Kona: Lessons learned

My legions of loyal fans and groupies have asked me a bit about Hawaii. I’ve put down some thoughts and self-assessment so they can learn vicariously. Here goes.

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Prior to Kona, I didn’t understand Ironman. I had little idea of its essence because I didn’t really suffer at Cairns (my only other attempt at the distance). That mythical suffering felt like a rite of passage I had missed.

Boy oh boy – I learned pretty quickly in the first 5km of Alli Drive what I had missed out on.



Yet it’s that aspect of IM – the Yin and Yang – that only makes it more appealing. It’s a very cool event.

Here’s my thoughts.

I am my own worst coach and I am terrible at peaking

My mantra is “more is always better”. My CTL went north of 150 TSS/day about 6 weeks before race day. I held it within 10 points of 150 for 5 weeks whilst working full time. That is not performance enhancing.

If someone else told me they’d done this I’d think they were stupid.

My ‘key’ sessions leave me deep-fried

I did some amazing breakthrough erg sessions in the weeks leading up to the race. In their own right they were great. Overall, they absolutely cooked me because of how I structured them in a macro sense. Examples:

  • I became obsessed with SAP (sustained aerobic power) training, so I worked up to doing 1 hour @ 300w – 7x in a week, in the middle of a 25 training hour week. That dose is totally excessive. 120 minutes a week is enough.
  • 3×1 hour @ 300w – in one day, broken up before and after a 10 hour day at work. That’s called “leaving your race on the kickr”.
  • 8×15 minutes @ 325w – in one hit after work. Thanks to Lionel Sanders for the inspiration. It felt easy at the time but put me in my grave for 2 days.

I also don’t think that type+volume of training is good for the heart. I’ve already had a cardiac ablation and I’ve got no doubt my neighbours will discover my lifeless body slumped over my kickr one day.

 Things I did for Cairns that I didn’t do for Kona

  • Strength training: Prior to Cairns I religiously did 3 lunch-time gym sessions a week, mostly focused on overhead squats. I didn’t go to the gym once in the 3 months prior to Kona. I’m sold on the benefits of ST, especially in how it seems to act as a fatigue-protector against eccentric movements in an endurance context.
  • Short bike intervals: Prior to Cairns I religiously did my standard 8x4min erg session once a week. Prior to Kona the shortest interval I did was 20 minutes.
  • Run volume: A hip injury prevented me from doing any meaningful run training in the 7 weeks prior to Kona. No excuses but that really hurts race day performance.

Things I did well

  • I did a shiteload of volume: 106 hours in August’s filthy weather was a particular personal victory. It may not all have been smart training, but I don’t care. I just love training and the people I train with.
  • That’s about it. The rest wasn’t great.

Most importantly: Food and Drink

  • Poke is awesome. Da Poke Shack and Umeke’s are the best.
  • So are American supermarkets. However, there’s no Whole Foods in Kona. I’m no clean eater but this was a devastating blow.
  • Basik Acai is the greatest post-swim breakfast spot on Earth.

Until next year…mahalo & aloha.


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