Archive | Kona Kings & Queens

Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Sarah Piampiano

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 Queens of Kona Sarah Piampiano

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As a weaker swimmer, Sarah is forced to play catch up all day. In smaller fields she’s working hard on the bike to quickly put herself back in contention for the win, but she also knows where to put in the effort for a good result in Kona. It’s unlikely we’ll see her in the picture in the live coverage and you’ll have to watch the tracker for her progress through the field. If she’s able to unleash another super-fast run after a solid swim and bike, she’ll have the Top 10 in her sights. Maybe she can even improve on her seventh places from 2015 and ’16?


Thorsten: In almost all your races, you start “from behind” after the swim. How do you approach the Kona swim?

Sarah: To be honest, my swim is what it is. I have worked for YEARS to try to improve it and I just don’t seem to be able to get much better. I feel like I have the potential to make that sub-1 hour pack, but I won’t go into the race counting on that as I’ve learned too many times that I just can’t rely on my swim. If I happen to have a great one, it will be icing on the cake, and I know we will have a strategy for that, but I’m prepared for whatever comes my way in terms of swim performance.

T: In most races you’re usually one of the fastest bikers and can quickly erase part of your swim deficit. With the deeper field and resulting groups in Kona, do you have to be more patient?

S: I definitely think coming out of the water behind puts me at a disadvantage on the bike … but also in some ways an advantage. I think the groups ride HARD and aggressively and that is why you see so many people crumble on the run. By not being in the group, I think it makes it much harder to make up time, but I also think it allows me to follow my own race plane and sets me up well for the run. I wouldn’t say I hold back on the bike, I just think when you are riding solo vs. in a pack (even at legal distances) it is hard to bridge up in a race like Kona. I’m hoping for some wind this year though as I do think the windier it gets the more it can break up groups, which helps me.

T: You’ve been running extremely well this year with a 2:53 and a 2:56, so what do you see as possible in Kona? And what will that mean in the end?

S: “Well under 3” is definitely the plan for Kona :-). This year is really the first year where I let myself just go for it on the run and its really given me the confidence to put myself out there and take chances. This year there are SO MANY strong female runners. I think we could see as many as ten women run under 3, which is unprecedented. It’s awesome. But because of that, I think it is hard for me to predict how I will end up. I showed myself in Brazil earlier this year that if I have a cracker of a day I can be in the mix. But there are so many talented women. My goal is to run my fastest and best marathon ever. If I do that, I will definitely move up. It’s just so hard to know where that will put me. I think it could be as high as Top 3, or it could be like last year where I ran sub 3 and finished 11th. I think this year versus past years I am not going into the race with a placing in mind or as my goal. I’m going in really just wanting to have my best ever performance in Kona and potentially ever. That is my goal. And if I do that – we’ll see where it puts me 🙂


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

Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Matt Hanson

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 Kings of Kona Matt Hanson

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In almost any Ironman race, Matt has to be considered among the favorites. The exception so far is Kona where he hasn’t been able to put together a good race yet – three Pro starts ending in a DNF, a 34th and a 33rd place. But he’s optimistic that he has the tools to be successful on the Big Island and has been working to put the pieces together on race day. Is this going to be the year he has a breakthrough performance in Kona?


Thorsten: So far you haven’t had a good race in Kona yet – what are the things you’re looking to change this year?

Matt: I am constantly working with my team to try to improve the way I prepare for any race. I’ve raced in Kona five times, twice as an agegrouper and three times as a Pro. I have not put together a good day there as a Pro yet, but I’ve found a few things that don’t work. I know I can be successful on the Big Island. I have the tools necessary, I just need to put the pieces together on race day.

T: Some athletes decide to shift their focus to other races than Kona …

M: Kona is the driving force for all the decisions I make as a professional triathlete. I train alone most of the time in Iowa. So racing frequently is a way for me to get an idea of how things are going and what I need to be working on. It allows me to go out and have some fun and continue to love the sport. I typically build my season around two races each year .. in the past few years it has been Kona and IM Texas. So those two races would be the only times I start a race 100% tapered and ready to roll. The other races are often longer training days, races that I go in trying to specifically work on one component, or races that I’m drawing on the Kona/Texas fitness after those races. The results in those are a secondary focus. Obviously, I want to race for the win every time I am on the line, but in a lot of the “smaller” races I will make a race plan around something that I’ve been specifically working on in training. Maybe that isn’t the way to my fastest race on the day, but in the end it is what I feel will help prepare me the most for the high priority race of that build.

T: This year you’ve won at IM Boulder. How different is it to race and train at altitude?

M: I have been to Boulder a few times and seem to get used to the altitude there within a few days. The elevation there is about 5400ft (1650m), but I don’t tend to start really struggling until after 6000ft. I left Boulder a few days after the race and have not returned to altitude since. I’ve been training at my home in Iowa and will head to Kansas in a few weeks for some final prep with the Julie Dibens “JDcrew”.

T: How much of the Kona race can be pre-planned or will you have to adapt as the day goes on?

M: I don’t think we will pre-plan much if any of the race. I’ll have targets averages, etc., but in a race with this much talent and where the weather and conditions are going to be such a big factor I think it will be mostly reacting on what is going on around me.

T: Any plans for “winter” racing such as Mar del Plata last year?

M: I will make all plans for any late 2019 or 2020 races after Kona. I’ve stuck to a very similar schedule for the last few years, but with the North American Championships leaving Texas things will likely be different. I would love to do Challenge Roth, but summer racing always depends on getting an early Kona slot.


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

Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Sarah Crowley

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 Queens of Kona Sarah Crowley

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It’s always fun to see Sarah race: She isn’t interested in “placing” but looks for ways to win. In the last two years in Kona she was trying to go with Daniela on the bike when she was working her way to the front. Even if she eventually had to let Daniela go, this helped her start the run in a great position. In 2017 she was able to claim third place after a run battle with Heather Jackson, in 2018 things didn’t go quite as well but she still finished in sixth place.

This year she has been injury-free and improved all her PRs: Fastest swim in Cairns, fastest bike, run and overall in Roth. Her run PR now stands at 3:00:02, and if she can do her first sub-3 marathon in Kona, she’ll definitely be once again in contention for the podium. But she won’t just be resting her legs for a fast run, just as in the last two years I expect her to go with Daniela on the bike. How long will she be able to stay with Daniela this year?


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

Kona 2019 Kings & Queens: Cameron Wurf

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.

Cameron Wurf JM Kings of Kona

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Cameron has made huge gains as a triathlete in 2017 (17th in Kona) and 2018 (9th in Kona) In both races he was the fastest bike rider and T2 leader but fell back on the run. His better placing in 2018 was mainly due to an improved run, but his 3:06 marathon last year was just good enough for a Top 10.

Cam has continued to improve his run in the 2019 season: His marathon times have been 2:56 (Western Australia, December 2018), 2:50 (Australia, May 2019), 2:50 (Roth, July) and then an impressive run course record 2:45 in Italy (September).

All of these improvements indicate that he’ll be an even bigger Kona player than last year. He was roughly ten minutes behind third place, so a 2:55 marathon would put him into podium territory which would certainly be another nice step forward. But will three weeks be enough to recover from Italy for another great race in Kona?

After Italy, the other contenders can’t be 100% certain to catch him on the run, so Cam will make them work a bit harder on the bike. A better run will also mean that he can hold on to his lead even longer than last year .. and leading in Kona can give you an extra spring in your step. Once again the out-and-back section in the Energy Lab could play an important role in the race: Either the leader gains confidence because his lead is still large – or the chasers will realize that they will be able to close the gap.

With his racing in 2019 and the final strong performance in Italy just three weeks out from Kona, Cam has already achieved one important goal: He’ll be in every male Pros’s head for Kona 2019!


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

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