The Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii is less than two weeks away, and we have a few locals (well one isn't a local but has been coming to Boise to train the last couple seasons) who have qualified for the historic race. As triathlon has grown in popularity the competition and qualifying times necessary to compete on the Big Island have become daunting. But all athletes, regardless of how fast and experienced they may become, were a beginner at one time. In that spirit, we asked our three local Kona qualifiers for some insight on how their training and preparation helped them qualify for the "Big Show".
THE KONA QUALIFIERS:
Lisa Tyack (Perth, Australia... but training in Boise!)
Jon Rushton (Boise, Idaho)
Toby Miller (Nampa, Idaho)
If you could narrow it down to only a couple points, what were the most important things you did this year or in years past that helped you qualify for Kona?
: I chose races that played to my strengths. I believe this is important if you are looking to qualify for Kona or chasing that PB.
This may be choosing a race course that will benefit your strengths across swim, bike or/and run being flat, hilly, technical or selecting a race with the potential weather conditions that you race well in. This may be hot, humid or cold but this will potentially give you an advantage over other athletes or at least, provide you with added self confidence. And of course, be prepared. Train under these conditions or for these courses too!
Something else that is imperative is actually doing the training! I commit 100% to my program, with the exception of taking the required days off due to illness or injury. You can pretend to do the training sessions but come race day there is no hiding. Your training and effort will show and if you have done the training, generally you will be rewarded with a great result. Theres nothing better than standing on the start line knowing you have done all you can, being prepared for a competitive day.
Jon: Firstly, I would say pick your race. I know my strengths and weaknesses so to qualify try and select a race that plays more to your strengths. If you can climb like a demon pick a hilly race but if you are like me and can't go up hill to save your life then pick the flatter race. Secondly this is journey as any plan to qualify for Kona will likely take more than one attempt at an iron distance race. You need to learn how to train and race. A full Ironman is hard, really hard to do, so you need to learn your body and how it will perform over 140 miles, you have to learn how to fuel, how to pace yourself, and you need a little luck. All of this will likely take a number of attempts to get it right.
Toby: I set goals and was laser focused on outcomes that supported the overarching goal of going to Kona. For example; improve my swim times – learn flip turns, get up at 4:00am to swim Masters every week, and swim with the people in front during races. Lower my heart rate for any given effort, this meant that I trained for a big base aerobic endurance.
What advice do you have for Kona-aspiring athletes?
: Get a coach! For me I am a busy person so investing in a coach or someone that has more expertise in this area enabled me to focus my energy on training. Allow someone else to provide you with the schedule and their knowledge takes the pressure off and allows you to focus and enjoy the journey. Being part of a triathlon club also provides great motivation and is a great source of information, training buddies and fun. (editor note: Lisa is coached by local Pro Triathlete Kate Bevilaqua - also from Perth, AU)
Listening to your body is important! Know when you are tired or potentially injured and don't be afraid to take that much needed rest. Sometimes that recovery day is far more important than completing a session you will get no benefit from.
Don't underestimate the support from family. I could not this with out the support of my family.
Don't be afraid to dream! Set goals that may be out of your comfort zone. You never know what you can achieve unless you try.
Jon: Getting to Kona is big deal but it's a little like trying to eat an Elephant. You can't do it all at once and just have to take one bite at a time and keep coming back to it. The destination might be Kona but the path to get there can take many forms. For me it took 2 Ironman and a lot of 70.3 (I've lost count of how many) but each journey is different and unique. The point is that you have to enjoy the journey and all the little victories along the way. Your first 50 mile ride, your first century ride (I still vividly recall mine). Kona is just one day but all the days I spent training with my friends, running with my BFF, getting up a 5:30am to go swim, this is what makes the journey worthwhile. If the Elephant does not taste nice or the journey is not fun you will never reach the end. Embrace the suck and embrace the journey but keep coming back for another bite of the Elephant.
Toby: Find a coach that complements your athletic personality and listen to what they say, you’re wasting their time and your money if you don’t follow the plan. Also be honest with your coach and with yourself. Coaching is well worth the investment.
What is your favorite workout that you feel has helped you prepare best for Kona?
Lisa: Not my favourite but something that I believe has helped me prepare for Kona (any Ironman) are long solo training sessions! Whilst you are surrounded by athletes come race day, they are not there to assist you. You can draft in the swim but sometimes you find yourself solo. You can not draft on the bike (although many do!) and can not take that iPod on the run so get comfortable with training solo!
Jon: I love the group workouts, especially the Tuesday "Power Hour" and Wednesday Bric. There is nothing like riding/running with a group of like minded athletes to get you to push yourself that little bit harder than you would on your own.
Toby: Masters swimming, long boring rides and runs at a lower aerobic heart rate (yes you should train with a HR monitor). I love the drop rides, however they aren’t what made the big gains in performance.
Do you have a favorite training tool or piece of equipment?
Lisa: I'm old school. I do not have a power meter, fancy garmin or equipment but I would say my favourite training tool is the treadmill. I'm a sucker for a treadmill set or simply heading out the door with a pair of sunnies, a hat and my garmin for a long run.
Typically I hate pull bouy and paddles but slowly my love for these is growing and I can see their benefits. (No one tell my coach I said that!).
Jon: I have lots of favourite (yes favourite has a 'u' in it) toys. My Garmin, my power meter, my bike. I love to track and share my workouts on Strava so the Garmin is a great way to do this. I love (and hate at times) my power meter. I thought a HRM was all you needed until I started working out with a power meter as this really leaves you no where to hide, just like they say, and I love my bike and with nearly 30K miles done it feels like a extension of my body but the more I thought about my favourite (yes a 'u') the more I thought that my bed was probably my favourite. I never really get enough sleep and Cathy does remind of this and saves me when I have fallen asleep on the sofa but really my bed and sleep it brings me is favourite. There is really nothing like the might sleep you get after 100 miles on the bike.
Toby: My favorite tool is my data collection devises, I use a Garmin (wore out two 910xt’s and best so far is the 935) watch and upload to Training Peaks – great program (It is difficult to manage what you don’t measure). Most important data point is heart rate, second is time/distance, and finally I really like power/cadence on the bike.
How long have you been racing triathlons?
Lisa: I completed my first triathlon in 2010, a sprint distance tri before signing up for a 70.3 as I was inspired by my now husband.
I raced one 70.3 for each year until 2013 when I decided to give Ironman a crack.
Since becoming involved in the sport I have completed a handful of olympic distance and long course triathlons, x20 70.3's, and in just a few weeks hopefully I will complete my 4th Iron distance race.
This sport is addictive and I love it! You meet so many like minded people and the sport has certainly taken me all over the world, including Boise! Returning for my second visit this year.
Jon: I did a tri years and years ago and really hated the experience. Getting off the bike and trying to run was just awful so I had no inclination to attempt another. Then I watched Cathy race the the first Boise 70.3 in 2008. I recall sitting by the run course drinking a beer watching the athletes go by and thinking this was actually pretty cool. So I made a bet with the guy I was drinking with to race the 2009 Boise 70.3. I did the Spring Sprint in 2009 so that was officially my first as I don't count the one years ago and the very wet 2009 Boise 70.3 was my first half. Despite the poor weather I had a good race and was hooked. My first full was Arizona in 2010 and I did Arizona again in 2012 and punched my first ticket to Kona for 2013 but there were lots of 70.3 in between. Like I said this is a journey and you have to learn how to race. Training will get across the finish line but learning how to race will get you to Kona.
Toby: 7 or 8 years, I think. I have finished 13 half ironman’s and four full ironman’s and lots of Olympic distance, I didn’t like the sprints when I started because I needed a longer race to make up for my poor swim times.
Many athletes here in the Northwest are heading into their off-season, do you have any off-season advice?
Lisa: Enjoy the off season! Take advantage of it because once tri season kicks off again you will wish you had some time off!
Spend more time with family and friends, do social exercise to remain fit. Do that other outdoor (or indoor) activity/hobby you don't usually have time for because you are too busy swimming, biking or running!
Jon: The off season is the time to move into unstructured training. Never really stop working out, just workout differently, try new stuff like Yoga, weights, skiing, pole dance classes, whatever. The point is stay active and engaged. If you have an nagging injury then work on it, if you have technique issues then work on those but most of all do not have any real structure to your training as you don't want to move from one rigid schedule to another one. Stay flexible on workouts and listen to your body. If you need a rest, then resting is best workout you can do, if you feel full of energy then go for run, but leave the watch at home.
Toby: I started my training for this year in the “off-season” right after a less than spectacular Ironman Arizona (I learned what I needed to improve from that race). Take the time to fix what is wrong (flip turns, sinking legs at the pool for me – I’m learning, I can swim after all). And put in the time to build a big endurance base.