Road to Kona, Part Two

Mina Pizzini – Qualified at IM Arizona 2016

I’m training with Natasha van der Merwe, who coached me for my qualifier, Ironman Arizona 2016. We took what we learned from IMAZ 2016 to adjust the program for Kona. IMAZ was actually a horrible race for me. I felt flat going into it and could tell 10 miles into the race that it would be a tough day. I had peaked about month too early and by IMAZ, I was running on fumes. There were two problems (we think) with my IMAZ build up:

I started my IM preparation immediately after the road bike season with no break
The TriDot program I’d been following had too much intensity.

I addressed the first problem by not racing my bike at all this year. I spent January through April putting in base miles. Even my swims were Zone 2 efforts. I also got back in the gym and lifted heavy weights.

In May I began my official build up to Kona with Natasha. There was no track work this time. We worked intensity into my shorter runs and my two hour bike trainer sessions. We kept the long runs mostly aerobic. As for my weekly long bike rides, we kept some intensity there. As distance increased though we backed down intensity levels to IM efforts.

This will be my third visit to Kona. It has been ten years since my last visit to Kona. The biggest issue, obviously, is that I’m 50 and not 40. My goal though, is to match my time from 10 years ago, 10:39. I’m actually a stronger swimmer than I was and I haven’t lost much on the bike. In fact, my average wattages in training now are higher than what they were when I was preparing for Kona in 2007. The biggest decline has been my run. I’ve lost 30 seconds off my long run paces.

At this point, two weeks out, I’m a little fatigued, but not overly so. I’m definitely ready to taper and anxious for the race.

Mike Minardi – Qualified at IM Los Cabos 2016

As I sit writing this the cannon blast on Kailua pier is exactly one week away. With one week to go the hay is in the barn, as they say. The work is done, the workouts from now till race day are as much about keeping the mind engaged as keeping the fitness sharp, and instead of finishing up a six hour ride I’ve got time to sit and reflect on how I got here and my goals for race day.

What is so crazy and daunting when you train for your first Ironman becomes your normal routine when you start doing them every year. Everyone’s goal is to “finish” their first one; those who get hooked go from finishers to racers, and those who become racers want to qualify for Kona. You end up being around a lot of others who are doing the same and it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the hardest part of an Ironman is the months of training to get to the start line healthy. Hundreds of hours of training and thousands of dollars for a half day of “exercise!”

The most important concept for success is consistency, which means doing the right little things and the right big things over and over again as a habit over a period of time. Consistency in this sport requires a lifestyle. The biggest challenge for me since my last trip to Kona in 2015 has been finding ways to make my lifestyle support doing the big and little things consistently, while not neglecting my family and with an ever more challenging job. And, I have to admit, while dealing with the fact that I’m not getting any younger! Here are a few things that I have done that have helped me get back to Kona, then I’ll wrap up with my goals for this year’s race.

  • I communicate with my coach: I stay current with my workout updates. I rarely miss workouts, so what’s important is for me to update Brandon on how I feel when I log them. He can tell how I’m doing, if I’m tired or on track, or dealing with an injury. I make him aware of all business and vacation travel and the types of workouts I can do while I’m away and he’ll make the necessary adjustments.
  • “Pre-hab”: Foam rollers, lacrosse balls, fascia blasters, and other gear I use at least once daily, especially before runs.
  • Hoka One One shoes: Yep. I bought my first pair of Hoka One One Bondis, the big clowny ones, in, I think, 2013, as a bit of a joke while I was recovering from pelvic stress fractures, which I’d gotten after recovering from a torn hamstring tendon, which I’d gotten after recovering from piriformis “syndrome” etc. I train in Bondis, race in Cliftons, and I have not had a serious running related injury since. Coincidence? I have a lot of friends with the same experience. You can buy them at Austin Tri-Cyclist!
  • Stretching: Nope. Actually just a bit of light stretching after every run and that is it. Only if it feels good. I used to aggressively stretch, I used to get hurt a lot. Never stretch an injured area.
  • Sleep: I can’t tell you how many fun group workouts I’ve missed with my friends because I wouldn’t get up early enough. I get seven hours a night, minimum. Up to eight if I can do it.
  • Redundancy!: I have backups to my backups. There are 24 Hour Fitness gyms all around Austin and California, which I travel to frequently. I’ve done many a spin workout or swim late at night when my work schedule has gotten in the way. I have two places I go to for masters swimming to maximize schedule flexibility. Extra towels, goggles, and swim trunks in my car. The best investment I made this year is a home workout room with weights, treadmill, and bike trainer. I have a road bike I can ride when my tri bike is in the shop. I don’t think I’ve missed a workout in over a year!
  • Train with people faster than you: I have a group of guys we call “The Wolfpack” that I train and race with. There are some superb athletes in the group that can really bring the pain on the swim, bike, and run. They have made me a better athlete and they are great friends. Win-win.
  • Race Nutrition: This is incredibly important. I have worked closely with my coach to nail a racing nutrition plan and put it into practice on many training days. I have learned this the hard way!

The goal for this year’s race:

Kona in 2015 was, for me, the hardest race I’d ever done. The heat on the second half of the bike and first half of the marathon was outrageous. I crossed the finish line ecstatic but pretty damned shattered in 10:37. This was way down my age group, but there were a lot of great athletes who got their asses handed to them in shocking fashion that day and I’m proud of my finish.

This year I have a goal in mind. I think I can swim better by a few minutes, bike faster by a couple of minutes, and be smarter on the run and peel a few minutes away there too. I know what I’m capable of, but you can’t predict anything, so I’ll just say I want to finish in the top 20 in my age group. That would be a fantastic accomplishment in my mind and a great way to finish out 2017.

Amy Chow – Qualified at IM Chattanooga 2016

I have a weird love/hate relationship with Kona. It’s an amazing experience but a little too hyped up for me. But it’s also one of those races that you would be laughed out of town if you told people that you turned your slot down (Fact: the second place in my age group at Chattanooga did turn it down though).

My main objectives when I got back into focused training at the beginning of 2016 were to fit training into life and not take triathlon so seriously. I got in trouble my first go round in the sport (2009-2010) where I lived and breathed the sport and the training. It was not a very healthy balance, mentally or physically. I judged a lot of my self-worth based on how I did in races. But, a lot has changed in the past 7 years: different jobs, different cities, and a spouse, to name a few. Plus, I think (hope) I grew up a bit.

My goals for Kona are to learn from my past mistakes here and give it my best shot. Since my first goal and step here was to focus, I think I finally achieved that towards August when Brandon (my coach) convinced me to stop strength training. And even before that, I had cut way down on what I used to do. I have not done this much triathlon-specific training since my first Ironman year in 2009.

Mentally I think I am stronger now than when I was 23-24. The wind on the bike has always been my nemesis, so I will put my improved mental fitness (as Atomic Athlete calls it) to use on the Queen K and try not to let the wind beat me down.

In the end, I want to enjoy the day. I remember being so sad after my first finish here when I did not do as well as I hoped. My second year was better, but I had been injured in the lead up so my expectations were pretty low.

This year, I was realistic about my training and despite some hiccups in the summer, I did what i could and followed Brandon’s plan so on Saturday we will see where that gets me. If I can equal my IM Chattanooga time I will be very happy.