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Interview with Meredith Kessler on Kona 2014

The last weeks I’ve been busy working on my Kona Rating Report. I have a lot of interesting content, and I still need a few more days to finalize the best Kona preview possible! I’m planning to release it on Saturday, September 20th – three weeks before the race in Kona. It’ll be a70+-page PDF document with more information about the race and the Pro participants than you’ll find anywhere else! As last year, I’ll release as „donation-ware“ – you can name your own price (including free) when you order. You can already pre-order the report so you’ll be among the first to receive it!

Meredith To give you a little preview of the content, here is an interview that I was able to have with Meredith Kessler, one of the best and friendliest athletes I’ve been in contact with. (There will be about ten more interviews like this one in the Kona Rating Report!)

Thorsten: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! For those that don’t know you yet, can you give us a brief overview of you as a person and as an athlete?

Meredith: Thank you so much for the opportunity to chat with you Thorsten. As I have mentioned before, we all really appreciate and value the time you put into our sport – to thoroughly analyze and cover most races in the authentic way that you do – thank you!

My name is Meredith Kessler. Currently my husband, Aaron, and I have lived in San Francisco, California the past 14 years. It has been a pleasure racing professionally the past 5 seasons, having started racing the Ironman distance a couple weeks after I graduated college back in 2000. Fifty-two Ironmans later, there is still ample learning to be absorbed and I certainly appreciate the fact that we hit our prime in our sport a little bit later in life!

We are grateful to have such a valuable team of people around us – family, friends and the purplepatch community led by Matt Dixon – who I have so thankfully been coached by for nearly a decade. As I have always said, I am JUST the technician in this job – there is a core team of vital people who help make the “US” as successful as “WE” can be every day – and I mean this.

T: After your 2013 7th place, you took care of qualifying in March by winning IM New Zealand. After that you were racing (and winning!) a number of 70.3s  but no more IMs.

M: We genuinely feel fortunate to have had the season that we have had so far for the team – 5 victories and one 3rd place finish. Like in every sport and during every season, the highs are high and the lows are low. No season is perfect for anyone thus the highs are never taken for granted. With four more races to go in 2014, we will aim to do everything in our power to stay fresh, healthy, focused and happy! All of which are so important for progress and hopeful success.

T: What makes Kona special?

M: The most important race is the next race on the calendar – yet there is always Kona floating around the mind since it’s out sports Super Bowl. The race is special because it is the best athletes in our sport on a worldwide stage in some of the toughest conditions the human body can endure. This is the recipe for a special race with history, tradition, and memories unlike no other sporting event on the planet. Who would have thought thirty years ago some volcanic rock out in the middle of the Pacific would have this sort of athletic draw throughout the globe – it is truly amazing!

T: How do you prepare for Kona, and how is that different from a “regular” IM?

M: After many Ironman races, I know my body and throughout the year, I have adapted to train in 50-70 degree Fahrenheit weather. In my mind, the toughest aspect of Kona are the weather conditions so my body has to be used to this extreme heat or I will falter – no ifs, ands, buts about it. I can’t jump off a plane a few days before the race and expect to do well because my body cannot handle these extreme changes. The bottom line, I need to train in the Kona conditions in order to be comfortable toeing the line with the best in the world.

In Kona, your weaknesses and vulnerabilities rise to the top and usually come out on the run. The anticipation of the big stage, sun, heat, wind, and injuries all weigh heavily on the mind. If you are not prepared for these things, the course will eat you alive. Although Ironmans are always difficult, there are some races where you might get away with not having your ‘A’ game. However, in Kona, there are 29 other women who are the best in the world who are toeing the line with the same goal in mind so having your ‘B’ game won’t cut it. Half the battle is trying to get to the start line as close to 100% as possible and then you can deal with the course, conditions, and competition.

T: This year in Kona, what would be a great result for you?

M: Of course it is personally important to try to improve on last year’s result – that is always the goal. While the race needs to be a celebration of everything that went into arriving there in one piece, a podium finish is a great result for anyone in the field. We are all waiting for that one raw, subtle, precious Kona moment which is a vision that is in the back of everyone’s mind throughout the season.

I have said this before and I will say it again, we are all competing against ourselves, the course, and the conditions. If you happen to get through these things, you can then worry about the competition. If I happen to be in the mix on the run portion of the race, I won’t be surprised to see any of the women who toed the line that day right beside me.

T: Who are your top picks for this year?

M: As our sport has continued to progress and flourish, one could sit here and tell you about 10+ potential podium finishers and overall champions. The obvious favorites never fail to deliver or impress and the dark horses come fully primed to jockey the front runners. I can’t even bring myself to name any names – as there is so much talent – I would be fearful of forgetting worthy competitors. I never underestimate the power, strength, fortitude, determination, grit and tenacity of ANY of the girls on the course – they are there for a REASON. No one is necessarily more deserving of the win than another person. I promise you that each and every athlete has done everything they can to be in the best condition possible for Kona – regardless of any adversity they have encountered along the way.

T: You wouldn’t be able to prepare for Kona without your sponsors. Which companies are you working with and why? 

M: The next few months allow us as athletes to properly showcase our partners a little bit more than we can/do during the season. It’s our time to really GIVE BACK to them while the world championship hype is at its peak. We will be working with all of our partners, in the months leading up to Kona, to get the proper message out about the benefits of using their products or services. We take all of our partners very seriously as a give/give type relationship. It is not just our title sponsors like Saucony, Enve Wheels or Roka Wetsuits who everyone knows produces amazing gear. It is highlighting Boardman who is introducing North America to their amazing bikes, showing the world two Bay area born companies Kit Order and Bungalow Munch (and both are started by my good friends), or promoting quality niche products like Xlab, ISM, Rudy Project, Challenge Tires, Ceramic Speed, Atomic Coating or Powertap – they are all a part of our family and involved in getting us to the starting line at the World Championship races!

T: Thanks again, Meredith, hopefully all the careful preparation will allow you to take another step forward in Kona!

(Photo Credit: Jay Prasuhn)

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