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Race Tips

Taking On The Vegas/Kona Double

Great advice from the sport's top athletes on competing in a 70.3 one month before an Ironman.

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If you completed the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Vegas and you’re qualified next month to race in the Ironman World Championship, can you expect another peak performance in Kona? Do you have enough time to recover and do the training required to perform well at the big show? Or does one race have to be your “A” race and the other your “B” race?

Those were the questions I posed to some of the top pros and age groupers before their world championship race in Vegas and as they came through the finish line on their big day. Not everyone agreed that doing “the double” was the best thing if you want to have the race of your life on the Big Island. But among most of the athletes, the consensus is that a hard effort in the 70.3 distance a month before your peak Ironman would help you race well again. Here’s what they had to say:

Sebastian Kienle (GER)

2012 and 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, fourth in Kona last year
“For me, [doing Vegas will help in Kona] absolutely. Other people who have done both races have done good in the past, like Crowie and Chris Lieto. I think that’s one of the good things with the date now compared to when it was in [November in] Clearwater and it was hard to be in good shape for that race. For me, it’s good. I try to get the speed proper for this race, then I try to build on it with a little bit longer stuff, like longer runs [before Kona].”

Craig “Crowie” Alexander (AUS)

Three-time Ironman and two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion, first athlete to win both races in one year (2011)
“Immediately after the [70.3 worlds] race, I do all of the things I need to do to recover in the right way. I think you just have to be smart. If you’ve trained well for this race your recovery will be pretty good and I’ll be back to normal training by Wednesday…You should be thinking of Kona this weekend when you shift focus and try and recover and do the little things you can do to get yourself back in training. If your training’s been good, your recovery will be quick.”

Kelly Williamson (USA)

Runner-up at 2012 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, ninth in 2013
“I think that if you approach it carefully and wisely, you can definitely pull off Vegas and Kona. I mean look at Crowie and Leanda [Cave, last year’s double winner]. Both of them nailed it in the same year, and both after racing Vegas in hot conditions. I just think it depends upon what kind of athlete you are. I like to do a 70.3 a few weeks out from an Ironman as a good tune-up; and the rest into and out of it I think can really help you, as well as the fitness gained. I think if you don’t pay critical attention to recovery from Vegas and hit it too hard too soon post-race, it could definitely hinder your Kona performance. I also think you have to be aware of not only the physical stress but the mental and emotional; that can take a toll as well if you’re not careful.”

Bevan Docherty (NZL)

Two-time Olympic medalist, third at 2012 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, DNF 2013
“Last week I did Des Moines [Hy-Vee], as a stepping stone for this race, and this race will be a stepping stone for Kona. I’d like to win both, like Leanda [Cave] did last year, but I’m putting all of my money on Kona. I think I’ll be in good enough shape to be competitive [for Vegas], so I’m looking forward to a good one, but it’s just hard when in the back of your mind you know the big race is coming up and you want to freshen up for this race, but you want to keep the momentum going.”

PHOTOS: 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Championship

Chuck Sloan (USA)

Tulsa, Okla., seventh place, 35 to 39 age group, 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Championship; fourth place, 2012 Ironman World Championship
“In my honest opinion, it’s too close to Kona. I’ve repeatedly seen top guys in my age group and many age groups go to the 70.3 world champs and Kona and have a sub-par performance in Kona. I think the combination of travel, Ironman training preparation and difficulty of the races make it tough to come back after a 70.3 and lay it down in Kona. I’m not saying it can’t be done. Look at Crowie in 2011. I’m simply saying that for most amateur athletes, it’s a tough turn around. Now, if you are just there to take it all in and you don’t really care about having the best day of your life, then I think it’s completely fine. But Ironman athletes are extremely driven people, so for the most part I think they want to have the day of their life when it comes to the Big Island. Also, the level of competition in the age groups keeps going up. You look at the times posted by the amateurs. In my age group, these guys can go sub four hours, not long ago, posting sub-four as an amateur would be phenomenal. Now, you’ve got guys in the 25-29, 30-34, 35-39 age groups that have that potential. The top end is getting pretty close to pro level. So the types of efforts are extraordinary and I think it makes it very difficult to produce that kind of effort so close together.”

Kyle Buckingham (RSA)

2013 Ironman 70.3 world champion, 30 to 34 age group
“I want to try to win both world champs and then go professional next year. And this race is perfect. You can’t get better conditions for a Kona build-up. Raynard Tissink is my coach back in South Africa. The Vegas race was only a prep race and not an “A” race. There was only a three-day taper going into Vegas and I was still doing six-hour rides last Saturday and a 2.5-hour run last Sunday. The main focus in Kona is to win the amateur race there and try go similar time to Ironman South Africa (8:34) and that’s what I’m trying to peak for. Three weeks before Vegas I did Timberman in 3:59 and 4th overall just as a prep too.”

Andrew Drobeck (USA)

Missoula, Mont., second place, 30-34 age group, 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Championships
“I live in Missoula and it’s pretty cold this time of the year so it was nice to get out today and race in the heat. It wasn’t that hot today, but the humidity was up there. I have a coach and he said it was good to do five weeks from Kona. I’ll take about a week off, then hit it hard, then take about a week to taper before Kona, so I think this race is a good tune-up before Kona for sure. And it’s a world championship.”

Mark Newman (USA)

Germantown, Tenn., 2013 Ironman 70.3 world champion, 50 to 54 age group
“My coach and I talked about doing this race a lot [as a buildup to Kona]…I got eighth in Kona in the 45-49 age group back in 2010, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do this year. I did do Clearwater in 2010 after Kona and got second, so that was one reason I wanted to come back here and try to win. I like [doing the 70.3] better before. Five weeks [before Kona] is good. I’ll take an easy week, do a two to three week build and then be ready to go.”

Christine Heidemann (GER)

2013 Ironman 70.3 world champion, 50-54 age group; 2012 70.3 world champion, 45-49 age group
“I was here to perform well, but it is of course training for Kona in a way. But I trained for this day especially, so this is one highlight of my year and Kona is the second highlight. Kona is, of course, my A-plus race. This race, because I was world champion last year, I wanted to defend my title in Vegas, so I really prepared well for this race. Today it was a good preparation for Kona with the humidity. Last year it was totally different; just really hot and dry.”

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