Learning from the Pros in Kona

December 14, 2016

Mike Ricci


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This month I was lucky enough to be in Kona covering the race for some magazines. As such I was able to watch the race all day and be in Pro press conference after the race. Listening to some athletes I found there were several points made that any triathlete could benefit from. Here are a few tips to help you in your training and racing.

Take a calculated risk on the course. The eventual winner Chris McCormack took a risk by working to join the front group of riders on the second half of the bike. He knew he had to put some time into super runner and defending Champion Craig Alexander. The effort to get into the group was worth it and afterwords he credited this move to putting him in the position to win. Age group athletes should know their strengths and race smart. Taking calculated risks are often what is needed to take it to the next level.

You need to be well rounded. In the press conference after the race second place woman Caroline Steffen credited her new training this year to her great race. She was self coached last year and as she said “I swam like a swimmer, biked like a biker and ran like a swimmer too”. This year her coach changed her training to make her more complete. This showed up in the fact that she was able to catch Julie Dibbens on the run to place second.

The race is never over, especially in Ironman. Craig Alexander came off the bike over 15 minutes back of bike leader Chris Lieto, but more damaging was his 8 minute deficit to runners McCormack and Andreas Raelert. During the press conference “Crowie” said he never felt out of it and was ready to run a sub 2:40 marathon. He was on pace to run 2:36 until mile 22 when “the wheels just came off,” he said. His run split of 2:41:59 was the second fastest run of the day. Amateur athletes need to remember that the race is never over and if you can stay in the game mentally things can turn around for you.

Nutrition is key. When McCormack was being run down by Raelert along the Queen K, he didn’t panic. He decided to slow up and take care of his nutrition first. Macca has a history of cramping issues, so at the special needs he grabbed his salt and gels and made sure he had what he needed to be strong at the finish. This cost him time, but without it cramping would surely ruin his day. Knowing his body, knowing he needed nutrition and staying calm was a big key to his win. This illustrates how important nutrition is to all athletes. It doesn’t matter how fit you are if your stomach is turning or your legs are cramped. Learn what your nutrition needs are and never neglect them on race day.

Those are some tips that you can take into your training and racing. These principles are relevant to all triathletes so learn from the pros wisdom.

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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