2008 a 3rd at Ironman Arizona and 2nds at Ironmans in Coeur d’Alene and Louisville. Although great in the hat, her best at Kona was 12th in 2004.