Conquering Kona: 3 Questions with Meredith Kessler
In the weeks leading up to the Ironman National Championships we had a chance to ask Meredith Kessler about how she prepares to take the world's stage in Kona.
1. What does it feel like to be the favorite US female pro heading into Kona?
There are many US favorites; There are a talented bunch of females and on any given day, one have us has the ability to pull out a very successful race. My job is to prepare as well as I can, aim to execute to the best of my ability on race day, and then see where this falls at the end of the day. You can only control yourself and your preparation leading up to the big event so my first objective is to get to the start as close to 100% as possible. You can then focus on the course, wind and heat. If you still are having a good day, you can then worry about the favorites and competition – favorites are often just on paper sometimes and may not be a factor on race day!
2. How would you summarize your race plan for Kona? And what percentage of your preparation is mental versus physical? Is it 50/50 or different?
Our race plan for Kona is quite simple; prepare as best as we can for the multitude of conditions race day can throw at you. This includes the heat, wind, crowds, course, and chaos of race week. This is one of the reasons, for the past two years, we have come to the big island a month early. All athletes are different yet for me, I need to adapt to the heat and can’t get off the plane a couple of days before Kona and expect to perform in the brutal weather especially since we train in 50-70 degree temperatures in the Bay Area. If I can ride the Queen K and swim in the ocean many times before the race, it will help create a comfort level to deal with the unexpected on race day. Thus, the race is probably 70% mental yet with proper preparation, you can reduce this so it is hopefully 50/50 on race day!
3. As a Kona athlete, you spend a lot of time in the area preparing for race day. So if there was a “Meredith Kessler’s Guide to Kona”, what would you include in it?
The old cliché is practice makes perfect. The "Meredith Kessler Guide to Kona" is to train on the course, pure and simple. There is no way to replicate the multitude of wind conditions you may face on the Queen K unless you are in them. There is little you can do to create an environment that is like what you will face when running in the energy lab unless you are there experiencing it. This was a hard lesson coming to Kona my first two times and thus we have tried to minimize the effects the course can have on an athlete by training in the environment as much as possible. If you are unable to get to the island early, I completely suggest training in the hottest part of your day, wherever that may be. In addition, hitting the sauna after a harder session for about 15-20 minutes a couple times a week before you leave for Kona - can give you a little build in your prep to race in the heat.
Meredith Kessler grew up in Columbus, Ohio and attended Syracuse University on a Field Hockey Scholarship. Using her college graduation money she purchased her first tri-bike in 2000 and never looked back. Since then Meredith has competed in over 50 full Ironman races all over the world. When she's not racing, training with Matt Dixon of purplepatch Fitness, or spending time with her husband Aaron (also her high school sweatheart!), she's writing a series of manuals called "Life of a Triathlete". You can stay up to date with Meredith at her website, on Facebook, or @mbkessler on Twitter.