Could an American Win in Kona This Year?

by Susan Lacke

The last time an American won the Ironman World Championship, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was showing in movie theaters. Kelly Clarkson had just won the first-ever season of American Idol, and the world was gearing up for the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, UT. That was the year that American Tim DeBoom won in Kona with a time of 8:29:56. DeBoom’s time would be considered slow by today’s pro standards, set by a wave of Australian and German athletes who have inched ever closer to the sub-8 mark, leaving Americans in their dust. In the women’s race, the drought has lasted even longer, as an American hasn’t won since 1996.

Could 2018 be the year the USA takes back the Kona crown? This year’s American athletes provide some of the best odds for a Kona win since…well, Kelly Clarkson won American Idol. The top bets for an American victory in Kona:


American Heather Jackson. Photo: Oliver Baker

Heather Jackson
The 2016 third-place finisher is hungrier than ever for the win. Her 9:02:29 finish in Kona last year was less than a minute behind third-place finisher Sarah Crowley, and the experience fueled her all-in mentality for 2018. Her wire-to-wire win at Ironman Lake Placid in July, where she clocked a 9:18:49, shows she’s in top form and ready to rumble.

Linsey Corbin
With 11 appearances on the Kona start line, Corbin has more experience at this race than anyone else in the pro ranks, male or female. Within those years are three top-ten finishes and countless lessons on mastering the Kona game. She’s the fastest American female in history, holding an Ironman record of 8:42:42. Her recent “back-to-basics” approach to training has focused on consistency, recovery, and balance. She went ahead and nabbed her Kona 2019 spot with a win at Ironman Wisconsin in September. Will the decision to race such a late 140.6 help or hurt her Kona chances? We’ll find out!

Jocelyn McCauley
In only her first pro race at the Ironman World Championships, McCauley finished 10th place in 9:21:08. She backed up that breakthrough race with a third-place finish at Ironman New Zealand in March, and has been laser-focused on Kona since, taking the lessons she learned in her rookie year to improve for her second go-around. She looked sharp at Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa, where she finished fourth in a strong field that included three-time Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae.

Sarah Piampiano
Piampiano hasn’t finished off the podium in 2018—in five 70.3 and full starts this year, she’s taken five top-three finishes, including a win at 70.3 Lima and second place at Ironman Brazil. Can she keep the trend rolling in Kona? It’s certainly feasible—a look at her performance since turning pro in 2012 has shown a strictly upward trajectory, and Piampiano shows no signs of letting up.

Sarah True
The two-time Olympian made the jump to racing Ironman this year, and what a jump it was: True nailed her first-ever attempt at the distance, taking second place at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt with a time of 9:05:19. The first-place finisher? Defending Ironman world champion Daniela Ryf. True, who will be making her Kona debut this year, is a dark horse, but her history at both short-course and the 70.3 distance shows she’s got the chops to take on big names and high stakes.



Ben Hoffman. Photo: Oliver Baker

Ben Hoffman
Hoffman is the closest America has come to the top step of the podium in recent years, taking second place in 2014. Though he’s had some stellar races since, including a sub 8-hour performance at Ironman South Africa in 2017, this year has been a bit of a mixed bag. A bike crash during the Cape Epic mountain bike race derailed his plans to defend his title at Ironman South Africa; Hoffman struggled from the start of the race and finished in a personal worst time of 12:06:48. He finished second at both 70.3 Boulder and 70.3 Santa Cruz.

Timothy O’Donnell
With his third-place finish at Kona in 2015, O’Donnell is most recent American male to podium. His 8:00:54 performance at this year’s Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship was good enough for fourth place in a strong field that included many Kona qualifiers for this year. His superpower in Kona seems to be heat management—where others wilt on the bike and run, O’Donnell thrives.

Andy Potts
At 41 years old, Potts is the elder statesman of the race, but he can still mix it up with the young guns. Potts was the top American finisher at last year’s World Championship, clocking an 8:14:13 (including a blistering 2:50:27 marathon) to take seventh place. He’s come close to the top spot before, finishing fourth in 2014 and 2015, and is known for tweaking his routine to accommodate what he learns each time he races Kona. Will 2018 be the year he finally cracks the code?

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30 DAYS TO KONA – Friday Fun – Khem’s Spectathlete Must Haves!

Khem’s Spectathlete Must-Haves

We all know that spectating at a race, especially a long-distance one like IRONMAN, can be an endurance sport in itself. There’s nothing worse than trying to capture those special moments when your athlete rolls by and your smartphone is dead. So after many years of supporting athletes and working behind the fences at various races, I’ve found some must have items to add to your race-sherpa toolbox! Race day tested, Khem approved!


Cairn™ Lantern + Power Bank & Neve® Lightning Cable

What’s one of the biggest frustrations of being a race Sherpa? Dead phone? Tangled up lightning cable? Well, the folks at Lander have developed a handful of products that bridge the gap between the outdoors and technology. I’ve been lucky enough to give a few of their products a whirl, and I will tell you, I am thoroughly impressed.

The Cairn™ Lantern + Power Bank is exactly what it is. A lantern and power bank in one. It has a built-in multi-axis lanyard, allowing you to attach the light wherever you need it. The stitching in the lanyard, Illumifind™, is reflective and makes it easy to find in the dark. Just shine a light and it pops out! Want to take it to the next level? Their Cairn™ XL Smart Lantern is Bluetooth compatible. Via the free Cairn XL app, you can control power, dimming, color, light alarms, proximity lighting, battery settings, and light strobe.

Well, what’s the use of having a power bank if you don’t any cables? Lander outdid themselves with the Neve®Lightning Cable. Available in Lightning to USB, micro-USB, USB-C, and lengths of 3 feet or 10. Yep, 10 feet of charging bliss!!! Like their power banks, the cables feature the signature Illumiweave® reflective technology that makes it easy to find in the dark. They are also made of nylon in a flat, tangle-free design and long Everpull® connectors, avoiding breakage where most cables fail. Their lifetime warranty also stacks up to their claim that you’ll never need to buy a new cable. My cable has seen a fair amount of action with all the travel and race spectating, and so far I’m giving it a two thumbs up!



Ever in a spot where you need an outlet and there’s none to be found? I have for sure!!! The myCharge Portable Power Outlet is a great solution for all those “need to plug in the wall” electronics. This device also has two USB-A ports and one USB-C port, so it’s like having a mini-generator and power bank in one device. Fully charged, there’s enough juice to run a 34-inch LED TV for up to four hours and the power bank recharges 50% faster than its competitors.

The easy to read light up screen tells you how much juice is left in the unit and the output of power, USB or power outlet. The durable rubber-like casing protects the myCharge from dings and scratches – no need to worry if it accidently gets knocked off the table. During long-haul flights or airport gate areas where power outlets are either scarce or non-existent, the myCharge Portable Power Outlet has kept my laptop and other electronics fired up so I don’t miss a beat! Definitely worth the investment if you aren’t not quite ready for going totally off the grid or have a plethora of electronic devices to charge up while your athlete is out racing!


Edifier MP100 Mini Bluetooth Speaker

As an athlete, I will tell you that hearing awesome tunes as you’re running by is such a great pick-me-up. As a spectathlete, it’s a great way to rally others around you and keep the energy high throughout a race. The Edifier MP100 Mini Bluetooth Speaker was a great companion while I was kayaking across Skaha Lake during the most recent Ultra 520K Canada race. The splash proof exterior ensured I had tunes regardless if the waves started to kick up. The clip at the top of the speaker made it easy to latch onto wherever I needed it. I was also impressed by the sound quality, and at times had to turn down the volume because it packs quite the punch. I also took it with me skiing, and through my pockets I could hear my music crystal clear. The speaker also doubles as a speakerphone so you can take calls hands free and keep on about your business.


The Tinkle Belle

I know what you all are thinking, but sometimes you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and nature decides to call…and for us ladies, squatting sometimes can be inconvenient. The Tinkle Belle is ergonomically design to fit the female undercarriage, minimizing the chance for leaks and splash backs. It also comes with a handy case that is waterproof lined just in the event there are a few drops left, and attached with a small carabiner making it super easy to transport. A few months ago at a pre-race briefing, when asked if there would be porto-potties along the course, the race director kindly responded with “You have 520km of bathroom at your disposal.” Disclaimer: Don’t use on private property and be discreet. Just because your friend/brother/boyfriend/husband pees in whatever corner they wish, doesn’t mean it’s okay…but pee freely standing up ladies!!



All these spectathlete must-haves (and more) will be making their way to Kona for the IRONMAN World Championship in my luggage. If you’re curious as to what other goodies will make the trip, feel free to reach out via email at or comment on this article’s 303Triathlon Facebook post. See y’all on the Big Island!! Aloha!!


Khem Suthiwan is a staff content editor/media correspondent with 303 Endurance Network, a triathlete, triathlon coach with Mile High Multisport, IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Athlete, member of the Palmares Racing Cycling Team, avid skier, SCUBA diver, finisher of the 2015 IRONMAN World Championship, and a Colorado resident since January 2001.

Khem’s Lowdown on the Kona Bike Check-In

IRONMAN is celebrating 40 Years! Today’s 30 Days to Kona features the skinny on the athlete bike check-in.

The athlete bike check-in procession in Kona harkens a similar vibe to the red carpet at the Oscars, or at least I assume so (never been to the Oscars, yet). As athletes move along the line, IRONMAN announcers and personalities such as Paul Kaye, Michael Lovato, and Greg Welch provide quite the commentary for spectators. Notable athletes are interviewed as they pass by the MC’s tent.

Along the barricades you’ll find industry professionals and experts counting all the various bike brands, wheels, power meters, and anything of note coming through the line. Back in 2015, I remember being asked what skin suit I’d be wearing on race day. “RŌKA, of course!”

And the giveaways are quite impressive. Some of the major bike brands have been known to hand out limited special edition Kona t-shirts and other swag to their respective racers. I was able to snag a PowerTap dry bag the year I raced as an owner of a PowerTap G3 Hub amongst other fun items.
For the past several years, Cervélo has been the reigning king of bikes in Kona with Trek, Specialized, and Felt following behind (561, 261, 216, and 177 respectively – from Canyon is proving to be a contender with the largest jump in numbers from 2016 to 2017 (39 to 102). They might just give everyone a run for their money this year with distribution expanding to North America most recently.

Bike porn spectating this year in Kona might be the beginning to an interesting drinking game for those who will be there. Grab a camp chair, find a shady spot, and let the games begin. For every Trek bike, take a shot. Zipp wheels, take a shot. You get the idea!!!

Khem’s Kona Must Do’s

By Khem Suthiwan

In less than a month, thousands of athletes and IRON-fans will be making their yearly pilgrimage to the IRONMAN World Championship. But there is more to Kona than what happens on race day. So whether this is your first or in my case, 10th trip to the Big Island, here are a few of my Big Island insider tips while you’re soaking in all the Aloha…


Sun Dried Specialties. Everyone raves about Hawaiian poke bowls. Any Kona veteran will tell you about Da Poke Shack on Ali’I Drive. Well, that’s not where the kama’aina (locals) go for their poke. There’s a place a little off the beaten path that will require you to hail an Uber if you don’t have a rental car (Yes, Uber is now on the Big Island! Hooray!). Sun Dried Specialties is located about 10 miles south of Kona Village. In addition to poke, they serve up a variety of Hawaiian-style meats for your non-poke eating friends.

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. I’m not a big fan on chain restaurants, but this one has always been a favorite. Chicken Katsu, Kalua Pork, and a breakfast favorite Loco Moco, L&L is far from lacking in flavor and a much needed break from all the touristy eats along Ali’I Drive. With two locations near Kona Village (Lanihau Center on Palani Rd and another in the Keauhou Shopping Center) and even two locations in Colorado (Colorado Springs and Aurora), you can start training your Hawaiian palate now before heading to the Big Island!

Queen K Tesoro . Sometimes gas station food is just downright good. This is no exception. I found this place after going on a witch hunt for some good spam musubi and a kama’aina led me to this sanctuary of yummy goodness. I fully admit with no shame that I stop here on my way to the airport every trip without fail. Head around to the back of the cash wrap and you’ll find spam musubi rolls of varying sizes, chicken katsu, and other to-go friendly Hawaiian foods.

Ali’I Drive is littered with souvenir shops, ABC stores, you name it. Kona Village used to be a major cruise port stop with ships coming to dock from all over the world. Then 9/11 happened. Most ships come to port on Wednesdays and primarily from the US Mainland, so that’s a good day to get away from the hustle and bustle of Ali’I Drive. If you’re looking for a way to stretch your hard-earned dollars even further, get off the beaten path (if you can) and buy your souvenirs elsewhere. Longs Drugs is my go-to place. Yep, the drug store that is now owned and operated by CVS Pharmacy. From Kona coffee to chocolate covered macadamia nuts, magnets, and everything else you can imagine, go to Longs Drugs. It’s the same stuff you’ll find at the ABC Stores on Ali’I Drive. There are two locations conveniently located near Kona Village. You can head there right after you eat lunch at L&L!

Mamalahoa Hot Tubs and Massage. This little piece of heaven I discovered after racing the Lavaman Triathlon back in 2011. About a 20 minute drive south of Kona Village, this place is well worth stealing your friend’s rental car for a few hours. Each massage includes a 30-minute soak in their six-foot teak wood hot tubs that sit in thatch covered tiki huts. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the middle of a rainforest jungle in a matter of seconds. With only two private therapy rooms (one single and one couples massage), sessions are by appointment only.

Manta Ray Night Dive/Snorkel. If there is one thing you need to do before leaving the Big Island, THIS is it. The Manta Ray Night Dive is the reason I got SCUBA certified. If you’re not SCUBA certified, no worries! Many dive shops offer snorkel options in conjunction with their dive excursions, which is great when there are both divers and snorkelers in a group. I would highly recommend Jack’s Diving Locker. This is the dive shop I finished up my open water certification after completing the classroom and pool training in Colorado. Jack’s has five boats in their fleet, professional staff of highly experienced guides, and offer free transportation from their main shop at the Coconut Grove Marketplace in Kona Village to their boat dock in Honokohau Harbor. Not to mention, the go-to dive shop for Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist and vocalist of the Grateful Dead, with over 300 dives with Jack’s.


Photo by Khem Suthiwan

Paradise Helicopters. Pele has been acting up since May, and what a better time to witness her miracle than by helicopter. A few weeks after she started up I was lucky enough to snag a helicopter ride over the affected area. Definitely the way to go is the “doors-off” tour, where you’re clipped in a 4-point harness and have complete unobstructive views of the land below mid-flight. One of the few companies that do this is Paradise Helicopters out of Hilo. If you have a free day it is well worth the drive over to the other side of the island, but you’ll need to be flexible as weather conditions can always cause potential delays and cancellations. Advanced reservations are required.

There are probably a dozen more items I could add to this list to include Waipio Valley, Mauna Kea Observatory, South Point, and many more. If you’re looking for more suggestions, feel free to reach out to me via e-mail at

Khem Suthiwan is a staff content editor/media correspondent with 303 Endurance Network, a triathlete, triathlon coach with Mile High Multisport, IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Athlete, member of the Palmares Racing Cycling Team, avid skier, SCUBA diver, finisher of the 2015 IRONMAN World Championship, and a Colorado resident since January 2001.

Q & A at the Desert’s Edge Triathlon Festival

Need a another great reason to race the Western Slope??

The Desert’s Edge Triathlon Festival will feature a pro’s panel Q & A on Friday night Sept. 7 during packet pick-up from 5:00pm to 6:00pm

Branden Rakita (professional XTERRA athlete)
Louis Cicchino (Accelero Endurance Head Coach)
and Libby Harrow (local XTERRA ambassador)

They plan on discussing the following topics:

    • How Offroad Tri (XTERRA) affects body different than road triathlons.
    • Tips during race:
    • Tips for next race:
      Training plan
      Why get a coach?
      Planning for next race

Stick around for some sweet swag and samples from each of their sponsors!

Why Endurance Athletes Should Watch a High Heart Rate

From TrainingPeaks
By George Ganoung

Last winter I was on a long base training ride, and I felt generally awful. At first, I blamed my much higher-than-normal heart rate on fatigue, or perhaps a dying HRM battery. But after a couple of days off the bike, and more closely monitoring my heart rate in general, I decided something still didn’t seem right.

A visit to my primary car doctor and a quick EKG resulted in a speedy referral to a cardiologist. Long story short, the diagnosis was Persistent Lone (or Idiopathic) Atrial Fibrillation or AFib. “Persistent” meaning my heart was in a state of AFib all the time; “Lone” or “Idiopathic” meaning that (with no commonly recognized risk factors) the cause was unknown.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart condition characterized by an irregular and often rapid heart rate. It’s not lethal on its own, but it can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. The American Heart Association estimates that at least 2.7 million Americans are living with the disorder. Traditional risk factors include what most would expect for heart conditions: congenital defects, age, heart disease, excessive stress, and stimulant use. However recent evidence suggests that long-term endurance sports training might also be a significant factor.

I am not a doctor, and my intent is not to contribute to the debate around AFib and endurance athletes. The purpose of this article is instead to raise awareness, and to provide some lessons learned through my firsthand experience with AFib, in hopes of helping athletes better-identify and deal with the issue if it arises.

Know What’s Normal
In my case, the doctors cited my quick identification of a potential problem (and seeking of medical attention) as critical factors in what would ultimately be a successful correction procedure. Like many athletes, I have a good understanding of what I “should“ be seeing with my heart rate relative to power and perceived effort, and was able to quickly identify that something was wrong. For performance, monitoring HR is becoming less prevalent, but there is a lot of value in consistently using it for insights into your overall health. (Here’s how to get started with a Heart Rate Monitor).

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Middaugh wins Xterra Quebec for his 4th victory in 2018 season

Josiah Middaugh, of Eagle-Vail, finished first in an Xterra off-road triathlon competition in Quebec, Canada, on Aug. 18. The course received heavy rain the day before the race, which made the long and technical trails even more difficult.

From the Vail Daily
by Pamela Hunt

Eagle-Vail triathlete Josiah Middaugh captured the Xterra Quebec off-road triathlon elite title on Saturday, Aug. 18, at Lac Delage in Quebec, Canada.

It was his the fourth win of the season in the Xterra off-road triathlon’s Pan Am Tour.

Fellow Colorado racer Branden Rakita posted the fastest swim split in the race, followed by Ian King, of Virginia Beach, and Canadian Karsten Madsen. Middaugh exited the water a little more than one-minute later with Tour leader Kieran McPherson, of New Zealand, and the chase was on.

“I had a good swim and started the bike with Kieran about 1:30 down, but Karsten was riding strong up ahead, putting time on me in corners and descents,” Middaugh said. “I was pulling back time on some of the pedaling sections and finally caught him beginning the third loop.”


Madsen, who was on a mission to win for his home country, said he was putting time on everybody but Middaugh.

“This course had 3,000 feet of climbing, so that created a lot of back and forth with Josiah,” Madsen said. “I started to get the impression him and I were way out front.”

Those two were out front, but McPherson has been running faster than all the regulars on the Tour this year and was still a threat.

“On the run I had a small cushion to Karsten and a big gap to the rest of the field,” Middaugh said. “I looked at my Suunto and realized we were starting the run about the same time we would normally be finishing an Xterra, so I decided to fuel and pace the first lap and attack the second. The strategy worked and luckily I had something left in the tank.”

Indeed, the course was one of the longer and harder on the Xterra World Tour this year, and heavy rain on Friday added some time to the already long and technical bike trails.

“The trails are amazing but the speeds are slow with so many twists, turns, ups, downs, roots and rocks,” Middaugh said. “Made for a long, tough day.”

Madsen agreed.

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Josiah Middaugh is a runner and mountain biker from Eagle-Vail who competes in the Xterra Pan Am Tour off-road triathlon series every year, winning the tour the last two seasons. While swimming is always Middaugh’s weakest discipline, on Saturday, Aug. 18, Middaugh exited the water in fourth alongside tour leader Kieran McPherson of New Zealand, setting himself up for his fourth Xterra win of the season.

Tim Don IS going to Kona after all…


By Josh Levison

‘The Don’ does qualify for Hawaii 2018

It’s not the first time that Tim Don has been written off!

After we (and indeed, Tim himself), assumed that his attempt to qualify for the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii was over after his DNF at Sunday’s IRONMAN Copenhagen left him just outside the automatic qualifying slots in the Kona Pro Rankings (KPR), news here from Tim himself that the dream is still alive.

The past weekend represented the final weekend of qualifying, and from Tim’s Instagram post (below), with athletes ahead of him not taking up their option, he has indeed earned his place on the start line at Dig Me Beach on Saturday 13th October.

We expect the full details of the final Kona start list will be published relatively soon.

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Why Athletes Are Ditching Ibuprofen for CBD

From Outside
By Graham Averill

The anti-inflammatory is extracted from the marijuana plant. Is this bud for you?

Andrew Talansky is almost always sore. The 29-year-old spent seven years as a professional cyclist racing for Slipstream Sports. He recently switched to triathlon and now spends hours training both on and off the bike. “I’m using muscles I haven’t used in years,” Talansky says. “My body is constantly inflamed.” Many athletes in his situation rely on common pain relief like ibuprofen, but when Talansky strained a hip flexor last fall, he reached for a bottle of cannabidiol (CBD), an extract from the cannabis plant, instead.

“I took it for a couple of weeks, and there was a noticeable difference immediately,” Talansky says. “And it wasn’t just that my hip was feeling better. I was less anxious, and I was sleeping better.”

Marijuana has long been considered an alternative pain medication, with THC, the principle psychoactive compound in the plant, getting most of the attention. CBD is another active component and could offer some of the same medical benefits (anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, analgesic), but without the side effect of getting high. CBD interacts with serotonin and vanilloid receptors in the brain, which affect mood and the perception of pain. It also has antioxidant properties. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of banned substances in January, which prompted many professional athletes, including ultrarunner Avery Collins and mountain biker Teal Stetson-Lee, to eschew ibuprofen for CBD. Some believe it’s a safer alternative to drugstore pain relievers and anti-inflammatories.

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