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Thoughts from the Big Island

It is about 6 weeks after the Ironman World Championship on the Big Island. The life since Kona has been quite busy, including some international travel soon after the race and a bunch of deadlines to meet. Training volume has been quite low, which actually has felt really good after a long Kona qualifying season. In my previous post I went over some of the points of what it took to for me to qualify for Kona in the IM Canada in the end of July. In this post, I'll go through some of the elements of preparation and racing in Kona.

The IM Canada took place in the end of July. In preparation for this race, I completed the toughest training season that I've ever done in my life. IM Canada went really well. I'm a relatively slow swimmer, and, even though I swam quite a bit this season, I still came out of the water 45th in my AG (1.09). Fortunately, I was able to work my way up the field, positioning 12th after the bike and 5th after the run. There were 3 slots in my AG. The first and the second did not take theirs, so I was able to get the last slot in my AG, and the season got extended until IM Kona in October.

After the build for IM Canada and the race, I felt very tired and decided to take the next two weeks easy. Then in mid August (only about 9 weeks before Kona), I started to train more systematically again. However, I wasn't still able to hit the type of efforts I was holding during the build for IM Canada. Eventually, it took about 4 weeks (end of August) to feel like the body is working well again. At this point there were only about 6 - 7 weeks until Kona. Also work schedule was getting quite intense due to approaching deadlines. So I decided to approach Kona with a lower volume than I did approach IM Canada. After all, I wasn't trying to podium in Kona anyway, so the prerace pressure was quite different than before IM Canada.

The prerace pacing strategy was to swim the swim, bike the bike, and run the run. The point was to make sure that whatever happens, the run is going to be a run, not a walk or crawl. It is just much more enjoyable (and faster) to finish IM race this way and there was no need to take any unnecesary risks on bike for a few minutes savings. If fighting for a podium, it might be a differents story, such as in Canada I was totally risking the legs on the bike and it paid off. Here the goal was to make sure that the Kona memory is a happy memory of running across the finish line.

Well. At this point, people who read this blog are probably well aware that the day was one of the faster ever in Kona. It surely was fast.

The swim was surpisingly fast non-wetsut swim. I was at the turning point at 32 minutes and could not believe it. Well, on the way back, things slowed down a bit and the swim time was 1.14. What a dissapointment when I though that I was swimming a sub 1.10 pace. Well, there probably were some currents out there helping on the way out ...

The cross winds were practically absent on the bike. I did ride the Hawi section a few days before the race and I wasn't able to hold the aero position in the downhill as I was scared that the gusty wind would throw me against cars. In the race day, the weather was totally calm and you could ride down the hill over 50km/h in aero position without feeling shaky at all. It was quite funny that I managed to PB my IM bike split by almost 10 minutes without even trying.

The run was quite hot, as expected. It started quite well, as I took the bike quite easy, and I thought that this is going to be a nice well paced run. The Ali'i drive has also quite a bit of shade and people cheering, making the effort more enjoyable, and there were absolutely no issues in this part of the route. After about 10km of running, you get to Queen K... there is almost no one out there cheering and there is absolutely no shade until you get back to Ali'i drive for the last strech of the marathon... good luck with the last 3/4 of your IM marathon... Run was still rolling pretty well, it was hot but not too hot, and there were enough aid stations to cool down and hydrate. Approaching the energy lab I could feel that there is a possibility that wheels may come off at some point. Then the turn to the energy lap loop came. I could see people on their way back looking really drained after the loop and wondered how it is going to be out there at the Lab. And Boom! It was definitely the hottest part of the route. Before the energy lab I was averaging 5.30 / km (average on the Ali'i drive was 5.05 / km), at the loop my average dropped to 5.55 / km. This was also pretty much the pace at the Queen K until the end. Somehow the heat damage at the lab was irreversible and rest of the run was just survival. Finally, almost 4h into the run, I rolled down Ali'i drive, happy to cross the finish line in Kona,

So what is next now that the Kona dream is checked off the list? Well. Life is fortunately about to get quite a bit busier, so training volumes are surely going to be much lower than they have been within the past few years... We’ll see :-).

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