Daniela Ryf wins her third successive Ironman World Championship Title. Photo: Ironman Media
I have been asked about my silence after Kona, and that I must be excited at the outcome? Questions such as:
Surely I must have enjoyed the race?
Were you worried to see Daniela so far back?
What did you think of Lionel Sanders race?
These were the recurring themes of the enquirers. So let me respond to each one, in that order.
Am I excited?
I was extremely pleased that Daniela was able to perform 100% to her potential on the day.
The theme for this year was ‘fight’. However to me the only fight that excited me last weekend was the absolute courageous return to racing of Matty Trautman. Only 8 months ago he has in a horrific collision with a car, breaking his back, and had two titanium rods inserted. Two Doctors prognosis were that he would be lucky to be able to run more than a shuffle. The best prognosis he may be able to run at 65 to 75% within 2 years.
A courageous return to racing – great to see Matt back on the start line last weekend in Sun City.
To see Matty win his test race, a sprint event in South Africa, then to back it up with a win in the Olympic distance race, to me personally overshadowed anything I saw about ‘fight’ in Kona. This was the ultimate fight and after such trauma both mentality and physically that made me very excited.
Did I enjoy the race?
No, from a female race point view. I enjoyed Chattanooga so much more. It was a ‘real’ World Championship, as the female athletes had their own race. Apart from bloody mindedness of the ‘stake holders’ this can also be done in Kona. Seeing so many motorbikes so close to the athletes is just totally not needed.
Watching the men strung out in one big slip stream also seems ridiculous, as are the rules of passing. Why? Because the course deems it necessary.
Then watching the massive packs of age groupers lining up at the penalty tents, for being not cheats, but victims of the conflict of profit verses a real World Championship for those guys. To see them to be wrongly accused of drafting because of limitations of a course to handle 2500 athletes is sad. So no I didn’t enjoy the race, as it could easily be so much more.
Was I worried?
No I was not worried to see the bird that far back. We go into races with game plans. Usually not one but three. One of Danni’s great talents is her ability to follow instructions while under extreme pressure. To be honest I have not trained an athlete better at this.
Being an ex-international swim coach I know the swim career of Lucy Charles. While most people in Triathlon don’t understand how much talent one must have to swim her times, the engine it needs, the discipline and ability to sacrifice is not lost on me. This is indeed a great athlete, and Danni was advised she most likely won’t be in front till late in the bike ride. Lucy’s bike ride was such that if Danni tried to shut down that gap earlier, it could have cost her the race. Danni’s plan was always to go after the last 40km on the bike, and go she did!
It was a master class in strategy from her, under pressure to execute her plan. She then controlled the run at all times, but that is where we agree to disagree. Danni won by 8 minutes with the brakes on. That is no ‘fight’.
Lionel Sanders race?
He did not win, so I don’t get why I am asked about this. Why the hype in the sport? Over what?
He gives 100%.
He trains hard.
He shows courage.
I’m sorry, but these to me are just attributes of any athlete who wishes to be the best that they can be. I’m sure Lionel would be the first to agree with me. These attributes are expected as normal at Trisutto, not something special.
To the winner – I was cheering every metre from the Energy Lab for Lionel. Why, when he is not my athlete? A Kona without teeth tends to throw up these wet runners that can handle some heat. Sanders ride from 6 minutes back was enormous. Then when there, he continued to compete from minute one till the last minute. He gave 100%. Sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t’ show the biggest success.
So there are the questions answered.
James, Corinne, Rei and Celine in action in Kona.
We had a super performance from James Cunnama, and his season has made me very proud to help him rekindle his best performance.
We had Reinaldo Colucci, Corinne Abraham and Celine Schaerer also competing. All took home lessons a world championship can give. Reinaldo needs to re-group and find a clear path to do the work necessary to be on the podium. Corinne just small refinements in all three to make the top 10, of which I think she can. Lastly Celine did a great job to qualify. That was her championship. Now she knows what is required when the very best are all in one place.
Gunning for history. Daniela Ryf going for Triple Ironman & Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Photo: Korupt Vision
With close to 10% of the professional field at Kona now training with Trisutto coaches my traditional pre-race preview is getting more difficult. Instead of sizing up our competitors, I’ll be wishing all the best for our coached athletes across the board. We know they’ll be ready.
In the meantime for our followers here’s a short preview of my squad starters:
I’ll lead off with the great Daniela Ryf. After overcoming a difficult season I’m pleased to say that the Bird is back at Kona – injury free and close to her near best. Winning three in a row is a huge feat at any World Championship event, at Kona it makes one legendary with only a select group of athletes having accomplished it:
Dave Scott, Paula Newby-Fraser, Mark Allen, Natascha Badmann and Chrissie Wellington.
So we wish her best mechanical luck on trying to achieve her destiny!
James Cunnama is back at Kona and carrying a few more weapons than his last couple of forays to the Big Island. Armed with a stronger bike and returned run form, if the favourites decide to play games we could see the giant Saffa taking matters into his own capable hands.
Also returning on somewhat of a reconnaissance mission is Reinaldo Colucci. Rei has started back on the journey I first set for him nearly 16 years ago. While he surprised me in the interim by having a massive ITU and Olympic career it was always Kona that Coach dreamed for him. So he is paying his dues this year, but look for the tall timber from Brazil to give it a massive shake in 2018.
Also returning will see the Welsh Wizard Corinne Abraham. After two interrupted seasons with injury, I’m so proud to see her put together an outstanding season that lands her back in the Big Island. While no one is paying her much attention in the pre-race favourite lists, Coach thinks she will be vying for the best run split coming down the Queen K.
It’s a proud moment to announce the prodigal daughter Celine Schaerer will be making her Kona debut. Celine will not just be in attendance, but is going to find Kona very much to her liking. Like Corinne the heat and toughness of the run course is only going to help Celine. And with no massive packs of men bringing the women up to this swim-biker, things could be so different for her at Kona.
Finally, special mention to Jane Hansom who is returning to Kona to defend her World Championship won last year. The Burglar is getting fitter by the day and again will be a formidable foe for any looking to take her crown.
As we see on social media many are now at or heading to the big island, excited for the big show.
Each athlete will be champing at the bit to pull out the bike and hammer down the Queen K. There will be three types of athletes there by now.
The ‘Worker Bees’. The guys who have been working hard, saving up their money and holidays so they can be here for the biggest race in Ironman. They will have missed vital workouts, had to shorten others and now think they’ve got a whole 10 days to catch up and get their final work in.
The ‘Long Taper’ Brigade. This group are content ‘knowing’ all the work is done, so they’re happy to just to chill out and relax. They will be well at ease with themselves as most will have a coach who has a dogma for long tapers, and has assured them all will be OK.
Finally, we have ‘Deep Thinkers’. Similar to the ‘Long Tapers’, but are not overly convinced by their coaches and so are worried they’re going to wreck their race by too little work. This group tries to settle down, but on about day three start to think over everything very deeply and decide ‘I do really need to do a little more, if I’m careful it won’t hurt’.
Now, I’m not having a go at anyone in the above three categories and neither am I presumptuous enough to tell anyone what they should do. But this is the advice I give to my own athletes (pro and age-group) who have found themselves on the big island with just under two weeks to go. It has served the Trisutto squad pretty successfully and while it may not make you quicker, it may just save your race.
So, the three Golden Kona rules that don’t change no matter how fast or slow you are.
1) Stick to your own routine:
If that means in London you always swim in a pool, don’t now start swimming in the beautiful ocean just because you don’t have it at home. If you normally swim at 7am, don’t go swimming at 7pm so “I can watch the sunset”. If you usually run on a treadmill, get out and find one in Kona.
2) Stick to your own sets:
If you have been doing 3-months of certain sets, DON’T (you hearing me!?) Don’t start watching the pros and say I’ll give that a bit of a try because it could improve me. It won’t and it could kill your performance. That goes for the swim, the bike, and the run. If the race is over and you still want to try it, then be my guest. But not before the race.
3) Stick to your own nutrition:
Don’t go changing your race food or lead up nutrition. ‘But Sutto, it’s hotter here’. I know that. I also know that the biggest group walking along Alii Drive come race day are those that took steps to change their eating going into and during this race, because ‘Wow! It’s hotter than I thought.’ It is too late to change now. Stick to what you know.
In conclusion, you’ll find the golden rules have absolutely nothing to do with enhancing anything. That’s because when you hit the big island the biggest performance enhancer is not changing a thing. Go with what you’ve got and go knowing ‘this is what got me here in the first place!’
Every year pre-Kona I’m inundated with enquiries about race day nutrition, often sparked by articles of ex-athletes giving out advice they didn’t use themselves when they were at the top of their game.
This is not an article to get into the pros and cons of different nutrition strategies, but rather a directive to Trisutto athletes on behalf of your dismayed coaches. Hold the line! Stick with the plan you have worked out with your coach and practiced in the run up to what should be a celebration of your ultimate day in multisport.
The temptation to try something new, or take on tips and advice from people that don’t know you in the misguided belief that it could help you on the big day, when the nerves and insecurities are already starting to bubble, is to invite disaster.
You have planned your feeding, you have practiced the plan in qualification. Now on race day work that plan! If you’re under pressure aid stations should be looked at as islands from heaven.
I can tell you there are more theories, opinions and half cocked research about race day nutrition than you can count. The majority of which would be a compliment to refer to as ‘pseudoscience’. But whatever the potential merits, positive or negative, so close to the race are irrelevant.
At this point in time, the advice of sticking with what you have practiced is the only good advice you’re going to get.
Similarly, changing sessions after hitting the Kona highway or pool because a 55 year old male or female blows past you while you’re on your easy ride is as ridiculous as one can imagine. Yet every year it will happen. They maybe having the best session of their lives, only problem is it’s on the wrong day. Leave them to it.
We open every Trisutto camp with a lecture about the sport. What is Ironman triathlon really?
I make very clear that at Trisutto we believe swim, bike and run come a bad 3rd, 4th and 5th in priority. To me the most important disciplines of Ironman are:
2. Calorie intake!
No athlete on the second Saturday of October at Kona will be celebrating a great race performance unless you have nailed these two features.
Having a few extra calories will be far more preferable than having too little! You can bet on it.
With 22 days and counting – it’s about this time every year that the Kona surge starts to take hold.
An affliction that doesn’t just occur with pros, but one that infects many hard working age group athletes who have qualified to go to the big show.
And let’s clarify ‘hard worker.’
These are not pros, but people who have full-time jobs. Given the Ironman demographic we find that these tend to be high-powered, stressful jobs at that. It may not be physical labour, but it is the kind of work that requires a lot of time and mental attention.
What you’ll find in the ‘Surge’ is that these qualifiers are now cramming every bit of training in they can do. Every minute is filled with extra training as they feel guilty about their jobs robbing them of valuable time in preparation for a good race at Kona.
Within my pro team I’ve been addressing this issue nearly every second day. Assuring all that the training is on track and repeating the word ‘No’ quite a lot.
I need to do more! No, you don’t.
This is too slow! No, it isn’t.
I’m not able to push hard enough! No, you’re pushing the exact right amount.
Can I do an extra session of … No!
I don’t feel I need the rest day, can I … NO!
These conversations mirror the ones I’m having with our working age groupers – hyper motivated individuals who have had to miss a few sessions because of work and as such are in meltdown mode when coach advises to take a step back and readjust the program accordingly.
‘But Coach you don’t understand… I haven’t had much time…’
Yes, I do understand. You see most of these AG athletes are university educated people who in some form of their old lives have had to cram for exams to maintain high grades while maintaining a busy outside life.
Many of the same people then move into the business community where they’re governed by strict work deadlines in a culture that seems think that setting unreasonable time tasks will enhance the work value out of those white-knuckling 15-hour days.
The head down and don’t lift it up, don’t shower, drink some more coffee way of getting things done is a common theme when discussing people’s work / training arrangements.
So of course it’s natural that the habits and rituals we see in the workplace are now carried over to one’s new hobby – Ironman.
Just a few days ago I heard this: “What do you mean easy swim and 20 minute jog? I’ve done nothing for 3-days except meetings so that I could get here to train my arse off.” For context they had just hopped off the plane after an 11-hour across the dateline flight.
Does this ring a bell to some of our qualifiers out there as the nerves start to jangle as we think that Kona is only 22 days away?
Training in the build up to Kona.
If so, have no fear as Coach is here to help.
Firstly, the ‘add more training’ approach is not applicable. Physical sport is not the same as when you used to cram for a week and pass with flying colours. It’s not the same as pulling an all nighter on a Powerpoint and then nailing it the next morning. The phenomenon of ‘cramming’ with a few weeks out will have a huge negative impact on your performance.
If the Kona surge has got you in its grip then the ‘do more, do it faster, take less rest’ approach will ensure that you will be making this statement after finishing your race: ‘Next year will be better as I’ll have more time.’
So I’ll pass on what I’m telling my own coaches on a daily basis now. Hold the line. Stick to what you have been doing, even if it wasn’t enough. Athletes a little underdone will perform a hell of a lot better than athletes that are overdone.
Courage is shown at this time by not joining in the Kona surge people, but resisting it!
You want my honest feelings about Kona?
It’s just another race. To prepare for it like it’s just another race will prove much more fruitful for your performance. Enjoy the experience. The journey is the real adventure, the doing is just the icing on the cake.
Our approach to training extends to the selection of equipment, where we do our best to incorporate common sense principles with proven results. With that, I’m often asked about which wheels and tyres are best for which athlete and why I’m so ‘anti’ disc?
I’ll respond to the question on tyres first as this is the least complicated. My opinion is that for Iron distance racing the choice between tubulars or clinchers shouldn’t be based on which one is faster.
Instead it should be on:
1. Which one you can change with confidence.
2. Which one you can ride with confidence after you have changed it.
Unlike ITU short course races, our day is not over if we have some tyre trouble, which every athlete inevitably does. So with such small differences in actual speed advantage, the major time consideration is if we have a technical problem on the ride, then what is the preferred option to complete (and still compete) in the race? Tyre choice becomes critical.
In the past I have had most of my non-technical riders stick with clinchers, the reasons are threefold:
They worry about if a tubular is glued on properly.
They find getting a properly glued tubular tyre off very, very difficult.
If they do have to change it, they then ride so carefully that they lose masses of time worrying about whether it will come off in a fast corner.
I have also seen very experienced riders have accidents after they have changed a tubular and then hit the pavement.
To me being one second faster over 10km means little if we lose 10 minutes over 40km because we are not confident riding on a non-glued replacement. So if you’re a rider who worries about the downhills or sharp corners in normal circumstances, then I think clinchers would be the best selection without doubt.
If however you’re a confident rider capable of down hilling and cornering well on a tyre that you replaced yourself, I would say go for tubular. Similarly, if you are one of these athletes who are going to give up after any technical problem on the bike regardless, tubular will be your best option.
Stormin’ Normann having trouble with the tubulars: “Too much gluuuue!”
Now to the lovers of gadgets and all things theory:
Unlike what is common perception I am not anti-disc. I also acknowledge that the disc IS faster in the wind tunnel.
So why don’t your hear me singing their praises and having all my guys ride on discs?
1. You have to be a confident and technical rider to use discs effectively. If wind gusts scare you and throw you off your rhythm, then it’s prudent to avoid using them.
2. A disc needs to be up to around 40km an hour to be of a real true speed advantage. The men have only just been able to achieve this in Ironman over the last couple of seasons. A 4hr 30 ride give or take. So for the age-groupers and pro women, it’s not really going to work for you.
3. In a crosswind (particularly when it’s gusty), more energy is used and thus will come back to hurt you on the run.
I would also add the clinching argument that Hawaii doesn’t allow discs. So why practice with one when you should be focused on preparing your race setup for the World Champs?
Chrissie won first year on HED Jet 6’s (60mm deep) – front and back.
So discs out, what do we go with?
For men I tend to be a tri spoke fan more than the deep (808), or ridiculously deep (1080) wheel rims. You don’t get the speed of the disc but you still catch the cross wind and it tires your legs for the run.
In cases where Hawaii is not on the calendar, if you fancy yourself a good bike handler and prefer discs I am not going to tell you otherwise. If your dream is Hawaii then stick to the shallower depth of aero wheels available. Aero is not as important if you can hop on board the bike train. If you are strong and fit, shallow are all you need. If you insist on getting a bit of airtime by leading the race on the bike then be my guest, ride the big boys and run 3hr 10min.
One note for the boys to remember is that Hawaii is a different animal to the tougher Iron distance races, where to qualify you’ll have to be able to ride well and not in a big group. So having the wheel to take advantage of the course can be crucial.
For female riders the best advice I can give is a good pair of shallower depth aero wheels that are light. If you want to mix, then match a shallower front wheel and a deeper rear wheel, as cross winds affect the front more than the rear. If you’re unsteady on a bike in the wind, then use shallower wheels on the front and the back. If you’re OK then the shallower front, semi deep back combination will work for you. And if you think you handle as good as the guys then back yourself and go the semi deep front and back.
Hope this will help in your selection, Chrissie won her first Hawaii on none of the big end toys, just semi deep aero wheels, which she used at training.
Remember that in Iron distance we need reliability first, confidence second and you take your pick for third. All the hype about speed won’t help you change a tyre on the day you really need to. Just ask Normann.