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!

Kona 2013 – Race Day Nutrition

IM Triathlon Nutrition Strategy For a Sub 10hr Race

12th October 2013 was a great day for me.
Racing in my 7th Ironman Hawaii in Kona, I had what felt like the perfect race which resulted in a 20 minute personal best time on the Hawaii course.
The Hawaii Ironman is a triathlon consisting of a 3.8km ocean swim, followed by a 180km bike through the lava fields of the Big Island of Hawaii, with a hot and humid marathon (42km run) to finish.
There are a lot of Ironman-distance triathlons held all over the world these days but the Hawaii Ironman is something special.
As the World Championships, to compete you need to qualify through one of the other Ironman races and it is estimated that there are 70000+ triathletes trying to qualify for one of the 1800 slots at Kona. In addition to this, the Hawaii Ironman has 35 years of history with the sport’s very best having raced on the course. It all adds up to a great experience being one of the privileged few who get to compete against the best on the most famous race course in triathlon.
Quite a few people have asked me since my race in October something similar to: “what was the difference this year which enabled your result?”
I’m confident that the answer is that it was a number of factors that all aligned on race day and not one particular component that made the difference. In saying that, one factor which stands out due to a significant change from what I had done in previous years was my training and race day nutrition.
I made a shift from using products from one major (and ubiquitous) sports nutrition company to using Body Science nutrition products in April 2013, after many years of racing and training with products from the other company.
I hadn’t had any real issues with nutrition in the past, but had still not been able to address some minor problems that tended to arise from the halfway point of the run leg of nearly all Ironman races I have done, usually to do with bloating of the stomach and associated side-stitch.
The products I selected from Body Science to help with my preparation for the Ironman were as follows:
  • BScFuel Recovery Powder for pre and post training session fuelling
  • BScFuel Energy Bars and BodyScience Protein Bars for during sessions (bike)
  • BScFuel Energy Gels for during sessions (run)
  • Nitrovol Powder for post training (long sessions and strength sessions)
  • BScFuel Endurance Sports Drink for post training (run)
This selection ensured I had the energy to complete each session with the intended level of quality and intensity, as well as being able to back up for the 2nd or 3rd session of the day, or the next day also.
Having to knock out regular 20+ hour training weeks on top of a full time job means that the ability to absorb the training and recover for the next beating is critical.
I really felt the benefit of the Body Science formula in each of these products and I seemed to be leaner AND stronger for race day.
My nutrition protocol for race day was similar to what I had done in previous Ironman events, allowing for a slight adjustment due to the different nutrition profile of the BScFuel products compared to what I had previously used.
The products I used during the race were as follows:
  • BScFuel Energy Bars – bike – 5 bars total, 1 taken every hour
  • BScFuel Energy Gels – bike – 10 gels, mixed with 8 electrolyte capsules and water in a bidon,
  • BScFuel Energy Gels – run – 3 gels, ½ gel taken every half hour with water from aid stations
In addition to the Body Science products, I took a lot of bottled water from aid stations on the bike but no electrolyte drink as I find my stomach generally works better without it, so I save it for the run. On the run, I took water, electrolyte drink and (later in the marathon) cola at aid stations.
The protocol above gave me approximately 75 grams of carbohydrate per hour on the bike and slightly less on the run (allowing for the increased difficulty my stomach seems to have in digestion of carbs while running compared to cycling).
End result of all this was my time of 9 hours 48 minutes 8 seconds, a massive PB and my first time under 10 hours in the Hawaii Ironman.
Critically, this was the first Ironman triathlon I have done in the last 13 years where I had no stomach issues during the run at all, subsequently I was able to maintain my goal kilometre pace on the run consistently to the finish line. No, it wasn’t easy, but it WAS doable!
Thanks to BodyScience for a product that for me seems to be the answer to nutrition issues that had impacted my racing until now. I took a risk with using at Hawaii given I had only tried it in training to this point and this was definitely my “A” race of the year.
Knowing the effort BodyScience put into the development of superior nutrition products, I shouldn’t have been worried.

Kona 2013

My first Ironman in Kona was back in the day and my bike reflected that – an alloy Cervelo P3 (The Silver Bullet). I still miss that bike.

Since then I have been aboard my trusty steed, Black & White Carbon P3 (I’d call it The Magpie but that has unfortunate football connotations). Very nice bike, very fast and fitted me like a carbon glove.

Until 2013 that is! My Hawaii campaign this year was a chance to unleash my new Cervelo P5-Six on the smooth but hot tarmac that is the Queen K highway. I had been training on the P5 for just a couple of months prior to flying over to the Big Island but knew from these rides that the P5 was a special machine, one that I was looking forward to racing on. The Ironman World Champs was going to be my P5 race debut.

In order to ensure my bike split was given appropriate respect I thought I’d better start the day with a better than usual swim – also given my coach Julie Tedde had finally made the effort to come over and watch the race this year (and she has always been critical of my swim performances in Hawaii…) Out of the water with a new Kona swim PB so first box ticked off!

Onto the bike, my legs felt pretty good right from the start and the P5 was making the fast early pace (with tailwind assistance) seem pedestrian given how smooth and stable it rides. Coming back from Hawi and the long highway stretch from Kawaihae to Kona was into a cross/headwind but my legs still felt good and I dismounted with a new Kona bike PB – Anthony reckoned it was all because of the P5 but given I averaged 10 watts more than previous years I’ll claim part of the improvement! (ed note. i think you were just trying to impress your coach….did you sit down at all on the bike course?)

With the race having gone to plan so far, I started running only thinking about what I had to do to not stuff things up and run a solid marathon to top off a solid day. The gods were definitely with me this year as the sky clouded over as I was transitioning onto the run so I was met with close to perfect (for Kona) run conditions for the duration of the 42kms. I felt really good and my km splits reflected this, right up until the infamous Energy Lab. Having charged downhill into the Energy Lab Road I turned right to head toward the final turnaround and my wheels fell off well and truly. From this point on until the finish (12kms) I struggled to maintain my pace and rhythm and even in the last kilometre didn’t get a lift from the crowd or from knowing it was almost over. It just hurt.

I’m very satisfied with the end result which was a 20 minute PB in Hawaii, and even a PB for the Ironman distance. Thanks to Anthony, Tosh and Miguel for putting up with my demands in the lead up to my departure and ensuring that the P5 was tuned to the max and ready to go on race day. What can I say, nice bike and a worthy replacement!

Kona 2011

I’ve written a few race reports over the years (ok, a lot) and the hardest to write has always been the Hawaii Ironman report. Many, many words have been put to paper by many, many authors, describing in detail every nuance of the place, the race, the history and all the clichés that seem to be mandatory in any story regarding Kona in October.

So I’ll try to keep this concise, original (as far as humanly possible) and, if not funny, then maybe a bit interesting.

Scene 1:

Wednesday, 10 days before race day. The day of departure from cold, wet Melbourne into the warm embrace of Kona, Hawaii. After 8 hours hanging around the airport with the whole damn place being closed (twice) due to storms, our flight to Sydney to connect with the Honolulu flight was finally cancelled. We drove back home. F*&k.

Scene 2:

Friday, 8 days before race day. The new day of departure from cold, wet Melbourne given we could not get seats on the fully booked Thursday plane to Honolulu. Despite some nervous moments and a delayed flight to Sydney due to strikes and work stoppages at the airport, we finally got on the plane to Hawaii. Arriving in Honolulu, a plane full of triathletes collected a plane-hold full of bike bags and rushed to get the connecting flight to Kona – except one – me – whose bike bag was not apparently on our flight from Sydney. F*&k.

Scene 3:

Sunday, 6 days before race day. My bike arrived last night! It was delivered to the pub (Humpy’s) where I happened to be drowning my sorrows and I finally have my bike, my runners and the other essentials that will finally allow me to do some exercise! A swim at Dig Me Beach and a run through the Energy Lab section of the marathon course with Luke Bell and all is suddenly good in the world. It’s hard to stay mad when you’re hanging out in such a beautiful place. Aloha.

Scene 4:

Thursday, 2 days before race day. My buddies Jodie and Lance got married. Awesome service and reception at Royal Kona Resort. Shame about the timing though, that open bar looked VERY tempting. Nice to focus on something meaningful in the midst of the building pressure of the impending race though. Congrats guys, Mahalo.

Scene 5:

Saturday, race day. To avoid monotony, I’ll skip to 2 hours after I crossed the finish, I’ve had a massage, I’ve caught up with Caroline and I’m lying on the grass under some palm trees and I can’t move. I’m wondering how the hell I can get the energy to go and pick up my gear and bike and ride back to the condo. I feel . . . f*&ked.

Scene 6:

Sunday, the day after. Time to reflect, time to wonder what went wrong and why, and what went right and why. Or maybe leave that for a later time when I’m thinking straight.

Stats: Swim 1:12:51, Bike 5:21:53, Run 3:26:24, Total 10:09:21

So after 3.8kms of swimming, 180kms of biking and 42.2kms of running I was 43 seconds slower than last year. On a day that Crowie beat the 15 year old course record. F*&k. But hey, it beats cold, wet Melbourne . . .