In 2011, Bas Diederen of the Netherlands finished the Ironman World Championship in 8:48:44, 26th overall and the first amateur. It was only his first attempt in Kona, but he raced it “about a million times in my mind during training,” he says. The mental preparation paid off.
While he was glad to have been the fastest age grouper, the 31-year-old still didn’t feel very strong in the race. “At least not as strong as I hoped,” he says. “I’m a good swimmer and runner but if you look at the splits for the age groups, I’m never in the top five. And that’s how my race felt—not really strong but a consistent, steady pace.”
You wouldn’t know it from his finish time, but the 186cm tall, 79kg Diederen also struggled with the Big Island heat: “I took extra salt and used arm coolers,” he says. “I tried to get as much ice in my suit as possible. I knew I was go- ing to have trouble on the run because I’m a heavy athlete, but it was worse than I anticipated.”
Diederen, who lives in Susteren, Neth- erlands, has raced triathlon since 1999, coming from a swimming background (as a breast stroker, “so no advantage for triathlon”). His time is now split among working as an exercise physiologist, coaching cycling at the University of Maastricht in the student sports division, training 20-25 hours per week, working with up-and-coming ITU athletes and coaching younger athletes on Team4Talent to reach their Olympic goals.
He’s been sticking to racing short-course this year (and won the sprint-distance national championship in Groningen), so didn’t race at Kona this year. But he plans to come back to Hawaii since he’s now racing as a professional. “If I do, I want to have that heat management issue under control,” he says. Until then, here’s his advice if you’re racing on the Big Island.
• Don’t enter the water too early for a good spot. Being there too long combined with pre-race nerves will actually cool you down too much.
• Don’t try to make up lost time in the swim during the first miles on the bike.
• Don’t try to escape from the group on a big gear up to Hawi. You will pay for it in the last 40K.
• Use the special needs bag at the run turn-around point in the Energy Lab.
• Don’t think you are close to the finish once you have left the Energy Lab.