Ironman Hawaii Course Preview

Triathlete running during an Ironman race
August 13, 2007

Mike Ricci



If this is your first time racing Ironman Hawaii, it’s likely you don’t know what to expect. Yes, you may have watched every Ironman race on TV since 1978, but seeing it and experiencing it are completely different things. We hope the following advice will help shed some light on the race and have a great race in Kona.

Do’s and Don’ts:
All the basic don’ts apply:
* Obviously don’t go out fishing, snorkeling, etc. Do that afterwards!

The Do’s:
* Do the pre race swims from the pier. There can be a current at the beaches, so be careful. Drive the course! It’s rolling and it’s good to know what’s ahead on race day.
* Do run in the Energy lab: You can’t drive into the Energy Lab, but it’s good to either ride or run in there to get a feel for it.
* Do ride on the course. In the past, I have driven out to Waikola and ridden miles 30-50 or so.

Race Day Tips:
Swim: It’s a bit of a crapshoot like all the other IM’s. Remember, everyone there is pretty fast. On the way out you can kind of sight off the Body Glove boat and on the return trip you can sight off the Gatorade Bottle.

Bike: The first 10 miles of the bike are in town, bumpy and crowded. Keep your speed in check. After going up Palani Rd. you hit the Queen K. It rolls with a few good climbs. Stand up a bit on the rollers and stretch your back out. You have go easy going out. The wind won’t kick up until after the airport, about mile 15. There can be brutal cross winds for the rest of the course. We’ve had 2 good wind years, so we’re due for some tough conditions. Keep focused on your own race. With the heat and humidity, you have to stay on top of your hydration/nutrition.

After the turn onto 19 and head to Hawi, it can be brutally windy and there is an uphill grade. Even a guy who bikes 4:55 will be going 15-17 MPH on this section. Mentally this part sucks. After the turnaround there are the Special Needs bags. Then it’s back the way you came. The first miles are downhill and tend to be fast. It’s a great time to get in some extra calories and let the HR come down. Turning Right back on to the Queen K the rollers seem harder, longer and steeper. Typically there will be a cross winds get worse as the day goes on. Mentally you have to focus. The last few miles seem to go forever, but there is a mile or two of easy flats to finally relax a bit.

Run: The run starts pretty flat on the out and back on Alii. There is some shade and people cheering. Don’t burn too much energy on this section, you will need it later. At mile 10 you climb up Palani. It’s short, but STEEP, and most walk this. On the Queen K you seem to always be on just a bit of an uphill grade and there is no shade or people other than aid stations. In the days before, drive out and park on a side road and run some on the Queen K and into the Energy Lab. This will give you a great idea of what it is really like.

Turning left into the Energy Lab is nasty. It’s a slight downhill, but there’s usually a headwind that will slow you down. After a mile, you turn right and it’s flat, HOT and no breeze. The Special Needs bags are here as well. It’s mile 16, so plan accordingly.Climbing a bit out of the Energy Lab is only a slight uphill, but it hurts. Making the right back on the Queen K it’s you’re headed back to town. This last section is deceiving. You think you will descend, but I swear it’s uphill both ways. Again it just rolls.

This is where holding back in the first miles will help you out. If you go out too hard, this section will be torture. When you make the right turn at mile 24 it’s down Palani. This is steep and it hurts the quads. Once you make the left turn it’s flat and you’re only 1.5 miles from glory! The final stretch down Alii is lined with folks and you’ll have no problem running your mile fastest of the day here!

Post Race: Get hydrated, get some food, take an ice bath and get a massage. It’s been a long season and you’ve completed the toughest Ironman out there!

Coach AJ Johnson is a USAT Certified Coach and can be reached for personal coaching at his IM Hawaii PR is 9:12.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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