To all Trisutto coaches and athletes going to Kona,
Usually I write a blog for all the first time Kona participants at this time, advising them of the pitfalls of a disease that spreads in the Hawaiian islands, it’s called Kona-itis. While not physically fatal, it has disastrous effects on performance on the Big Island. I can see all those that have been there nodding their head in agreement - yes if only I had listened to coach the first time.
Some of those experienced travellers will be shaking their head also in a different way. As they are saying, yes, and I seem to catch it every year I go.
We have great success on the Big Island, because for those who have self discipline, we treat it with the antidote.
It’s called J.A.R. (Just. Another. Race.)
Easier said than done, but you will need it if you are going to race and expect a good performance.
For our age grouper athletes, I’m happy if through your very hard work you qualify, and go for the experience of just going to the Mecca of Ironman. I’m happy for you to dive right into the spirited run around in your undies. To blast up and down on the Queen K, seeing how many you can pass, while getting sunburnt with a tank top showing off your six pack. But I warn, that if it’s the first time, almost everybody does that; and they have wonderful six packs. They just don’t race very well. But hey, they look terrific. That is of course before the gun goes on Saturday morning.
As we say - when the flag drops, the bullshit stops.
So decide which trip you are taking:
A. To feel the experience
B. To be the best you can be on the day
If it’s A, then my advise is to take your best undies and really enjoy it. As it might not be there too much longer!
But if it's B, and you're going there to perform, then you need to read further. The best advise I can give and to help support your coach is this:
1) Stick to the training that has got you to the qualifying stage.
It hasn’t become obsolete as soon as you qualified. The most common problem is ‘Coach, I need to do more, I’m going to Kona‘. No you don’t, you need to believe in what got you there in the first place.
2) Avoid all the advise from the well meaning 'experts'.
These ‘experts‘ are everywhere. Having been there 5 years ago didn’t qualify them to pass on their vast Triathlon knowledge that they think they have. In Trisutto land, you could write what they really know about Triathlon on the back of a small envelope. Avoid these people like the plague as they still carry the virus - Kona-itis doesn’t go away.
3) And this is the biggie...
I field these questions all the time, but this year we have more first time qualifiers than ever.
'Coach, I need to stop using the pull buoy and paddles and do a good block of just swimming. We can't use a wetsuit in Kona'.
But what you're really saying is:
‘I need to go back and practice poor strokes, in a worse body position, and do less, as I get tired much more quickly'.
People! You are most likely, like all triathletes (where even the ‘fast’ swimmers in our sport are not very good swimmers) where your qualifying has come by us improving your swim out of site. Believe me, taking the gear off now and doing less, is the worst possible outcome. The more you swim with proper strokes, the more strokes you take without dropping an elbow or wrist, the better you will be.
Kona water is the most bouyant that you will most likely swim in. However the bigger problem has already surfaced. You are worrying about the swim, which has already started to eat into your confidence. The anxiety on race day in the water with 2,000 people is a far greater hurdle. It can’t be overcome by swimming in a lake by yourself! It can be overcome by two things:
Don’t put yourself in a position to be above your swim abilities, thus asking to get swum over. A big but much made mistake.
To say to yourself, I’m not the worlds best swimmer, so I’ll place myself where the least carnage is and enjoy the swim as a warmup for the other minimum 8 hours of the day. Of course we will do our best. But we will not destroy our whole day, race and trip because I might swim 5 or 10 minutes slower.
We all know, or should that if you blow up on the bike you can lose 30 minutes easy. If we don’t get the run right, well do I need to say how much walking can cost you.....Let’s put the swim in to perspective. It is the least opportunity to hurt your race no matter how poor you think it is. If you swim between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes, then on your worst day you may lose 10 minutes compared to the full day. It’s absolutely no time at all!
So before you say J.A.R. is easier said than done, and 'no, I won't catch Kona-itis', I implore you to read, and re-read this letter again over the next 3 weeks as a reminder of what you wish to achieve from your Kona experience.
Just the way I see it.