DES MOINES, Iowa -- Ironman Kona is billed as the toughest endurance race on earth and it’s a little more than a week away.
I’ve been training for this for about eight months. That adds up to hundreds of miles of swimming, biking and running.
My coach, Matt Zepeda, founder of Zoom Performance, is the mastermind behind my workouts. He got me through Ironman Boulder in 2015 and Ironman Wisconsin last year. But Ironman Kona is different.
“First, it is that difficult. It is that hot and it is that windy and there’s an extra pressure at Kona because it is the World Championships,” says Zepeda.
I’ll be swimming 2.4 miles in Kialua Bay, where the saltwater is typically 79 degrees. After that, it’s on to the bike for a 112 mile ride from Kialua to Hawi. The winds can be so strong it’s not unusual for riders to be blown off their bikes. The final phase is a hot 26.2 mile run that winds through town and up to the Natural Energy Lab on Kona.
This race will be my most challenging yet, which is reflected in my training.
“We’re coming out of the three week most challenging block you’ve had in three years,” says Zepeda. “It’s the most difficult physical and mental three week block that I’ve put you into – and that’s a little bit of a risk, because if you’re not able to recover from the mental aspect, this close to the race, that can really hang on.”
Recovering mentally has been a challenge. I’ve had some meltdowns during training. This is a text exchange with Zepeda during one of my particularly difficult swim workouts.
Me: I can’t keep up with the allotted times… Killing me.
Zepeda: Do your best. That’s all I want. Push through to be great because that’s what is inside you.
Me: I want to cry.
Zepeda: Go ahead. Then come back being fierce as a lion. Bad moments happen. Have to work through them. You got this.
“I have to push you past your comfort zone – send you into the unknown a little bit and then kind of bring you back,” says Zepeda.
Overcoming the mental challenges of the day to day grind of training is key. Zepeda says that has always been one of my strengths. As for my weaknesses – “Your biggest weakness, like many endurance athletes, they are not able to take a clear look at where they’re at and how far they’ve come.”
No one knows exactly what race day will hold. I do know it won’t be perfect. Like life, there will be challenges. Zepeda says, how I deal with them will determine my success.
“We have to remember when we’re taking on this kind of a challenge, sometimes a win is just getting started… just taking your first step.”
You can help Sonya and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by making a donation to her cause online.
You can also join Sonya for a fundraiser on Thursday, October 5th and Vivian's Diner and Drinks at 400 Walnut Street in Des Moines. $25 will get you in the door to enjoy food, a cash bar and to bid on silent auction items. You'll find more details on Sonya's Facebook page.