Most triathletes have a long season of training and racing and after the last big race, you hopefully took a nice break. I like my athletes to take 2-3 weeks of unstructured movement. No scheduled swim bike run in Training Peaks, no need to turn workouts green. Some of my athletes go crazy, they simply want to wake up and see Training Peaks workouts and others are so relieved to see nothing pop up. I find after a few weeks most are itching to get back to routine and this is where it can be a lot of fun.
I shy away from traditional triathlon training during these months to keep the athlete engaged and fresh. I like to address the three following areas:
a. This is the time to work on imbalances, test your single-legged squat, deadlift and bosu ball work and see which leg needs work, I guarantee one leg is better than the other. Work both legs but add 20% to the “weaker” leg.
b. Get strong. Track your squats, deadlifts and big muscle group exercise and push the max. You will be sore (yes, sore) but this is the time of year to do that, without a long run on the schedule or hard bike sessions you can and should be sore.
c. Let the strength dictate biking and running efforts.
d. Do a Functional Movement Screening and find your weakness, imbalances. Pay the money to get the correctional exercises and add those to your daily routine.
2. Address your weakness
Most of us want to do more in the sports where we are strong. While that is fun, is it what you need? This is the time to do a swim, bike or run block. Here are a few blocks I have given athletes:
a. Swim Block: 3 weeks with a minimum of 25K per week. I give them workouts that range from 4-7,000 and let them choose how to get to 25k. Some will do 10k one day and take a day off, others prefer 3,500 each day, some do 2 workouts a day. By week 2, the fatigue sets in and generally by week 3 they start to see some real gains. We keep Strength as #2 priority and biking and running take a back seat.
b. Bike Block: 3 weeks with a goal of 200-300 miles per week depending on the athlete, their available time and weather. I mix in a few harder efforts, which are optional based on how they are feeling, the bigger mileage is attainable when they can knock out 1-2 long rides outside. Again, strength is #2 priority and swim and run take a back seat.
c. Run Block: 3 weeks for this block which will vary depending on the athlete, their goals, durability, and base. The focus is 3 weeks of running 6 days a week building mileage each week. For some, the goal may be the 30/40/50-miles week, others it may be hitting key runs 2-3 times a week and then the rest is base running. The running carries the biggest risk of injury so be careful.
3. 15 hours in 3 days. This is a fun one!
1-hour swim, 3-hour bike, 1-hour run – 3 days consecutively. Determining if this is aerobic or has specific pace, HR, power efforts will depend on the athlete and current fitness.
There are many, many ways to gain fitness, have fun and be ready for race season. These are just a few I like. My #1 goal for the off-season is DON’T GET INJURED and #2 DON’T gain more than 5% of your bodyweight. A few pounds are okay and likely a good idea if you race lean, but not any more. than that.
My road to triathlon began in 2002. I started running and later biking to lose weight gained secondary to too many calories and a sedentary lifestyle. At the start of my weight loss I was pushing 225 pounds (current weight 146). I decided to give triathlon a go while living in St. Louis in 2007 and quickly learned despite being a high school lifeguard, I could not swim. Nevertheless, I was hooked.
My road to Colorado began with the Boulder 70.3 in 2011. My future wife, Kelly, and I traveled to Colorado early and I tried to get in as much “Colorado” as we could during this trip. We went horseback riding in RMNP, ATV riding near Vail, hiking around The Springs, and saw the Flaming Lips cover Dark Side of the Moon at Red Rocks. We also spent a significant amount of time in and around Boulder trying to soak up as much of the experience as possible. The Boulder 70.3 went well despite all my computers failing during the bike and run. Kelly, who serves as my coach (motivational, nutrition, and anything else as needed) and my biggest fan, met me at the finish to inform me of my result, a 23 min PR and first sub 5-hour finish. Our trip to Colorado was perfect. Once again, we were hooked. We were so hooked in fact, we set the plan of moving to Colorado in motion immediately and made the move three months after the Boulder 70.3.
The journey to Ironman began during our honeymoon at IM Cozumel in 2013. IM Cozumel went much better than expected for both of us. We left the island in high spirits with some new friends and good finishes under our belts. I signed up for the inaugural IM Boulder expecting good results 9 months after Cozumel, but was disappointed with a disastrous result, at least in my mind. The 2014 IM Boulder triathlon was so disappointing I left the sport to pursue other interests.
In 2016 I began training for marathons and started feeling the itch to race IM again. This time around, I began to take training more seriously. I hired a friend, Boulder native, and professional triathlete Colin Laughery to guide this effort towards racing the 2017 IM season. We chose IM Boulder and IM CDA as our plan A and B races. The 2017 IM Boulder was an epic defeat with the dreaded DNF. IM CDA was only a couple months after Boulder. I needed big changes to prevent this perpetual cycle of training well and racing poorly. These changes came from many places. My primary training and race strategy was handled by coach Colin. Nutrition and CDA course specific advice came from my friend Alison Freeman who is also a tri coach in Boulder. My swim coach Dave Scott helped me with race strategy as well. Most importantly, Kelly kicked up her efforts as my motivational coach to try and break this mental block and help me mentally prepare for race day. I approached IM CDA with one goal, to have fun racing again. The swim went ok and the bike went well. I learned I was in 12th in my age group off the bike from my wife who was proving to be instrumental again. Going into the last lap of the three-lap run, my Kelly informed me I was only a couple minutes back from 5th place and 4th place was struggling. I was hurting at this point in the race, and her support and information was just what I needed to kick it up a notch. I knew there were extra slots in IM CDA this year and 4th place may be just enough to qualify. I hustled up and caught 5th place at mile 20 and went into 4th place at mile 24 which was good enough for a spot for Kona! All my friends and family were following the race and elated with the result; however, no one was more excited than my wife and biggest fan who met me at the finish. I met my goal. I had fun racing again but with a secondary bonus of a trip to the Big Island!
Ironman racing requires sacrifice. The greatest sacrifice comes not from the athlete but from the family and friends. Without the support of friends and family, Ironman is not possible. Thank you to all of my friends and family who have supported me in and out of competition throughout the years. And most importantly, thank you to my beautiful wife Kelly, for being with me for every step in this journey. It has been fun.
This will be my 4th trip to Kona (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017). I still feel like a rookie – but this year I feel I’ve finally worked out some of the gremlins in my race prep and plan. Who knows though, I felt that way last year and still managed to make a mess out of my race!
I’m an ER doctor in Denver and came across triathlon about 8 years ago when I was miserably out of shape. I climbed out of the pool one day about 40 pounds overweight and someone suggested a local triathlon. I bought a road bike and raced 20 days later. I was terrible but I was hooked.
I’m self-coached. I read a little but mostly just listen to my body and my mind as to what I want to do on any given day. Most days that means ride my bike. I believe sustainability and consistency are the most important ingredients to finding some success in this sport. Be happy training. Or you won’t do it. And it’s incredibly important (at least for me) to do something nearly every day.
I’m now 44 years old and set PR’s this year for Ironman (9:53 at IM Boulder, 2nd in my AG to get my Kona slot) and Half-Ironman (4:19 at Boulder 70.3, 3rd in my AG – in case you didn’t know, Steve Johnson and Tim Hola are really fast). I try to be active every day and enjoy the journey.
I feel very fortunate to have such a great group of friends, training partners and support system to be able to do this sport. And, of course, to live in Colorado. Good luck to everyone out there!
Coaching 9 talented athletes who have all earned slots to the 2017 Ironman World Championships is the most honored role we could have, and it’s a pleasure to turn the spotlight on the following Colorado athletes who earned this race in their own unique and respected ways.
Lisa Plunkett coached by Dave Sheanin (50-54 AG & on the D3 Elite Team)
And while these three athletes do not have 303 area codes, they do have Colorado ties through D3, family and friends!
Steve Nabity coached by Brad Seng (60-64 AG from Omaha, NE)
Valerie Osband training plan from Mike Ricci (18-24 AG from London, UK)
D3 Coach Julie Dunkle coached by Mike Ricci (50-54 AG from Encinitas, CA)
We interviewed the coaches and athletes about their route to qualifying, favorite workouts and expectations as they head into Kona. Following are highlights from each athlete-coach interview.
Lisa & Dave
Coach Dave is most proud of Lisa’s tenacity over the years, sticking to her Kona dream through all kinds of distractions. He is proud of how she has believed in herself as she has earned her slot through the Ironman Legacy Program. Lisa has successfully completed 15 Ironman events and is a D3 Elite Team athlete. At first, the quest for Kona was simply about the Legacy Program but he has seen breakthroughs on the race course in recent seasons that have him absolutely convinced that this year’s trip to Kona is her first of many.
Lisa is most excited to experience all of it – all that Kona has to offer an athlete. She is excited to be there experiencing the big day and appreciates her long brick workouts and the hot races she’s experienced this summer to get her ready.
Kristine & Alison
Coach Alison describes Kristine with these three words: Determined. Brave. Persistent. Coach Alison recognizes that Kristine works hard at swimming, she works hard at cycling, she works hard at running, she works hard sorting through her fueling, and she works hard finding time for training. She always does her best. And that was crystal clear when she earned the honor of being the top fundraiser for the Ironman Community Foundation and thus a slot in the Ironman World Championships this October.
Her fundraising success doesn’t even begin to demonstrate her amazing ability to get things done. She has persevered through challenges many of us cannot even fathom. She is the managing partner of a global real estate firm with 350 employees. And the best part, with a family of five by her side, Kristine is headed toward a lifelong dream. She was recently recognized as the D3 Athlete of the Month.
Casey & Laura
Coach Laura is incredibly proud of Casey for her relentless motivation and work ethic, but is the most proud of Casey for getting outside of her comfort zone and challenging herself to be mentally tough. Mont Tremblant was Casey’s first full Ironman, and she overcame a few race day hurdles by staying level-headed when things went wrong (including her power meter not working). She made adjustments to her race plan, didn’t make any excuses, and never gave up. Her focus during training was to let go and learn how to not be as obsessed with metrics, let go of a little bit of control, and try to develop more of a “feel” rather than relying only on numbers. This lesson ended up being what saved her race at Mont Tremblant when her power meter stopped working, and allowed her to win her age group and qualify for Kona.
Casey is a D3 Elite Team athlete and credits those Team workouts for her Kona preparation. She says, “I love working out with my team of friends (who are all mostly faster than me) because they push me harder than I would ever be able to go alone! I’m most looking forward to the legendary Queen K winds, of course! Bring on the suffering!”
Greg & Mike
Coach Mike shared that Greg is more prepared mentally than he’s ever seen him and that’s what he is most excited to see play out on race day. Greg and his wife welcomed their new son, Andy, a few months prior to the race last year, and this past year has been about helping him balance this new and important responsibility along with his training. One of the many things I respect about Greg is that he gives 100%. From the time the gun goes off, he’ll race smartly and strategically. He is invested all the way through a race. I know Greg will capitalize on his experience from last year and we’ll see a strong race from him on October 14th.
Greg qualified for his second trip to Kona at Ironman Texas earlier this year. With two Kona races on his race resume, he looks forward to time with his entire family under one roof again (his wife and son, his parents, and his brother’s family). He is looking forward to improving upon last year’s time and will enjoy the fun of racing. He values his long Saturday rides in the mountains with friends knowing that those days are all part of the equation for a successful day in Kona.
Steve & Brad
Coach Brad admires Steve’s grit and commitment to the process. When he first started coaching Steve a few years ago, the swim was a big hurdle for him. He has worked through his initial fear of the water and continues to improve. One of Steve’s strengths has become his run. After a serious water skiing accident tearing his hamstring, the run has become a weapon for him as he consistently has one of the top run splits in his age group.
Steve qualified for his 2nd trip to Kona at Ironman Brazil this past year where he finished first in his age group. He knows Brad’s VO2 Max bike workouts have him ready to face the challenges the bike course is going to toss him.
Valerie & Mike
Valerie won her age group in her first Ironman at Ironman Switzerland this year to earn her slot to Kona. She purchased an Ironman Switzerland specific pre-built training plan from Coach Mike and is moving forward to Kona using a Custom Training Plan he developed specific to her needs. She shared that “the Bike 6 x 8′ Zone 5 workouts are painful but worth it.” Valerie is ready to take in the atmosphere of race week and the race itself. Just being part of it all is something she’s ready to celebrate.
D3 Coach Julie & Mike
Julie continues to raise the bar for herself with new and challenging goals. Coach Mike says it challenges him as well because he needs to be more and more creative with her workouts. To meet her goals for race day, he’s actually had to develop some workouts that push Julie to another level, mentally as well as physically. Although these workouts are pretty hard, they build confidence for what she can sustain during a race and ultimately help her achieve her goals. He says, “I’m very excited to see all this hard work come together for Julie. We’ve been strategic about her workouts going into Kona and we both know she’s been tested in training and is ready for a fantastic race.”
Julie earned her 6th spot to race Kona at Ironman Boulder this past June. She is most excited about the magical final mile down Alii Drive to the finish line! Coach Mike gave her ‘the hardest bike workout ever’ in preparation for Kona, and to get it done, she kicked it off with 10 F-bombs, donuts and red bull. Here it is: 30′ to warm up, then 2×20′ at 80%, with 10′ recovery. Then ride 10×3′ at 90% of FTP with 3′ recovery. Ride easy for 20′, then ride 15×1′ on, 1′ off at 100% of FTP. Remainder of ride is easy – aero bars – no harder than 75% of FTP.
D3 Coach Simon Butterworth
Simon is returning to the Ironman World Championships for his 13th time. This is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. He has finished in the top three in his age group three different times in Kona. His experience racing this course is unparalleled. He qualified for 2017 at Ironman Cozumel in 2016. Simon’s favorite workout in preparing for the race has been a long SBR day: 3800m swim, 100 mile ride, 10k run and no idling around between each. Simon also happens to be gifted at short course racing and is the 2017 70-74 USAT Sprint and Olympic Champion.
See Simon’s Colorado Athletes in Kona feature HERE
Patrick Martinez is also a D3 athlete. See his bio HERE
We are truly excited for these athletes and their important day on October 14th. We are also excited for the camaraderie that develops over the week that these athletes come together in Kona. With team workouts and coach meet-ups, we know this group of 9 will be ready to toe the line, and ready to race with strong desire, determination and discipline!
As you turn the corner toward the off-season and look ahead to your 2018 race season, you can get powered up with desire, determination and discipline too! Visit the D3 Multisport website here.
D3 Coach Simon Butterworth will be racing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii for his 13th, YES THIRTEEN, times! He has seen a number of race conditions to give him a solid perspective about how best to prepare for everything and anything. His experience is your new-found knowledge as his strategies have helped him earn the Kona podium. It took you a lot of sweat and commitment to qualify for this race, so read on for the best information and advice you need to toe the line on race day.
This Guide is broken into four sections:
Preparation when you get to Kona
The Ironman World Championship race itself
Pre-Travel Preparation – Before you get to Kona
Race Report – Visualize what you expect
Writing a detailed race report before the race is the best way to visualize the event and plan for trouble, which will happen at some point. You should be working on this, hopefully with a coach, weeks before the event.
There is plenty of good advice out there, but the best is from your coach. Follow her/his advice. When you get to Kona, don’t be tempted to do more than planned because you will want to recon the entire course. Use your car unless you get there early and have plenty of time on your hands.
When to get there
I have found that the ideal time to arrive is 10-14 days before the race (that was only possible after I retired). If it is less, the heat acclimatization advice provided below is very important.
Simple advice, don’t wait to the last minute. Get new tires and don’t put them on the wheels until 3 days before the race. The more tread on the tire, the less small cuts in the tire, the less chance of a flat. A well-used tire could well ruin months, even years of training and an expense that makes the cost of new tires chump change. Make sure everything else is in top condition before you fly.
We are fortunate at D3 to have a deep pool of coaching resources, and that includes D3 Coach Julie Dunkle. She will be competing in the Ironman World Championships this fall for her 6th time and suggests that you should be cautious of how deep your race wheels are. The crosswinds on the Queen K and out to Havi can be relentless and I have seen riders blow across the road. If you are a strong and capable rider with lots of experience you can roll an 808/404 combination, but if you are unsure I would suggest 404/404. Note: there are no discs allowed in Kona.
Essential to do if you are: coming from a cool or lower humidity climate (or several weeks of cool weather), are not getting there until race week, or have never raced in Kona conditions. If you can get to Kona a week or more ahead of time, I would still recommend simulating the heat somehow so that when you do get there you will not go into a panic about the conditions. Run coach Bobby McGee has a simple way to prepare for heat. He suggests, for two weeks before your departure plan your bikes and run so that you can layer up for the last 30 minutes of every workout. Doing more when active is not productive as it is too stressful. There are also some interesting ideas out on the internet with the use of a Sauna, but be careful with these if you are not a regular sauna user. Again, you don’t want to overstress yourself when you are tapering.
Just because you have got used to the feeling of the heat and humidity it does not mean you can bike and run as fast as you could in cooler temps. You just don’t lose as much speed. Run pace could still be 20-30 sec. slower per mile, you need to get your mental head around this fact. Here is a calculator to determine how much time to allow for the heat.
Fears – Thinking Positive
I am not going to get into the mental game in this article but will say this is a critical piece if you are going to race to your potential. You should have been working on this for weeks or months before the race.
D3 athletes utilize the talent of mental skills coach Will Murray for such training. And for this particular event, Will shares that as you are out and about in Kona and during your practice swims you will see a lot of superior athletes, fit and ripped, tearing around on the bike and strutting around town. It might be easy to start comparing yourself and trying to keep up. But race day is all that counts. Stick to your own workout schedule. Remind yourself of your own race plan. See these folks as colleagues and fellow travelers, and avoid trying to be like them in the days before the race.
Also, it’s easy to get caught up in all the buzz and pageantry. The morning swims, the coffee barge, the Underpants Run, the 5k running race, the day-before 400m swim race all the seminars and other extracurricular events. Remember why you are there. While it’s fun to take in all the zaniness, you still need to focus on your own race, stay off your feet as much as you can and not get too wound up the Kona-ness of it all.
If you have not swum in salt water you are in for a treat. If you have survived a rough lake swim you are in for a treat. Only once have I seen rough water in Kona and in reality it was not rough, just a constant up down on rollers. Sighting under these conditions is challenging, so work on this if you have not done so already. Another positive is that there are a lot of good swimmers in Kona, they don’t tend to swim off in the wrong direction, so follow the leaders until you spot the many buoys.
This is the big challenge in Kona. Not only can it be very windy it is also a hilly bike course. The good news is that the wind tends to stop you thinking about the hills until you go slowly down one.
The bike is all about pacing. Be realistic with your planning. You should know what your power and/or HR should be for the duration you are expecting. There is also nothing wrong with perceived exertion. Note the word duration. If you determine that your duration is going to be longer than your prior IM by any significant amount, because of the conditions, your power output goals should go down some. Fueling and Hydration should be adjusted for an anticipated longer event as well. If you get this right, no need to worry, the inverse is trouble.
What happens here depends on what you have done for the past 114.4 miles. If you did overdo it, don’t panic. In my first go in Kona, I almost collapsed when I stepped off my bike and the first 4-5 miles were hell. But Kona does magic things to the mind and the last thing you want is to not finish the race. So don’t give up and the great thing is all the encouragement along the first part of the run.
If all went reasonably well and you get your running legs before leaving town stick to your plan, enjoy the feeling of knowing you are on your way to the finish.
Preparation When You Get To Kona
Bike Course Recon
How much of this you can do depends obviously on when you get to Kona. Here are my thoughts in order of importance:
The windy bit, Waikoloa. Drive out to Waikoloa around 9 am to get in a ride in during the time you should be out there on race day (which is usually the windiest time of the day). Unfortunately, it is not always windy out there so you will need to ask about the conditions. I have been there for two weeks with what would be great race conditions only to have to famous winds come back 1-2 days before the race (you don’t want to go out there that close to the race).
When you are out there be sure to ride through some of the cuts through the big mounds of Lava. If it is blowing hard going through these the first time is scary. You may be leaning into the crosswind the suddenly there is no wind. In the middle, it can get totally confused with the wind buffeting you around. Then as you exit, you get the full force of the wind again.
A ride thru Kona. It is important to get an idea of the climbs you will experience over the first 5 miles. Don’t hammer them, ride as if you are doing the race. Get comfortable with the speed and don’t try to go faster on race day.
Climb to Hawi. A great time to do this if you get there early enough is the weekend before. A great starting point is to drive to the end of the Queen K. Spencer State Park. Ride the rollers along the coast a bit below your IM pace, then when the road moves away from the immediate coast and you start a steady climb, push the pace a bit above your IM pace goal. As the road starts to climb it also starts to turn east and with it, the winds usually get stronger until you are not going anywhere fast. Winds can also be very gusty along this road. A warning and good news. The shoulder is narrow and it is scary with traffic. Race day there is none, be careful.
Come back to Spencer down the long hill not working hard and pick it up a bit again along the rollers. Coming back down the hill with the wind at your back is very fast. As the road curves south it will get gusty, sometimes very gusty. You should stay in your aerobars, as it makes you lower and reduces the effect of the gusts. Look at the grass ahead of you to anticipate the gusts or sudden lulls. Don’t ride beside any friends on the shoulder.
Hill Repeats. If you get to Kona soon enough there is a great place to do hill repeats 6+ miles south on Alii Drive. You will find what I am talking about around that distance. Also of note is the Pit. At mile 5.5 you go up a short hill on Alii and the road turns right. On the next longer descent there is a road going off to the right, the Pit. It was part of the original run course. Picture yourself running up that hill a little over a mile after getting off the bike. That was a tough course.
Run Course Recon
I don’t believe there is any benefit to running out of town on the Queen K. At most go out to the Harbor and head back. I would get used to the small rollers on the Queen K and the climb up and down Palani. Don’t run in the middle of the day unless you are expecting a swim and bike to rival the Pros. I run mostly in the morning and do one or two short runs mid to late afternoon when I expect to be running in the race. It is worth a drive down the Energy Lab road to get a look at it. It is not a big hill until you are climbing it more than halfway through the run.
There is an interesting example of the structure of the island just past the turn at the bottom of the hill and before you get to a building with toilets. Park just before you get to the toilets and walk straight across the beach and onto the lava. You will see a small inlet in the rocks. If it is low tide the water will feel cool and you may smell sulfur. Water is coming down from the top of Mauna Loa through the lava tubes.
There is not much you can do once you get to Kona other than being out in it. Don’t use AC in your hotel/condo except perhaps to cool off the bedroom so you sleep well. Same in the car except in the hottest part of the day.
Don’t try anything new! Stay well hydrated, you will notice you sweat a lot. Drink some but not exclusively sports drinks each day. Tap water is good in Kona. There is a Costco in Kona, find it, it is the best place for gas and most food supplies. Food is expensive on the Island.
Bike Works Kona is your best bet for quality bike service and the all-important supply of CO2 cartridges as you are not supposed to take them on your flight.