The Ironman World Championships attracts the best of the best in the world of long-distance triathlon. The allure of Kona keeps thousands of athletes dedicated towards their training year-round. Two of our ambassadors, Dickon and Geraint raced Ironman Kona this year. Dickon finished in 10:50 and Geraint in 10:27. We allowed them to recover and get over the jet lag of the return trip before catching up with them.
How to get to Kona?
Qualifying for Kona can seem a challenge, getting to the Island from Europe with a bike and race equipment is just as much of a challenge. Dickon spent 24 hours travelling, flying initially from Heathrow to San Francisco, then onto Kona. Gez went from Heathrow to Seattle, a 6-hour layover and then onto Kona. Factoring in car hire and travel to / from airports it was a full 24-hour journey for both of them. Time zone changes before a race can have an impact on race performance, something most Kona qualifiers should keep in mind. Gez added “I arrived 4 days before the race, in hindsight I'd have arrived longer as I struggled a bit with sleep because of the jet lag. This made me tired throughout the day which increased my heart rate, something I'd avoid if doing the trip over again. I'd recommend arriving at least 7 days before race day.”.
Kona is more than a race, it’s a celebration. Talking about the build-up prior to the race, Dickon said “The hardest thing was keeping the excitement under control. The week before the race is like a whole town carnival, with so much going on. The excitement just builds and builds. My main concern was running a couple of times in the heat of the day and get a swim in the sea ticked off (together with stopping 400m offshore for a coffee on the boat…a must do!).”
How did the race go compared to your expectations?
Dickon – “I expected the day to be incredible, but this far outweighed expectations in pretty much every way. The tension on the start line was palpable, the swim was an all-out beautiful brawl, the bike was fast, fun and tough. The run…….I expected it to be hot, but NOTHING can prepare you for how hot and humid it really is. For the first time ever, I wasn’t sure that I was going to finish this race. After 10km of the run, I was dizzy, exhausted and my core temp and HR had gone through the roof. I was in survival mode for 35 of the 42km but it was all worth it for the final kilometre. It was the most incredible party and I still get goosebumps every time I think back to that red carpet moment.
I honestly wouldn’t have done anything differently. It was a perfect week for what I wanted out of it. I very much went there with the mindset that this was a celebration of qualifying and the year of hard work I’ve put into it and therefore didn’t put any pressure on a time or putting in a perfect performance. Yes, there are things I could have done to go a bit faster, I could have heat trained better and probably didn’t swim enough in training, but it was one of the best experiences in my life and a week that I will never forget.”
Gez – “As many know I suffered with sickness during the race from 30miles in, I've been racking my brain on how this happened, I can only assume I picked up something during the swim. I felt ready to rock at the swim start, but shortly after exiting the water I became violently ill.
My expectations were to cross the finish line in about 9hrs and 30mins. But it was a complete struggle just to turn the pedals over, I couldn't hold down any fluids which made me very dehydrated. This made the bike and the run in particular extremely tough. It was complete survival mode during the run. I had to break each mile down and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm super proud to have got across the finish line in 10hrs and 27mins. A very respectable time all things considered.
I wouldn't really change anything aside from arriving a few days earlier, despite my illness during the race, I still wouldn't change it, if anything my illness made me realise, I'm stronger than I initially thought. So, from now on, whenever the going gets tough, I know I can dig deep and get to the finish line.”
Advice for Kona Qualifiers based on your own experience
Gez – “My biggest take away and advice I would give to anyone racing Kona in the future would be....
1: Arrive as early as possible before race day.
2: Prepare for extreme heat and humidity. I implemented this by biking in a self-built heat chamber and running in a sauna suit. But rest assured the elements here simply can't be imitated, so expect your heart rate to increase by at least 10 beats on the island.
3: Kona is a race like no other, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Nikki Bartlett prior to racing, she's raced Kona a few times and gave me some great words of advice being....Kona is a celebration of all your training and prior races, don't worry about your time, just be sure to take it all in and enjoy the event, it'll be over before you know it!”