It was about 5 years ago when I was “forced” to race age group for the first time by Triathlon Canada that I started to think about racing Kona again. I have raced 3 times in Kona as a Pro, with a PB of 8:56 but when the Pro qualifying system changed to a points system I knew that if I ever did qualify that I would be too tired on the start line to race properly (I would have needed to have raced too much to get enough points) so I stopped worrying about qualifying for Kona. As I switched to being an AG things changed but I just didn’t feel ready to race AG in Kona when I first switched over. But time is marching on and as I turn 50 in 2020 I started to think that that would be a good time to go back to Kona to race again.

So with Kona 2020 in mind I started to think about when to try to qualify and I had originally planned on an early 2020 IM, but talking to Brandon about what he was going to race the idea of IMWI came up and that started to make a lot of sense to me. The timing was right, the course suits me and it was a chance to do a race I have never done before. And with an NRG crew of Brandon, Jon, Ali and Bob (Jon’s dad) all heading down it made a lot of sense.

Madison was a great spot, the town itself was awesome and the course is a challenging one but the kind of course suits me. We got there a few days ahead of time so I had a chance to pre ride the course for the most part so it was great to know what to expect going in and I was excited to race. I don’t race a lot these days, part of it is being busy and part of it is just motivation after racing IM’s for the last 23 years. I like to race 1 a year but don’t feel the need to do anymore. But I was excited to be racing and had good legs for most of the week I had even commented to Jon and Brandon that I would be happy to have the same legs on Sunday that I had on Thu/Fri/Sat.

Race Morning: Race morning arrived and unfortunately I just didn’t feel great, I had had a bit of a rough sleep on Sat night (like not at all!), not quite sure why, after all these years nerves aren’t an issue I just had hot flashes (getting old) and couldn’t get to sleep but I figured I would just ease into the day and let things come around. Walking to the swim start I had said to Brandon that I was going to have a nice relaxed swim to let myself warm up for the day. That didn’t really pan out!

Swim: The Lake that the swim is in is not too big and we had been swimming in it all week and it had been fine but race day was windy and it was from a new (and wrong!) direction and it made for the toughest swim I have done in 25 IM’s! Just the way the chop was coming in and bouncing off the break wall on the swim course it made for a very unrelaxing swim. Big chop going in all directions, it was hard to sight, to draft and to have a relaxing swim! But I knew it was the same for everyone so I just focused on being as efficient as I could and trying to waste as little energy as possible. I didn’t feel great in the water but I didn’t feel terrible either even if I had to spend a good 4-5+min more swimming that I would have liked

T1: The transitions in Wisconsin are different with the run up the ramp of the parking garage out onto the roof, but that went smoothly and I could see Brandon not too far in front and Jon not too far behind so that was pretty much the expected swim positioning for us

Bike: The bike course is challenging and with it being a windy day it was even more challenging, but that’s good for me so I set off looking to get settled on the bike and get into a good groove. I passed Brandon in the first few km and just focused on holding my numbers and getting settled for a good day in the saddle. My ride overall was ok, but it was never great, my legs were ok, but I never had the legs I had all week unfortunately so I played it conservative. I was a good 15+watts under target and just trying not to bury myself on the bike. The first loop I passed a few people but got to spend much of it by myself, the 2nd loop started to get busy as we passed athletes on their first loop, but no major issues and I was surprised/impressed with the number of spectators out on the course on what was a windy, cloudy and cool day, some sections were packed and that was awesome! As I headed back into town I was focused on getting my nutrition in and not pressing too hard. One sign that I knew wasn’t good was that my HR was a good 10-15beats below what it had been in Tremblant last year, but I didn’t focus on it too much and just focused on what I needed to do to run well

T2: Riding up the ramp was fun on the way home and I was smooth through T2 even if the Transitions are longer in this race

Run: This unfortunately wasn’t what I was looking for on the day, I knew running out of transition that I needed to be very careful as I felt tired already and not on my A game. So I just focused on getting into a comfortable groove and making sure I fueled well, I needed to stay on top of my nutrition if I was going to save this day.

I got passed pretty early in the run by the guy that won my AG, I wasn’t happy but I also knew there was nothing I could do, if I ran any harder I would risk really blowing up completely. First loop out on the run I got to see Jon, Brandon and Ali, this made a real difference for me. Seeing Ali’s huge smile and seeing how well Jon and Brandon were racing was great motivation for me. Jon passed me just before the end of the first lap and he was flying, that was awesome to see.

Starting into the 2nd lap things started getting worse I felt like I had been battling all day never feeling good and I was starting to feel drained the negative thoughts started creeping in. At this stage I thought there were 2 options: shit the bed and have to do another race to get a spot, or get my shit together and get this one done, I chose option #2. The 2nd lap wasn’t pretty but it was great looking out to see Jon, Brandon, Ali and Bob to give me something positive to focus on. I suffered through a tough 2nd lap and finished 2nd in my AG, good enough to get my spot to Kona.

Watching the rest of the crew do so well made a tough day that much better, Ali finished 6th after being 3rd in IM Mont Tremblant just 3 weeks before. Jon and Brandon both had huge races. Jon won his AG and ran 3:06 with a great swim and bike as well for his first ever win at an IM race and his 2nd Kona spot. Brandon has been at this game for a long time and this was his 7th Kona Q, but what most people don’t know is that it took Brandon 9 years of trying before he was able to put it all together to get his first Kona spot. So he has put in the sweat and tears to get to the point that he knows how to race his best on any given day and this paid off with his very first IM win in his AG as well! And Bob (Jon’s dad) at age 64 having a great race on a very tough day was a great way to wrap up the day for us.

My day was a struggle but I was happy with how I managed it. As I tell my athletes you need to do the best you can on the day with whatever you have that day and that in the end is what I did. The performance wasn’t what I wanted but the focus and execution was about as good as it could have been.

Kona 2020: I will be looking to Kona next year as a little redemption after struggling in Wisconsin this year. This race wasn’t reflective of my fitness and I want to go to Kona in 2020 and put together the race I know I am still capable of and my goal for Kona next year is to go sub 9hours at age 50

Jon and Brandon are in who else wants to join us in Kona?



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