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Things I learned about Ironman Hawaii

IMG_2463Leave some extra space for swag

The Kona swag is amazing. Every company comes loaded special edition Kona T-shirts, hats and much more. Between my fiancé and I we came home with 13 trucker hats! If you do run out of space, don’t worry, chances are you will also pick up a couple swag backpacks along the way.

It takes about 5 days to start acclimatizing

My first week in Kona I felt like complete garbage. It took about five days until I started to feel like myself both in and out of training. If you arrive the week before a race in a hot location be aware of this. You will feel awful initially, but by the time the race rolls around you will be ready to go. Do not start questioning your training or recovery. It is just the heat. Sharing your heat struggles with other athletes is a great way to relax and accept it as normal part of training. If you are planning to arrive with less than five days to acclimatize, I would highly recommend you do some sort of heat training protocol in order to reduce the time it takes to acclimatize.

The aid stations feel a lifetime apart in the Kona heat

It doesn’t matter how acclimatized you are, the run in Kona is still going to be hot! The heat makes the run aid stations feel way longer than one mile apart. It is important from the first aid station to the last aid station, that you grab as much ice and water as you can. The cooler you can keep your body the less mentally draining the miles will be. You can use this saved mental energy for a big push in the last half of the run. A special shout out to Indy Car Champion Tony Kanaan who helped the miles feel shorter by running beside athletes with a garden house to pour on their heads! I would love to return the favour, however I don’t think he appreciate me spraying his car with water as he zings by!

Put on the big boy/girl gears

The winds in Kona are legendary; the steepness in the hills are not so legendary. It is important if you are racing Kona or another windy course that you make sure you have an 11 tooth cog on your cassette for the fast tailwind sections. For stronger riders moving up to a 55 tooth chain ring can also be a huge advantage when you have a tail wind. The downside to having 55 tooth chain ring is that it requires you to also have upgraded to a 42 tooth small rings. The hills in Kona aren’t steep enough for a stronger rider to need the bigger climbing gears so this is a trade off worth making.

Ask people for advice

Over the five weeks that I spent in Kona I received a ton of great advice from a ton of great people. The key is you have ask. We are very fortunate in our sport that the people who have had the most success always seem to be willing to share how they achieved that success. In particular I received some great advice from Chris McCormack, Belinda Grainger, Jasper Blake and both of the Lieto brothers Chris and Matt in the days leading up to the race (Sophia, myself, and Velofix Hawaii team may have crashed Macca’s party two nights before the race…)

Headwinds are awesome (seriously)

When the Humidex goes well above 40 headwinds are amazing! When running in the intense heat you begin to look forward to the sections where the winds hit you the hardest. It is the tailwinds sections that you need to pay particular attention to. When the wind is at your back, you lose that convective cooling and it gets hot really fast.

Sometimes you don’t notice you are dehydrated until you stop running

One of the most amazing things about endurance sports is the mind’s ability to block out pain discomfort while we are exercising. You see this all the time at races where as soon as people cross the finish line their body gives out. Your brain gets wrapped around dong whatever it takes to get to a certain point and deal with what happens after that when you get there. I had this experience with a long run in Kona. I went from great to horrendous the moment I stopped running. I struggled through my post run drills and found out I was significantly dehydrated. I sat down with an electrolyte drink, bottle of juice, plain water and half a watermelon. After an hour of lying on the floor watching The Walking Dead, I was back to feeling normal.

As Canadians we need represent better at the Parade of Nations!

With 114 Canadians racing Ironman Hawaii it was disappointing to see only 15 of us show up to the Parade of Nations! The Brazilians in front of us had well over a hundred and were belting out chants and cheers the whole time. The Australians had an equal number out and that’s not even counting the inflatable kangaroos! If you have raced in Kona in the past and/or are planning to qualify this year, speak out to your provincial triathlon governing body and TriCan – they are the ones who are able to support the tri community and us across Canada! Michael Brown, who is running the 2017 Penticton Worlds, is a Long Course fanatic and is pushing for ALL Long Course athletes to get more supports from all the federations. He hopes to help with the Canadian representation in Kona and other Long Course races and it’ll be really interesting to see what he does (think awesome swag, parties, discounts etc.)

Kona feels like your first triathlon all over again

Remember that first time you raced a triathlon or the first time you raced a longer distance? The challenge seemed daunting and you felt totally unprepared? Remember how it felt like everyone except you had done this before so many times that they knew exactly what to expect? This is exactly how Kona felt. It was impossible not to get a huge boost of energy and excitement to take on the new task.


In dry conditions chafing has never been an issue for me. But here in Kona it is huge! The high humidity ensures that your exercise clothes are constantly soaked in sweat. So if you are travelling to a very humid location, save yourself a ton of unnecessary pain by throwing in some extra body glide.

The Ocean is Hot

If there is ever a reason to get excited about swimming in a warm pool this is it. The ocean is really warm and will be like that on race day. So the next time you find yourself in a coffee pot of a pool, think “This is awesome! This is great training for the Ironman World Championship.”

Single Leg Drills
Seriously. Hate ’em or love ’em they may come in handy one day…because you just never know! Actually, this goes for all drills that you always question your coach for making you do.”(Check out this video of Jeff’s one-legged ride in Kona).

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