There are only so many spots in the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona and each year thousands of triathletes vie for a chance to race with the best.
The event has its fair share of professional triathletes. However, the bulk of the race is filled with seemingly regular everyday folks from around the world who have trained and excelled at the sport of triathlon. They're not doing this for a paycheck. For this group, it's all about the challenge.
So, what can you do to become part of this elite Kona group? Active spoke to Jessica Yurchich, a 24-year-old marketing executive, who qualified for Kona by coming first in her age group at Ironman Wisconsin 2012, for her insider tips on race-day strategies that might help you secure one of those coveted spots.
Don't Set a Strict Time Goal for Bike
This might seem counterintuitive for most triathletes. To qualifiy for Kona often means winning your age group, or at least coming in the top three. Shouldn't you have a bike time in mind?
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Yurchich's coach Mike Lavery with Fast Forward Triathlon told her there are too many variables during the bike section to set an accurate one. Instead, she set an overall time goal of finishing under 11:30 hours, which she did.
Break Up the Bike Rides Into Parts
Her coach also advised using the first 30 miles of the bike as a warm-up. She then picked up the pace in the second half of the ride and began passing people.
"That part felt great," Yurchich said. "It was similair to my training rides."
The final 15 miles Yurchich focused on taking in extra calories for the upcoming run and eased off the pace just a bit.
Keep Your Transition Bags Simple
Yurchich waste valuable time in her first Ironman by loading her swim-to-bike transition bag with nutrition, gear and clothing.
This time, she kept it simple. She didn't change clothes after the swim and rode in her tri shorts, which she had trained in. Her nutrition was already loaded onto her bike. The only remaining gear was her bike shoes, which uses without socks, glasses and her helmet.
Run as Long as You Can
Yurchich used to walk through all the aid stations. This time around her coach advised her to run as long as possible, including through the aid stations.
Yurchich ended up running until mile 20, until slowing to a walk at the aid station to take in more sports drink.
"Running is still faster than walking, even if you're running slowly," Yurchich said. "And it's much easier to speed up on the run than transition from a walk to a run if you feel good."
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