Navigating Your Kona Quest

In this article, I’ll discuss the five most common limiters to fast age group ironman performance. I’ll identify the issue and offer you specific tips to improve your race day performance.

If you’ve never qualified then you have no idea of what Kona-qualifier pace feels like. Being unproven should, hopefully, make you humble early on race day.

If you’ve created the body that has what it takes to qualify then your mind is what you need to watch. To run well after seven hours of exercise requires an exceptional level of discipline early in your day.

The Core Block is designed to equip you with detailed performance feedback from the key sessions. Use your data to set ceilings under which you will operate. Use your powermeter and your GPS unit to keep a lid on things through the first seven hours of the event.

Be humble early.

Bike Strength
Review my article on Size, Age and Gender for background to these tips.

Large men should ride a lot of miles right up to 14 days out from your key event. While riding those miles, train your capacity to process calories and not respond to surges. Big guys ruin their races with peak HR and peak power on the bike. The way to beat uber-bikers is by letting them beat themselves. Don’t beat yourself. Focus on total work.

Small men and women that run well should incorporate material amounts of cycling at 70.3 and Olympic distance power output and sacrifice easy volume in favor of mod-hard bike training. Focus on work rate.

If you have proven your capacity to run well in IM then a high-quality long run, combined with 4-5 additional runs (per week) will maintain your strength. The “quality” of your run program works against building your bike power up.

The Metric Ironman (2.4 km / 112 km / 26.2 km) has received attention in recent years.

  • For large athletes, I think you are better building a 70.3 race into your preparations and combining the Core Block with an overall bike volume focus.
  • For smaller (and older, and female) athletes, the Metric Ironman can be useful. For this population (typically FTP less than 200w), I would recommend including a 100 km cycling main set as (4x) 20 km Threshold / 5 km Steady (continuous). For these (smaller) athletes the bike set will feel very close to four times “as fast as I can go” with ironman effort used as recovery.

GI Distress
It’s important to emphasize that a well-trained triathlete can race up to the 70.3 distance on fumes. The Core Block is the only “workout” that will let you see and experience your fueling limiters. Energy limiters won’t truly appear in training days that are less than seven hours long.

For all athletes, GI distress links very closely to peak heart rate.

People that blow up early need to learn to chill out, most importantly in the swim. Get out of the water in one piece and you need to pull all the spikes out of what you see on your powermeter. If that means you need a triple or compact gearing then get it. In cycling terms, the absolute power required to qualify is modest — you don’t need big gears to get the job done!

For Big Units, Coach KP said it best. Simply, learn how to eat while exercising. Your run will be limited by early race humility, your ability to lock-it-in on the bike and your capacity to process calories at a moderate aerobic effort. You will not be doing a 9-10 hour tempo effort – face that fact, train appropriately and race humbly to start.

Final tips for everyone that has a GI Limiter:

  • Ditch the fat and protein during the event (it is okay in training)
  • Train your digestion (for calories and fluids) at race efforts and race conditions
  • Eliminate the peaks (in HR, in power, in pace)

Giving Up
On race day, remember that nothing really happens until seven hours, then a lot happens. In my elite career, I’ve gone from out of contention to a podium finish in 90 minutes.

My coping strategy (for the despair associated with being left behind) is a deep commitment to delivering my best race. I build the pieces to that during my Core Block sessions.

Everything doesn’t need to go “right” to achieve your goals. It is far more important to maintain a commitment to moving forward, as best you can, all the way to the finish.

At every single race, slots are won in the finishing chute! I know a surprising number of athletes that have missed qualification by less than one minute. It is much easier to live with that knowledge when you know that you did the best you could, all day.

Trying Too Hard
You are going to be exercising all day. There is no rush to get to the hurt!

On the start line, relax and push play.

In the last couple weeks before race day, your rising form will have you searching for an edge. Resist the urge to get that edge! Caffeine, prescription drugs, changes in equipment or novel nutritional approaches are not required.

Make race day as normal as possible and give yourself every chance to perform.

Categories: Training

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