Learning from the Pros in Kona

Triathlete running down the finish shoot of an Ironman
December 14, 2016

Mike Ricci


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This month, I had the privilege of being in Kona to cover the race for several magazines. Being present throughout the day and attending the Pro press conference afterward, I gleaned valuable insights from the athletes that I believe can benefit triathletes in their training and racing endeavors. Here are a few tips to consider:

1. **Take calculated risks:** Chris McCormack, the eventual winner, took a risk by exerting extra effort to join the front group of riders on the second half of the bike leg. Recognizing the need to gain an advantage over super runner and defending Champion Craig Alexander, McCormack's bold move paid off, ultimately positioning him for victory. Age group athletes can similarly assess their strengths and race strategically, understanding that taking calculated risks is often necessary to elevate their performance.

2. **Strive for well-roundedness:** Caroline Steffen, the second-place woman, attributed her improved performance to her revamped training regimen. Previously self-coached, Steffen acknowledged that she approached each discipline separately, resulting in suboptimal performance. However, under her new coach's guidance, she focused on developing a more comprehensive skill set, which enabled her to overtake competitors on the run and secure a second-place finish. Triathletes should aim to be well-rounded in their training to excel across all disciplines.

3. **Stay mentally resilient:** Craig Alexander's comeback from a significant deficit underscores the importance of mental resilience in Ironman racing. Despite trailing by over 15 minutes off the bike, Alexander remained unfazed, confident in his ability to execute a strong marathon. Even when faced with challenges during the run, Alexander maintained his composure, ultimately posting the second-fastest run split of the day. Amateur athletes should remember that the race is never over, and maintaining mental fortitude can lead to unexpected turnarounds.

4. **Prioritize nutrition:** McCormack's decision to prioritize nutrition when challenged by Andreas Raelert emphasizes the critical role of fueling in endurance events. Rather than succumbing to panic, McCormack recognized the importance of addressing his nutritional needs to prevent cramping, a recurring issue for him. By taking the time to replenish his body's fuel stores, McCormack ensured he remained strong for the remainder of the race. Triathletes should prioritize understanding their nutritional requirements and ensuring they are adequately fueled during competition to avoid performance setbacks.

These insights from seasoned professionals offer valuable lessons that all triathletes can incorporate into their training and racing strategies. By adopting these principles, athletes can optimize their performance and strive for success in their pursuits.

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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