Khem’s Take on ITU Draft Legal Race

A few weeks ago I raced my first draft-legal triathlon at the Sun Devil Draft-Legal Classic in Tempe, AZ, and since then I’ve had several friends ask about my experience. Besides the usual “I swam, I biked, I ran” and the “nothing” or “everything went as planned” play by play race report write up that you frequently see online, here is my take on racing a draft-legal tri…

DRAFT-LEGAL RACING IS F@&KING FUN AS HELL!!!

If you like to race without all the stress of people freaking out about the water temperature, you should race draft-legal.

If the idea of lining up on the beach and then running into the water all at the same time sounds like fun, you should race draft-legal.

If you like to race alongside athletes who just want to go fast and have a good time, you should race draft-legal.

Photo by Joshua Hughes
L to R: Me, Christeen Hodge (CO), Kendra Weekley (OH), and Caitlin Harty (OH). 

If you enjoy chasing after a pack of athletes cycling faster than you, you should race draft-legal.

If you thrive on pushing in zone 5, 6, 7+ (full anaerobic) over and over and recovering in zone 4 heart rate/power, you should race draft-legal.

If you’re a minimalist and enjoy keeping your transition area nice and tidy without a towel and backpack, you should race draft-legal.

If you love racing on your road bike (sans aerobars), you should race draft-legal.

If you don’t care about qualifying for Kona but qualifying for the ITU World Championships (2019-Lausanne, Switzerland; 2020-Edmonton, Canada; 2021-Bermuda) sounds like fun, you should race draft-legal. 

If you’re looking for something different and challenging (because we all know you can finish an IRONMAN, you’ve done plenty), you should race draft-legal.

Photo by Joshua Hughes

If you still love training and racing hard but want a life outside of triathlon, you should race draft-legal.


In a nutshell, it was just as fun as it was fast and furious. Even though it was a sport I was very familiar with, it was a different scene that reignited the excitement and enjoyment I have struggled to find after racing 140.6’s for a handful of years. It kicked my ass more than ever and my calves were screaming for two days after the race. Definitely unexpected after racing a sprint distance triathlon, but a great reminder that my body still has a little bit of pep left inside and plenty of ass kicking to do. Until the next one…

Opinion: What is happening to the IRONMAN World Championship?

By Khem Suthiwan

IRONMAN announced in early June the 2019 Vega IRONMAN World Championship would feature a new swim start protocol utilizing waves that separates the field into 11 groups. Their reason: to reduce athlete density on the bike course.

As a four-time IRONMAN finisher, to include Kona, I’m not sure what I think about this. Three of my IM finishes were mass starts. The year I raced Kona it was the first time the men and women age groupers had separate mass starts. When I trained for my first one (IRONMAN Canada-Penticton), the allure of the mass start and its spectacle was one of the things that drew me to the race. Now one by one, primarily in North America, races have implemented rolling swim starts and the mass start is about close to extinct.

Khem at the
2015 IRONMAN World Championship Swim Start

While I understand the need to improve the safety for competitors, especially at races that typically draw novice athletes and take place in urban areas (nevermind when you sign up for an IRONMAN you should know what you’re getting yourself into), but at the IRONMAN World Championship? By the time most athletes get to the start line in Kona, they will have raced and trained thousands of hours and miles. Is there really a need? And the reason of reducing athlete density on the bike course, the Queen K Highway is completely closed off to vehicular traffic AND it’s up to the athletes to follow the rules of the bike course (no drafting, blocking, etc.).

So, my question to the universe and all the triathletes that care, is Kona slowly losing its luster? The midnight finish isn’t really midnight in most cases. What’s next? Splitting the women’s and men’s race to two separate days? Rolling swim starts? Who knows, but whatever new protocol that ends up getting implemented next, in my opinion will most likely chip away pieces of the original Kona IRONMAN spirit and excitement.

Coloradans Wendy Wyskiel and Rebecca Ball take on Ultra520K Canada

By Khem Suthiwan

The heart of the Okanagan Valley of eastern British Columbia, the sport of triathlon has its roots in the history of the area. From the famous IRONMAN Canada that will be returning to Penticton in 2020 and original home of the Ultra520K Canada, triathletes from all over the world flock to this hidden gem located about 41 miles north of the US-Canadian border.

Tomorrow on August 3rd, two athletes from the Centennial State of Colorado will embark on a 3-day triathlon journey through the “OK” Valley, Wendy Wyskiel (57) of Longmont and Rebecca Ball (41) of Highlands Ranch. To get here they had to submit applications to the race organization, “qualify” with full-ironman distance race finish times under 14.5 hours, and be invited by the race director. Registrations are usually capped to around 35 athletes, and the application process begins approximately 2 years in advance.

Rebecca Ball & Wendy Wyskiel

Over the course of three days, Wyskiel and Ball, along with 22 other athletes representing 8 countries will cover a total of 520km of swimming, biking, and running broken down as shown in the picture above. Each day athletes will have exactly 12 hours to cross the finish line. Athletes also have to provide their own support crew, which will serve as their “mobile” aid station throughout their entire race.

Personally I’ve had the honor of coaching Wyskiel the last 10 months and will be serving as her support crew captain and kayaker during the swim portion of the race. Previous to that I was also the support crew captain and kayaker for local triathlon coach Mary Carey who finished the race in 2018. Carey has also returned to Penticton as a crew member for Ball.

2019 Ultra520K Canada Athletes

The vibe here is unlike any other. Amped up egos and talks of PRs or time goals, you won’t find it anywhere. To show up to start line healthy and finish the race in its entirety is enough for these tough souls. Three days of racing, anything can happen.

Stay tuned here at 303Triathlon.com to see how the rest of the weekend unfolds!

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!

 


myCharge

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 khem@303colorado.com 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 triathlete.com). 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…

EATS

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.

SOUVENIRS
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!

RELAXATION
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.

ADVENTURE
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@303colorado.com.


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.

Behind the Lens at IRONMAN Boulder

By Khem Suthiwan

As a four-time IRONMAN finisher, I’ve really enjoyed being on the other side of the proverbial “fence.” Not only does it give you a way to experience the race without all the training, but the change in perspective gives you a true appreciation of all the moving parts that makes race day happen.

Being behind the lens and capturing so many special moments, you realize there are stories with each grimace, smile, sigh, and hug. One by one as they crossed the finish line, I couldn’t help think about how they’ve been through hell and back…and not just on race day. But every day since the submit button on the registration form was pushed. Because of this I feel some level of responsibility in capturing as many moments as I can, and because of this I thought it would be a good idea to put these thoughts to paper (well, the internet in this case) and share with you all some things I’ve learned and experienced as an amateur race photographer. So here are a few considerations, including some that I’ve shared with the athletes I coach, for the next time you race, spectate, or volunteer at an event.

This guy clearly didn’t get the memo regarding finish line smiles

See! This guy knows how to smile!

Smile. Especially if a camera is pointed at you. You’ll soon forget about all the pain, even if it’s for a quick moment. Otherwise, you’ll have this not so pleasant look in all your race photos and someone will probably hijack it and incorporate it in a meme, or ship you some Metamucil for Christmas. You don’t want that, do you?

Finish Line Catchers. If you’re waiting for your person at the finish line, give them a few moments alone in the spotlight to celebrate their accomplishment before rushing in to hug them. They’ve earned it. Plus, your backside will be forever etched in your friend’s finish line photo, ruining a perfect moment they spent the last 6-8 months training for. Don’t be a dream killer. There were a few times I just gave up and couldn’t take any photos because there were so many people congregating with an athlete. More is not always better in this situation. A volunteer actually heard an athlete tell their friend who was hugging her while jumping up and down, “I’m going to throw up on you if you don’t get off me.” So there’s that potential biological hazard to worry about too.

Sprinting to the Finish Line. Athletes, before you get to the finish line, look in front and behind you. Allow the person in front to have their 5 seconds of fame. Don’t go sprinting to the finish (which means you had way too much gas left in the tank, but that’s a different discussion). You’ll end up ruining finish line photos of two people. Your fellow athlete and YOURS! In this case, photo-bombing is not cool, so don’t do it. Unless you’re okay with being THAT guy…or in my case, that girl from Japan who sprinted past me in the finish line chute in Kona only to hear Mike Reilly call my name first, and then hers as an afterthought because she couldn’t wait. She will be forever known as THAT girl. Choose wisely folks.

This guy, partied a little too much at the finish line. Last call was 2 hours ago. Nice photo bomb buddy.  #FacePalm (pictured here – Meredith Botnick)

Celebrate and Get Out of the Way! If there’s another athlete finishing behind you, be courteous and do your end-zone touchdown dance and clear out. The person behind you should also have the opportunity to celebrate their finish…WITHOUT you in their picture. A set of triplets crossed the finish line at IRONMAN Boulder and spent what seemed like an eternity dancing around the finish line arch. A friend of mine along with several other athletes, were completely robbed of their finish line moment because of these three guys. She was only planning on racing one IRONMAN, so there’s no redo. Thanks guys, thanks a lot.

Distractions. There is nothing more fun at a race than seeing so many friends out racing and spectating. However, there is a time and place for catching up. Working media at a race is an entirely different beast. Not only are we tracking our own friends, but we are also keeping tabs on professional and notable athletes. Time is of essence and we are constantly looking at our watches and athlete trackers. Figuring out where to be and what part of the course. Sometimes we have a short window to use the restroom or grab a quick bite. If we seem distracted and not paying attention to you, it’s not because we don’t care. We have a job to do and don’t want to miss out on capturing special race moments. At IRONMAN Boulder, each Colorado-based athlete had a 303 sticker on their race bib (we hope to continue this tradition). Our mission was to take as many photos of these athletes along with many others. Being ready to point and shoot while two people are chattering in each ear takes sensory overload to a different level.

This is what happens when you leave the Garmin alone. An awesome finish line photo! (pictured here – Justin Maples)

Look Up and Leave the Garmin ALONE! No one on Strava is going to care that your Garmin went over by 20 seconds. Your official finish time will be based on your timing chip, not your GPS tracking device. And if you are wearing a cap or visor, look up. We can’t see your pretty/handsome face if you are looking down at the ground. There’s nothing there but red carpet, concrete, and puddles of puke from the last person whose friend wouldn’t stop jumping up and down and hugging him. Eyes up folks!

Even with all these tips, sometimes the best photos are those capturing the human spirit. You might think you look awful, but someone else might be inspired by that image. Try to look beyond the ratty hair, salt stained clothing, and sunburnt limbs. Because behind that crusty and rough exterior is an awesome story of how that person woke up one day and decided they were going to be an IRONMAN.

You have one shot at an epic finish line photo. Aaron Pendergraft obviously has a lot of practice perfecting this valuable skill. Way to go Aaron!!!

Khem Suthiwan is a 4-time IRONMAN finisher (Canada, Lake Tahoe, Arizona, and Kona), triathlon coach with Mile High Multisport, IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Athlete, and staff content editor/media correspondent with 303 Endurance Network. In addition to triathlon, she also races for the Palmares Racing cycling team in road and cyclocross. She’s an avid skier, SCUBA dives, and as a Colorado resident since January 2001 – enjoys all things Colorado. On December 31, 2017, she reached Everest Base Camp (elev. 17,600′, 5,380m) after trekking for 8 days in Nepal. If she’s not racing, you can find her out on the course supporting her friends.

303 Media Group Announces New Leadership Through Acquisition by 303 Endurance Network

Dana Willett handing the “keys to the kingdom” to 303 Endurance Network’s Bill Plock

New Leadership at 303 Media Group

April 18th, 2018
Colorado’s 303 media group continues to grow, as long time contributor and business development manager, Bill Plock, today took the leadership role of 303Cycling and 303Triathlon. Bill recently formed the 303 Endurance Network and will add in 303Cycling and 303Triathlon with a vision of expanding the 303 brand to help build and connect even larger endurance communities.

“Our mission has always been, and will always be, about enriching the lives of people who participate in endurance sports. For now, that focus will still be on cycling and multi-sport where there are so many opportunities to grow. I want to make a slight, but possibly very impactful change, and that is to focus on the lifestyle of those passions and also to always remember that the camaraderie and community we play and work in, is what really matters. Everyone is the news, and in Colorado, one of the key endurance markets nationally, our local news is national news,” says Bill Plock.

303Cycling was started in 2007 by Kris Thompson and David Kutcipal. In 2012 Dana Willett joined the leadership team, launching 303Triathlon and eventually taking over both sites as majority partner and Editor in Chief in 2014. Today the network sees over 300,000 annual visitors. Dana will continue in the role of associate editor and key advisor.

The majority of the existing 303 team will remain in place, with Jen Findley, Khem Suthiwan and Cheri Felix all contributing and helping bring the endurance community the best local news, event coverage, education and entertainment possible.

“We have some additional key staff members, ambassadors and partners lined up to help us expand our current offerings and grow our network, so stay tuned for those announcements soon,” says Bill. “I’m beyond excited, and I love Colorado and this lifestyle and I think there is so much opportunity to reach more people and give them a fun and informative experience every single day!”

For more information, please email Bill Plock (Bill@303Colorado.com), or visit the 303 web sites, 303cycling.com and 303Triathlon.com, and visit 303 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Mile High Endurance Podcast: Run Your Fat Off

Another great book from Dr. Jason Karp. Hear key insights on how to get the fat off and keep it off with the book “Run Your Fat Off”. We also talk about the definition of metabolic efficiency, injury prevention and more. Hosts Rich Soares and Khem Suthiwan. Listen to the podcast.