The World Championships changes everything… and Kona is… Kona

Oct
11

Posted by Coach Jay Weber

Coach Jay with Siri Lindley at the 2016 IRONMAN World Championship #selfieadaywithjay

 

Regardless of the distance, or event series, the World Championships of a sport is a lifetime goal for many athletes. Being at the pinnacle of your sport is something to be proud of, to cherish, and it serves as recognition of the road it took to get there.

The IRONMAN World Championships has many race-day variables that cannot be replicated which makes for an exciting race as a spectator. But as the athletes who are competing for the win, Kona presents a series of challenges that can't necessarily be duplicated in training. While we strive for "nothing new on race day," Kona throws almost EVERYTHING new on race day.

 

COMPETITION

While ITU athletes see much of their same competition at races throughout the year, this is not the case for those on the IRONMAN circuit. Pro athletes can qualify throughout the year at many different events, and may only see each other once a year. At the IM WC you have the majority of the fastest athletes in your field, so EVERYONE is fast. This changes the race dynamics, particularly in the pro field, but also for the age groupers.

Groups form in both the pro field, as well as the age group fields. This is something that needs to be prepared for. Many of the athletes are used to being in the front (thus, how they got to Kona in the first place), but in Kona most are coming out of the water together, whether swimming 48min as a Pro, 55min as a 45 year old, or 1:45 as a 75 year old. While it is certainly true that the upper age groups (70+) have smaller fields, those toeing the line with you in Kona are just as fast as you!

If you are going for the podium, the decision of when to make a break for it is critical. Go too early, and you start burning your matches, and go too late, and you’ll miss pacing with the lead group *** SIDE NOTE, pacing is far different from drafting, and used by many to know how fast to go ***

WEATHER

Until you experience the weather in Kona, it is hard to fathom what the race weather is like. Conditions do change from time to time, but it is typically HOT, HUMID, and WINDY. The level can vary slightly, but you can be assured that they will affect your race. The unpredictability of the weather is also a factor, and one of the reasons why your day can be changed in the blink of an eye.

 

ROAD CONDITIONS

The heat baking the road and coming off the lava fields creates a radiation impact that is rarely replicated. You cannot avoid the heat coming from on top of you, but it also comes from the side of the lava fields, and ground from the road.

COURSE CHALLENGES

Kona is thought to be a fairly flat course. While it is not a mountainous course, the long unrelenting climbs take a toll because they don’t appear to be steep, but you’re still getting some good climbing in for miles on end.

The other course challenge that exists is lack of cover. There is virtually zero shade offered for relief on this course, and since you’re out there for anywhere between 9 hours and 17 hours, controlling this as best you can is vital to a successful race. The fun of Kona as a spectator is watching all of the elites and age groupers unleash their best day.

 

The biggest challenge to Kona is simply qualifying. Celebrate the accomplishment that you got there. If you are there to compete, know that there is an added mental game to bring to the experience, as well as other variables that you might not be able to train for.

The pro field always has some surprises thrown into the mix. They feel different things on race day, and make decisions based on feel. You think you know who you will come out of the water with, what will happen on the bike, and where to push on the run. But the game of chess that takes place in Kona adds such unique elements, one that require preparation beyond ultimate fitness, particularly if the podium is a goal.

 

~ Coach Jay Weber

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