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How to succeed in Kona
Posted by: Penny Comins
Posted on: Friday 10th October 2014


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We've been following her progress since she got news she had a Kona spot - and now Penny Comins is in Hawaii and almost ready to race. What will it take for her to have her best race?

As a rookie, she has sought to find out by asking a host of professional athletes and experienced experts to build up her pre-race knowledge... how to succeed to Kona?

Here is their advice...


Ironman Hawaii - "Words of the wise"

Bike serviced by awesome Bike Medic and packed. Bags packed. Passport packed. I am sitting on my bed just waiting for it to be time to go to the airport. A midnight flight will take me to the Big Island and the Big Dream. I wanted to see what gems of advice I could glean from those who have been before.

The main theme is to stick to your own race plan yet to be flexible in the ‘heat' of the moment. But the over-riding principle is to enjoy this magical race.

Here are their comments for all to take gems from...

Asker Jeukendrup, Global director of Gatorade Science in Sport and five-time Kona finisher.

  • My main advice would be to be respectful of the conditions in Hawaii, but not be intimidated by them. It is a fine balance.
  • In terms of nutrition have a plan A and a plan B. If plan A fails and plan B fails, don't be afraid to listen to your body and adapt to the situation.
  • Divide the race up into bite size chunks. Keep eating away the chunks one at a time.

Joseph Spindler, coach to professional athlete Diana Riesler who has just won Ironman Malaysia.

Hawaii, it's like an other race.

  • Most is important getting nutrition OK, the bike right and getting the pacing right. i.e. do not over pace and get carried away by race heat.
  • Stay patient and controlled during bike and first had of marathon. If at 30km there is still something is left then pick up the pace.
  • Next is staying confident and positive during the race; there will be all kinds of ups and downs, but don't get confused by neither the one or the other!
  • Don't try new material in the race stick, to what you used to. No aero helmet, no deep aero wheels which you are not sure if you comfortable in crosswinds. Always go for the safe and comfortable options. The last thing you need on race day is worrying about your gear. Don't ruin all that time, sweat and effort you put into your preparation by any silly decisions.

Nick Kensington, multiple Kona finisher and lived in Kona.

  • Don't get caught up in the hype as it will drain you but it is your first time, go have fun.
  • Most important after living there for six months. Get used to the heat. Bike and run in the middle of the day up until about four days out. Do some tough mini sessions at two pm. And swim the whole course at least twice. You don't want to get sea sick.
  • And don't listen to any of those nervous triathletes that sit around and fear the worse. Surround yourself with positive vibes. You have more experience than most of the field use that to your strength.

Rob Creasy, multiple Kona finisher from New Zealand.

I'll follow Steve Jobs motto and go with three tips.

  • Have a plan, and stick to it. This race will be different to every other Ironman - there will be people close to you all day, and positions will change many times, all things that will test your resolve. Make sure you pace yourself to race right to the line.
  • Walking is for pussies. Stopping is not optional. Always keep running, if you can't run - jog. If you can't jog - shuffle. If you can't shuffle - walk through the aid station and eat, then shuffle as best you can to the next aid station, and reward yourself with a cup of ice and another gel.
  • The race is 90% self-discipline, 10% courage. The last hour of the race is when you exercise your courage, every moment before that you exercise your self-discipline. As in rule 1, have a plan and stick to it - that is self-discipline.

Aaron Burby, multiple Kona finisher and Ironman dedicated athlete.

I think the mental preparation is key. It is such a stare down fest and show in Kona leading up. Too many are taking it far too seriously. The pro and real AG contenders aren't super showy with a few minor exceptions. But everyone is super amped and it's easy to let the stare down get inside one's head.

Everyone there is so fit and ready that it is easy to sell oneself short or let others get in one's head. My advice is to stay within yourself and trust in experience and all the hard work you have done to prepare.

All that matters is what you lay down out there on the day; how you adjust, and put your best self forward and down Ali'i Drive to cross that line.

The other thing to mentally prepare for is the desire and drive on the day. So many focus on qualifying that they forget other motivations. Qualifying for Kona itself is not a motivator when racing Kona. It sounds obvious but when you get to darkest spot of truth out there you need on focus on the core motivations, which may be around accomplishment, challenge, in a loved one's honor or memory, or the simple joy and feeling of being healthy and alive.

Jenny Gowans, top Age Group triathlete and winner of Norseman.

  • Make sure you get in a pack on the swim - more important than any other race as it is non-wetsuit and can be quite strong currents so big advantages in a pack.
  • Make sure you ride the Hawi climb and descent before race day - big gains to know where potential wind gusts.
  • Energy lab is not as bad as everyone makes out and is the perfect place to start your big solid run push for home as others fade.

Joanna Lawn, legend Ironman athlete with multiple podiums in Kona.

So advice for Kona. Have fun. Enjoy. Embrace the environment.

Swim
A lot of buoyancy and salt so practice with swim skin on. Due to lower back and chaffing.

Bike
It will be windy. So stay relaxed and don't fight the wind. Relax and let it take you. Always keep pedaling in the cross winds. Do a lot of your eating on the part up to Hawi as when you turn at Hawi you don't have a lot if chances to eat. No aero helmet.
When you turn right back onto the Queen K make sure you drink and eat enough and at 15 min intervals. Poor water over your head. Don't fight the wind.

Run
So take your time in transition. Get a lot of sunblock ALL over you. Wear a hat. Fresh socks and fresh sunglasses; you will feel brand new!
Ali'i drive is hot! You will feel like shit but it's okay because it is like an oven along Ali'i. Not a lot of ocean air because of the houses. So keep pouring water over your body. Enjoy the crowds.
Palani is a longgggg climb so take your time running up there. A lot of people so enjoy. Queen K and the Energy Lab; it's only 10km. It will feel like forever. But it's not. Keep drinking and calories in. Oranges and Coke if your beginning to feel like crap!
The Energy Lab is hot because of the wind direction. It's not you it's the wind. So drink and keep cool. Take your time. Special Needs is in here so put something you like in there. Even if you don't take it, as it is better to have than not. Running up the Energy Lab wind is at your back. Just let it take you.
Turning into Queen K you can almost see the town. Enjoy it take the food and drink and sponges. Turning down Palani enjoy it. It's steep but relax. Two miles to go. Hot corner is jumping - enjoy it. Then two km's back to the pier!
Awesomeeeeeee you did it!!!!!!!!

James Bowstead, half of the Bowstead Brothers, professional triathletes from New Zealand.

(James hasn't raced there but has done several training months with Cam Brown and Terenzo in Kona).

  • Wheel selection, watch the weather carefully and have a wheel option for a very windy day because the wrong wheels will make a tough day very tough. If you're in doubt ride a very shallow front wheel.
  • If it's very windy and the cross winds are very strong, make sure you stay seated. Keep the power on the pedals and stay relaxed on the bars. DON'T coast and tense up!
  • Ali'i Drive is a very hot place! Everyone talks about the Queen K and Energy Lab as being so hot but I believe Ali'i Drive is what makes them feel so hot so make sure to work hard to keep the body cool during the early km's. Over heat along Ali'i and the Queen K and Energy Lab will be rough!
  • Race your own race, pace yourself. Take care of your nutrition and hydration and don't be afraid to take your time through the aid stations.

#GBKONA 2014 Coverage


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