On Saturday, Oct. 21, almost 2,000 athletes will converge on Kona, Hawaii for the 2006 Ironman World Championships. Only a handful of athletes from 33 qualifier events held around the globe make the cut to compete in the race, which consists of a 3.8 km swim, a 180 km bike leg, and a full 42.2 km marathon.
This year five athletes from the corridor qualified for the championships at different Ironman events. Paul Suter, Marie-Anne Prevost and Mike Edwards will be competing in Kona, while Christine Suter had to pull out because of a foot injury and Squamish’s Mae Palm elected not to go this year.
Paul Suter also sustained an injury recently, tearing a ligament in his ankle in the Rubble Creek Classic trail run on Sept. 24. He also hasn’t had much time to train since Ironman Canada because of work commitments. Still, he’s chalking up the Hawaii race as a learning experience.
“(My ankle) will be fine, but it may slow me down a bit,” he said. “In the end that might be a good thing. I’m really going to Hawaii just to compete again and be part of it, and get some experience for racing there — I’m sure I’ll be back someday to actually race it, it just won’t be this year.”
One thing that Suter hopes to practice in Hawaii is getting proper nutrition through the race, something that worked well for him at Ironman Canada this year.
“I’m going to see if I can improve on that a bit, because it’s something that I can control and change without much effort. If I’m successful with nutrition again I think I’ll have the strength to complete the event — it just comes down to how good my plan is and how it carries me through.”
Nutrition is even more important given the heat and humidity of Hawaii. To train for those conditions Suter has been riding his stationary bike at home with the heater cranked up and a few extra layers of clothing.
He nearly cramped up and had some stomach problems this week, which only reminded him how important it was to eat and drink properly through the race. “I nearly bonked in my basement,” he said.
“(The heat) is a slight concern, I’m only going about three days in advance so there’s no time to acclimatize, so I have to try acclimatizing at home. That’s definitely given me some benefit, I find my heart is going about 20 beats per minute faster than it should be because of the heat. That’s not something you want to experience for the first time on race day.”
Christine Suter suffered a stress fracture in her foot while running out of the water at the Squamish Triathlon. Although she assumed she would be back for Ironman she remains on crutches almost three months later.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” she said. “Getting to Hawaii is the ultimate for me, it’s the Olympics of triathlon.”
Whether she tries to qualify for the world championships again depends on whether she can rehabilitate the injury, which is her main focus.
Marie-Anne Prevost decided not to race Ironman Canada this year, opting instead for a qualifier race in Idaho in June. Her goal was to qualify for the world championships, and she knew that the Canadian event in late August wouldn’t leave her enough time to recover.
Prevost’s only goal in Hawaii is to have as good a race as she had in the qualifier in terms of time. She placed second overall in her age category, in what was also her first Ironman experience.
“I’m ready to go tomorrow,” she said. “I can’t say I feel rested, but that’s coming. The build up was a little bit harder, even though I had a break in between races, because it makes for a long season of training.
“My focus this time is to almost duplicate what I did in Idaho, and by duplicate I mean keep the same mental plan and mental focus. That will make the biggest difference for me.”
One of the biggest ways she can cut down her time is in the transition.
“Now I know what to expect,” she said. “I had never done an Ironman before and I didn’t know there would be people there asking me if I wanted help. Not thinking I said thanks, because the volunteer was so friendly, but I didn’t need anybody’s help and it caused more confusion than anything else. Next time I’ll just say no thank you and keep going, which should take about two minutes off my time.”
Prevost’s main concern in Hawaii is the wind that often blows in from the ocean at this time of year. If it’s a head wind or hits her from the side it can make that leg a lot tougher.
“The wind is definitely a detriment to going faster on the bike, but I hope I can stay strong and positive to the end no matter what the conditions are. I’m preparing mentally for tough and dysfunctional conditions.”
After the race Prevost will take a holiday in Hawaii, joined by her partner and parents. After that she says she has no plans to race or train for anything.
“I haven’t looked past October 22,” she said. “I’m going to finish Hawaii, take a holiday, and take a complete mental break from even planning for the next race season.”
You can follow the Ironman world championships online at www.ironmanlive.com .