Archive | Kona Kings & Queens

Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: David McNamee

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM KoK David McNamee

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After his third place in Kona 2017, there wasn’t much mention of David McNamee as a podium contender for 2018. That only changed in the last 90 minutes of the run when it was clear that David had another great marathon and would be able to run once more through most of the field.

We probably also won’t hear many mentions of David in this year’s podium picks. He didn’t have a good race in South Africa, the best result was his validated Kona podium slot. Challenge Roth wasn’t much better, but at least he posted the fastest run split.

David’s consistent results in Kona (11th, 13th, 3rd & 3rd from 2015 to 2018) are based on his strong marathons (2:49, 2:49, 2:45 and 2:46) – and a strong run will also be needed for a great 2019 Kona result.


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

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Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Mirinda Carfrae

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM QoK Mirinda Carfrae

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Last year was Rinny’s return to Kona after having daughter “Izzy”. Her result was a solid fifth place that most athletes would be happy with, but as a three-time Kona winner, Rinny probably wasn’t looking for another Top 10 in Kona. Does she have another great Kona result in her?

As is typical for her, there are not too many full-distance data points to work with. Since last year’s Kona she only finished IM Mar del Plata – and finish is all she did, validating her slot with a sixth-place finish. She’s had a few more 70.3 results: Five races between April and June, all of them either wins or second places. But these are also not very helpful what she might do – that’s exactly what she did last year. She would have raced another 70.3 but has broken her radius which will keep from swimming much before Kona.

For a podium result or better Rinny will need to have a better run – she hasn’t yet had a sub-3 marathon after her return to racing. I’m sure that is exactly what Rinny has been working for in her Kona 2019 prep.


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

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Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Jan Frodeno

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM KoK Jan Frodeno

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Last year Jan was the overwhelming favorite for the Kona title – until he was forced to withdraw with an overuse injury right after a fantastic win at 70.3 Worlds.

In 2018 it was only an injury that held him back, this season he is also unbeaten. He won a few smaller shorter races in Germany, then also 70.3 Kraichgau in June and 70.3 Gdynia in August. While the competition may not have been super-strong in these races (not really his fault as they usually have a good field), Ironman Frankfurt in late June saw the first duel of the three German Kona winners in an Ironman outside of Hawaii. There were a few critical moments for Jan during the race: He overcooked a corner on the bike and had to take a short off-road detour, losing his nutrition. Then Sebi was able to put the pressure on him by running up to him early in the marathon. But Jan responded like a champion, running the fastest marathon of the day and winning the European Championship for the third time.

He will also be looking for his third Kona title. In his list of great races on the long-distance races, there is only one race he started and wasn’t able to finish at least on the podium: That was Kona 2017 when back issues on the run forced him to walk and jog most of the marathon, finishing 35th. Was that race just a quirk or the blueprint of how to beat him by putting pressure on him for most of the race? Athletes with a swim and/or bike strength will make it hard for him to dominate the race from the front as he did in Frankfurt. They will also try to force him to ride harder than he wants to so he can stay in striking distance for the marathon. But will that be enough to negate his run strength? For most of his wins he was able to “manage the lead” in the second half of the Run – so he may not have been forced to show his true potential on the marathon just yet. Maybe we will find out on October 12th!


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

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Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Daniela Bleymehl

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM QoK Daniela Bleymehl

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Daniela has had two great last seasons with wins in Hamburg, Roth and Italy. Her close win over Lucy Charles at Challenge Roth 2018 was at that time the fastest German time, it has since been further improved by Laura Philipp in Barcelona and by Anne Haug in Copenhagen. This year Danni had another string of wins in the half-distance, but 2019 didn’t go quite as well on the full distance: Her A-race in her hometown of Frankfurt ended in a DNF with a stomach bug she caught in race week. But she quickly recovered: Just one week later she improved her PR at Challenge Roth, even if she finished behind Lucy Charles and Sarah Crowley. Her most recent race was a win at 70.3 Zell am See.

Danni will lose some time in the swim, she was eight and nine minutes behind Lucy in Roth in the last two years. But just as in Frankfurt, there will be a couple of other strong bikers around her, and they are likely going to move through the field. Will she have the punch in her legs to shake the others, or will she – like in Frankfurt – drag a few others with her? It’s clear that she will be working hard to put time into those that are likely going to run faster than her. If she can run a marathon around 3:05, there won’t be many in Kona that can put more than a few minutes into her, and a Top 10 is definitely doable for Danni.


Thorsten: You’ve raced in Kona before, but you don’t have good memories from the race in 2016?

Daniela: My first Hawaii experience was pretty bad, at least concerning the race. On the marathon I’ve had strong pain in the abdomen and had to walk most of the course. It got even worse after finishing and I had to go to the hospital, suspecting an appendicitis.
But I also have some really nice memories of my time in Hawaii and approach this year’s race with a positive mindset. I’m really looking forward to my second trip to triathlon paradise!

T: What’s your view on your 2019 season so far? You’ve quickly erased your DNF in Frankfurt …

D: I’m okay with how the season has gone so far. Of course I’ve had some other ideas for my planned highlight at the Mainova Ironman Frankfurt, but third place at Challenge Roth just one week later was a nice consolation. In addition I was able to win three middle-distance races and two more podiums. I also noticed in my training that I have some untapped potential in all areas for the second half of the season.

T: Is there a specific goal for Kona 2019?

D: A Top 10 finish is my minimum target. But if I can achieve that or whether I can finish even further ahead, doesn’t depend only on my own shape but also on the race dynamics. A World Championship can develop in a lot of different ways.

T: Have you already decided on your strategy for the bike leg? Are there “joint plans” with other athletes that have similar strengths?

D: I’ve never set up arrangements with other athletes and don’t plan to do so. However, there are probably going to be “dynamic alliances” that form during the race between athletes with similar goals. As a strong biker that is the card I want to play, but the efforts and benefits have fit. The big challenge will be to make the right decisions in the heat of the moment.

T: In Italy you’ve won with a 3:17, in Roth you ran a 3:06 this year. Where do you see your run in the Kona conditions?

D: This year in Roth I wasn’t quite able to perform at the level I’m showing in my training on a regular basis. I’m not sure if that was because of the infection and the race in Frankfurt. But if I want to finish close to the front in Hawaii, it’ll require a better run performance. The conditions in Kona are a challenge for all athletes. With proper cooling and nutrition I hope to be able to handle the heat and show what I’m capable of.

T: Do you have any plans for after Kona?

D: I haven’t really thought past Kona yet but I can rule out another Ironman in 2019. I also haven’t planned 2020 yet, but clearly I want to erase the Frankfurt DNF. But I’ll think about it in my season break if that’s going to be next year.


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

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Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Sebastian Kienle

Kona Kings & Queens is a collaboration project with sports photographer James Mitchell to highlight some of the Pros racing in Kona. James supplies his awesome pictures (for more check his Instagram account), I add some data and commentary.

JM KoK Sebastian Kienle

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At the end of the 2018 season, Sebastian was at a turning point: When Achilles issues forced him to DNF in Kona he had to accept that his little niggles could no longer be ignored or managed. He switched from his long-term coach Lubos Bilek to Philipp Seipp, not because he was unhappy with Lubos but because he thought that he needed a fresh approach.

When it was announced in February that Sebi would race IM Frankfurt, he still hadn’t been able to get back to running and was very cautious about his chances of doing well in his summer races. It took him until May to start racing again, even if with a small base and with very little speed training. The race itself at 70.3 St. George was a mixed bag – he received a bike penalty probably for the first time in his triathlon career. (Even after watching a video of the bike group it wasn’t readily apparent what he’d done wrong.) But after regrouping he had a strong run and – even more significant – he was pain-free even the morning after the race. Things looked even better in June: At Challenge Samorin he wasn’t able to dominate the rest of the field on the bike as in previous years and started the run well behind. What followed was a half-marathon PR and a run through the field that ended in a Samorin win that he had almost written off at the of the bike.

For Ironman Frankfurt he was also quite cautious as he hadn’t been able to do the work necessary for a good marathon. Even if things didn’t quite go as planned for him when a shard of glass got embedded in his heel at the swim exit, he had a great bike and was able to close the gap to Jan Frodeno to just a few seconds in T2. After a medical removed the piece of glass, Sebi also had a great run. He was able to make up the minute he had lost in T2 and was running side-by-side with Jan for a while. But then Jan had worked through his low and slowly ran away from Sebi. In the end, Jan ran a 2:43 marathon and Sebi a 2:47 – the fastest run splits of the day.

At 70.3 Worlds, Sebi had solid bike after a disappointing swim – followed by a great run that allowed him to salvage a respectable 5th place. Probably a reminder that he needed more work in the pool but also a confidence builder for his new-found, hard-earned run strength.

What does all this mean for his Kona race? On one hand, he won’t feel that he has to “win it” on the bike as he probably did at the start of his career. On the other hand a good swim would help to set him up for a better position in the field and he should be able to join the pointy end of the field much earlier. At the same his run strength also means that he doesn’t have to do anything crazy on the bike. Even the strongest runners such as Frodo or Patrick Lange won’t be able to put more than a few minutes into him in the marathon. When he’s in the lead on the run he’ll be very hard to beat, he was able to win all Ironman races that he was leading on the run.

Will Sebi be able to take the win in Kona 2019? He is certainly on my short list of candidates.


This is an excerpt from my “Kona 2019 Rating Report”. You can download your copy here.

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