2014 Kona Runner’s Up: Daniela Ryf.

As Kona fatigue starts to set in after a week of fun and frivolity, I thought I’d take the opportunity outline how the Trisutto.com squad re-evaluates goals for our pro and age-group athletes for the upcoming season. Over the last 5-days I’ve been overwhelmed by the encouragement for Daniela’s performance. It’s all appreciated and she certainly deserves the praise she gets. By any measure the Angry Bird’s was a brilliant all round performance – solid swim, devastating bike, and a run strong enough to hold off all but the 3-time champion Rinnie for 38km. Not only that, but she had the confidence, composure, ability and toughness (a lot of toughness) to take it to the field on her debut at Kona.

So while I’m completely satisfied with how her race went last Saturday, I also understand it doesn’t mean a thing for the next one. People are often interested when the campaign officially starts for the next race. Well I can tell you, I started thinking about Kona 2015 at about mile 16 on the run last Saturday and I won’t stop thinking about it until the gun goes off in 360 days time.

Similarly, there are around 10,000 or so athletes who missed out on qualifying this year, who now need to start their own campaign to be in that final 2,500.

In general there are three Categories of people that missed out:

1) Those who just aren’t fast enough to qualify.

2) Those who have the potential to qualify, but don’t have the right approach or attitude towards training.

3) Those that have the right attitude and approach to training, but can’t quite get their race day performance right.

Within these three groups I bet there were a whole lot of you who were watching the Ironman race feed thinking ‘I just want to be there’.

Category 1:

So let’s get the pain out of the way first up.

My guess is around 50-60% of those trying to go to Kona are too swim challenged to do so. This shouldn’t be seen as a failure on your part. The biggest advantage in triathlon (in all its forms) is being taught to swim and trained to do so as a young child or adolescent. If you miss out on this, the skills needed to swim well are much harder to acquire than learning to ride a bike or run in later life. The problem is further compounded when standard swim practices taught by many coaches are more harmful than helpful. It’s not the coaches’ fault, as they are also just implementing what has been taught to them, but the fact is what may work in a 25m pool doesn’t always translate to a 3.2km ocean swim.

If you happen to qualify and you’re a poor swimmer in a wetsuit, a very rude awakening awaits you in Kona. A proper sea swell in salt water has many people sick before the first turning buoy, which in turn destroys their bike – no matter how well they ride.

So my advice is if you’re still developing your swim, concentrate on enjoying your triathlon and pick IM destinations that mirror your strengths until your swim is ready for a crack big show.

Category 2:

Triathlon and Ironman racing can get a little bizarre. I watch people spend (many) tens of thousands of dollars getting the latest bikes, gels, aero-helmets, shoes, race-kit, Garmin watches, nutrition supplements and so on in an effort to achieve peak performance. *This is all before we factor in race fees, flights, hotels, race merchandise etc.

Yet, when I ask for a breakdown of their training schedule over the last 3-months it becomes blindingly obvious that it’s the organisation of their training that is costing them if not minutes, HOURS come race day. Either taking on too much and not being able to follow through, or picking the best bits from several coaches or from articles they read in a tri mag somewhere and then trying to do it themselves. Ironman training is a highly specialised area and in my experience very difficult to adapt (successfully) on the fly.

My advice is if you’re serious about giving Kona a crack in 2015, get yourself a coach, or at the very least a training plan to follow and then stick to it. And when you do decide on one, don’t mix and match, stick to it. Consistency and volume are what our sport are about, yet are usually first things to go off the rails in an Ironman prep. You get the balance and consistency right and I’ve seen people lop hours off their times. It is that crucial.

Category 3:

Finally, we have athletes who may have the structure, the training, the right prep, yet continually don’t perform come race day. Many blame themselves or ‘the pressure’ of the big race. Now I’m not an apologist for poor performances, but in many cases it may not be your fault after all.

Getting to an Ironman and performing well in an Ironman are two entirely separate things. Qualifying is about being smart.

For example, if you are a great swimmer, make a race selection that plays to your strengths.

I see many Europeans make the decision to race in Australia, where most age-groupers swim like sharks and then form packs that my pros would struggle to break away from. No, you’d be better to target your qualification in an area in Asia where it’s too hot for wetsuits and you’re not up against many trained swimmers.

Similarly, many strong Australian riders turn up in Switzerland and say ‘mate, I heard it’s a bit hilly, but I’ve been training for it back home.’ ‘Mate, Australia ain’t Switzerland.’ The Swiss ride mountains like trip-hammers and if you are not used to the Alps it is best to avoid trying to qualify in them.

If your strongest leg is the run I suggest IM Florida or Barcelona as a qualifier, and if you’re solid in all three disciplines but not great in one – choose the hardest race on the calendar. Many people avoid some of the tougher IMs because they think it will kill their season. IM Lanzarote, IM Zurich and IM Wales are for the tough guys and not many in Europe are looking for Kona through these babies.

So in conclusion, for those who didn’t make it to the big show this year keep your chin up and start making the adjustments you need to make to get there next year now. If you do, you might be able to take one step further and say ‘I did it, I’m going to Kona.’

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

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