Ironman World Championship Kona Hawaii Race Tips - 11 Course Specific Tips

Getting to the Ironman World Championship in Kona is tough enough, but that doesn't mean you can't parlay your fitness into an Ironman PR.  Here are 10 tips for Kona virgins to help you have the best day you can out there. Some may seem obvious but the difficulty is actually following them during the race.

Swim Tips

The Melee
#1 - Don't Get Caught Off Guard - The start of the race goes off with a bang - but what you don't know is the Mike Reilly and the firing of the cannon is simply a moment of spontaneity.  Unlike your qualifier race where there is a loose countdown, you won't know when the gun goes off here.  And if you are NOT ready, then you will quickly find yourself behind the eight-ball as people start to crawl over you.

#2 - Swimming thru Madness - Regardless of speed, unless you are the top amateur you will be surrounded by more top swimmers than you have experienced before.  It is best to be conservative on the swim.  Overestimating your swim speed will just result in people crawling over you left and right - personally I would rather be crawling over people then the other way around.  And just because you lined up in the front at your Ironman qualifier doesn't automatically mean you can line up at the front in the World Championship.

#11 - Bonus tip added after I raced as a pro in 2013. Do not put your feet up against the sea wall before the start of the swim. There are tons of sea urchins and you will get stung. Ask me how I know, or just read my 2013 Ironman Hawaii Race Report

T1 Tips

Bright Bags Can Help You Transition
#3 All Hands on Deck - The 2.4 mile ocean swim can be tough if you haven't done a non-wetsuit IM swim.  And if you are at the pointy-end of the field in your qualifier race then you may be middle of the pack here.  That means many more bodies than you may be use to and the pier is small and can get quite congested.  My suggestion is just to relax going thru transition. With the competitive nature of the world-class field it is easy to get distracted and forget something important - like forgetting to take off your swim skin!!  Move thru transition methodically and let your HR fall.  The precious few seconds lost will be gained back on the bike.

#4 Beacon The Bags - I always like to add a little special touch to my bags.  It makes for easy identification of the bags and can be a real time saver in the event that the bag gets misplaced.

Bike Tips

A Tree In Hawi
#5 - Sail Away - People always ask: what depth wheel should I bring?  Asking this question likely means that you are worried about cross-winds and should err on the side of caution.  If you ride scared you will ride slower on a 808 than a 404.  If you have to bring an 808 then make sure you pre-ride the descent from Hawi and do it during the middle of the day.

#6 - Bike Pacing - There is no glory in a great bike split if you can't back it up on the run.  Kona is likely much hotter, and more humid than you are use to, and this can greatly affect the amount of power you can put out.  It also affects how much you can take in.  Course difficulty all depends on winds on the day, but it is best to take it out conservatively.  If you have to ask yourself out on the bike if you are going too hard then you probably are.

T2 Tips

#7 Enjoy The Intermission - The run is going to hurt, it is going to be hot, and you are going to suffer.  Enjoy the shade of the tent as you methodically move thru transition.  No need to rush this.  At worst you lose a few seconds as your body cools off and your heart rate falls.  I can assure you this will be made up once you get onto the legendary lava fields as you roast in the midday sun.

Run Tips

An Athlete Tackles Palani Hill
#8 Walking Can Be Faster Than Running - The Queen-K and Ali'hi drive can be absolutely awful, and keeping your core temp in control and allowing your body to absorb nutrients becomes top priority.  To get thru the marathon there are three strategic aid stations to walk and they include the aid station right before the hill at around mile 8, Palani hill, and coming out of the Energy Lab.  All three places are great places to walk for 15-20 seconds as you fuel, cool down, and let your HR recover before you tackle the climbs.

Heat Acclimation Tips

#9 Sweat It Out -  Bikram Yoga is a great way to work on heat acclimation while keeping you flexible, and rejuvenating the body and mind.  If you haven't done Bikram Yoga before then this might not be the time to experiment, but it can be great way for people from the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and East Coast to stay acclimated without going to Kona 10 days out.

#10 Hot-Box Biking - If you have a bathroom big enough, then turn on the shower, close the door, and start biking.   Use common sense when it comes to the temperature and duration and also don't bring any electronics in that could cause a short or that could be adversely affected by the humidity.  And NO, the bike doesn't actually go in the shower.

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