Kona Part 2

So here I am on my way back to the mother land. Overall, I have to say, travelling to Kona was a great experience that I think will pay dividends in the future. I feel like I’ve learned a great deal about the idiosyncrasies of the island and the race. And now that I have a decent understanding of what I can expect in Kona, I think I will be better able to recreate the conditions and lessen the shock on race day.

My last post ended with my workout on Thursday October 9th. That day I did a moderate length brick workout (180k to 10 mile run). The next day I decided to give my bike legs a break and did only an hour spin at 230w. This was good as it allowed me to put a bit more focus on my run for the day. Initially I had intended on doing a 21.5 mile run workout (34km). But, I was still feeling very good around 18 miles, so I decided to tack on a couple more intervals and run a marathon. Once I got to the marathon, I was still feeling good and decided to run 28.1 miles (approximately 45k). What’s funny is that I was still feeling good then, and the thought of running 50 kilometers actually popped into my head. I was running on a different treadmill than I am used to though, and decided to err on the side of caution. If I have a similar experience this week (when I am back running on my treadmill) I will likely go for it. I think it’s important to note, that just three weeks ago I was finding 35 kilometers of running a bit of a stretch.  I am a bit shocked at how quickly the body can adapt. Here is the details of the workout that I did:

  • 4km w/u to 1km@3:06/km with 0.43kmR@6:10/km to 2km@3:23/km with 0.25kmR@5:20/km to 4km@3:33/km with 0.8kmR@5:20/km to 8km@3:40/km with 0.96kmR@5:20/km to 1km@3:06/km with 0.43kmR@6:10/km to 2km@3:23/km with 0.25kmR@5:20/km to 4km@3:33/km with 0.8kmR@5:20/km to 4k@3:40/km with 0.25kmR@5:20/km to 4k@3:40/km with 0.25kmR@5:20/km to 2.9km@3:40/km to 3km c/d. Total distance: 45km. Total time: 2:55:11 (through the marathon in 2:41:46).

I capped off Friday with a swim workout. Saturday was the Ironman World Championship. I had been advised that it is virtually impossible to get a good spot at the swim start without a VIP or special pass. I decided to sleep in and watch the start of the race on the computer. I could tell the athletes were going to have a decently challenging swim, by how big the waves crashing by my condo were. About a half hour before the swim was over I hopped on my moped and attempted to drive down to watch the athletes coming out onto the bike course. Unfortunately, I did not realize that they literally shut the entire town down for the race, and the police would not let me drive through to where I could see the bikers. This meant I had to drive back home and grab my pedal bike. By the time I was able to get across town, the leaders had already passed by on the bike. Fortunately, I was able to see the 54 minute plus swimmers as they passed by.

Afterwards, I went home and did a 1.5 hour ride on the CompuTrainer at around 240w. I am very grateful that the good folks at CompuTrainer were able to ship me a CompuTrainer to use while I was on the Big Island. It was a huge help. I rode until the leader (Sebastien Kienle) was getting off his bike. I was fortunate in that my condo was at exactly kilometer 5 of the run course; this meant I could hop off the bike, have a quick shower, then walk out the front door and watch how the race was unfolding. First to come by was Sebastien Kienle. My first thought when he passed by was “wow, he looks good!” I then saw the next twenty or so athletes pass by and was able to listen to their breathing, see their facial expressions etc. I had a very good feeling that Kienle was going to win the race. He looked and sounded better than everyone else! But, that was only kilometer 5. The athletes then passed me again (it was an out and back section on Alii Dr.) at kilometer 10, and once again, Kienle looked and sounded the best. He was my pick to win the race prior to acquiring this knowledge. One can only imagine what it must have felt like to be the two-time reigning champion at 70.3 Worlds, and then finish 18th…especially without any excuses for the performance. I finished 18th at St. George 70.3 at the beginning of the year, and that was probably the most motivating race I have ever had (once I finished sulking and feeling sorry for myself). It is no surprise to me that Kienle rebounded as he did.

Once they ran by me for the second time I hopped on my pedal bike and rode out to mile 13/22 on the Queen K highway. Unfortunately, I missed the top 5 guys or so as they were passing through 13 miles, but I did see many of the others. It was a very interesting sight. Many great athletes were really beginning to unravel. Some were walking. Others were puking. These were Ironman champions, Ironman 70.3 champions, and Olympians, walking and puking! If that doesn’t give you some perspective on how hard and cruel this race can be, I don’t know what will! I am glad I saw this, as I will keep these images very close by in my mind while training, so that I do not forget to give the race my utmost respect. When Kienle came by me at mile 22, he still looked good. It was an awesome sight to see. You could tell the dude was totally engulfed and focused on the task at hand. I bet a bomb could have gone off next to him and he wouldn’t have heard it. Next up was Ben Hoffman followed by Jan Frodeno. This was where the “race” was really taking place, so I decided to follow fairly closely on the bike. I rode about 10 meters back and to the right, behind Frodeno. You could tell he was working hard, but the way he was running I thought for sure he was going to catch Hoffman.

Once Frodo turned onto Kuakini off of Palani (about 500 meters to go), I quickly hopped across the run course and rode to the finish. I didn’t get to see Kienle finish, but I got to see everyone else. It was pretty intense. I had a few shivers and a few tears streaming down my face by the end. It was amazing to be at the race I have been dreaming about seeing in real life, and seeing so many great athletes all at once. It left me feeling massively inspired.

One thing I did find interesting about this race is that it is not necessarily the biggest or highest energy race ever. The finish line and transition area is set up in a very small space, so it is difficult for the race to have a “massive” feel to it. To be honest, I thought the energy at 70.3 Worlds was more electric (it should be noted that I did not stay until midnight to watch the final finishers as I had my own training to do bright and early the next morning; thus, my perspective may change a little once I experience this as well). What I think makes this race very special is the athletes; not so much the venue, the course, the conditions, etc. Just about every athlete at the race considers this to be the pinnacle of long distance triathlon. Everyone who shows up to the race, shows up in their absolute best form. I think the shivers and tears came from realizing that I had just witnessed the strongest, fastest, toughest long course triathletes in the world at the moment, all tapered and giving it everything they had.

Sunday morning I started off with a 45 minute ocean swim. My intention was to then bike the course and then run a half-marathon off the bike. Unfortunately though, these last three weeks of training started to catch up with me. By the time I got to Hawi (the bike course turnaround) I was already struggling to push my desired wattage. I decided at the turnaround that it was time for some recovery. So I biked down to the base of Hawi and then put my bike in the trunk of my coach’s car. Of course, this is always difficult. Doubts start running through your head. “Am I being a wimp?” “Am I just trying to get out of training today?” But over several years I have come to find that when I say it’s time for a break, it’s actually time for a break…I’m not wimping out.

When I got home I uploaded my ride. 112.5k in 2:59 at a 270w average. Once the data was uploaded I saw that I was sitting at 700k for the week. This tied my highest weekly mileage ever. After some lunch and refocusing, I decided that I was going to go for a leisure bike ride and make it 800k. Once out on the bike, I felt significantly better than the first ride. I ended up biking 102.5k in 2:47, with an average power of 260w. This left me feeling satisfied, and so afterwards I truly decided to allow my bike legs some time to recover.

On Monday I planned on doing another long run workout. I wasn’t entirely sure how my legs would feel after biking 215k the day prior, but I went into it with the intention of running at least 20 miles (32km). In the end I ended up running 27 miles (43.2km). Once again, I had the desire to keep going! What I love about long course triathlon is that there is just so much potential to push the limits of the body. In short course you tend to be a slave to your physiology (in my opinion anyways). If you don’t have a massively high Vo2Max, then you certainly won’t be running off the bike with the Brownlees and Gomez (this of course can be improved through training, but your initial set point will dictate just how far you will be able to push it). As I mentioned before, Ironman is very submaximal, so as long as 2:35-2:40 for the marathon is submaximal for you, you’ve at least got a shot at being a good Ironman runner. Anyways, here is the workout I ended up doing:

  • 4km w/u to 3x(6k@3:33/km with 0.8kmR@5:20/km) to 4x(3.2km@3:33/km with 0.4kmR@5:20/km) to 3.2km@3:40/km to 1.25km c/d. Total volume: 43.2km (27 miles). Total time: 2:45:45 (through the marathon in 2:39:48).

After the run workout I went to the pool and did a hard swim workout. The entire time I focused on trying to speed up my breath when I breathe to the right. It has come to my attention that when I breathe to the right I spend a lot of time on my side and my legs start to sink. To counteract this I do a big scissor kick, which ultimately is like putting the brakes on. I don’t do this though when I breathe to the left; I would imagine because breathing to the left is a bit foreign to me and so I don’t spend an unnecessary amount of time on my side.

Tuesday was my last day in Kona so I decided to take it as a leisure day. In the morning I did an easy 1.5 hour bike (165w average). Then in the early afternoon I did an easy swim. The rest of the time I just relaxed and enjoyed the warm weather. Right before I left for the airport I took one last dip in the ocean.

So that was my trip to Kona. I had an awesome time. I am so grateful for all the people who have come together and allowed me to have this experience. You guys are the best. I have no words to describe my gratitude. The only thing that could have made the trip better was having my family there. Next year I will work to make this a reality.

So now I am headed back to Hamilton for one last hard block before I head to Florida. I am forced to take Wednesday completely off of training as I am travelling all day. But, Thursday I hope to start a short but hard 7-8 day block, before doing a 7 day taper leading into the race. I will try and do a post in the next couple of days on how the final block goes, as well as my head space leading into my first professional Ironman race.

While in Kona, Louis Garneau did a photoshoot for the new Gennix TR1. Here are two of my favourite pictures from the shoot (they were taken coming down from Hawi):

Cool Bike Shot


Bike 2


Thanks for reading!

17 thoughts on “Kona Part 2

  1. That’s a crazy marathon split you ran! I look forward to seeing you in Florida and what you will do to the course! Good luck with your final block.

  2. Really inspiring to read how you train & your feelings along the way. As a competitive age-grouper I find myself living vicariously through your blog! Looking forward to following you through the next year – I think your musings this time next year will be from the podium…

  3. You are going to rock Florida, I can’t wait. It sounds like you play a lot of your workouts by feel – cutting them short, or extending them when you feel great. Is that something you and your coach talk through before hand? Or how much of that is you just wanting to push your body to its limits (when you’re feeling great especially)?

    • To be honest, this question is one of the biggest reasons I prefer self-coaching, in the sense of workout construction. I think there is a lot of complexity here though. In my case, I don’t need someone to push me to my limits, I can do this just fine. In fact, having a coach watching over me each workout would be useful for me in the sense that they could advise me when I am going too far…but, I think only you can perceive when you are going too far. But if you lack the knowledge / motivation to push yourself to your limits, then having a coach other than yourself, would be massively useful.

      I write all my own workouts, and don’t have someone watching over me the vast majority of the time, so I have to be cognizant of how much is too much. I usually err on the side of caution in this regard. I would rather be 90% fit and healthy, than 100% fit and injured. So to answer your question, no I don’t think about these types of questions before the workout. But once in the workout I am listening intently to my body for any signs that I should cut things short…or the opposite…extend things. I think the body works in mysterious ways. It’s difficult to tease apart how much of training is in the mind and how much is physiological in nature. In many instances, if I’m feeling good, and see value in extending a workout, I will do it. And now as I am getting more confident in my own ability, if I am feeling off / tired, I won’t hesitate to alter a workout, cut it short, or end it before it begins.

      • Thanks for the reply, Lionel! I really like the approach you talk about, and although I’m at a much different point in my career as well as fitness, i can relate with what you are saying. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  4. WOW, that is a hell of a training week! Tell us about your taper and the volume therein, bet it’s more than us lot do in our peak weeks lol

  5. Very interesting read! It’s inspiring that even after the monster numbers you put out in your “moderate” workouts (which would be dream workouts for the rest of us), you still get humbled and emotional standing at the finish line and watch the guys finish the race – you’re still human after all. At least as far as workouts aren’t involved. 😉

    Good luck in Florida! Really looking forward to your first IM.

  6. Hi Lionel,

    Thanks again for this post, there is not a lot of professional athletes who take time to speak about their life (training, nutrition, etc…).

    I know that usually a PRO who is preparing an ironman averages 80k run – 400k bike – 20k swim a week (for sure, there are big and small week, there many different athletes… but it is what I have read before several times).

    What are you numbers in average for a week (swim bike run)? I am so surprised by your run workout (everyweek a marathon sub 2:40 !). I want to believe that it is much easier to run on treadmill than on road, but even on a treadmill, it seems you are doing 150k a week ?? (Even Javier gomez had 120k as biggest week, but yes he was preparing a 70.3…).

    many thanks


    • Thanks for the comment Sacha. I am having difficulties believing that a pro’s average week consists of only 80k of running, 400k of biking and 20k of swimming. I know a lot of ITU guys who train at higher volumes than that.

      My average when building for a race are something like 140k running, 550-600k biking, 20k swimming. I also highly doubt Gomez’s biggest week was only 120k. My biggest run week so far this year was 175k. And last year (when I was doing more pure-running) it was 210k. But, everyone is different. I work well off of high mileage training…which is an asset in Ironman racing. I would imagine over time, everyone gets a sense of what appropriate mileage is for them. If 80k/week of running is adequate for someone to run their best, then I would never try and convince them that they’re not running enough. And the converse is true. If 150km/wk is what you need to run your best, then I would never try to convince you that you’re running too much.

      There is only one rule in training: One size does NOT fit all!

  7. Love your blog and congrats on an amazing season. Gotta comment about the Kona vibe at the race! My husband and I went on our honeymoon last year to watch Kona as it was a life-long dream for my hubby to qualify and he hadn’t despite narrow misses. Well, this year he qualified for all three World Champ races: ITU (Edmonton), 70.3 Mont Tremblant (through racing the half in Tremblant in June) and Kona (qualified at Tremblant in August). I agree Tremblant 70.3 World Champs had an awesome vibe but you have to remember it’s a two loop course that they modified (the run) to place the runners more within the Village – so when you pros were finishing, many people were out watching their loved ones on their first loop. Ironman, on the other hand is a much longer day – and 1 loop courses are typically more difficult on spectators because it’s a long time between sighting YOUR racer (the person you are supporting). . Even though I was completely into and following the pro race in Kona, I just couldn’t make it to the finish line to see Kienle or Rinny because I would have potentially missed my husband and other friends. So a difference you might notice between 70.3 racing and Ironman racing is just how many people actually watch the pro’s finish. It’s somewhat sad, but true (with Roth being a huge exception). I wish I could have been in two places at once, but my husband was priority number one. That said, we did make it to midnight last year in Kona – and it is an amazing sight, an insane and fun vibe – you can’t help but shed tears over the incredible journey some of these people have been on. Sometime in your next 13-14 years of making this your “A” race, you’ll likely have the privilege of welcoming the athletes with Mike Reilly after you’ve won the title. Until then, put it on your bucket list as it won’t disappoint.

    Best of luck – we’ll be routing for you,

    • Thanks for the comment Jaime. This is the idea I was trying to get at, but you hit it on the head a lot better than me. Roth was the example I had in mind. Supposedly, the energy at Roth is like no other race around. Kona isn’t special due to the energy so much, it’s special due to many other factors, like how hard it is to qualify, etc. That’s the only point I was trying to make. In my mind, it was going to be a massively high energy race, but then when I got there, I discovered it wasn’t nearly as high energy as I thought it was going to be. It still had a huge impact on me, just not entirely in the way I thought it was going to have.

      Best of luck to you and your husband as well.

  8. Great update Lionel. Your training blocks are so epic!
    I wish I had read through this post last week when I felt a pain in my foot on a run but pushed through because I was afraid I was being a pussy, and now I haven’t run for 10 days with a foot injury.
    Like you I am doing most of my runs on the treadmill and I have been trying to mimic some of the workouts you post (with far less impressive paces of course). I have two questions: what do your abbreviations mean exactly (ie w/u and c/d); and when you plan your run ahead of time what format do you write it on so you can follow it while you run? I’ve been writing workouts out like you show them in the blog but I find them complex and difficult to follow when I am fatigued.
    Finally, I am looking to buy a TT bike in then next year and before I discovered your blog Garneau wasn’t on my radar at all and now it is at the top of my wishlist. Thought your sponsors would be glad to hear that 😉

    • Thanks for the comment man. Sorry to hear about your foot. I’d like to say that I’ve always had the ability to stop a workout at the appropriate time, but it has been a long time coming (and is still a work in progress, and probably will always be). In 2011 for instance, I was doing a lot of running on the pavement, in narrow racing flats. Over time, I started to develop a slight pain in between two of my toes. I kept running on it though, even as it got progressively worse. Finally, a time came when it progressed to a full blown neuroma, and I could no longer run, and even had trouble walking. I had to take 2.5 months off of running for it to properly heal. You’d think I’d learn my lesson. But, this past December, I was out for a run on a downhill section of an icy trail. I started to feel a sharp pain developing in my right knee, but kept running on it all the way home. The next morning I woke up and could barely walk. It took me until May of this year to finally get over this injury completely! Needless to say, I am becoming a bit more cognizant of this sort of thing, and when to stop.

      My complete short hard looks like this:

      2.5 w/u to 4x(1.25@11.5 w/0.25R@7) to 3x(3.75@10.5 w/0.5R@7) to 2.5 c/d.

      From left to right that reads:

      2.5 mile warm up to four times though 1.25 miles at 11.5 miles per hour with 0.25 miles recovery at 7 miles per hour to three times through 3.75 miles at 10.5 miles per hour with 0.5 miles recovery at 7 miles per hour to 2.5 miles cool down.

      My general rule of thumb for workouts is that if you have to write it down, it’s too complex. All of my workouts are written in miles (that’s what my treadmill is in) so when written in kilometers they are confusing. But, the starting point for me is that a kilometer is approximately 0.63 miles (0.625 actually), and then I just take multiples of that. So I might do 0.63 miles fast (close to Vo2Max) and to make the next interval easier to think about I take 0.27 mile recovery. So if I start at 2.5 miles from the warmup, this gets me to 3.4 miles. Then perhaps I’ll do a 2k (1.25 miles) at a bit more relaxed pace (11.5mph). This gets me to 4.65 miles, so I’ll take 0.25 mile recovery, so that the next interval is easier to think about; this gets me to 4.9 miles. Then I just go through that process over and over. I should note, I did take a few years of math in university, so I do enjoy the challenge of calculating what I need to run to for the next interval to be complete.

      Glad to hear you a re considering an LG. I can assure you you won’t be disappointed. They are great bikes, at a reasonable price. Customer service is really good too.

      Best of luck with your training.

  9. Hi Lionel,
    Love reading your blogs. Just wondering if you do any gym or core strength training?

    Good luck in Florida

    • Thanks Ken. No I currently don’t do any of this sort of training. I’ve tried to get into strength training in the past (just some basic stuff like stability exercises with the ball, pushups, plank, squats, etc.) but have had real difficulty getting into it. I’ve read a few studies on the value of strength training i.e. injury prevention, increased performance etc. so it is something that eventually I could see myself getting a little more serious about. But I’m taking baby steps. This year my focus was mainly on putting in some good hard bike and run training. Next year we’ll add a bit more to the agenda…some more focused swim training being on the top of the list.

      Thanks for the comment.

  10. Hey Lionel, Those numbers are just mind blowing!! Awesome work!! Just wondering if can comment more on your open water experience in Kona and how you hope to take that experience with you to IMFL. Have you had much experience swimming in the Ocean versus lakes. Can’t wait to watch you blow past Starky on the run!!! 🙂

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