And then it was over – Kona 2019. For me personally, all this felt like a movie that started with the departure and ended 14 days later with the arrival at home. In other words, the realization process is not yet finished for me – everything still feels very unreal. On the one hand, I’m sorry that it’s over – working towards an event for such a long time and then it’s all over, you can fall into a deep dark hole. On the other hand, I’m also happy since I’ ve never trained so intensively for such a long time. Eventually, the intensive training for the qualification on June 30, 2019 in Frankfurt/Germany started in early March i.e., I practiced seven months on a high level between 8 and 16 hours per week. During this time I rode 5590 km by bicycle in 198 hours, walked 1071 km in 84 hours and swam 101.5 km in 28 hours. I am very grateful that I was able to qualify for Hawaii with this relatively low training effort and to participate successfully.On the one hand, this is due to my particularly time-efficient training methodology, but on the other hand also to a certain genetic disposition: The usual training effort of the average Hawaii participant is rather twice as high.
Nonetheless, such a project is only possible if you have the appropriate environment. Therefore, my special thanks go to my wife Jennifer, without whose consent and commitment this would certainly not have been possible, and to my children, who were often forced to live without their daddy. I would also like to thank Sönke representing Clausmark for his support. Finally, I would like to thank all my colleagues and friends and all the others who shared the excitement.
The Ironman is merely a well marketed special competition distance in triathlon – the long distance. In addition, there is the sprint or the distance for everybody (500 m – 20 km – 5 km), short or Olympic distance (1500-40-10) and the middle or half distance (1900-90-21). Nobody (except maybe some questionable jerks who want an Ironman in their CV) will start with the long distance, instead you will rather slowly approach via the shorter distances. On this note, and since it is important to me to promote triathlon in Germany, I would like to encourage everyone to try it out. For a regional short distance you don’t need any special equipment; for starters, a city bike and a swimsuit will be enough. Whoever is interested is welcome to contact me.
Day 11 – The day after
The next day I had signed up for a boat trip with snorkeling with my tour operator for chill-out and licking wounds. We were lucky, besides some flying fish, there were a few dolphins nearby that were swimming curiously next to us.
On the way to the snorkeling grounds, viewing the swim course of the previous day from the sea allowed us to reflect on what we had been experiencing – after all, it was much further than we thought. Finally, I had the chance to enjoy the local beer, very tasty. So, if you still don’t believe that there is beer on Hawai’i, here’s the proof:
Around 2 pm we were back and the victory ceremony was held in the evening. With Jan Frodeno and Anne Haug we are not only the winner of the men’s competition this year, but also the winner of the women’s competition for the first time. The Americans were hoping to break the German dominance in the men’s singles that had lasted since 2014, but unfortunately the opposite happened – strike!
And so Sunday passed very quickly, hard to believe but on Monday evening it was already time to leave – insane how fast time had passed. After everything was packed, I went for a last swim in the afternoon, which was just beautiful. Then it started to rain, a nice farewell picture.
At 6 p.m. I headed to the airport (in contrast to Saturday this time not on foot, but by bus) and Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. I was back home.
Day 10 – Part 2: After the race
After recovering from the direct strains of the race in the finish area, unfortunately there was only a cold shower and a massage.
After that, I was able to reasonably move again and decided to pack up to cheer other participants at the finish. Meanwhile, it was after 7 pm, the sun had gone down for a while and so I hobbled into the transition zone to get my bags and my bike and take them to the apartment. Then I went back again to experience the atmosphere in the finish area (see video). It was already 9 pm when I got back because after such a race everything takes a bit longer – after all, I’ m not the youngest anymore or at least I don’t feel that way.
The goal of many athletes on Hawaii is the “Day Light Finish “, i.e., arriving before sunset. This corresponds to about 10.5 – 11 hours of race time depending on the starting time. However, the finish is closed at 00:30 am, i.e. whoever arrives after that, will not be ranked. At this point, the last starters are already 16.5 hours on their way. It is a tradition in Kona that the winners (this year a German double victory with Jan Frodeno and Anne Haug) welcome the late finishers. Thus, the atmosphere reaches its peak at 9 pm:
The oldest and only starter in the age group M85, an 87-year-old Japanese, wanted to repeat his success from last year (he crossed the finish line at 00:29 am), but this time it didn’t work out. ince he has been coming to Kona for years, this could be an incentive to come back next year – maybe today just wasn’t his best day. The oldest finisher this year was 76. I personally can’t imagine doing sport for 16 hours straight – but if you need it ;).
At some point the exhaustion was greater than the euphoria, and I went to bed.
Day 10 – Part 1: It’s race day – let’s go!
It’s race day! The big day I’ve been working towards for the last months (since November 2018) has finally come. At 3:45 a.m . I get out of bed. For breakfast I have fresh pancakes – this has become a tradition. After breakfast, around 4:15 a.m., the remaining things are being prepared for the race: Mixing drinks, packing food for the bike, etc. Already it is 4:45 a.m. and we are off. The shuttle service takes a while to get to the starting area – we are not the only ones.
The calm before the storm:
In the starting area we pass security and head towards the traditional body marking. Very nice people stick your starting number on your arm:
After that there is still about one hour left to stow the bike bottles and food on the bike. After 20 minutes I am ready and enjoy the atmosphere while waiting for my start at 7:05 am.
You have to be in your starting block 20 minutes before the start; there is still enough time to put on my swimsuit, glasses, and so on. The tension is huge. The pros have just started. Finally, my starting group is called and we have to swim about 100 m to the imaginary starting line between the two black pyramids. We swim clockwise, you can see the buoys on the picture. At the back they are two small boats, they mark the turning point.
Then the horn honks and off we go.
Since swimming is my weakest discipline, I try to swim as relaxed as possible and not lose my breath. It was raining all night and it was a bit stormy, so the water is cloudy – no fish today. There are also some rather high waves, but they don’t bother much because they don’t break in deep water.
At the beginning you look for someone a little faster than yourself and get in the “water shadow”. You need some luck for that and I immediately find someone with whom I can get around the first third. It takes a while until I reach the boats at the turning point. When I’m finally there, I take a quick look at the watch, 36 minutes – 3-4 minutes faster than expected. Now, I “only” have to go back. After another 39 minutes I’m back in the transition zone, the way back was a bit more exhausting. After 1:15 h in the water I have to be careful that my calves don’t cramp when I put my feet on the ground. 1:15 h – a good time for me, it can stay that way.
I take my time for the first change: Carefully shower with fresh water, take off my swimsuit, put on my cycling shoes, put on my helmet and off I go to the bike and am on my way.
To warm up it goes up a bit. Then turn right onto a 12 km long turning point track. Contrary to all assumptions it goes permanently uphill to the turning point. Wind slightly from the front. In the first part of the race I’m used to pass a lot of better swimmers – also here. Finally, it leads onto the Queen-K Highway and with a lot of tailwind towards Hawi, the turning point at 95km.
Most of the way to the turning point was relatively easy to ride, frequent tail wind allowed a high speed and we moved quickly through the lava desert. From time to time the wind came from the side and sometimes from the front. It quickly became clear that today the wind was not as calm as predicted. Between Waikoloa at km 48 and Waikui at km 60 the wind was blowing very strong from the right. Here, the air between the two volcanoes is pushed through by the trade wind and thus accelerated strongly. But with enough inclination no problem for now. From here, the 30 km long but gentle climb leads to Hawi. Here, you change the direction from northeast to northwest, so that the strong wind now comes from behind – the climb is quite easy. After a while I meet the first pros. They started half an hour earlier and are already on their way back. Doesn’t look very fast – they probably ride against the wind – haha. However, before long, approx. 12 km before Hawi, the wind turns. Now it is coming strongly from the front, from time to time also a strong gust from the side, and it is still going uphill. These coming 12 km on the bike course were the toughest for me. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I am at the turning point in Hawi – the wind is now coming from behind again and going downhill begins.
The joy about the tailwind makes me go down fast, with peaks of more than 70 km/h it is going down again. Suddenly, a blow from the right, a gust of wind hits me so hard that I have to make a strong turn. Shortly after again, only from the left this time. At 70 km/h, that’s a lot more than at 25 km/h. These are the dreaded shear winds near Hawi, which are the reason why disc wheels are forbidden on this route. Later I found out that some of the lighter female participants were simply “knocked over”. But all in all typical Hawaiian weather, the myth must come from somewhere. After a few involuntary twists I’m back down in Waikui and it’s a short stretch steep uphill. Wind blows with approx. 60 km/h from the front. This part is short, but it’s heavy and a few important grains get lost here. Finally, it is the last 60 km back. The wind blows as on the outward trip, so you lose what you won on the outward trip and vice versa. The last 20 km are very tough and don’t seem to end. Meanwhile the body doesn’t feel like cycling anymore and it becomes noticeably hot. I slow down a bit to recover for the final run and eat my remaining gels.
Altogether I supplied about 2000 kcal during cycling. Hopefully, that will be enough to complete the run. When running, the body needs more energy, so there is less left for digestion. The difficulty is to choose the pace so that you can still get enough energy through your digestion while running. f you run too fast, the energy supply collapses and you have to run much slower – that’s not very comfortable. This is commonly referred to as “bursting”.
The second change goes smoothly. In the transition zone your bike is taken from you and you receive your bag – helmet off, running shoes on, cap and sunglasses on and off you go. Stop – please don’t forget the sun screen this time.
The first quarter of the running course is hot and humid. It is cloudy, but it has rained recently. Fortunately, there is a refreshment station every 1.6 km. I stuff all my bags with ice cubes and a few more in the front. This way you can bear the heat. An average of 4:30-4:40 per km was planned, that works quite well. After about two kilometres all ice cubes melted, so I’m busy filling up and keeping myself completely wet. On top of that there is cola and sports drink at every station. On top of that there is cola and sports drink at every station. And sponges, which you can stuff into your jersey and which later lie around at the refreshment stations (if you throw something away outside the stations, you will be punished with a time penalty or disqualified because of “littering”).
After the loop through Kailua the route climbs up the Queen K Highway. It’s still quite warm with 31-33°, but now it’s cloudy and more comfortable than before and not so humid. From here it goes straight on forever, past the airport and then finally down to the Energy Lab. Here, sea water is pumped up from a depth of 6000 m. This is 6° cold and so you can provide any temperature you want with the surface water and grow lobsters and abalone, which could not survive in the 28° warm Pacific.
Up here it is also too warm for lobsters but still cloudy, so that today you don’t have to endure 40° or more as so often. At a relatively constant speed we head towards the turning point and back to the Queen K Highway at km 31.5. Three quarters are done and it is going well. Only an increasing pressure on the left big toe and occasional cramps in the right foot lifter cause me to think. So I slow down a bit to not risk anything. Meanwhile, the average has dropped to 4:50 but I’ m still on schedule. In triathlon the run starts at the half marathon mark: here you usually know whether you have overdone or not.
Only 10 km to go, they’re usually a piece of cake. Now I count backwards and keep going. Only 5 km left. I don’t feel like having Coke or sports drink anymore and consider skipping the next refreshment. Since this can pay for itself, I force myself to drink the obligatory three cups. Finally, the Queen-K Highway comes to an end and we turn right down the hill. Only 2 km to go – you can already hear the finish area, but you still have to run a loop. These last 2 kilometres I run unleashed to the finish, about 1 min/km faster than just now and manage to gain some positions. After 9:48 h I cross the finish line and even undercut the dream time of 9:59 h by 10 minutes, , probably also thanks to the clouds.
Maximilian, you are an Ironman! Although these words can now be heard in every Ironman competition at the finish line, here in Kona, the cradle of the long distance triathlon, they have a completely different value.
The emotions that come after such a finish can be overwhelming. You have worked towards it for several months and only know if it will work or not until shortly before the finish.
A nice young woman takes me by the hand and leads me into the recovery area. She asks me my name, where I come from and how I feel. Since I can answer all the questions, she disappears again to welcome the next athlete and I can collect my after-race bag with my change of clothes.
The next two hours you will recover from the strain by taking in salty food and replenishing your fluid level. A glance into my shoes shows that the left toe is swollen and blue. Now that the effect of the body’s own stress hormones is wearing off, it’ s starting to hurt – ouch. Unfortunately, everyone in Germany is asleep by now, otherwise you would be able to send some messages that you made it. It is now 5:05 p.m. …
Day 9 -The day before the race
The day before the race usually flies by. Around noon I had to check-in my bike in the transition zone. Before that, all the equipment has to be prepared and packed into the appropriate bags. That takes its time. Since the race starts at 6:25 am the next morning, there would be no time for that the following day. You have to get up around 3:45 am…
Usually, you still have tim to pack the bike and running bag in the morning, but here in Hawaii it’s different – you have to check-in both bags and have no access to them the next day. But don’t forget anything is the motto.
Only those bags that have been distributed are allowed – no own bags. The bags are transparent:
After the bike check-in, there is stil some time to orientate yourself in the transition zone. You memorize the entrances and exits well so that you can easily find your bike and bags during the race. Time is ticking and the transition zone is big! (But everyone has to go the same way, no matter where the bike is).
Since the next morning I have to get out of bed at 3:45 a.m., I go to the bed early. Setting the alarm clock is actually not necessary, until now I was always awake around 3:00 a.m. before a race.
Day 8 -Recovery
Wednesday had passed quickly with a lot of recovery and a last intensive swimming session, and Thursday was the last day before the race. The wise triathlete does not practice on this day at all, but devotes himself entirely to recovery, before he trains intensively in all three disciplines for another hour on Friday. Because of the persistent humid heat I was completely busy keeping myself hydrated without suffering any mineral loss. Besides a massage, I also had some time to relax in the pool of the hotel. Time is now flying by, the race is coming closer. The Welcome Dinner finally took place in the evening, with which the festivities for the World Championship were officially opened and all athletes were welcomed. In addition to a show that introduced you to Hawaiian culture, there was plenty of food and drink to recharge the batteries for the upcoming event.
I almost forgot a special highlight: Contrary to well-known German songs, there is beer on Hawaii – it is not only brewed locally, but even tastes very good. Unfortunately, during the last weeks before a race any consumption of alcohol is forbidden, as it has dramatic effects on endurance and what is really not available here is non-alcoholic beer. Anyway, my tour operator Hannes Hawaii Tours has a good connection to a well-known German brewer, and what can I say: The delivery delayed in customs has finally arrived – a change from the sweet soft drinks and sport drinks at last.
Day 7 – Checking out the equipment
Today there were no special highlights except the competition briefing in German. Here, we learned a few important details about the schedule of the race and what to stick where. My starting documents seem to be complete. Very interesting to see what is included:
In addition to a last, extended swimming unit of over 2500 m with a stop at the espresso boat, there was enough time to inspect, test and prepare the remaining racing equipment. This includes the almost ceremonial but in any case highly meditative cleaning of the bike. While swimming, it was also necessary to test whether the racing suit fits well under the swimsuit. Throughout the day, small wrinkles or unfavourable seams can have a very big effect…
The logo definitely looks great.
Day 6 – Race week
It’s race week. Although it’s already Tuesday, you can see it at every corner today – almost all participants have now arrived. Starting Monday before the race, most people are getting more excited – but from now on (and already for the last two weeks) it’s all about listening to your body and suppressing excessive training motivation. Because with waning fatigue – while the body recovers from the strains of the workout in the last few months – the common triathlete feels a tremendous desire for higher, faster, further during the remaining short training sessions. However, whoever gives in to this, will not be able to deliver the best result on racing day. You’ re happy about every competitor who runs past you in breakneck speed.
Yeah, the Kona Coffee Boat is finally here! This makes the swimming session even more fun. About 500 m have to be covered to get there. This time there was a huge shoal of fish to watch. All in all it was about 1800 m with two coffee breaks. The atmosphere at the boat was fantastic.
Today, registration opened, so I could pick up the starting documents – slowly but surely I am realizing what is going on on Saturday. My starting number is #1194.
In the evening, there was the “Parade of Nations” – a parade where all participating nations walk in groups around Kona. With 281 participants, the German delegation is the second largest group after the USA. The group was led by a cheerleader who announced the goal of being the loudest and funniest group. With push-ups, Oohmpa pa and ole ole we walked around downtown. We certainly succeeded. At the finish, the triathlon legends Dave Scott and Mark Allen were waiting and there was a small party lasting well into the night.
Day 5 – First contact with the bike course
On Monday the race week finally started. To celebrate, this we cycled half the bike course from Hawi back to Kailua. Unfortunately, there was not much wind, so that I couldn’t practice cycling with wind. But there was time to take some photos:
Well, I’m gonna check if the espresso boat’s here yet.
Day 4 – Sightseeing
On Sunday I took a touristy bus tour around the island to get to know all the climate zones. This is a special characteristic of Big Island; you can experience eight different climate zones, the most impressive are lava desert and rain forest. The mountain on the photo is Mauna Loa, which is over 4000 m high.
Day 3 – Charity Run on Hawaii
On Saturday, we participated in a 10 km charity run, which was very similar to our fun runs in Germany, only that we had muffins at the finish. After that we went for a swim.
Unfortunately, the espresso boat is not here yet. Instead, there was a very curious turtle. The underwater wildlife is impressive.
Day 2 – Bike & Beach
Bike&Beach” was on the agenda on Friday, i.e. 48 km on the competition course to a beach, back again after two hours. I was able to make my first experiences with the extreme wind here. It was coming strongly from behind, then 5 km further from the front and 5 km further from the side. However, you went straight ahead the whole time.
Day 1 – Arrival on Hawaii
After having left home at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, I arrived in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, at 8:30 p.m. that same day. With a time difference of 12 hours, that’s pretty much 24 hours of travel time. The best thing to do is to stay awake and go to bed as normal.
Until Monday it is mainly about settling in, i.e. getting rid of the jetlag and getting to know the island a bit.
Until Monday it is mainly about settling in, i.e. getting rid of the jetlag and getting to know the island a bit. The daily rhythm is a bit different here: The sun rises around 5:30 a.m. and sets around 6:15 p.m.. The twilight is very short. The sun goes down in about 15 minutes, then it is pitch black, because there is little street lighting. Therefore, you wake up early and go to bed earlier than at home.
Der Tagesrhythmus ist hier etwas anders: Die Sonne geht gegen 5:30 Uhr auf und gegen 18:15 Uhr unter. Die Dämmerung ist sehr kurz. Die Sonne geht in ca. 15 Minuten unter, danach ist es stockdunkel, da es wenig Straßenbeleuchtung gibt. Entsprechend steht man früh auf und geht früher ins Bett als zu Hause. But no matter what time you look out of the window, someone always passes by outside in an incredibly fast speed.