Ironman Kona: 6 Tips to a Strong Kona Race
We have arrived!!!!! Even though it is 4:30 in the morning I can say I have never been happier to be awake at this hour. Sitting here drinking my coffee, writing, and listening to the waves crash against the lava rocks. Flights yesterday were uneventful, though long as its almost a 6 hour flight from Seattle to Kona and I brilliantly booked us in the seats right in front of the exit row so they do not recline backwards. All of our gear arrived on time and safely, we had plenty of time to go to the grocery store and then fight tooth and nail with my bike!! Thank you so much to Josh and Erica (@triathleat78) for coming to my rescue and helping me tinker with the mechanics of my bike - the running joke is now “how many triathletes does it take to put together a bike?”. Answer: a minimum of four. :)
As I sat waiting for our flight to the big Island yesterday I couldn’t help but reminisce over the last year, or years in fact, that have led to another day on the famous Kona Ironman course. When I left Kona last year it was not in my intention to try to qualify again for Kona, in fact I am pretty sure I told my coach that there was no way I was doing another full distance in 2018. However, in standard fashion the pain of the race subsided and I was left with this burning desire to redeem myself for the disaster that was Kona. To be completely honest I really felt like I had something to prove, more than even the desire to redeem myself. Something to prove to those who support me, follow me, and most importantly prove to myself; I felt I had to prove that I had deserved to be on the starting line of Kona and that my qualifying race was not a fluke. Fast forward just shy of twelve months and here we are, ready to head back, and let me tell you I have an axe to grind with this course!!
I’ve talked at nausea about the last couple months, training, and all the feels I currently have going into this race so I will not bore you with the details of so. The one thing a few people have asked me repeatedly about is what advice do you have for those racing Kona for the first time, so I thought I would share them with you today!
Before I get started I want to preface this is only my second attempt at this course. I am in NO WAY an expert, or have the experience that some of my fellow competitors have as I know there are plenty others out there who have tackled the Queen K in all its glory many more times that I have. Despite that I did learn a lot last year and am happy to share what I have learned.
Plan to be out there longer than you intend
There is no course like the Kona course. From the salt waters swells of the ocean, the heat, humidity and winds of the bike course, and then of course there is the run out in the Energy Lab you just never know what you are going to get on race day. Be prepared to be out on the course longer than you anticipate. If you think you are going to bike in 5.5 hours plan for 6. It is better to have more than you think you need just in case.
Stay on top of your nutrition
Nutrition includes calories, electrolytes, salt, and water. You will need it! With the heat and humidity your sweat rate is going to be much higher than normal, there is no if/ands/or buts about it, you are going to sweat and sweat a lot! It is easy in the excitement and harshness of the day to get so wrapped up in it that you lose track of what you are consuming, this can cause your day to unravel very quickly. Grab water at every aid station, on both the bike and the run, as someone who craves water during races I felt like I could not get enough water in me.
This was something I struggled with greatly last year. I was so focused on how miserable I forgot to do what I could to keep myself cool. Keeping cool is a balance of cooling your exterior as well as your interior, and on top of that you have to balance splashing cool water on yourself with trying to keep your feet dry. Most aid stations in Kona offered cool sponges and ice. Do not be afraid to use it! Stick the sponges in your tri top, and if you are wearing a hat stick some ice in your hat as to keep your head cooler. To help keep your feet dry splash yourself with water in a backwards motion not just straight on top of your head.
Don’t Be Afraid of Coke
Ok, this isn’t really a tip but one of the things that really sticks out in my brain last year is the coca cola I drank at mile 80 of the bike course. Now, I love my Infinite Nutrition and even since last year I have dialed it in so that it will benefit me even more this year but I remember just straight struggling around mile 80 of the bike course and starting to wonder if I was going to make it and at the last second grabbed an icy cold Coca Cola. I can still taste the beautifully cold, and bubbly drink right now. (Ps. I despise coca cola on a regular basis) It helped bring my brain back to life long enough to get me to that run course.
You are going to spend anywhere from nine to sixteen hours totally exposed to the elements. Wear sunscreen and wear lots of it!! Put it on in the morning when you wake up, then again after you get your numbers put on. Use the sunscreen they offer to plaster you with in transition if you aren’t allergic to it.
This is probably the most important. On the world stage it is super easy to get so wrapped up in the pressure, desire to have this be the best race, perform, stress, and etc that you forget to relish in the fact of where you are. You are racing with the best of the best, in one of the most beautiful settings in the world, and surrounded by thousands of people who believe in you. Enjoy it!! Have fun with it!! If you focus to hard on the pressure of the race you will lose sight of the fact that you are racing at the Ironman World Championships, it will just pass by you. Smile, let loose, and have fun. This is a piece I am actually going to focus on as much as I can, for the races that I have had the most fun out there are the ones that I have performed the best!!
With that, I am going to sign off for the rest of the week!! If you are racing be safe and good luck!!! If you are volunteering I want to say Thank you in advance, we could not do this race without you!!! and Lastly, if you are cheering have fun and say hi to my husband!!!