In some ways racing Kona for me, is simply the subtle art of taking myself to the rivet and staying there and finding comfort there. There’s a really sick and twisted mind set going into this race because you know, that no matter what, it’s going to take you to your darkest place. You’re going to over-heat and really battle. It’s a very intimidating race to go into. In some ways though, that’s the appeal of this race. Being able to race hard right to that point and tolerating that feeling right until the end.
A key facet to racing well in Kona is to quickly figure out which athletes are only there for a cracking time in an individual discipline versus those who are chasing the full glory. I’ve been guilty of sometimes choosing to ignore pre-race planning in the bubble of the race, when the adrenalin is kicking in.You might get to race the very best in the world just once a year. Best to make the most of it!
It’s going to be really interesting this year. Firstly, having Alistair Brownlee on board for the first time is such an un-known. Jan Frodeno in my mind is someone who can control and lead the race where everyone else likely going to be just ‘trying to keep in the race.’
I anticipate that there will be a break away in the swim; one smallish group (2-4 maybe up to 8) and then less than a minute later there will be a main group of 15-20 athletes. A few minutes back is where the uber bikers (Lionel sanders and Sebastian Kienle) are likely to be.
Photo credit: Korupt Vision
On the bike I think it will be strong but controlled. I can’t see anyone early on trying to make a big break in the lead group. It won’t be until the halfway point where the screws get twisted by Sanders, Wurf, Kienle, Brownlee and Jan Frodeno, which will push the rest of the group to the limits to stay in check. If they turn the screws hard enough then the group will break up and the race will become interesting as the faster runners (Lange, McNamee, Aernouts) might get left behind. Perhaps Cam Wurf and Sebby might stretch out the lead again in the back half of the bike.
Going into the run I feel like it will be similar to last year; we’ll be looking at a 4-5 min deficit to the really strong cyclists and by then my guess is that we will probably be a smaller group coming off the bike, before it gets to the 2nd chase group. I would think that after that point it will just come down to a runner’s race. Even though, in my mind, Cam Wurf and Sebby are running really well and are both such incredible athletes, I still believe it will be hard for them to mitigate and manage the consistent run speed of the better runners in the race.
For me the race is always about management, I don’t have to have to make big moves, I just have to make sure I don’t make bad moves. And we will see how it pans out from there.