And don't forget that as the day progresses, the trade winds typically shift, making the slight headwind you faced on the way to the turnaround at Hawi into a strong headwind on the way back.
- Do some sustained climbing at tempo effort. None of the hills in Kona are that tough, but they do require continuous pressure to keep up your speed through the body of the hill and over the top. Find hills that take eight to 12 minutes to climb and get to work!
- Tempo-finish workouts. Kona rewards those who are able to maintain their speed in the second half of the race. Practice this on your longer rides by starting conservatively and then finishing strong.
- Master your aero position. Not being able to stay aero in Kona could well be the end of your (competitive) race. Spend lots of time getting comfortable in your aerobars, and prepare to maintain this position during the climbs and winds of race day.
The run course in Kona is a tale of two courses. You have the incredibly humid five-miles-out/five-miles-back stretch along Ali'i drive, and then the hot and hilly eight-miles-out/eight-miles-back on the Queen K to the Energy Lab. This one-two punch is usually just enough to finish off all but the most prepared.
First and foremost, being able to manage the heat is what will make (or break) your run. Dress appropriately and know what you need to do to stay cool both in the humidity and in the direct heat of the lava fields. Keeping your core body temperature and heart rate down in the early stages of the run will ensure you'll have something left for the end when it matters. In addition:
- Re-energize your running by returning to a focus on shorter/faster efforts. This will stimulate your fast-twitch muscles (dormant for so long!) and prepare you for the hard run in Kona.
- Avoid the uber-long runs. At this stage of your season, a longer run can take 1.5 to two times as much recovery given your cumulative fatigue. Focus instead on 90-minute runs where you build the intensity to finish strong.
As you approach race day, remember to relax and enjoy the journey. There are few times in our lives when we can honestly say, on this day, in this sport, I competed against the best in the world. Don't ruin the next two months—and race day—by crushing yourself. Focus on what matters and save all the hard-core training for your run at qualification next year. You do want to go back, don't you?
Listen to a podcast of the authors discussing this article, with additional pointers for Kona-bound athletes.
Patrick McCrann and Rich Strauss are the co-founders of Endurance Nation (www.endurancenation.us). Patrick will be competing in his third consecutive Ironman World Championships in 2008. Endurance Nation is a virtual triathlon team for primarly half and full Iron-distance athletes. Founded in November 2007, the team has quickly grown to over 400 members. 2008 team results, through IMLP, include 30+ Finishers, 10 athletes under 10:50 and four Kona qualifiers. To learn more, please visit Endurance Nation.