“I looked up to my dad and guys like Mark Allen and Greg Welch, and I knew that one day I wanted to do that race.” Despite an interest in multisport, McKenzie spent his teenage years playing Australian football and hoped to eventually turn pro.
In 2011, McKenzie broke his leg in a pickup football game, and used triathlon to get himself back into physical shape (ultimately dropping 60 pounds), with the goal of racing Iron man Arizona. “ Kong was still in the back of my mind but I never really thought it was possible,” says McKenzie, who works as a global events' manager for Lululemon in Vancouver.
Doing the physical work to prepare for a solid qualifying performance is of course important, but having a strong mental game is equally essential, advises McKenzie, who is self-coached. I have a great support system at work where people know I’m getting out in the middle of the day for a swim or a run and it’s not a question of why.
If you aspire to qualify for Iron man World Championship as an age -group triathlete, this interview with sub-10 Kong -qualifier Emmett Kelly will explain exactly what you need to do. In this episode of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast, we talk with Emmett Kelly, a 35-year-old IT technician and father of two young boys who qualified for Iron man World Championship.
Today, after pledging to make 2017 his year, his FTP sits at 308, giving him a power-to-weight ratio of 4.4 W/kg. With a 1:01:17 swim, 5:30:25 bike and 2:54:55 run, his overall finishing time that solidified his spot to Kong was 09:34:28.
Hearing about Emmett’s win was sweet, but what made it even sweeter was learning what he did leading up to it. If qualifying for Iron man World Championship wasn’t impressive enough, what you won’t hear on the podcast is that this year Emmett also broke THREE Irish bike course records, two of which are for races that have been in existence for more than a decade.
If you’re starting to think Emmett has some unfair athletic advantage over the rest of us, he assured us he doesn’t. Consistency is his biggest reason for success, sharing, “I live in the real world.
I have a wife, two kids under the age of three, and I train in the mornings and at lunchtime if work is flexible.” Emmett arrived in Kong a couple of weeks before Iron man World Championship 2017 to get acclimated.
Emmett’s view of the race this year will be much different from he expected, but that hasn’t broken his spirit. Thousands of age group triathletes begin the year looking to qualify and only a fraction of them make it to the start line.
Every Iron Man event around the world offers a minimum of one qualifying spot per age group. More spots are given to a race depending on registration numbers and age category.
Iron Man Taiwan, Barcelona, Louisville and Florida all take place roughly two to three weeks before or after Kong. Once September comes along many of North America’s top age group triathletes retire for the season.
But in 2015, the US federal government put a stop to this, deeming the activity to be an illegal gambling enterprise. Without admitting any wrongdoing, Iron Man paid over two and a half million dollars to the government.
If you complete 12 full distance Iron Man races over the course of your career, you may be one of a hundred triathletes granted a spot to Kong. If you meet those criteria your then put into a lottery, of which a hundred triathletes are selected.
Photo Courtesy of CervéloLastly, Iron Man holds an Annual Kong Auction bidding off a select number of slots to next year’s world championship. The minimum bidding price is $10,000 and all the proceeds go to the efforts of the Iron Man Foundation.
The foundation was created in 2003 as a way to “leave a legacy through philanthropy, volunteerism and grant making by supporting various athletic, community, education, health, human services and public benefit organizations around the world.” Auction winner(s) receive; The training you put into qualifying for Kong is considerable, but your equipment is just as important, and the bike is a key part of that.
Equipment choices can be very individual, but over the past 13 years, Kong qualifiers have chosen Carmelo more than any other bike brand. In 2017 for instance, Carmelo outnumbered Trek and Specialized (2nd and 3rd place brands) by 300 bikes and made up roughly 25% of the field.
The lucky few gets a chance to prove to themselves that “Anything is Possible,” the mantra that has become a mainstay of the Iron Man lifestyle. Considered the most challenging one-day sporting event in the world, the Iron Man World Championship offers athletes of all abilities, ages, shapes and sizes the opportunity to test their limits.
Those in the military can also qualify at select events, while hand cycle division athletes can compete at a qualifying event in their region to earn a spot at the start line in Kong. Every full-distance Iron Man event offers a minimum of one qualifying spot per age group for the world championship.
The Iron Man Legacy Program grants 100 loyal athletes an opportunity to compete in Kong at least once in their lifetime. The 2014 Superfood Triathlon in Coronado, California offered 20 qualifying slots to the Military Division of the 2015 Iron Man World Championship.
Since the very first race, held on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1978, the series has growth into a movement spanning the globe. Since the very first race, held on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1978, the series has growth into a movement spanning the globe.
The competition to get to Kong has never been steeper, but a targeted program can make all the difference. Iron man is one sport that rewards solid work ethic over natural talent.
It should be noted that evolving an athlete to the highest level is a slightly longer path than just this final seven weeks of training. This training program is an example of the kind of work you have to do to take your goals to the next level.
This training plan combines pace and heart rate targets. Key Iron man workouts are structured around a qualifying time pace for the discipline (once you select your goal Iron man event, find the race splits of the most recent age -group winners).
Other sessions will be heart rate-oriented, so you can let your heart rate dictate the pace for the day rather than trying to push for pace or time. This particular plan is designed primarily for experienced triathletes between the ages of 25 and 55.
Outside this age bracket, training emphasis should be shifted to less overall volume and more recovery time. In the case of younger athletes, lower volume should be coupled with higher intensity.
As for ability, currently, your race performance, and fitness should indicate that you are capable of finishing within an hour of the goal qualifying finish time. You should be healthy and willing to commit a fair bit of time and energy to prioritize your training.
You must have had at least 16 weeks of consistent training under your belt. It is preferable that you have raced a minimum of once or twice during this period over an Olympic-distance or half-Ironman, and generally have a high level of triathlon fitness.
Qualifying for Kong is a big goal. Consider getting an experienced coach with a track record of excellence to help personalize and refine your individual program.
Like an Olympian or professional athlete, it takes a deeper look at the finer details of your training environment, skills and goals to maximize your potential. This program emphasizes six kinds of swims: Pace work: this swim focuses primarily on achieving your goal race pace.
This is a great set for learning even pacing. » Build threshold: Swimming done at faster than goal pace, but slower than sprinting.
» DPS: “Distance per stroke,” reducing the number of strokes per pool length (and your stroke count) means you are pulling more water and gliding more efficiently. This session is combined with an increased emphasis on drills.
Stroke length is a key part of the formula for faster swimming. » Aerobic power: Sustained sets of aerobic swimming, which build endurance at a moderate level of intensity while maintaining good form.
» Strength: includes pull buoy (P) and pull with paddles (PPD) swimming to build strength. » TT: time trials to build fitness, learn to pace and gauge progress.
MS: 6-8 x 1’ (1’) high RPM (105+) and 5’ single-leg drill alt left leg and right leg by 45”. Wednesday Iron Man Daytime: 2:00 WU: 30’ easy.
Performance pointer: When you see “key day” in your week, make it your goal to put energy and attention into these sessions. A large part of iron man success is sheer practice volume: mental toughness, nutrition, hydration, and specificity to the course environment.
Performance pointer: If you have a wetsuit-swim Iron man, you should swim open water in your wetsuit at least once a week in the final four weeks to adjust to the feel of the wetsuit and the rhythm of open-water swimming. You can wear your wetsuit in the pool.
Sunday Iron Man Daytime: Aerobic endurance, 6:00, on terrain that simulates your iron man course. Try not to stop except briefly to refill your bottles.
Run: Off the bike, 30’, on terrain that simulates your iron man course, at RP. Performance pointer: Your goal is to finish rides strong yet tired and not depleted.
Often Eat and regularly, especially early in the session when you aren’t as hungry yet. Try setting your watch on countdown timer for 15- or 20-minute intervals and fuel with every chime.
Bike: Recovery and technique, 1:00. MS: 7-9 x 1’ (1’) high RPM (105+) and 5’ single-leg drill alt left leg and right leg by 45”.
ThursdayBike: Aerobic base, 1:30, on flat to rolling terrain. Include in your ride 4×7’ (3.5’) at 50-60 RPM in a hard gear to build strength.
Performance pointer: Weekends have long sessions, so eat and sleep well on Friday and Saturday nights, and plan nutritious snacks. Sunday Iron Man DAY Bike: Aerobic endurance, 5:30, on terrain that simulates your iron man course.
Run: Off the bike, 45’, on terrain that simulates your Iron man course, at goal RP. performance pointer: Windy days offer a chance to practice patience and to focus on form and aero position on bike.
Wednesday Bike: Aerobic base, 1:30, on flat to rolling terrain. Performance pointer: Recovery week is a good time to schedule massage and get in some extra stretching.
Run: Off the bike for 20’ on terrain that simulates your Iron man course, at RP. Sunday Swim: DPS + technique, 1:00 WU: 300-400 incl.
MS: 20×100 as 5x(100D, 2×100 DPS, 100 kick and 100 back). Run: 1:15, on terrain that simulates your iron man course, at RP.
Bike: Recovery and technique, 1:00. MS: 5-6 x 1:30 (45”) high RPM (105+) and 5’ single-leg drill alt left leg and right leg by 45”.
Run: Aerobic base, 3:00 off the bike, on terrain that simulates your Iron man course, at RP. ThursdayBike: Aerobic base, 1:30, on flat to rolling terrain.
Include 6×5’ (2.5’) at 50-60 RPM in a hard gear to build strength. Saturday Iron Man Daytime: Aerobic endurance, 6:30, on terrain that simulates your Iron man course.
Run: Off the bike, 30’, on terrain that simulates your iron man course, at RP. Performance pointer: try out your race-day apparel in training at least once if you haven’t had a chance to race in it.
MS: 6-7 x 1:30 (45”) high RPM (105+) and 5’ single-leg drill alt left leg and right leg by 45”. Run: Off the bike aerobic base, 1:30, on terrain that simulates your iron man course, at RP.
Performance pointer: It’s not uncommon for your energy to wax and wane during long bricks and during Iron man. Learn to be patient, and focus on maintaining run cadence (90-95 foot strikes per minute) and posture during a tough stretch.
MS: 500 (20”) 400 (20”) as PPD, 400-300-200-100-2 x 50 (all with 20”) as P (no paddles) at RP + :03-:05/100. Sunday Iron Man Daytime: Aerobic endurance, 4:30, on terrain that simulates your Iron man course.
HR rises from Zn 3 to 4 through the set. Performance pointer: Any time in training that you get to run on fresher legs, is a chance to gain power as a runner.
Run with good form, strong posture and efficient turnover to reinforce and build run strength and prowess. Bike: Aerobic base, 1:30, flat to rolling terrain.
Sunday Iron Man DAY Bike: Aerobic endurance, 2:00, on terrain that simulates your iron man course. Build speed 1-2 mph by 1:00 with the last 1:00 at RP.
Try not to stop except briefly to refill your bottles. Run: Off the bike, 30’, on terrain that simulates your iron man course, at RP.
Performance pointer: Remind yourself of the effort and focus that you are bringing into this race, and the awesome opportunity that you have created for yourself to succeed. Draw confidence from knowing that you have prepared to the best of your abilities.