Kona is a different beast than any other race on the planet – we all know this and as athletes, we should remember to respect the course. It took me a few years to realize yet I have learned that I require a lot of preparation time before Kona to adapt to the heat, wind, and all the weather conditions you might be up against on race day. Knowing this fact, the past two years we have gone to Kona several weeks early to give ample time for my body to get used to the extreme heat. Because we are out here so early, I do go through quite a few workout cycles of large intensity followed by ones to flush out the system. The logical constant in all of this is the importance of my recovery to be able to maintain the strength of the workouts in this extreme environment.
The old adage goes, ‘It is easy to train but it takes discipline to recover’ is so very true when you are talking about triathletes in general. The reason a lot of athletes get into triathlon is because we all love to train, sometimes to a fault. It is engrained in our DNA to enjoy the preparation to race and it seems counterproductive to allow the body to recover; this means we are not working out which, mentally, is difficult to do. During the Kona lead up, it is imperative for me to force myself to take the time to properly repair your body which means mandatory down time is required.
How do I recover during the weeks leading up to Kona? It involves a lot of nutrition, hydration, TV watching time, family and friends, and the very trusty Recovery Pump system. We made the conscience decision, a few years ago, to live about thirty minutes away from the chaos of Kona during race week. My sister’s family and a few close friends have stayed with me along with our trusted bike guru. This enables us to remain grounded during the event so mentally, everything is not focused on triathlon. This is an enormous part of the race preparation and recovery so that I have down time to enjoy family and friends that are most important to me. Triathlon is my job – it doesn’t have to take over your life, even for a race as intense as the Kona World Championships.
After a long day of training, we are able to enjoy some relaxing moments conversing about life, playing with my nephew, cooking a leisurely dinner, and watching a good TV show. On intense training days, nutrition and hydration are a constant. After the morning session after the nutritional intake, it is immediately into the Recovery Boots. After the late morning, early afternoon session, it is nutrition and hydration, and then into Recovery Boots; you can probably pick up a pattern! After dinner, it is good conversation and then into the Recovery system to watch TV and catch up on emails; we just finished Damages and now are onto the show Suits! The theme here is nutrition, hydration and the Recovery system is as natural to me as brushing my teeth and washing my face before bed time – I do it without any thought because I know it is important.
During race week, we do need to go to Kona almost every day for obligations, the pro meeting, sponsor parties, and the racking of the bike. Sitting in the car for an hour plus is usually tough on the legs after morning workouts. However, I bring the Recovery system into the car, plug it into the car outlet using their adapter, and can enjoy an hour of active compression therapy for aggressive athletic recovery! I have said it before and I will say it again, even if I wasn’t working with Recovery Pump, it still would be a steady diet of my recovery. It is so important to my well being that I will use it even when I am done with professional triathlon racing and on the senior circuit!
It has taken me awhile to get comfortable racing in Kona and I am still soaking up knowledge to try to get better. My words of advice to age groupers is to not take the course for granted so your recovery leading up to the race is imperative for trying to reach your goals. Every little deficiency you have leading into Kona will show its ugly head on the run so you need to get yourself to the start line to as close to 100% as you can in order to reduce the deficiencies that will inevitably push through towards the latter stages of the race. My Recovery Boots help me get to that starting line which is half the battle in Kona! Good luck, keep calm, carry on (KCCO!) and I hope you all reach your goals!
-Meredith Kessler, Ironman World Champion