Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My 2011 Kona Race Report | Goals MET!!

Hi and thanks for reading this relatively brief race report on by IM Kona 2011 race experience!

Running down Alii Drive with a smile.
In a nutshell, it was GREAT and probably the most relaxing and enjoyable Kona experience I've had in my 8 times competing in the race.  From my companion (Jen, the world's best triathlon significant other) to the Ironman official coaching partner experience and helping many athletes succeed to actually doing the  race itself, I left the lava fields of the big island with lots of fond memories this year.  This race really has a way of keeping one both humble and grounded.

I had the goal of finishing within 10 minutes of my time from 20 years ago, 9 hrs, 19 min. (read it HERE) and I did just that, finishing only 3 minutes slower in a time of 9:22.  It's very satisfying to not only meet a goal, but to also be able match a physical performance achieved many years ago in a 22 year old body.  I'm a lucky guy to have had that experience, and I don't take it for granted.

The race started with the most frenzied and aggressive mass start swim anywhere.  2000 of the best triathletes in the world fought for position as the canon signaled "go time".  I don't think I found any clear water until about a mile into the swim, and that only lasted for a short time. Constantly surrounded (and kicked and punched) by my competitors, I exited the water feeling steady and under control in 1:07, a few minutes slower than I'd hoped.  I guess I shouldn't expect any better in a rough non-wetsuit swim on only 5000 yds of total swimming per week.  duh.

T1 was incredibly crowded! I was the 633rd person out of the water and I think most of them exited the water with me.  :)  We worked our way to the bikes.

Once on the bike, I immediately remembered my strategy of staying within myself and trying to enjoy the race day experience... and not get caught up in trying to ride as fast as I could. The legs felt horrible at first for unknown reasons, but in retrospect, this was good as it forced me to slow down, averaging around a 135 HR (target race pace HR = 145-150) for the first hour.  Perfect.

Packs (Pelotons) on the bike were as enormous as they were on the swim. So many strong riders do Ironman now and can ride around 5 hours, it's almost impossible to break away unless you are an exceptional rider.  I give people the benefit of the doubt most of the time and realize that sometimes drafting (and some penalties) is/are inadvertent as you jockey to stay legal when passing and then getting over to the right, but some of the drafting was blatant.  I screamed at a few people who were just sitting on wheels.   Kudos to my fellow masters competitor and Spinervals Elite racing team mate, Thomas Brunold, who rode a strong and clean race for a podium finish.

My strategy for this race was to manage the burning of my matches and to stay within my limits all day.  I don't train high volumes (long bike = 4 hrs, long run = 2 hrs, long swim = 2000 yds, time per week = 10-12 hours avg. of weekly training), so I knew my ability to go "deep" and recover wasn't like it was when I was training 2-3 times more in my 20's.  I also didn't want to suffer on the run as I have in the past. I can't begin to tell you how many bad memories I have out on the Queen K, thinking that each step would be my last for the day.   I split a 4:59, hitting a steady 22.XX mph at each time check. Perfect.

I ran out of transition with the race clock at about 6:15, feeling pretty good about my chances to crack 9:25.  The legs were a little bit tired as expected as the asphalt reportedly heated up to over 130 degrees under the intense Kona sun, but the cheering spectators and seeing Jen and my other friends kept my spirits high.  I didn't feel blazing fast, but felt steady and my HR was where it needed to be, between 145 and 150 bpm (my LTHR is around 165).  I was reeling people in quickly while staying within my limits.

Once out on the Queen K, I knew that my legs and feet were going to get very sore due mainly to my minimalist approach to Ironman training.  Every aid station was a small blessing as I slowed a little to dump ice water on my head and drink water and Perform.  I also had a fuel belt filled with bottles of salty water to sip from, to prevent cramping. It worked, no leg cramps all day.

#1 Support Crew, Jen with me
at the finish line.
As the miles wore on, each step hurt a little more and required more focus to maintain stride. I remember feeling fully in control at all times however and never "out of it" as I did so many other times when red-lining it in Kona.  I even slowed a little on Alii Drive as I approached the finish to soak in the experience ... something I might have missed in the past.  I crossed the line with very sore legs but 100% "together" to finish in 9:22 and 131st OA out of 1918 finishers. (Results are HERE at ironman.com).  I'm thrilled with my result and feel so grateful to be able to race at a fairly high level without treating my training as a full time job, but as a daily 1-2 hr  habit.  There are lots of different ways to train for successful Ironman racing, but if anyone wants to know how to get the most performance out of the least amount of training time, let me know by clicking HERE or by visiting www.coachtroy.com   It comes down to consistency and dedication day-in and day-out while having a game plan, staying within your limits and executing your strategy flawlessly.  You can do it too!

Thanks to everyone in Kona and online (FB, etc.) for your support and well-wishes! I'll be setting some new goals for 2012 and I hope you are too.  And if you'd like to see more pics from my race experience, feel free to check out my personal Facebook page.

Best wishes,
Coach Troy

Troy Jacobson is the head triathlon coach of Life Time Fitness and the Official Coach of Ironman. This was his 8th time racing in Kona since 1991 with his best placing in Kona of 20th OA as a pro in 1998.


  1. Very nice Troy. It must be great to back off at times and still make your goals. Congratulations!
    I'm sure my experience will be drastically different!

  2. Fantastic race results and report. You've still got that base! I'm impressed with your MPH on the bike.