Saturday October 10, 2015

December 2, 2015 5:52 am

In a shift of roles, Dr Jules decided to ask me some questions from my recent Kona experience . . . and in turn I asked the same of Jon for his take on the most storied of triathlons

KT Insight:

How did your prep for Kona go?
The prep was pretty awesome. it’s a great feeling to know and see that you’re getting super fit. The highlight was definitely our Kona Camp that Pete hosted and the adventures there were unreal – biking for days. You know how they say, it’s not about the destination but the journey?? It was kinda like that.
Having said that there were definitely some tough days. When you combine ironman training with working with kids six days a week, there isn’t a lot of emotional energy left and that was tough at times. I was trying to be prepared to feel like I did and combat it, but I’m not sure I did the best job (unfortunately)

kona sign

What did you do in Kona in the days before the race?
My family had come up from Australia so there was definitely a lot of catching up to do. Having watched this race for over half my life also meant there was some scoping to be done. My bro, Sam, and partner in triathlon viewing crime is also super familiar so we had to hit up all the famed spots. The acai bowl at Basik was a hit (thanks also to Aaron for highlighting that one), and I also loved swimming out to the coffee buoy (I don’t drink coffee but it was the lure to get Sam out there!).


The infamous winds were evident in the days leading up to the race and they were a little terrifying. Riding the Queen K was balanced nicely with some Energy Lab bro/sis time.


How did you feel lining up in the water just before the start?

That was pretty surreal. The whole morning had been quite emotional. Especially when it’s your first time, I think there’s some sense of the enormity of what you’re about to undertake and I’m glad I took a few moments at the top of the stairs before going into the water to soak that in. As far as you could see on the left there were spectators a doz deep and lined up all around the bay. On the right was all the media lining the pier. Helicopters were hovering above and the water was filled with paddleboards. The whole week leading up to this race is a spectacle – I know why people want to come back to – or qualify for – this race. That swim entrance and morning’s energy will be hard to beat.

Amazingly, and amongst all the fanfare, I was able to spot friends Molly and John as I entered the water. That was the last familiar face I would see for a while.

I swam out to the swim start way too early (there was 15 mins after the men went) so bobbed there for a while. I felt very calm, I was just looking forward to getting through the day that had been so long in the making

How did you cope with the tough race conditions?
I tried my usual trick of smiling but that proved to be tough. I drank a lot and ate a lot. We have been fortunate to have had a very hot and humid summer which definitely was to our favour. I could have done with more sunscreen as I’ve never peeled/blistered before 🙁

How did you feel when you crossed the finish line?
That finish area is like no other. Relief, a lot of pain, burnt, thrilled. A world of emotion at that finish.

kona kids

What advice would you give to others aspiring to race in Kona?
Be patient; do what your coach tells you to do; don’t get super carried away, it’s still just another ironman 😉

photo (18)

And Jon:

How did your prep for Kona go?
It went really well. I stayed healthy and highly motivated throughout the build up. I trained in a very hot and humid San Diego summer with Kona as the singular focus for several months. I could not have asked for a better prep for Kona.

What did you do in Kona in the days before the race?
The days before the race go quickly. It was nice to get in the final workouts on the course. I did a couple runs in the energy lab, a couple swims in Kailua bay, and rides on the Queen K. I tried to stay relaxed as best I could and avoid the craziness that is Kona race week. I didn’t even go to Ironman Village haha
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I was in quite an irritable mood in the days leading up to the race. I tried to stay relaxed as best I could, but I found myself quite high-strung. I also had a little mishap during one of my last swims. The bay was packed with people, so I thought I’d get in the water in a more remote area. The spot i picked was recommended by the masters swim coach from Kona Aquatics. It was a rocky entrance, but it seemed safe at the time, but I cut my foot on the rocks while entering the water. The cut was quite painful on the bike during the race but was no problem on the run. I will have learned from this experience for next time!

Sam John

How did you feel lining up in the water just before the start?
To be honest race morning (as usual) flew by so fast. I thought I would see my friends/family before the start, so I held on to some of my morning clothes and figured I’d give it to them. As I was waiting in line for the bathroom I was realizing I wouldn’t be seeing them, and I was running out of time for my 6:55am start. As I was debating whether I leave the bathroom line to drop off my morning clothes bag I thankfully saw Katie who took my bag as she was headed that way. We said an emotional “see you on the other side” and went our separate ways. Upon leaving the bathroom I began to wait in what appeared to be the male field slowly being corralled into the bay. After waiting in this slowly moving mass for 5-10 precious minutes I finally asked someone what time it was and they informed me it was 6:48am. I was shocked at the hundreds of male age groupers still not in the water (and in no particular hurry) 7min before swim start! I immediately started forcing my way through them all and made my way into the water and immediately to the front of the start line offshore. Once I was treading water on the start line there was less than 2 minutes to go before the cannon fired.

So to answer your question, I had no time to feel any sort of way walking down those storied steps, I had no cathartic moment, I had no magical internal dialogue. I barely even remember walking down those steps. Unfortunately I spent all too much time thinking about my family/friends franticly looking for me. Although I shouldn’t have been, I was preoccupied thinking about my mom desperately wanting to find me to give me a hug goodbye. I should have been deep in thought about what I was about to do, I should have been soaking up every moment pre-race. My mind should not have been distracted, but it was.

It’s interesting how we can glorify certain things in our mind, but those things are quite different in reality. In my fantasies the last several years, I thought all soul-searching ends once in that bay treading water. I watched the images of the Kona swim start on TV and fantasized of the magic that happens there. In reality, once you’re there, it’s very much just like any other ironman swim start… You don’t meet your maker haha!

jon orca

How did you cope with the tough race conditions?
There are aspects of the Kona course that are very challenging no doubt. It is a very honest and tough course for sure. For example, I was on pace for a bike split right around 5h until the last ~35mi where relentless headwind slowed my pace drastically. Also, nobody talks about how hilly the run is – it is rarely flat. Having said that, I think there are significantly tougher courses and courses in significantly tougher conditions. I believe it is the competition that makes Kona so difficult. The elite competition unique to Kona can be demoralizing. I believe it is the competition, more than the course, that creates such a difficult environment to compete in. For instance, in the last 35mi of the bike the wind slowed me down, but it was my focus that accounted for a lot of that. I find it hard to account for the fogginess I felt during my Kona bike ride, but I feel my lack of focus was due, in some part, to the field’s quality and the magnitude of the moment.

Give us a rundown on how your race went
The swim was the most violent swim I have ever participated in. Ironman France had a mass start, leaving from the beach into a shore-break, so it was pretty violent too, but Kona was the most violent I can remember. There were moments early on the swim I thought we were going to drown each other. My goggles were dislodged at one point, but I wouldn’t dare try to fix them during that mayhem. Still, I feel like pretty good time was made on the way out to the turn around. On the way back it felt like I wasn’t moving. I would sight a buoy, swim several strokes, sight again, and the buoy seemed further away! As I was finally about to reach the shore a female age grouper sprinted by me in the water at an impossible speed. It honestly looked like she was a jet ski flying by. I later realized this must have been Lucy Charles of Great Britain on her way to a 52:20 swim split (faster than the male pro chase pack) and F19-24 age group win. This is the type of remarkable athlete sprinkled throughout the Kona course.

Once onto the bike my priority was to be conservative with pacing and hyper-attentive to hydration/nutrition. I was paranoid about hydration because I had exploded at IM Texas this year after a great ride because I had failed to drink enough. I was determined to not make the same mistake. My goal was to ride the same power as I did in Texas, which should have amounted to under 5h bike split. I was on pace by the turnaround in Hawi where I retrieved special needs without hiccup. I had already peed once on the bike by this point, so I knew my hydration was on point. As I said, my pace in the last ~35mi is what pretty much ruined my bike split. In hindsight I feel I rode this portion of the course with no focus or intent. All my focus was on hydrating and vaguely on the competition. Much of the bike ride I found myself day-dreaming, forgetting I was in a race, losing my focus. Timetrialing for 112mi requires tremendous focus, and I failed in that regard.

The run was basically ‘par’ for me. Pete and I prepared ad nauseum for a 3:15 marathon. I was capable of a 3:15 run split, but was unable to produce it on the day. I have no excuse to lean back on. It was a tough run, but every marathon is tough regardless of the pace.

How did you feel when you crossed the finish line?
I felt relieved. I felt unsatisfied. I truly believed I was going to produce a performance that I could be proud of, but I was unable to. I’m super grateful for the experience and for another Ironman finish, but I am so hungry for more.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to race in Kona?
I would suggest keeping race week as simple as possible, plan on not saying your farewells early in the morning prior to entering transition, do not have grand aspirations when it comes to post-race meals (everything is closed or blocked with road closures), and soak up the moment, stay present and have clarity of mind as you’re living your dream as it goes by real fast!

kona crew

What’s your next goal race?
The plan has been to focus on 70.3 speed in 2016, and only do one late season ironman (probably Barcelona). The first race of importance in 2016 will Cal70.3.

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