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The Kona surge

With 22 days and counting – it’s about this time every year that the Kona surge starts to take hold. An affliction that doesn’t just occur with pros, but one that infects many hard working age group athletes who have qualified to go to the big show.

And let’s clarify ‘hard worker.’ These are not pros, but people who have full-time jobs. Given the Ironman demographic we find that these tend to be high-powered, stressful jobs at that. It may not be physical labour, but it is the kind of work that requires a lot of time and mental attention.

What you’ll find in the ‘Surge’ is that these qualifiers are now cramming every bit of training in they can do. Every minute is filled with extra training as they feel guilty about their jobs robbing them of valuable time in preparation for a good race at Kona.

Within my pro team I’ve been addressing this issue nearly every second day. Assuring all that the training is on track and repeating the word ‘No’ quite a lot. I need to do more! No, you don’t. This is too slow! No, it isn’t. I’m not able to push hard enough! No, you’re pushing the exact right amount. Can I do an extra session of ... No! I don’t feel I need the rest day, can I ... NO!

These conversations mirror the ones I’m having with our working age groupers – hyper motivated individuals who have had to miss a few sessions because of work and as such are in meltdown mode when coach advises to take a step back and readjust the program accordingly. ‘But Coach you don’t understand... I haven’t had much time...’

Yes, I do understand. You see most of these AG athletes are university educated people who in some form of their old lives have had to cram for exams to maintain high grades while maintaining a busy outside life. Many of the same people then move into the business community where they’re governed by strict work deadlines in a culture that seems think that setting unreasonable time tasks will enhance the work value out of those white-knuckling 15-hour days.

The head down and don’t lift it up, don’t shower, drink some more coffee way of getting things done is a common theme when discussing people’s work / training arrangements. So of course it’s natural that the habits and rituals we see in the workplace are now carried over to one’s new hobby – Ironman.

Just a few days ago I heard this: “What do you mean easy swim and 20 minute jog? I’ve done nothing for 3-days except meetings so that I could get here to train my arse off.” For context they had just hopped off the plane after an 11-hour across the dateline flight.

Does this ring a bell to some of our qualifiers out there as the nerves start to jangle as we think that Kona is only 22 days away?

Training in the build up to Kona. If so, have no fear as Coach is here to help. Firstly, the ‘add more training’ approach is not applicable. Physical sport is not the same as when you used to cram for a week and pass with $ying colours. It’s not the same as pulling an all nighter on a Powerpoint and then nailing it the next morning. The phenomenon of ‘cramming’ with a few weeks out will have a huge negative impact on your performance.

If the Kona surge has got you in its grip then the ‘do more, do it faster, take less rest’ approach will ensure that you will be making this statement after finishing your race: ‘Next year will be better as I’ll have more time.’

So I’ll pass on what I’m telling my own coaches on a daily basis now. Hold the line. Stick to what you have been doing, even if it wasn’t enough. Athletes a little underdone will perform a hell of a lot better than athletes that are overdone. Courage is shown at this time by not joining in the Kona surge people, but resisting it! You want my honest feelings about Kona?

It’s just another race. To prepare for it like it’s just another race will prove much more fruitful for your performance. Enjoy the experience. The journey is the real adventure, the doing is just the icing on the cake.

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