How to Qualify - Kona Benchmarks
by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)
In my last article in our How to Qualify for Kona series I talked about some of the general levels of fitness that I typically encounter among athletes who qualify. Many of these measures of fitness are a little abstract, especially for those not super familiar with WKO+ or my own method of performance modeling: CTL, VO2 score, etc.
In this piece I want to bring some of those numbers down to a rubber meets the road perspective so that we can begin to answer the most basic of questions –- what sort of training sets/sessions should an athlete be able to accomplish to indicate they are in Kona shape?
This question is a little complicated by the oft ignored fact that an athlete’s fitness will change over the course of the year. Therefore, it’s of limited value to say that Kona fitness equates to a 5k time of X, unless the athlete runs a 5k the day before the race! The true value of these benchmarks lies in identifying how these standards should progress over the course of a year to let the athlete know that they are on track as they move towards his or her Kona bid. Thus, an element of time is added to the equation.
Ideally, these benchmarks will also shift in specificity in accordance with training emphasis from indicators of general fitness to indicators of specific (ironman) fitness as the athlete nears the event.
So, without further ado, what are some of the key benchmarks that an athlete should be targeting if Kona is realistically within sight?
Let’s start with a case study example of a 20-45 year old male who builds to qualifying fitness (VO2 score=65) over the course of a year.
Expected progressions for a 20-45 year old male on the Kona path are shown for a number of test sets/events that I typically include in an athletes program, including:
While I have significantly more experience dealing with male qualifiers, I’ll offer some thoughts on benchmarks that a female athlete in the 20-45 year oold age range may want to target based on the relationship between male female race power/pace:
A couple of notes related to the tables above:
In our next article on How to Qualify I’ll take a look in a little more depth at what your ability/inability to hit these long and short benchmarks tells you about your strengths and weaknesses as an athlete and what it infers about your optimal Ironman pacing strategy come race day. Until then…