Kona 2018 – The Attraction of Racing Ironman Hawaii

I ticked off Ironman World Championship finish number 12 on October 13th 2018 at Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii and again challenged my body and mind by taking on what I consider to be the toughest triathlon course I have raced on.


The success I am aiming for in this race has not yet come to me, however I know that the way to guarantee failure is to stop believing that it is possible.  It also makes the successes at qualifying races and other competitions all the more rewarding, as well as a good reminder that no matter how my race goes on the Big Island each year, it will not define me as an athlete, a coach or as a person.  The hot, humid weather, the no-wetsuit swim, the constant hills on the bike course do not make for the perfect race for me and my strengths, however this is part of the attraction for me.


The enjoyment of turning up to Kona every year since 2007 has not dimmed and a good reason for that is in seeing and feeling the excitement of friends who are there racing for the first or second time, where the experience is still fresh and holds much promise for a successful race.  In the last couple of years it has been the athletes I coach who have made it into the field at Kona that have reinvigorated my enthusiasm for this race – this is a course that I have raced on more than any other (including the local races in Melbourne that I first started my triathlon journey on) and know how satisfying it is for anyone to have the honour of racing, as well as finishing, the Hawaii Ironman.


This race has given me so much over the years, regardless of my actual performance in the results.  It has given me unshakeable confidence whenever I line up to race another Ironman, hence being able to qualify for Kona 12 times in 12 qualifying attempts over the last 12 years.  It has also given me an enormous respect for the island that hosts this event, for the weather that can crush you or occasionally assist you through the lava fields, for the locals who support the race and help make it all happen.   The friends I have made over the years who live in Kona, or who have raced with me in Kona (or both!) are a gift that is worth more than the result that I will continue to strive for.


In summary, I have a message to the athletes I coach, to my club members and to anyone who has a goal (or dream) of one day treading water in Kailua Bay in early October, waiting for the cannon to signal the start of the Ironman Hawaii.  Don’t give up on this dream, work out (with my help as necessary) what will be required to make it into the field, make an honest assessment as to whether you are prepared to do the work to achieve this goal, then jump in with 100% commitment to make it happen.  I can’t wait to welcome you to the Ironman World Championship finishers club!

Falls Creek Victoria 2011

Falls Creek vs the Futile Chasing of PBs

Could there be a better setting for triathlon? Weather could spoil things a bit but on the right day Falls Creek is up there with the best.

You’ve probably heard by now all about the awesome new long course triathlon at Falls Creek, Victoria. I lined up with 500-odd others (I think we were all a bit odd to be there) at the start of this brand new race, soaking in the atmosphere that was unique in my years of experience in triathlon. I’m not talking about atmosphere in terms of the location; I’m talking about the atmosphere of 500 athletes lining up for a race that would be way different to anything they had ever faced.

There were so many unknowns such as how racing at that altitude would affect the body, not to mention the concerns about hypothermia and the technical nature of the bike and run courses. I would imagine it would be like the start line of an Ironman where EVERY competitor was an Iron virgin. These brave souls (yeah, o.k. I’m talking it up a bit) were going against the grain as far as the direction of triathlon, especially long course and Ironman triathlon, over the last ten years.

In my view the sport has been ‘painting itself into a corner’ for two reasons:

1. The tendency of many/most triathletes to race each year in the search of a personal best (PB) over the distance, leading to a notable movement of competitors to the faster races and courses. The clear shift of competitor numbers between Australia’s two M-dot races in Port Macquarie and Busselton is a good example.

2. The event owners who understandably are trying to attract the biggest fields their races can accommodate as they are trying to run a profitable business after all. It seems now that if you want to get the numbers, offer a lightning-fast course.

So what’s this about the futile chasing of PBs? Well, think about it. If your main motivation in this sport is to improve your race distance PB year after year, there is the temptation to find faster races to enter, especially if you have not achieved your PB goal in your one key race of the season. I believe this leads to the trend of competitors to enter races such as Ironman WA, Ironman Austria and Shepparton Half Ironman* for example, at the expense of races like Ironman Australia and Ironman St George (it will be interesting to see the final competitor numbers for the 2011 Utah event, it sounds like an animal of a course).

This leads to a problem. Once you have done one of the faster races (and hopefully got that PB), where do you go from there? Back to the same race(s) next year, I guess. As an age grouper that gets satisfaction from a PB, I fully understand the reasoning behind the current trends. I also think that races like Busselton are great for a first attempt at the distance and this has likely attracted a lot more triathletes to race over the Ironman distance than would otherwise be the case.

However, in my case I start to lose a bit of passion for the sport if I front up to the same races season after season. Like most of us I have my favourite races and try and fit them in each year but I’m also always on the lookout for something new, a different experience that will fire me up a bit and keep the passion burning (I better leave it at that, I’m starting to get a woody).

Enough waffling, what I want to say is we are lucky to have organisers like SuperSprint that take the risk on a brand new event at a brand new location in Falls Creek where PBs are just not going to happen (unless it was your first attempt at the distance, in which case you are a hero for choosing this event for your first!) It was great to be part of this race and I was impressed by the toughness of the course AND the fairness of the competitors. I guess you don’t enter a race with this many unknowns in order to draft or otherwise cheat your way to a result.

On another note, I’m already hearing talk from competitors about how SuperSprint can improve the course by taking out the steep hill from each lap of the run. Come on people, I think you’re missing the whole point of a race like the Falls Creek Long Course Triathlon State Championships!

Controversially yours, Rob Hill

*Shepparton can be a very fast course – with good weather conditions. When it’s 43 degrees celsius with bushfire smoke in the air on race day I’d probably move it to the other list!

IM Age Grouper – ‘How to’ Guide

How to become an age group champion – the long way!

I like a trophy that holds beer

6 easy-to-follow steps to becoming Ironman Australia Age Group Champion

Step 1:

•Sign up for the inaugural Shepparton Half Ironman to get a taste of longer distance racing

•Suffer through mid 30s heat in Shepparton, walk half the run and finally finish, saying you’ll NEVER put yourself through a full Ironman race.

Step 2:

•Decide to do a full Ironman race after qualifying for Forster at the 2nd Shepparton Half Ironman (Old School fact: years ago people had to qualify to race IM Australia)

•Suffer through perfect conditions in Forster, walk half the run and finally finish, saying you’ll NEVER put yourself through a full Ironman race again.

Result: 150th in the Age Group

Step 3:

•Get really annoyed by your result and commit to learning to race an Ironman “properly”, no matter how long it takes*

•Race at Forster 3 more times in that age group, each year being certain that this will be the year you nail it.

Results: 51st, 57th, 52nd

* It takes a long time

Step 4:

•Age up – the last resort for the talent-challenged athlete.

•Finally start to see some material improvement* over the next 4 Ironman attempts at Forster and Port Macquarie.

Results: 23rd, DNF, 22nd, 11th

*Improvement can also be a ‘Did Not Finish’. By pushing the envelope we can learn a lot about ourselves and how to improve next time – e.g. don’t ride fast over speed humps one-handed.

Step 5:

•Age up again, a year early due to WTC rule changes.

•Continual improvement + getting old = success.

Result: 6th

Step 6:

•Race at Kona a few times to acclimatise and then hope for a hot day at Port Macquarie

•Race day max of 30 degrees celsius, no cloud cover, wind strengthening

Result: RESULT!!!

So that’s all it takes, get out there and do it. Or use the alternative approach: have some talent, train a bit, race once, RESULT!!! (not nearly as much fun though, is it?)