KONA The Super Bowl of Triathlon
Half human half grizzly bear and Fellow Gent Eric Hinman works out twice a day - two hours each time. As you can image training and partaking in an Ironman event is no easy feat. But the Kona, that's a whole different animal.
Read his story below.
Kona is unforgiving:
Kona is a brutal race - much more difficult than a typical Ironman! I’m not sure there is any way to race it without suffering at some point! Keeping your body temperature down is crucial in having a successful race.
I did not have much anxiety leading up to the race. I was calm, mentally prepared and my body felt fairly good. My only concern - I had some doubts about my run due to a hip injury sustained 4 weeks prior to the race stemming from a low-speed bike crash. I missed 9 days of running (from 20 days to 12 days out from the race) and several crucial workouts (run/bike/run, track work, and long runs). My longest run, post Ironman Lake Placid (in July) was 15 miles. My longest run in the five weeks leading up to the race was 8 miles. However, I was very confident in my bike and semi-confident about my swim. I racked up the bike mileage (over 300 miles / week) and increased the intensity (biking and swimming) to compensate for the missed runs / track speed work.
It was great getting to Kona early. I was able to acclimate to the heat + humidity and get into a routine. I put in several quality rides on the Queen K (3 hours one week before the race and several 1:30 - 2 hour rides at Ironman pace). I also snuck in two 8 mile runs (about the furthest I felt comfortable going without aggravating my hip). I also swam the full course 5 days before the race.
The week leading up to the race, I wasn’t able to have my normal breakfasts (green smoothie, eggs, and bulletproof coffee). However, I got into the routine of eating a banana with peanut butter or almond butter along w/ a coffee upon waking, then an acai bowl at Basik Cafe (late breakfast, post workout), a poke bowl at Da Poke Shack for lunch (tuna, brown rice, cucumbers), and Thai at Original Thai for dinner (red curry w/ chicken). I felt energized, light, and in-control of my gut.
The morning of the race, I woke up at 4am having slept fairly well. I immediately had 16oz of Hula Daddy Kona Coffee. Rocket-fuel! A banana and wheat bagel with almond butter.
I pumped my tires to 100psi - I had a new tube and tire that the Dimond tech crew had put on the day before. I was somewhat concerned about not having ridden on it, but it held air overnight.
This year the race started with all age group men starting at 650 am. Women starting at 7am. I had one Gu 20 min before swim. I stood with Jill Jamar Andy and Dave outside the king K prior to the race start. I entered the water with Andy and we lined up 3-4 rows back and off to the left. The cannon went off almost without warning. It was difficult to hear with my swim cap on + treading water. I somehow swam directly to the buoys. I stayed on the buoys the remainder of the race. I drafted for a while on the turn back in. The first half of the swim went by fast. The second half felt really long. About 2 miles in, age group women started swimming over me. At that point, I realized I didn't have a very good swim occurring. When I exited the water, I wasn't tired. No cramping. I looked at my watch and saw 1:14. I was bummed, but didn't let it hamper my race. T2 was slow. I ran slow and it took time to put my Castelli aero top on. I rolled out of T2 ready to ride.
The power came easy from the start. My Garmin 510 bike computer wouldn’t pick up my heart rate - I fiddled with it a bit, trying to get it to pair with no success. My power reading seemed to be accurate. I pegged it around 240 - it felt comfortable and I was passing people. I rode by Kristen White early in the race. She started 10 minutes after me. I now realized how shitty my swim was. Oh well, I was over it. I brought 2 bottles of Skratch with me on the bike - I made sure I was drinking from them prior to the first aid station. A couple cyclists passed me at mile 10, I stuck with them, still well within my comfort zone. I ended up passing them on a climb. I rode in and out of packs for the first 20 miles. After mile 20, I was on my own - I continued to pass people with the power feeling almost effortless. By mile 30, I realized how good I was feeling on the bike. I started to think about how far ahead Andy Powell might be and where I would catch him. After going through the two bottles of Skratch, I grabbed 1 Perform at every aid station and drank it immediately. I also grabbed water at every aid station and dumped it on my head, cycling top, and shorts. Just before the turnaround, I spotted Andy - he was a couple minutes up on me. Motivation to catch him! I also saw Reilly Smith and the top age groupers - quite a ways ahead of me. I thought about how bad I wanted to be up front - I need to figure out how to swim! On the way back from Hawi, I upped my effort and started really flying by people. The headwinds + crosswinds were tremendous, but not demoralizing. It was empowering to blow by some of the best cyclists in the world! I started to alternate between Coke and Perform at the remaining aid stations. At mile 70, I caught and blew by Andy. We exchanged pleasantries! The remainder of the race, I really rode on feel. Into the headwind and up the hills, I sometimes pedaled in excess of 300 watts. It was one of those days, where I felt I could do no wrong on the bike. I started doing the math and looking at my avg speed (hovering around 22.8) and tried to maintain my effort to bike a sub-5. I knew that would set me up for a good overall time if I wasn’t able to rip the marathon. I was stoked coming into transition when I crossed at 4:56. A sexy bike split, indeed!
Coming into transition off the bike, my first few steps were uncomfortable. My hip was sore from the ride. Concerning, but I tried to block it out. After getting through transition, getting my running shoes on, etc. the pain started to subside. It’s always a shock to the system going from a 112 mile ride, directly into the run. It normally takes 1-2 miles for my “run-legs” to respond. This race was no different. The first mile, I felt really flat. By mile 2, I started to come around. By mile 3, my hip wasn’t bothering me and I just focused on a high run cadence, and cooling myself down at each aid station. I was no longer concerned about my hip, but was a little concerned about how hard I biked and the lack of long runs / speed work going into the race. I did the math, and figured if I ran a 3:15, I’d still have a great time. I looked at my watch and 7:15 - 7:20 felt doable. I didn’t want to push much harder as I knew my run durability was lacking. I wasn’t tracking HR on the run - my Suunto watch wasn’t compatible with the HR monitor I was wearing. Something I knew prior to the race, and didn’t really care about the metric. I was confident I could run within my ability on feel. I clicked off the miles on the rolling hills along Ali’i. I felt a dump coming on around mile 6 and tried to push through it. At mile 10, I saw the support crew - it was awesome seeing everyone and as much as the climb up Palani hurt, I knew I couldn’t walk it! I had to stop at a porta potty at mile 12 - I couldn’t hold it any longer. Felt much better after and caught the people that passed me while I was taking care of business. Around the same time, the battery died on my Suunto watch - no more pace! I was running on feel anyway, so it didn't really matter. At mile 16 (just prior to going into the Energy Lab), it started to really hurt. Stomach cramps, although not severe, enough to slow my pace. The downhill in the Energy Lab was a relief. I saw Reilly Smith (who won the Texas 70.3 amateur race), I wasn’t far behind him. Coming out of the energy lab - the slight uphill was where I felt the slowest. Once I got back on the Queen K, I reminded myself it was downhill and a tailwind the rest of the way home. I had to walk the aid station at mile 20 - I doused myself in water, coke, perform, and ice. I ate some pretzels and drank everything they offered me, with the exception of red bull! My body was shutting down and I did everything I could to trick it into going another 6 miles. From mile 15 on, I kept doing the math in my head - trying to come in around 9:30. At mile 20, I told myself to just maintain 8 min / mile (although I had no clue how fast I was running) and it would put me in under 9:40. At mile 22, I saw Mirra on his bike - he offered words of encouragement and it helped get me to the next aid station. At mile 23 or 24, I passed Reilly. We offered words of encouragement. He fell apart on the marathon after leading the age group race on the bike. At mile 25, I saw Jamar - I was really suffering, but his support helped me pick up the pace in the final mile - by looking at my watch, I knew I’d be in under 9:40 and wanted badly to be as far under 9:40 as possible! I felt like a wet dog rolling into the finish. 3 hours and 18 minutes (my marathon time) of dumping liquids and ice all over myself. I was able to walk and not completely delirious. Having said that, I gave it my all.
I had a slice of pizza and chocolate milk immediately upon finishing.
30 min after race, another chocolate milk and an acai bowl with almond butter.
For dinner, I had a salad at Lava Java and a veggie pizza.
I focused on plenty of protein in the days following the race.
I was stiff and swollen from flying the day after the race.
Monday after the race, I swam a few laps in Larry Luckwaldt’s pool and biked for 45 min
Tuesday after the race I swam 2,000 yards, did a 30 min crossfit workout - push-ups + plank, and ran for 30 minutes.
Wednesday after the race (felt fully recovered), I did an intense crossfit workout at CrossFit Santa Monica with running and squats. 12, 9, 6 -> 1 hang clean and 2 front squares + 1,000 meter run in between each set. No pain!
Things to do / not do:
Wear sunglasses and cap with brim facing forwards - seemed to enable me to block out the sun and pain.
Practice race nutrition prior to race
Definitely get to Kona early - maybe even 2 weeks before race
Wear a half-length aero top on bike and run - kept me cool and was nice to have pockets.
Wear a two piece suit - easy for bathroom break
Split up the trip, by stopping over in LA on way there and back.
Fly out one to two days after race. Don’t fly out the day after - felt awful, stiff, and legs swelled up from sitting.
TAPER - felt great to have fresh legs
On swim, line up in front row off to the left. Try to draft off faster swimmers.
Ride a 56 chain ring. See this article:
" The descent from Hawi has become a place where the top cyclists can really start to gap others. In 2011, Alexander was putting in a big effort to distance himself from his rivals. Staying on the gas, he averaged 267 watts at 99 rpm and averaged 38.1 mph. This year, he made a more conscious decision to stay within himself and didn’t go with the front move. His numbers in 2014 reflect that. He averaged only 199 watts, but was still able to average 37 mph, showing the difference in wind conditions from year to year. Alexander’s comments are right in line with what the numbers show. “That is where I struggled, that 6 to 7 mile descent because a lot of the boys had a 56 chain ring and I had a 54,” he said. “But I was still at 40 to 45 mph.” While his speed this year is close to what he went in 2011, we can assume that top riders like Sebastian Kienle and Frederik Van Lierde were pushing 275 plus watts and hitting 45 to 50 mph. "