Reflections and Learning Lesson of the Hawaii Ironman

So the end to the Ironman season used to be with the Hawaii Ironman Championship but as we all know, there are many Ironman races that continue globally throughout the remainder of the year.    However, the “grand daddy” of the Ironman season ends with the Ironman Championship every October.

This year’s Ironman Championship was shaping up to include new names on the podium.  Especially from the woman’s field as Chrissie Wellington would not be toeing the line in the 2012 race.     It’s interesting to see how many things have not changed in terms of race performances from the top professionals compared to 20 years ago when the “Big 4” were racing and killing each other in Kona.

Looking at this year’s top 10 men’s times the race is still all about the run.   Interestingly, the top three men had marathon times were 2:48-2:52.  No matter how bad the weather conditions the winners run times are always around the same time.   If you go back in time, the target for the Ironman top athletes was always 2:40 -2:45 marathon times.  So even with technology, nutrition and various products today very few athletes can still match the marathon times of the Big 4.  For the women, the standard has always been to be in the 2:50 range for the marathon and normally will see those who achieve that objective on the podium.  This year the run times for the ladies were a bit slower with the entire top three in the 3-hour range.   Interesting, only one professional broke 3 hours this year and she grabbed 4th place just missing a podium spot.

The bike times have continued to drop over the years and no question the amazing bikes and aero wheels have added to the fast times.  It’s become an important factor and the top athletes must stay in “striking range” after coming off the bike.  The target goal for most of the top male athletes is to ride in the 4:35 range to stay in the hunt leading to the run.   Even though there were 9 athletes all under 3:00 for the marathon only 3 ran in the 2:40’s.    Their places respectively were 1st, 2nd and 11th.

What did we learn?  For most of the top men and women, if they can maintain a respectable bike ride and run in the 2:40’s  (men) and under 3:00 (women) they will be in the hunt for the win.    For the age group athlete, it’s imperative to learn how to run on fatigued legs for the marathon and practicing it regularly at race pace.    The long slow run after a long ride is fine, but the best race results will come from adding a few workouts going at race pace for the bike and run for the long workouts.   Yes, doing 100 mile ride followed by a 25 mile run at race pace will have significant impact on the race performance.

I don’t want to discount the importance of a steady and strong bike ride during any half or iron distance race!  However the most time to be lost or gained for the majority of athletes is during the run.    It’s what will separate those that can qualify for Kona if they want to go, and those that miss qualifying for Kona.  Time to consider having a “focus” on the run for 2013 if you want to be in Kona next year.    Yes, It’s ALL ABOUT THE RUN!  So make sure you train your run and get experience pushing yourself after the bike by signing up for other races!

By Wayne Kurtz

Wayne Kurtz is founder of and Endurance Racing Report,  he has a lifelong passion for racing in various endurance sport races throughout the world. He is also the author of: ‘Beyond the Iron, a training guide for ultra-distance triathlons.’