How I made my way to Kona.
Wait a minute - you are telling me you went from a 11hour IRONMAN finisher to a 9:29hours, 3rd place AG 25-29 in 4 years? not possible? I might have to prove you wrong!
First of all, I need to say that I don’t believe in the words “he was always talented that’s why he made this or that possible”. All of those people you call that either started the sport early or worked extremely hard to get there. It is on the other hand true that some people pick up new tasks much quicker than others, which are likely the ones we call “talented”.
After finishing two Half ironmans in 2011, I knew pretty early on that I wanted to complete an IRONMAN one day. When my girlfriend planted the seed in my head that I could realize my dream of finishing an IRONMAN earlier than I hoped, I signed up for the 2012 IRONMAN Switzerland – ironically the place where I qualified 4 years later for Kona 2016.
That’s how it went:
1:12hrs swim – cramp when I excited the water with pulse 195 with my two number too small wetsuit (thanks for the heroically bad advice for my first wetsuit ever by some Tri shop in Germany)
5:41hrs bike – no real base and no clue about IRONMAN nutrition made this ride a tiring one.
4:02hrs marathon – I thought I could easily run like 4:30 min/km – I mean I did it for like 20k in training, so shouldn’t be a problem right? Yeeee – I was wrong. Crawling home after 10k in a sluggish jog. In the end all that didn’t matter, I was stoked to finish and meet so many nice people along the way!
That makes a 11:00:28hrs IRONMAN.
I remember seeing the guys from my 18-24 age group picking up those Kona slots at the awards ceremony. I have to admit I was pretty jealous and I really wanted to experience that feeling one day. The funny thing is I always knew deep down, that if you give me the time, I can do all that and better.
Still all on my own training the best as I could, reading up on training advice on the web and trying to build weekly plans I signed up for a very challenging IRONMAN UK in 2013.
People say the second IRONMAN is the worst. Well, I can confirm that right here. A beautiful DNF for me that day in Bolton, UK. The swim was actually really good and I came out in 1:00:11 hrs for whatever reason. Totally stoked about it I rode the first 60k like an Olympic distance race. My peanut sized brain back then thought that it would be a good idea to stuff in half a Powerbar every 20min. Great idea Weitz, after around 2hours I couldn’t get anything down anymore, together with the hard start resulting in a beautiful sugar low, so low I couldn’t ride a straight line anymore. All the blood being in the stomach trying to digest the mass of Powerbar bars, the speed was accordingly. I thought I would just make it to T2 and then maybe walk/jog the marathon, but when I arrived my legs gave way and I ended up on the stretcher. The next 2 hours I spent drinking sweet tea and so on in the medical tent where they luckily didn’t allow me to continue anymore. My young head would have just damaged what’s left of my body that day.
At IRONMAN UK I met a member the team of my current coach Ute Mückel. I chatted with him after my first and hopefully last DNF and decided to write Ute a mail despite being financially limited as a student. We found a way and 4 weeks later I completed the ironman distance Challenge Henley UK. Despite the little time training with her, I immediately felt my body was fresher and the detailed tips for the race itself helped me a lot. I ended up winning the 18-24 age group finishing in 10:20:48 hours – incredibly happy surprise!
Fast forward – 2014 blowing up during the run in the heat of IRONMAN Frankfurt finishing 10:16:46hours, not bad but not what I was able to do. IRONMAN Copenhagen 2015 was my first race where I felt that my training paid off. My first sub 10 finish at a beautiful location starting with two other friends. 9:40:55 hours ment I was heading in the right direction if I wanted to see the island with my own eyes.
IRONMAN Switzerland July 2016 – 9:29:29 hours – 3rd place in 25-29 AG – punshing the long dreamed of ticket to Kona, Hawaii in October 2016.
So why did I tell you all that stuff anyways? It shows that just because someone runs a 4:00 hour IRONMAN marathon right now, it doesn’t mean he can’t qualify one day. Nobody can tell you when you will qualify. If you just stick to the following tips long enough and never lose sight of your dream then you will book your flight to Kona one day! That was my spirit all those years, I had absolutely no clue when it would happen, but I didn’t care either. You cannot do more than you can in that moment and give your very best.
From my experience these are essential when you have that special dream of Kona:
Get a coach that fits to you. (After your first talk and some background research you will know if he/she does or not)
Train consistently and smart (not hitting those 10x200m on the track with a sore throat and be oh so surprised that you’re sick the next day)
Race Nutrition (ask your coach or a nutritionist if it’s a really stubborn problem, but even the smartest persons tip will be useless unless you practice it beforehand. I mean really popping those 8-9 gels and see what happens, everyone can do 2 gels without stomach issues. Long rides and especially runs at around race intensity are the perfect moment for this due to the similar stress on your gut. I highly recommend the brand “Sponser” – it helped me to my first successful IRONMAN, just write me if you need more info)
Don’t race like the people around you (athletes coming from shorter distances especially have to learn this one – do your own race, ignore everyone around you regarding pacing)
Don’t peak too early (can be avoided with a good coach, most people are super fit in April – well useless if your fitness heads downhill from there when your race is in July)
Generally gear in triathlon is highly overrated. Triathletes spent thousands on tht instead of just doing the work. That said, a good wheelset can safe you up to 9min on the 180k which is significant, even 1min is nowadays unfortunately. I highly recommend the best aerodynamic wheelset on the market beating even ZIPP in testing – “SWISSSIDE”, designed by former formula1 engineers, helping me to stay comfortably in the aero position during the strong crosswind sections from Hawi down overtaking 400 people between 100-180k) www.swissside.com
Do a performance diagnostic (Not so much for the race itself unless you use a powermeter. More importantly the data from your bike and run test reassures you that you are training yearlong in the correct intensity. You will get familiar with your pulse numbers, which makes an underlying sickness easier to spot before you feel the actual symptoms which in turn saves you two weeks lying in bed not training)
Take recovery more seriously (you spend all those hours sweating, forcing yourself and when the ACTUAL progress is to be made – in the time AFTER your session, you decide to skip the proteins and a proper meal and sit in a McDonalds chair to hit that Big Mac as a reward. Your mind might be happy, but your body will want to slap you right across the face for that. Next to a balanced diet make use of the “Load off” tips from above.)