Triathlete Europe Europe's leading source for triathlon news and information. Tue, 06 Oct 2015 14:00:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ironman Attraction: What Makes Kona So Special? Tue, 06 Oct 2015 14:00:48 +0000

In the 15 years I spent as a competitive swimmer before picking up triathlon, no one had ever asked why I was swimming. In 1992, I, a ]]>

In the 15 years I spent as a competitive swimmer before picking up triathlon, no one had ever asked why I was swimming. In 1992, I, a 21-year-old college student, went to sign up for my first Ironman and was blindsided by that very question on the race application. “Why are you seeking entry into the Ironman World Championship?” it asked. Did they want an essay? Just a few meaningless words? Was there a right answer? I slept on it — for several nights. Why did I want to do the Ironman?

When I was asked to write about why Kona is still the Holy Grail of the triathlon world, I found myself struggling to find an immediate answer as well. I drank from the Ironman cup for almost two decades, but having recently moved on from racing, I had to ask myself if it still mattered as much to me as it once did.

There are many things about Ironman and its global series of races that have evolved my outlook on the brand. The explosive growth of the series since that race in 1992 means there is an Ironman event almost every weekend of the year. One race finishes, and it is on to the next before the course can be swept. Find a town, put on an Ironman, repeat. The professional fields have become so diluted that new Ironman champions are crowned almost every race. Does this proliferation of Ironman events have a negative impact on the attraction of racing in Kona, or is expansion propagating the Ironman dream even more?

Clearly, the facts tell the story. Almost all Ironman races sell out globally, even with continually increasing prices. Ironman has become so popular that Ironman’s owner, the World Triathlon Corporation, created an entirely new series — Ironman 70.3 — that also sees huge participant numbers. Ironman draws thousands of first-timers each year along with a continual flow of repeat customers. Also, a huge percentage of all registered professional triathletes pay to join the Ironman Pro Membership programme and race recklessly often, all for a chance to compete in Kona. Even with several competing triathlon series progressing throughout the world, and much more prize money in Olympic-distance racing, Ironman has maintained its stranglehold on the triathlon community and its image to the general public.

The lure of Kona is obviously alive and thriving, but has the reason to quest after the Big Island changed over the years? Why do everyday people today want to race the Ironman World Championship? Why do some professionals still base their entire seasons around racing in October? What drives them on their own crusades into the lava fields, and will that drive continue?

The easiest answer is exposure. From the beginning, Ironman has been a star on network TV. The producers of the Ironman broadcast deserve much of the credit for perpetuating the mystique of Kona as the Holy Grail of triathlon. In the general public eye, triathlon is Ironman, and the Ironman is in Hawaii. When I’m asked what I do for a living and mention triathlon, the first question out of everyone’s mouth is, “Have you done the Ironman in Hawaii?” Since my answer has always been yes, I’ve never had to endure the blank stare I would get when trying to explain that there are other triathlons out there.

The TV production crew has mastered the art of bringing the island to life on the small screen. The beauty and brutality are equally present and always set the stage for the real-life drama the sport creates — the mystique of the Big Island is translated through the show, and the heat waves are constantly shimmering in the backdrop of the Queen K Highway. This is the place where professionals and age groupers share the same water and roads on the same day. Very few sports offer that opportunity, and it’s yet another reason that makes Ironman special.

The island then takes a back seat to the race and its participants. The human interest stories depicting so-called ordinary people overcoming life’s complexities and competing in this excruciating test of human endurance is the draw to the non-triathletes watching at home. These stories inspire thoughts of, “I could do that!”

Celebrity participants are also an attraction, and as the Ironman brand has grown, they are continually spotlighted in the programme. From mainstream actors to well-known athletes from other sports, they all help legitimise an event that was once beyond comprehension to most people, and put it in the realm of possibility. Evidenced by today’s fascination with reality programmes, the natural progression is that people want to be a part of what they see on TV.

Every few years there is a horrific meltdown by a pro athlete (or athletes) that takes centre stage for a portion of the show. Julie Moss’ classic crawl across the finish line in 1982 put Ironman on the map and directly spurred the eventual six-time champion Mark Allen to compete in the Ironman the next year. Since Moss’ fateful collapse, Mark had his own demise in the lava fields broadcast; eight-time winner Paula Newby-Fraser pronounced, “I think I’m going to die!” to the worldwide audience; Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham pulled a “Rocky II”-style finish line battle; Chris Legh literally almost died 100 metres from the finish line, and yours truly passed a kidney stone on course while shooting for a three-peat. Train wrecks like these are impossible to turn away from and, in a strange way, they inspire people to attempt something so brutally tough.

Finally, the show always wraps up by showcasing the winners, a steady stream of ecstatic finishers and the final glorious minutes at the official finishers’ cutoff time of midnight. How could you not want to be a part of something where the crowds are as big and loud for the last finisher as they are for the first? Whether you are a professional triathlete dreaming of achieving your lifelong goal, or the guy on the couch trying to think where he might have a pair of goggles stashed to start training, the show works. It wins Emmy Awards. People will continue to watch, and people will continue to be inspired to come to the race.

Most likely, anyone who races in Kona today has seen it on TV a time or two. Ironically, I had not seen an Ironman broadcast in 1992, so “Because I saw it on TV!” was not my answer on the entry form.

After my first few years as an age grouper, I felt that I was part of an extended Ironman family with the common goal of reaching the finish line on Ali’i Drive. Today, however, the term “family” has been outgrown and “club” has become more appropriate. In fact, a “country club” with expensive membership dues probably portrays it best.

Race entry fees have skyrocketed in recent years. I still remember paying $175 (£112) for Kona and thinking to myself, “This better be worth it!” Races continue to sell out in record time. People are paying thousands of dollars a year for multiple attempts to qualify for Kona. Some are even paying tens of thousands through charity eBay auctions for a guaranteed slot and a chance at the ultimate status symbol in the endurance world—an Ironman World Championship finisher’s medal.

That is exactly what it has become: a status symbol. Finishing an Ironman, especially Kona, can earn you unparalleled respect. That respect can extend beyond your family or tri club as well — it says you are tough and can get the job done, and it looks great on a résumé. Professional triathletes also know that being in Kona in October is a must for their careers. There are plenty of opportunities outside of the Ironman umbrella to compete and make a living, but almost all pros know the value to their pocketbook of having an Ironman-affiliated title under their belts. I’m sure some know they will never have a chance at ever earning a penny in Hawaii, but they think it is necessary to be there. Many pros are in Kona even if they are not racing because the sport revolves around October in Hawaii. Blogs, tweets and online media reach their pinnacle of activity the week of Ironman. It is literally a who’s who during race week, and most feel they are missing out on potential opportunities if they are not present.

From personal experience, early in my career, I had several sponsors tell me that they don’t care about the Olympics or any other race. “Just be ready for Ironman in October,” they said. I think most companies in the triathlon industry still place this level of importance on Ironman and its athletes. Many advertisements include the lingo “Ironman champion” or “fastest bike split at Ironman.” The competitors want to be a part of what the industry endorses as the biggest and best event. Unless a dramatic shift happens, Ironman’s status will continue to outshine any other race.

I was not immune to the status symbol of competing in Hawaii throughout my career. I knew what winning could do for my earning potential and, after a few attempts, I knew I would not feel complete without a victory there. Back in 1992, however, winning was not even a dream yet. Thus, “To win” was not the start of the essay I was contemplating on that race application.

For most competitors, winning is not their stated goal either. Most never even have a chance at an age-group award. But that doesn’t mean the age groupers don’t take it just as seriously as most professionals out there. These Type-A triathletes are both the backbone and heart of Ironman. They are the die-hards. The lifers. The addicts. Their identities are tied to Ironman, and Kona is their birthday, Christmas and New Year’s Day all tied into one. For these athletes, there are no pay cheques tied to their accomplishments. They train before sunrise and after sunset. They have jobs and family obligations. They buy the best equipment to maximise their chances for personal success. I coach some of these athletes, and their commitment is no less than what mine used to be.

These are the athletes that Ironman probably does not pay enough attention to because they will be there, supporting the brand and racing the events no matter what the company does, all with the goal of returning to the big show in October.

I probably fit into this last category before triathlon became my profession. I qualified for my first Ironman Hawaii by winning my age group at an Olympic-distance race. I went into debt and pleaded with my professors to miss classes for the chance to race in Hawaii. And after that first time down Ali’i Drive, I was hooked. I treaded water in Kailua Bay 17 times waiting for that cannon to fire at the start of the race.

I know every undulation of the Queen K Highway, and the Natural Energy Lab is my comfort zone. I have felt both the absolute joy of winning and the terrible agony of defeat. I was devoted to the race, and my identity will always be tied to it in some way.

With rising costs and more competitive qualifying standards than ever before, I fear there won’t be many college students following in my footsteps. Ironman, and Kona in particular, is becoming a mature race for the financially elite. However, I have no doubt that the Ironman will continue to be the premier race in the sport of triathlon. From its Emmy-winning broadcasts, it will continue to inspire and attract the “every- man,” some of whom will eventually become completely committed to the sport. The proliferation of M-dot tattoos signifies that the status symbol of being an Ironman is alive and thriving. “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” ringing out at the finish line will continue to be the ultimate calling to triathletes around the world.

Now back to that entry form… I didn’t write an essay. My answer was simple. Maybe my answer from 21 years ago when I was half as old as I am now still holds true. Maybe it is what will keep Ironman on top of the endurance world for years to come. “I just want to see if I can do it.”

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Building Run Volume: Avoid Mileage For Mileage’s Sake Tue, 06 Oct 2015 13:00:01 +0000

Overtraining or increasing your mileage too quickly can result in problems. Photo:

One generalisation I am comfortable making is that most people never reach or even approach whatever their personal upper volume limit ]]>

Overtraining or increasing your mileage too quickly can result in problems. Photo:

One generalisation I am comfortable making is that most people never reach or even approach whatever their personal upper volume limit might prove to be, and this includes people willing to give it a fair shake.

Increases in mileage almost invariably entail increases in run-to-run fatigue as well as a cutting back on racing, a decline in racing performance, or both. What many do not accept is that these effects are transient, and that with patience and prudence, most runners discover that they truly do adapt and reach a new fitness level eventually.

Depending on the magnitude and speed of the buildup, this can take anywhere from weeks to months. Most people simply don’t have the patience for this.

As an infrequent racer by inclination, I was never cowed by going several months in the winter or the summer (the former being mostly off-limits to racing in New England anyway, the latter being a period I generally can’t stand running hard), so it was during these times I experimented with previously unattained volume totals.

What’s the best way to build up? Many have heard of the “10 percent rule,” but I won’t even get into that because it’s interpreted in so many conflicting ways. Instead, I’ll say that if a runner seeks to level out at a given plateau, it is wise to try brief “excursions” into that territory rather than confine yourself to a methodical buildup.

For example, if you’re hoping to get up to averaging an hour a day and are currently at around 30-40 minutes, pick one week in which you hit or closely approach that average, then “retreat” to the safe familiarity of your usual workload for a couple of weeks. Then repeat the excursion. If this works, begin a more stepwise build-up, always cutting back to pre-build-up baseline one every three weeks, every four at most. In fact, be prepared to implement such cut-back weeks into your training as a matter of course, and to mix up your mileage totals in general (as Pete Pfitzinger touches on in Road Racing for Serious Runners, “training monotony,” while simplifying things marvelously for people, has proven the bane of many a distance runner).

The advantage in doing things this way is psychological: it eliminates the fear and uncertainty of the goal mileage total right off the bat. Someone who’s running a steady 30 miles a week and has settled on 50 miles a week as a goal six months out can certainly build gradually toward that load, reaching it for the first time in 180 or so days, but logging a lone 50-mile week early in the build-up can be a supreme confidence booster.

I should hasten to point out that mileage totals should never be “goals” in and of themselves; the idea is to bolster one’s training in order to ultimately race faster. But people need guidelines to follow, and most would rather work toward some pre-defined workload rather than completely wing it. Again, you can follow a published plan, plumb the wisdom of experienced running friends, or enlist a coach to help you along during the build-up process.

What about two-a-days? Some believe that running once a day until it is no longer prudent is the way to go. This threshold generally lies at around 70 or 80 miles a week. I, however, believe that if someone is eventually going to be running the sort of mileage that requires some two-a-days, it is better to experiment with these before they become necessary.

So even if you’re comfortable running 50 or 60 miles a week using singles and are planning to reach 90, you would be well advised to try running twice a day a couple of times a week even at more modest totals. There’s also an argument for splitting longer days into two sessions frequently because many injuries seem to occur after runners have been on their feet for a long time, rendering day after day of longer single runs risky. I have no data to support this, but I tend to believe it.

What about intensity? During a mileage build-up, something usually has to give, so you should eschew most speedwork and take care to keep the pace modest on most days. Harder running is not strictly verboten, but recognize that your recoverability will take a temporary hit as your increase your workload, since easy days are no longer as easy as they were previously.

Finally, a word of caution. Beware of the insidious tendency to run mileage for mileage’s own sake. If you’re a durable runner with ample time on your hands, you run the risk of falling into a “volume trap.”

Dedication and hardiness combine to form a double-edged sword: The same qualities that will allow you to train and race at very close to your maximum potential can also lead to romancing the training log, with an attendant reluctance to take cut-back weeks and balance off the mileage with the workouts necessary for quality racing.

Experience is really the only thing that allows runners to distinguish between the transient tiredness that accompanies any mileage buildup and the chronic staleness of an overtraining-type syndrome. And if there’s one word that applies more than any other to this chapter, it is “experience.” Pithy as it sounds, only you can ultimately determine your ideal workload range at any time. The trick — and it doesn’t come easy to driven athletic types — is being honest with yourself.

Of course, workload is only one aspect of training. Performance, not training itself, is the target, and it’s easy to forget that as you plunge deep into the territory of exploring your personal limits. Don’t let yourself become one of the forgetters.

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Macca’s Musings: The Soul Of Triathlon Tue, 06 Oct 2015 12:00:20 +0000

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday party in Las Vegas with a group of my best friends. One of my mates jumped up at dinner and gave a ]]>

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday party in Las Vegas with a group of my best friends. One of my mates jumped up at dinner and gave a speech. It was your typical birthday speech, with lots of juicy bits aimed at embarrassing you. One of the things he mentioned struck a chord with me, and I kept thinking about it all night. We were both great high school runners, but I had caught the triathlon bug. He was envious that I seemed to be so infatuated with something.„

He brought up the time he asked me, “What would you possibly do if the sport went away?” Back then triathlon wasn’t an established sport with a certain future. It wasn’t in the Olympic Games, it had no international governing body and many people viewed it as a sort of sports challenge rather than anything legitimate.

RELATED: Chris McCormack: Ironman Is Becoming Like McDonald’s

I sat still as he rambled on, eager to ask him what my answer to that question was almost 25 years ago. After he finished his toast, I asked. “You told me, ‘That day will never come!’” he said. “‘Triathlon won’t just exist—it’s only going to get bigger. Just go down to one of these races and see for yourself. The people who do this sport rock. The energy is contagious. That will never stop.’”

As I looked around at my friends in the room and people I was celebrating with, I realised that I was right. Triathlon had given me every single one of these people in my life. I thought to myself, “Man, the people in this sport really do rock!” We celebrated into the early morning with the endurance of multisport racers.

The next day I couldn’t let the thought go. I decided that I was going to enter a couple of races the following weekend for no other reason than to return to those roots and just hang with rocking people. As a professional, sometimes you get so caught up in chasing titles and major races that you go from one training plan into another goal-setting period and then another training plan that you don’t take time to enjoy why you do it in the first place.

I tried to think of the last time I got caught up in the energy of an event without wondering about how it would affect the outcome of my race. My romantic memories of triathlon as a teenager didn’t seem as romantic when I compared them to my memories of the sport today. I was annoyed at myself and frantically searched the Internet for races to do. I felt like I was 18 again.

I found two races in California that I could enter, and I slipped onto the website and paid for my entry. I wanted no fanfare or special treatment; I was simply going to go and have fun in the same way I did as a kid. Swim, bike and run as hard as I could early on a weekend morning and enjoy everything that is triathlon.

I turned up at a race in Huntington Beach, California, and the following day at the oldest triathlon race series in the world: Bonelli Park in L.A. A back-to-back weekend of racing, just like I would have done years ago. My motivation was old-school: just have fun and hurt myself and enjoy the people who were here to do the same thing.

It was your typical community triathlon weekend: great atmosphere, good energy, simpler staging. I was stoked to see the same good-time feel that has always been a part of triathlon. It was a surreal, awesome experience, and in my mind I checked it off again: This sport isn’t in danger of going anywhere. The people are its biggest asset, and it is still as addictive as ever. I took my time to roll down to the swim start with everyone else and just soak up the energy. I racked my bike in the middle of the transition area next to a couple of beach cruisers and on a rack with three first-time triathletes. It made for an awesome transition picture. It was seriously cool, and I could not get the smile off my face from the minute the gun went off until I crossed the line. It was awesome.

I spent my time after the race hanging out with many of the first-timers who raced and I listened to their stories. There was no talk of drafting calls or aero helmets, no mention of power numbers or compression garments. It was the old, simple stuff of how tough the run was and how great the course was in their local town. It was unbelievably refreshing. I have not enjoyed a triathlon series like that in years.

For many of us who have been doing triathlon a long time, we can sometimes neglect these races and justify that decision around the basis of “I am training for something bigger.” I honestly don’t think there is anything much “bigger” than these races. No Ironman, no marquee race I have done will truly match the enthusiasm and the energy of a local community triathlon. It is amazing to feel that again, and you can only connect and find that in races like this. They are the soul of the sport, and the race directors who continue to put on races in their local towns should be applauded.

This sport is only going to get bigger. I got that right more than 20 years ago. To everyone I met in California, it was awesome to share the course with you all.

I am sure if I continue to accumulate good friendships with the people in this sport in the same way I have thus far, that 50th birthday celebration will be one not to miss.

Chris “Macca” McCormack has more than 200 race wins to his credit and is widely considered one of the best athletes the sport has ever seen. His 2013 season will include another Kona bid.

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Kona Bikes: Luke McKenzie And Beth Gerdes Tue, 06 Oct 2015 11:00:50 +0000

Pro couple Beth Gerdes and Luke McKenzie will both take their Scott Plasma 5 bikes out on the Ironman World Championship course next ]]>

Pro couple Beth Gerdes and Luke McKenzie will both take their Scott Plasma 5 bikes out on the Ironman World Championship course next Saturday. The pair has custom kits, helmets and shoes to match their motifs from head to toe on race day. Photos by Steve Godwin.

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39 Things To Know Before The 2015 Ironman World Championship Tue, 06 Oct 2015 10:00:33 +0000

The final hour at the Ironman World Championship. Photo: John David Becker

1. In 2014, Mirinda Carfrae set not only the run course record (again) with a time of 2:50:26, besting her 2013 marathon by 12 seconds, but ]]>

The final hour at the Ironman World Championship. Photo: John David Becker

1. In 2014, Mirinda Carfrae set not only the run course record (again) with a time of 2:50:26, besting her 2013 marathon by 12 seconds, but she also overcame an incredible deficit off the bike—more than 14 minutes—to pass Daniela Ryf and defend her Kona crown.

2. The average age of 2015 age-groupers is 43.2, well above the age average of professional triathletes at 33.7. The overall average age is 42.8.

3. After recent research determined that covering the shoulders and armpits helped to reduce drag, many pro athletes—both men and women—have raced with covered shoulders from sleeved pullovers on the bike the last two years.

4. It will take more than 5,000 volunteers to make Saturday’s race happen.

5. 2012 Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs has had a tough couple of years since earning the world title. After the start lists were announced, the Australian withdrew from the race because an illness has prevented him from properly training for the race. After his win, he finished as the 32nd male pro in 2013 and DNF’ed last year.

6. Combined, the nations of Great Britain and Australia have produced the women’s Ironman World Championship winner the last nine years, starting with Australia’s Michellie Jones (2006), and including Brit Chrissie Wellington (’07, ’08, ’09, ’11), defending champ Mirinda Carfrae of Australia (’10, ’13, ’14) and Great Britain’s Leanda Cave (’12). The last non-Brit and non-Aussie to win the women’s crown was Switzerland’s Natascha Badmann. Switzerland may regain the title this year with top contender Daniela Ryf.

7. Now in his second year of Ironman racing, German Jan Frodeno has had better luck this year than last. He overcame mechanical problems to finish third in his two 2014 Ironmans, but the 2008 Olympic champion put together a solid performance in his victory over fellow German Sebastian Kienle in Frankfurt at the Ironman European Championship this summer. Many are predicting a German showdown between Kienle and Frodeno on the Big Island, and if Frodeno wins, he’ll be the first athlete to win both the Olympic gold medal and the Kona title.

8. This will be the first year since 2006 we won’t see Craig “Crowie” Alexander on the start line in Kona. Racing (and finishing) every year since 2007, Crowie earned three victories and one runner-up finish in his illustrious career.

9. There are 21 American pros in the professional field, eight men and 13 women.

10. Past performance seems to mean a lot on the Big Island. In 18 of the last 19 years the men’s winner was a top-four finisher the year before. (For example, Sebastian Kienle finished third in 2013 before winning in 2014.)

11. The newest triathlon power couple, Luke McKenzie and Beth Gerdes, will both be racing in Kona this year. McKenzie was the 2013 runner-up and this will be Gerdes’ first Kona as a pro and since giving birth to their daughter, Wynne, in 2014. Gerdes earned her first Ironman title in Switzerland this year.

12. We’re surprised to see Belgian Marino Vanhoenacker on the start list this year after frustrating experiences in his last two races on the Big Island including a meltdown in the Energy Lab in 2012 and a 34th-place finish after a run-walk marathon last year. He told after the race, “I’m done with this race. I don’t want to go through this again.”

13. American is still looking for an athlete who could win Kona (the last was Tim DeBoom in 2002). It’s finally looking promising, though, as there were two American men—Ben Hoffman and Andy Potts—in the Kona top four last year.

14. For the second time, the race will feature separate age-group starts from the Kona pier. This year the age groupers have been pushed back even further from the pros and from each other. The male professionals will start at 6:25 a.m., the female pros at 6:30 a.m., then the male age-groupers at 6:55 a.m. and female age-groupers at 7:10 a.m. The change is intended to help have a fair race and prevent drafting on the bike.

15. Last year’s runner-up finish in Kona for Swiss pro Daniela Ryf has been her only non-win the last two years. Coached by Brett Sutton, Ryf has been dominant in every race she enters, including her recent defense of her Ironman 70.3 World Championship title in Austria.

16. There will be 62 countries represented on the start line this year.

17. 2013 Ironman world champ Frederik Van Lierde, who’s considered a top contender this year, was only the second Belgian to ever win the Ironman World Championship. The first was Luc Van Lierde, who won the race in 1996 and 1999, and who has no relation to Frederik except as his coach.

18. Internationally, Australia has the most athletes competing with 250, followed by Germany (175), Great Britain (148), Canada (114) and Brazil (98). Countries including Portugal, Singapore, Norway, Estonia and Brazil experienced the largest percent growth in athlete representation since 2014.

19. Fans of “Rudy,” “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Goonies” will be excited to see actor Sean Astin racing in Kona this year on behalf of Run3rd. He finished Ironman 70.3 Vineman this summer in a time of 7:25.

20. There are only four past Ironman world champions on the pro start list this year. On the men’s side, Frederik Van Lierde (2013) and Sebastian Kienle (2014), and on the women’s side only Mirinda Carfrae (2010, 2013, 2014) and Leanda Cave (2012). Last year there were seven, including Pete Jacobs, Faris Al-Sultan, Craig Alexander and Natascha Badmann, all of whom have either now retired from Ironman racing or were unable to race this year.

21. Male athletes make up 72 percent of participants (1,717 athletes), while 28 percent (664 athletes) are female. That marks the largest female field ever at the Ironman World Championship—topping last year’s total number of women by 39.

22. Until the last couple of years, Australia had been dominant in the men’s field, with six consecutive titles captured by Aussies Chris McCormack, Craig Alexander or Pete Jacobs. It now appears that we’re entering an era of European domination, as Frederik Van Lierde from Belgium and Sebastian Kienle from Germany have won the last two titles. Germans Jan Frodeno and Keinle are considered the heavy favorites this year.

23. The United States is the most represented country with 768 competitors, accounting for nearly 32 percent of registrants this year. Athletes from 48 U.S. states are represented, with the greatest number coming from California (138), Colorado (54) Hawaii (49), Texas (44) and New York (44).

24. Renowned TV chef Gordon Ramsay will be returning to Kona this year after his 2013 finish in a time of 14:04:48. He planned to race last year, but a severe tear of his Achilles tendon prevented him from competing in 2014.

25. At 85 years old, Lew Hollander is looking for his 24th Kona finish. He holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest man to finish the Ironman World Championship (which he did at 82), and he qualified for this year at the shortened Ironman Florida. He’ll be the first to pioneer the 85-89 age group.

26. There has been a huge push from both organised groups and passionate individuals for equality for the professionals on the Ironman World Championship start line. This year 58 men and 42 women were offered the opportunity to register for the race.

27. Weather will play to the strengths—and expose the weaknesses—of each athlete and can have a big impact on how the race plays out. Varying levels of chop on the swim, potentially heavy tradewinds on the bike and heat and humidity on the run can all make or break race day. Of all of the possible condition variants, the notorious “Mumuku Winds” have the biggest potential to shake up the outcome. Within a matter of seconds, a light breeze on the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway can shift and create unwieldy headwinds and dangerous crosswinds that have been known to knock athletes off of their bikes. In recent years, race day has yielded relatively mild winds but many pros know what the island is capable of producing. You can bet the strongest cyclists—such as Sebastian Kienle for the men and Daniela Ryf for the women—will be hoping for some tougher conditions to break up the field.

28. There are several Kona rookies on the pro start list this year, but there are specifically three Canadians who are especially capable of shaking up the top 10 and maybe even the podium. Brent McMahon posted the fastest Ironman debut ever (7:55:48) at the 2014 Ironman Arizona triathlon, Jeff Symonds beat a tough field at March’s Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship to earn his Kona slot and fan favorite Lionel Sanders won last year’s shortened Ironman Florida in 6:58:46, posting a 2:44:12 marathon in the process.

29. This was the first year that Ironman offered automatic qualifying opportunities for professionals at the five championship-level races. Athletes who won the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships in Melbourne (Jeff Symonds and Melissa Hauschildt), the Ironman African Championships in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa (Frederik Van Lierde and Jodie Swallow), the Ironman North American Championships in Texas (Matt Hanson and Angela Naeth), the Ironman Latin American Championships in Florianopolis, Brazil (Marino Vanhoenacker and Ariane Monticeli) and the Ironman European Championships in Frankfurt (Jan Frodeno and Daniela Ryf) all earned automatic Kona slots and did not need to worry about their Kona Pro Ranking.

30. Professionals are competing for a total of $650,000 in prize money, with each winner taking home $120,000. The majority of the athletes also likely have lucrative bonuses from sponsors available if they do well.

31. After a dominant season on the Ironman circuit in 2012 and a fifth-place finish in Kona, many placed Mary Beth Ellis as the United States’ best hope for bringing the title back home. Ellis was having the ideal build-up to the 2013 Ironman World Championship when she suffered a devastating crash on her bike while training in Cozumel. She went on to start the race, but the effect of the injuries was too much and she was forced to pull out on the run. Ellis came back and competed in last year’s race under the guidance of coach Siri Lindley, ultimately finishing in ninth. After a disappointing race at the 70.3 North American Championships in St. George, Ellis says that she “either needed to retire or make a change” and returned to Europe to train under her former coach Brett Sutton. She’s back in Kona now with some promising results, including the ITU Long Course World Championship, and will be one to watch on race day.

32. It’s a unique year in that many are choosing two athletes who did not win last year’s Kona race as the favorites to take the title. Jan Frodeno (GER) and Daniela Ryf (SUI) both made the podium in their rookie attempts last year in Kona and will be heavily targeted by their competition on race day. They each won the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in August and will be looking for the rare world championship double. The only two athletes to win both the 70.3 and Ironman world titles in the same year are Craig Alexander (2011) and Leanda Cave (2012).

33. While race day is a thrill to follow, it’s actually the NBC broadcast of the event (which airs several weeks later) that garners the most mainstream attention. It features both the pro races and inspiring age-grouper stories and has won several Emmy awards. This year’s broadcast will air Saturday, Nov. 14, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. ET.

34. While Mirinda Carfrae has broken the women’s run course record several times (see No. 1), the men have struggled to come close. Despite deeper pro fields and constant advancements in bike and run technology, the men are still chasing after the elusive run record on the Big Island—a record that has stood for 25 years (and counting). Mark Allen’s 2:40:04 marathon from the 1989 “Iron War” race has not been touched.

35. This will be the last year for the foreseeable future that we will see Kona lottery participants. For $50, an athlete could enter the lottery. If selected, he or she paid an additional $850 to register for the race, the standard entry fee. In March, Ironman announced the 100 lottery winners for the 2015 race, ranging in age from 20 to 74 and representing 16 countries. Back in May the Department of Justice announced that the lottery program had been deemed as not compliant with government lottery and gambling laws. This year’s lottery athletes will be allowed to compete, but Ironman has discontinued the program going forward and was forced to pay $2,761,910 to the government.

36. For the first time since 2005, the start list will not include American Linsey Corbin. The five-time Ironman winner, who is known for finishing with her signature cowboy hat, has had a tough year full of illness and injury and will be watching from the sidelines.

37. This has been Danish pro Camilla Pedersen’s first full season of racing since suffering a serious crash in late 2013 that left her in a medically induced coma for almost a month. Doctors told her she wouldn’t walk again, but she’s defied the odds and come back to win the 2014 ITU Long Distance World Championship as well as several other long-course races in 2015. She’s on the start list and is considered a top contender.

38. The final hour at the Ironman World Championship has long been considered one of the most magical parts of the sport of triathlon. Hundreds of spectators and race finishers, as well as local musicians and dancers, gather at the finish line to welcome the race’s final finishers. For the first time last year, male and female age-groupers had different cut-off times at the finish line because of the change in start times (see No. 14). The men will have a cutoff of 11:45 p.m. and the women will have until 12 a.m.

39. U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema will be the first sitting member of Congress to participate in the Ironman World Championship.

The final hour at the Ironman World Championship. Photo: John David Becker

The final hour at the Ironman World Championship. Photo: John David Becker

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Video: How SRAM Red eTap Works Tue, 06 Oct 2015 09:00:23 +0000

Luke McKenzie will be one of the first few pros riding SRAM’s new electronic group set, the SRAM Red eTap, during the Ironman World ]]>

Luke McKenzie will be one of the first few pros riding SRAM’s new electronic group set, the SRAM Red eTap, during the Ironman World Championship. Using McKenzie’s bike, SRAM PR Manager Michael Zellman explains how the system works together. The group set will be available in Spring 2016 for the masses.

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Three Things Every Runner Should Do Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:00:53 +0000

The challenge: In 24 hours, balance work, family, friends, and running. For the mortal runner, where real life and training life must ]]>

The challenge: In 24 hours, balance work, family, friends, and running. For the mortal runner, where real life and training life must co-exist, there can be an odd Clark Kent sensation. Cramming everything into the day is no small feat — even Superman would struggle.

Still, incorporating strength, flexibility, and injury-preventative work for five minutes a day delivers results. Those are crucial to improving your running efficiency and performance. Don’t think progress only comes with 90-minute intervals; it’s far more productive taking a little time each day. Consistency is more important.

Becki Pierotti, 3:02-marathoner, runs 90-105 miles per week, is taking 28 college credits, and just got her Lower Extremity A.R.T Certification between semesters. How does she do it?

“I wish I could claim that I have time to take care of all the little details, but a lot of times, I have to pick and choose what parts of training are most important and prioritize them,” Pierotti said.

Pierotti knows how important adjustments and therapy treatments are, so she makes them a priority. Taking advantage of the student clinic at the New York Chiropractic College, she gets Nimmo, Graston, and A.R.T. work every week. She also multi-tasks: “I have been known to do soft tissue work on myself while I’m studying.”

Here’s how it works: you’ve got three different routines, each targeting various aspects to running health and performance. Commit to at least one every day and alternate which one you do. With consistency, the results will speak for themselves.

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A Solid One-Hour Indoor Cycling Workout Mon, 05 Oct 2015 13:00:19 +0000

As the weather starts to change endurance enthusiasts are driven indoors, we thought we’d bring you an indoor cycling workout, this ]]>

As the weather starts to change endurance enthusiasts are driven indoors, we thought we’d bring you an indoor cycling workout, this indoor trainer workout comes from the Book “One-Hour Workouts: 50 Swim, Bike, and Run Workouts for Busy Athletes.”

This is an idea I got from Ironman legend Dave Scott when I was a pro, and it helped make my winter indoor cycling much more tolerable. I’m very reluctant to train indoors, which is why my skin looks like a lizard’s! There are several reasons to do this type of session indoors:

• The variety will give you something to think about (other than how much you’re hurting).
• It’s good to train at various intensities at various cadences so that in a race you can change cadence if the one you’re using doesn’t feel great.
• You will be a better cyclist if you extend the range of cadence at which you’re comfortable and proficient.

Variable Gear Intervals

Time/Distance Description

20 min. Easy warm-up; vary cadence and include a little time out of the saddle RPE 1

6 × 3 min. Continuous 18-min. effort at steady pace RPE 2:
3 min. high cadence,100–120 rpm, Go as high as you can smoothly go, but keep the effort in your steady zone.
3 min. normal time trial cadence
3 min. low cadence, 60–70 rpm; stand for the last half of each rep

2 min. Easy spinning RPE 1

6 × 2 min. Continuous 12-min. effort, alternating 1 min. moderately hard RPE 3:
1 min. easy RPE 1
2 min. high cadence
2 min. normal time trial cadence
2 min. big gear, Stand for the last half of each rep.

4–5 min. Cruise RPE 1
2–3 min. Stretch to complete the hour

This workout republished with permission from “One-Hour Workouts: 50 Swim, Bike, and Run Workouts for Busy Athletes” by Scott Molina, Mark Newton, and Michael Jacques. The book is available in bookstores, tri shops, and online.

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2015 Ironman World Championship Preview: Pro Men Mon, 05 Oct 2015 12:00:31 +0000

Get to know this year’s favorites, wild cards and rookies in the greatest endurance challenge on the planet—the Ironman World ]]>

Get to know this year’s favorites, wild cards and rookies in the greatest endurance challenge on the planet—the Ironman World Championship. Plus: How the action could all unfold.

The Contenders

Sebastian Kienle (GER)
The defending champion would like nothing more than to repeat his strong bike-run showing from the 2014 race. Kienle quickly made up four minutes he lost on the swim, then rode away from the field, posting a 4:20 bike split that was more than 10 minutes faster than the rest of the top 10. A controlled 2:54 marathon gave him a five-minute victory margin. Kienle might be limited to one race plan: Build a lead with a hard bike, then maintain it on the run. Last year’s race proved that it’s hard to counter that strategy when he is on form, but after being beaten by Jan Frodeno in Frankfurt, Kienle will be very motivated to be the top German finisher in Kona.

Jan Frodeno (GER)
After having to overcome mechanical problems to finish third in his two 2014 Ironmans, everything came together for Frodeno at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt this year, when he showed he could beat Kienle—by having the fastest swim and then hammering out a 4:08 bike course record. Kienle beat his own bike course record by one minute, but he still lost three minutes to Frodeno, who sealed up the race with a 2:50 marathon, winning by almost 12 minutes—and in triple-digit temperatures, no less. If Frodeno is anywhere close to his Frankfurt shape, he’ll be hard to beat. And if a Frankfurt win is a sign of things to come in Kona (Kienle won the Frankfurt-Kona double last year), Frodeno is poised for a very good day on the Big Island.

Frederik Van Lierde (BEL)

The 2013 Hawaii champion isn’t the flashiest racer, but he rarely shows any weakness. Last year in Kona he suffered through cramping on the run after the Energy Lab, which probably cost him a podium finish. If he wants to contend for the win, he has to limit the time he loses to the very strong cyclists and produce a superb run. It would require a big step forward, but his commanding win at Ironman South Africa showed he is working toward that capability.

Andy Potts (USA)
He has earned multiple titles across all distances and dominated his (very hot) summer Ironman (Coeur d’Alene), as he does almost every year. But Potts is still chasing a podium finish in Kona. For that, he needs to limit the time he loses when the big bike group breaks up around the turnaround in Hawi. If he is within four minutes of the podium in T2, with his experience and solid run he can improve on his best-ever fourth-place finish from 2014.

Luke McKenzie (AUS)
After his runner-up finish in 2013, McKenzie struggled the following season yet still managed to finish 15th in Kona. A strong win at Ironman Cairns shows that he has reclaimed his old form. He should be able to stay with the front group on the swim and then ride with Frodeno from the start or with Kienle when the bike group breaks up. If he can follow that up with another sub-three-hour marathon, he’ll be in a great position for a podium finish.


Cyril Viennot (2015 ITU Long Distance world champion), Nils Frommhold (Challenge Roth winner) and Tim Van Berkel (second at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne), who were the fifth- to seventh-place finishers (respectively) from Kona 2014, will likely be in the mix for 2015 as well. Ben Hoffman (second last year), Tim O’Donnell (fifth in 2013), Ironman Texas winner Matt Hanson (who has run a 2:53 in Kona as an age-grouper) and Andy Potts will vie for the top spots.


Kona rookie pros are usually a bit overwhelmed by the quality and depth of the world championship field. But Canadians Brent McMahon (fastest Ironman debut with 7:55 in Arizona), Lionel Sanders (winner of the cancelled-swim Ironman Florida) and Jeffrey Symonds (winner of Ironman Melbourne) and British athletes Joe Skipper (second at Ironman Texas after a 4:09 bike course record) and Tim Don (Olympic-distance world champ and winner of Ironman Mallorca) could be factors in the race, and even carry legitimate podium potential.

Sebastian Kienle. Photo: John David Becker

1 Sebastian Kienle GER
2 Jan Frodeno GER
3 Frederik Van Lierde BEL
4 Ben Hoffman USA
5 Andy Potts USA
6 Nils Frommhold GER
7 Timothy Van Berkel AUS
8 Bart Aernouts BEL
9 Lionel Sanders CAN
10 Ronnie Schildknecht SUI
11 Pete Jacobs AUS (Will not start)
12 Matt Hanson USA
14 Marino Vanhoenacker BEL
15 Jeffrey Symonds CAN
16 Cyril Viennot FRA
17 Tim Don GBR
18 Brent McMahon CAN
19 Matt Trautman RSA
20 Bas Diederen NLD
21 Timothy O’Donnell USA
22 Romain Guillaume FRA
23 Cameron Brown NZL
24 Ivan Rana ESP
25 Guilherme Manocchio BRA
26 Joe Skipper GBR
27 Michael Weiss AUT
28 Eneko Llanos ESP
29 Tyler Butterfield BER
30 Clemente Alonso-Mckernan ESP
31 Callum Millward NZL
32 Brad Kahlefeldt AUS
33 David Mcnamee GBR
34 Andi Boecherer GER
35 Andreas Raelert GER
36 Luke McKenzie AUS
37 Boris Stein GER
38 Dylan McNeice NZL
39 Fredrik Croneborg SWE
40 Igor Amorelli BRA
41 Denis Chevrot FRA
42 Jordan Rapp USA
43 Christian Kramer GER
44 Paul Ambrose AUS
45 Pedro Gomes PRT
46 Terenzo Bozzone NZL
47 Viktor Zyemtsev UKR
48 Kyle Buckingham RSA
49 Jan Van Berkel SUI
50 Maik Twelsiek GER
51 Victor Del Corral Morales ESP
52 Fraser Cartmell GBR
53 Daniel Bretscher USA
54 Miquel Tinto ESP
55 Luke Bell AUS
56 Matt Chrabot USA
57 Jeremy Jurkiewcz FRA
58 Justin Daerr USA


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Quick Set Monday: Totally 200s Mon, 05 Oct 2015 11:00:01 +0000

Triathlete contributor and swimming all-star Sara McLarty has a blog with more than 500 creative workouts used in her Masters swim program ]]>

Triathlete contributor and swimming all-star Sara McLarty has a blog with more than 500 creative workouts used in her Masters swim program in Clermont, Fla. We’ll feature a workout every Monday so you have new ideas to take to the pool. On her blog (, you can pick a Monday set for a long distance focus, a Wednesday set for sprint training, or Friday for creative open water skills.

5×200 on 4:00 (150 swim/50 kick)
5×200 on 3:30 (100 free/100 IM)
5×200 on 3:00 (pull, breathe every 5)
5×200 on 2:45 (100 fast/100 easy)
200 cool-down
*4200 total*

4×200 on 5:00 (150 swim/50 kick)
4×200 on 4:30 (150 free/50 non-free)
4×200 on 4:00 (pull, breathe every 5)
4×200 on 3:45 (100 fast/100 easy)
200 cool-down
*3400 total*


3×200 with 30 sec rest (150 swim/50 kick)
3×200 with 30 sec rest (150 free/50 non-free)
3×200 with 30 sec rest (pull, breathe every 5)
3×200 with 30 sec rest (100 fast/100 easy)
100 cool-down
*2500 total*


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