By Kevin Konczak
I can’t tell you how many athletes have asked me if they think it is worth their time and the sacrifices to attempt I.Q. Where I.Q. = Ironman Qualification. Looking for Ironman qualification? I would suggest hiring someone with actual experience in either being there themselves, or having distance background as a coach. While not necessary (good coaches come from all walks and backgrounds of life), it does help a whole lot.If you want to be a short course athlete, look for experienced short course coaches, and for the Ironman, look for someone who caters to Ironman races. Want to race the full spectrum from short through Ironman? Find someone with both credentials. They’ve been there, done it, and they would likely know how it is done. Picking the Right RaceAfter you have established the Ironman goal, and if you deem a coach is needed, the most important factor outside of the training is which race to choose? Are you better at half irons, or full? What is your best sort of course, hilly, rolling, flat? Are you an early season racer or late season racer? That can depend on which part of the country you live in, or which country you live in for that matter. While you ought to be working on your weakness, you still want to pick the race that will best give you the optimum chance at the Big Dance in Kona. Many pick Ironman Canada because most of the big-gun age groupers have already qualified and realistically don’t want to race that close to Kona. Some pick Ironman Florida, as it is shortly after Kona, and many feel the big guns are resting for the winter at that time. Some pick a very early race like Ironman New Zealand, because they figure it is waaaaaay over there, and who would be ready to race well in the middle of North America’s winter? Problem is, you will run into good racers anywhere, anytime. The days of when it was practically easier to qualify for Kona as a pro than as an age grouper are over, and have been for many, many years. The gap between pro and age groupers are vanishing by the year. So what are you going to do? Study the Race HistoryLook at the results from the previous two or three years. Look at the IQ times of the last slot, and plan on training for 10 to 15 minutes faster that the overall results. If you like flat courses certainly go for a race like Ironman Florida, or a flat half Ironman. If you are a strong hill runner or cyclist , pick one of the many hilly races. Early races are your best? Pick one in March or April. Learn the results of who finishes where. Take down names, and splits, and see where they race. Just studying the results will tell you how fast you need to be to qualify, and often, who you will have to beat (if those names appear year after year).
If you have to dodge the big guns at certain high profile races, and do a less competitive race, do it. Dodge them all you can, it is your goal you are aiming for. If you are on the cusp of a slot, or not too far from that Holy Kona Grail, there is no honor lost for doing everything in your planning to get that slot. Whether it is some race that has slots in the swamps of South America or a remote island. Provided you get that slot, you’ll have all the chance in the world come October to race the big guns.
Location, location, location
I cannot stress enough how important it is to pick a race that suits your abilities the best, as well as those with the least chances of the big guns showing up on race day. Sounds chicken, but it is your time, your money, and your goal—achieve it like a smart athlete. Nobody will remember or care where you qualified at, or who was there on the start line. When you finally do line up on Dig Me Beach, the only thing that will matter to anyone is that you are actually there, in the World Championships. Best of luck qualifying and I hope you get that coveted slot! Kevin Konczak is a USAT certified coach.