In September 2015 Sierra Ryland created her blog Sierra4Kona about her quest to qualify for the Ironman world championships in Kona. Sierra subsequently nailed the qualification race at the Taupo in March 2016 and her blog has since become about her training journey to Kona over the New Zealand winter months.
Sierra and her husband Scott flew out to Kona a week before the race and here is Scott’s insight into a supporter’s perspective on preparing for this iconic feat of endurance.
RS: How has preparation for race day been going over the winter months – I understand you’ve been working hard in the gym to prepare yourself for the hot conditions?
SR: I’ve been working very hard over Wellington’s winter – I’ve been on the Tony Wolken bulking workout plan – which has involved chucking around a lot of tin in the gym. The plan being that all these long distance triathletes are going to be small and skinny, so to stand out I’ll get big and muscular. This has been combined with a rigorous regime of beer/heat training to make sure I’m semi-coherent once Sierra finishes. However, acclimation has proven to be tough – beer/liquor is very very cheap over here.
Also I raced a 10k race on Sunday (my second day here) – it was 32 degrees at 0800. I melted. Nothing in Wellington can prepare anyone for that. I lasted 8km OK-ish and them just blew up, and got absolutely smashed by Anthea Morrison (which was less surprising – it happens often). I went from a 42’04 in the Wellington Road Champs to 49’40 in Kona – and the Kona race felt harder. I was, however, 2nd male in the 30-34 age group – which somewhat made up for it – I got a “cup”.
RS: Ironman training through winter is hard, what have been your greatest challenges and what has kept you motivated through the tough times over the last few months?
SR: I think what’s kept me going through a particularly tough Wellington winter was the thought of 3 weeks lazing on picturesque Hawaiian beaches and needing to go shirtless without causing an international incident. A possible contributing factor, may, have been living with someone training 20 plus hours a week over winter – makes one feel a little guilty about not doing anything because it is raining/cold/can’t be arsed.
RS: How’s your taper been going this week – what kind of training have you been doing and how are you adapting to the local conditions? Any fine tuning to your nutrition?
SR: This isn’t a taper week for me. This is probably my biggest week of iron-supporter training. This week is about developing one’s tolerance for afternoon beers and early morning ferrying to various training locations. I’ve slowly been building up the evening beers (and Hawaii has an excellent selection) – tonight or tomorrow night (Monday/Tuesday) is likely the biggest drinking day, with a wee sharpener on Wednesday and Thursday and a rest night on Friday before the big event on Saturday. With the traditional Kona Underpants Run on Thursday – there is potential to get a little carried away then. But I think my training this far has prepared me well for any eventually.
Local conditions, as mentioned, the heat has made the drinking a little easier – but the effects a lot more effective. Today has been a big “training” day starting in the sun at 4 and at 8:30-ish (local time at the minute) training effects are being felt.
In terms of fine tuning, in Wellington I feasted mostly on craft beer – and that’s continued in Kona. But it has been cheaper – which is certainly helping Sierra’s shopping budget.
RS: And finally what’s your strategy for race day and what are you looking forward to about the experience?
SR: Race day strategy – I’ve been lucky to have Kona veteran Deano Gaskin staying in the same apartment complex. So I’ve really taken advantage of his vast knowledge of ironman athlete supporting tactics. These have been invaluable – things like where to stop and provide icely cold drinks (in the motel chilly bin) and the ideal time to head down to the BBQ to make tea while the athletes rest.
Also looking forward to a lot of free SWAG from the expo – particular items on my wishlist include free goggles, hat, sunglasses and gels. I might even be persuaded to part with some precious cash for new shoes and skux tri kit.
On race day, I’m looking forward to watching some people struggling on the run – tempting karma I suppose, but it’s just great entertainment. Also looking
forward to seeing Sierra cross the finish line – the culmination of 3 years of work to represent NZ on the world stage in her chosen sport – really – is an experience that you can never buy. That’ll be pretty sweet for us both. Also it’s a great excuse to celebrate with both of our parents who’ve made the trip over – I think it’ll be a pretty special day for us both.