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Three Top Age-Group Kona Qualifiers’ Favorite Race-Day Prep Workouts

Three of the fastest long-course age groupers in the world each share a swim, bike, or run session that they use to prepare for the big day.

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There’s a reason the lore of Kona exists – because it’s true. The heat, hills, and wind are unlike any other race conditions in the world. The dynamics of fighting mental and physical demons in the lava fields, or braving the surf to return to shore, are unique experiences only for the most prepared of triathletes. Oh, and do it against the best triathletes in the world in the middle of an island in the Pacific.

While it can be a challenge to replicate the exact environment of Kona, these three age groupers have done their best to get their swim, bike, and run ready to brave the elements this October with workouts that attempt to simulate what the Big Island may have in store for race day.

RELATED: Data Dive: 9 Takeaways on Qualifying for Kona

Julie Dunkle

Age Group: 55-59

Based Out Of: San Diego, California

Where She Qualified: First at Ironman Coeur D’Alene 2021, then again at the 2021 Ironman World Championship in St. George (so her spot was extra secure, although age groupers cannot accept two slots for the same championship)

Background: Julie Dunkle, who swam for a division one collegiate team, did her first triathlon in 2008 and has since completed 18 full-distance Ironman races; Julie knows the island as this year will be her seventh time racing the Ironman World Championship in Kona.

Goal for Kona 2022: “Kona is my most loved and feared race, so I return to the Big Island with mixed emotions,” Dunkle says. “I have two goals – to break an hour in the swim and then the second, scarier goal: to hopefully get on the podium for my age group.”

Julie’s Favorite Swim Prep Workout:

Warmup:

400 swim

400 (100 swim /100 kick /100 pull/ 100 swim build each 25 by effort)

Main Set:

5x  800 at a sustainable-but-challenging pace, as:

1: Just make the intervals based on your predicted pace

2: Build by 200 to 90% effort

3: 100 fast/100 easy

4: Negative split the 800

5: Just make the intervals based on your predicted pace

Rest between 20-30 seconds after each

Cooldown:

200 easy

RELATED: How to (Finally) Become a Faster Swimmer

Jana Richtrova

Age Group: 40-44

Based Out Of: Houston, Texas

Where She Qualified: Richtrova was the womens’ 35-39 Kona age group champion in 2019, securing her slot for 2022 (thanks, COVID delays).

Background: Richtrova was a basketball player in college who discovered triathlon post-grad. Since then, Richtrova has been a “regular” at Kona each year thanks to her prowess at the iron distance. She holds the current amateur women’s Kona bike course record with a blistering time of 4:58.

Goal for Kona 2022: “The big dream is to defend my age-group champion title from 2019, except now in a new age group,” Richtrova said. “I want to put together a race I can be proud of from beginning to end…If I do that and it’s not enough to defend my title, it will be hard to be disappointed.”

Jana’s Favorite Bike Prep Workout (best done on the trainer):

Richtrova leverages lactate threshold testing as part of her training regimen. We’ve subbed in suggested levels of effort to correspond with her lactate threshold (LT) zones.

Warmup:

10 min easy

Main Set:

3 x 10 min @ Sub-LT1 (or iron-distance pace or power) + 5 min @ sub-LT2 (just over iron-distance pace or power, as if to make a push to pass someone in a race). Immediately settle back into iron-distance power, no rest in between.

Cooldown:

5 to 10 min easy

RELATED: Stay or Go? When to Follow the Race Plan (and When to Go for Broke)

Chad Bykerk

Age Group: 25-29

Based Out Of: Redondo Beach, California

Where He Qualified: Ironman Waco 2021

Background: Bykerk was an elite water polo athlete in college who, even after graduating, wanted to continue to push his limits via sport. Since completing a local sprint triathlon years ago, Bykerk has completed six half iron-distance and three full iron-distance events. This year will be his first time racing the Ironman World Championship in Kona.

Goal for Kona 2022: “This will be my first time racing Kona so I want to leave it all on the course,” Bykerk said. “That said, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t vying for a spot on the 25-29 men’s age-group podium.”

Chad’s Kona Prep Run Workout:

This run is meant to simulate muscular fatigue later in the marathon while incorporating race-day fueling and hydration strategies. Carrying a hydration pack is a great option for nailing iron-distance nutrition and hydration while running long. Bykerk also suggests completing this workout three-to-four weeks before race day, depending on an athlete’s taper strategy.

Warmup:

10 mins at Zone 1 building to one 2 – should be a comfortable pace

Main Set – Ironman Pace Progression:

30 mins at target iron-distance pace. This first interval should be on the conservative end of pacing.

5 mins at Zone 2/aerobic recovery – use this recovery between intervals as an opportunity to fuel

30 mins at target iron-distance pace. This should be at race pace and should feel comfortable.

5 mins at Zone 2/aerobic recovery – use this recovery between intervals as an opportunity to fuel

30 mins just above target iron-distance pace. This should be just 5-10 seconds faster per mile than target pace.

Cooldown:

Easy 10 mins jog

Can’t get enough Ironman World Championship coverage? Visit our Kona Hub for news, analysis, history, photo galleries, and so much more – new stories added daily from our team on the ground at the Big Island.