Preparing for Kona: the calm before the storm

Timothy O'Donnell Uncategorized

I’ve finally made it to Kona! After a flurry of packing and trying to get in those last few key training sessions I hopped on a plane and headed to paradise on Friday. We arrived at the Mauna Lani Resort to a warm reception and an unbelievable bungalow. With two weeks until the race we wanted to avoid the hustle of staying in town and just focus on getting ready, the Mauna Lani was the perfect option. As I sit here in our peaceful surroundings, the stress of packing and travel done and the chaos of race week not quite here I have some time to reflect on all the preparations that have gotten me here. This week is truly the calm before the storm.

When I decided to put my sites on the Ironman World Championships my entire year shifted focus to this one particular race. Every race, every training session had one purpose, getting me ready for Kona. While the entire year is set around the race the blinders really went on about eight weeks ago as the serious preparation began.

After having a very disappointing race at the Vineman 70.3, Rinny and I took a few days off in Napa to get ready for the big Kona push. I got back to Boulder still disappointed with the way I raced and not focused on what I needed to do. The following week I had a Q&A session with two-time Ironman World Champion Tim DeBoom for the Kona issue of Triathlete Magazine. After learning about the race from Tim and after he reminded me that it was only 10 weeks until race day I became reinvigorated and refocused on my goal. I took my strengthened focus to Canada for the Calgary Ironman 70.3. With my new Argon E-118 bicycle I put together a fantastic race and took home the win. I flew back to Boulder with 9 weeks to race day and a desire to execute the best preparation possible for Kona.

While I had done some serious preparation getting ready for Ironman Texas, I had never had a training block like the one I was about to tackle over the next five weeks. It started with an epic long ride with Ironman legend Craig Alexander. Seven hours and 137 miles later I had completed my longest ride ever and my Kona block had begun. It’s amazing how much you can eat when you are training 35+ hours a week. Ice cream, chocolate, everything was fair game. I was tackling training weeks with 375+ miles of riding, 75+ miles of running and just because I had to five swim sessions a week. I chose to do most of the sessions by myself since race day can be very lonely in an Ironman. My 2.5 hour runs and 5.5-6 hour rides were on my own, just my ipod and me. The Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind and Dave Matthews were my best training partners. I was incredibly surprised at how well I handled the training volume, especially at altitude. I was having better sessions than from my Ironman Texas preparation and it was not as taxing. The days were definitely long and as the fatigue of training accumulated the fog over my mind did too. I honestly think your IQ drops significantly during the big training weeks, I probably couldn’t have written this post in those weeks of training! I began to judge the difficulty of my training days by how many Mix1 (all-natural protein shakes) I was having in a day. One is pretty low key, two is standard, three is rock solid and lets just say I definitely had a few FOUR Mix1 days!

With a huge 4-week block completed I took a recovery week and tuned up for the Hy-Vee triathlon in Des Moines. Hy-Vee is the sports biggest payday and I was excited to see how my long course training would carry me through an Olympic distance race. A week out from Hy-Vee I began to have some roadblocks. The Saturday a week prior I experienced temporary paralysis in my right foot (foot drop). After watching a movie with my legs up on the coffee table, the pressure on my peroneal nerve was too much and shut down my leg. I injured myself on the couch. I boarded the plane for Des Moines that week and couldn’t lift my foot. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I spent hours a day rehabbing and with the help of the Tri-Massage Team in Boulder and kinysio tape I was able to regain some function. I hit the start line in Hy-Vee a little hesitant but with nothing to lose. After a VERY rough swim (and some inappropriate grabbing from my competitors) I exited the water mid-pack but still very much in the race. Only a few hundred meters out of transition my glasses fell off my bike before I could get them on my face. With some bad luck the referee decided I deserved a “littering” penalty for dropping my glasses…seriously?! I was given a stand down penalty on the course and with that I was now in the back of the pack. I began to ride hard to catch back up but halfway through the first lap of the technical bike course my handlebars slipped, it just wasn’t my day. At this point I began to think just don’t crash, you have a more important race to worry about. I limped into transition in 25th place and decided I am at least going to salvage a good run today! With that thought I began trucking along, I ran through a large part of the field and with one of the fastest runs of the day made my way up to 13th place. Lucky number thirteen, a fitting place for me to finish that day.

While not an ideal day I was glad I fought all the way to the finish. I hope that the race result, which wasn’t indicative of my fitness, will keep me off of the radar of my competitors. I went home to Boulder for one final two-week training block and everything began to click again. Over these two weeks I had some of the best sessions of the year and my confidence in my fitness was solidified. As I wrapped up this block I knew my work for Kona was done, the hay was in the barn so to speak.

There are many factors that will judge the winner on October 8th in Kona. Fitness, nutrition, mental preparedness are all key factors. While I do not know how the race will turn out I know the training I have done puts me in a position to fight for the win. Now it is up to me as a Kona rookie to see if I can figure out all the other variables needed to win. It will definitely be a challenge and regardless of how the race turns out it will be a huge learning experience. I’ve done my homework and now it is time to get my first lesson on the island.

I’ll see you at the finish line!