How To Qualify For The Ironman World Championships | Everything You Need To Know About Kona!

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- Now each year, thousands of triathletes start their season

with one goal in mind and that is to get themselves

to the IRONMAN World Championships in Hawaii.

- Yeah, it is one of the toughest events in the world

for triathletes to train for and earn a spot at.

So how do you get to Kona?

(science noise)

- [Fraser] The IRONMAN World Championships takes place

in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii in October of every year.

- Yeah, and what better way to celebrate than to don

our new Kona edition GTN tee shirts

for this year's IRONMAN World Championships in Hawaii.

If you'd like to get your hands on one of

these very nice tee shirts, if you ask me,

you can preorder them heading on over to our GTN shop

and the link for that is onscreen somewhere right now.

- Yeah, but let's get back to getting to Kona, as it were.

Now, every year there is approximately 100,000 people

competing around the world to get to Kona.

There are only two and a half, or 2,400 athletes

that are able to compete in Kona.

So, given that's only just over 2% of the total number

of people who are racing each year,

that's obviously not that many

and it means that it is, well,

a heck of an achievement to get yourself there.

- [Mark] On that note, let's discuss

the qualification process, because every full distance

IRONMAN event has on offer a minimum of one qualification,

one slot for the IRONMAN World Championships

per age group category.

Now there are additional slots on offer

that are then divided up,

according to the size of the age group categories.

For example, the 35 to 39 and the 40 to 44

age group categories tend to be the most popular,

have the most competitors in them,

and therefore the most slots.

So, in that case, you don't necessarily have to be

the winner of that age group category

to actually get yourself a slot.

- Now, in 2019, the races with the most spots

were Regional Championships, which were held in Frankfurt,

Cairns, South Africa, Texas and in Argentina.

Now, just because these races have more spots,

doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to have

a greater chance of qualifying, because by default, usually,

those extra number of spots usually means

that the competition is going to be that much fiercer.

So, do bear in mind the fact that these slot numbers

can change from year to year,

so before you hit that registration button,

do do a little bit of research.

- Yeah, absolutely.

Now to throw a little bit of a curve ball in there,

there are a few shorter IRONMAN 70.3 events

that you can also qualify from.

We got IRONMAN 70.3 Hawaii, Shanghai, Xiamen and Liuzhou.

Now, this qualification process is where the main bulk

of slots is taken from, but that is not the only way

that you can get yourself to the World Championships,

'cause you also have the IRONMAN Legacy Program

and the auction.

Now, the IRONMAN Legacy Program is now in its eighth year

and it rewards the most loyal IRONMAN athletes with a chance

to go to the IRONMAN World Championships.

Now, to be eligible, you have to have completed 12 IRONMANs,

or a minimum of 12 IRONMANs.

You must never have been to the IRONMAN World Championships,

or at least competed at the IRONMAN World Championships.

You must have completed an IRONMAN in the last two years,

and also be entered for an IRONMAN in the current year.

And this year, IRONMAN have 175 Legacy slots taken for Kona.

- And then we've got the auction process

where there's five slots that are auctioned off

on a weekly basis, and this goes on eBay.

The first four of those slots, well,

they started being auctioned in April, and they all

benefited the IRONMAN Foundation Community Fund.

The fifth and final slot, that was benefiting

the Women For Tri program.

Now, the slots do start with a minimum bid of USD$25,000

so they're not very cheap

but they are all for very good causes.

The Women For Tri program also offers another additional

female triathlete the opportunity to go to Kona

if they embody what they call the spirit of triathlon.

There are five further slots which are drawn

from around the world for physically challenged athletes.

There are also 25 slots in what they call

the Executive Challenge which brings together

top-performing execs who can all race in Kona.

And finally there are a number of military division slots

which have been available this year at a couple of events.

- But as I've said already, most people's routine

is actually through the qualification process,

which is definitely no easy task.

But as if the training and racing wasn't hard enough,

then we have things like kit, getting ourselves there,

staying there and things like that to worry about,

so I'm going to actually throw this one to you, Fraser,

having raced there a few times already.

What do we need to consider with Kona?

- Yeah, Mark, you're right. Kona is entirely unique for,

well, a multitude of different reasons, actually,

but first and foremost, we have to consider

the conditions over there in the big island.

Temperature for a start is hovering somewhere between

80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit,

so roughly 27 to 35 degrees Celsius, so it just really hot.

Plus, and this is the killer as far as I'm concerned,

the humidity is hovering around about something like 90%

virtually the whole time, and this heat and mugginess,

to make things even worse for us as athletes

when you're out there racing, is, generally,

is worse between 3 and 4 in the afternoon,

which is for an awful lot of athletes

are still very much mid-race or out there on the run.

- Yeah, that is crazy humidity.

So how do you prep for something like that?

- Yeah, well that's another good question, Mark,

and an awful lot of the pros and some other fortunate folks

might manage to get themselves abroad

and go and find similar conditions to try and replicate

where they're going to be racing in.

Others will just get themselves indoors

and really crank up the heat inside to try and, again,

get that sort of muggy and heat, humidity feeling.

Others, well, they might just be hoping for the best,

but I would definitely recommend tryna do that at home

and just get the heating fired really high

to just see if you can replicate those tough conditions.

- Okay, so with all that in mind,

is there anything to consider kit-wise that differs?

- Well, firstly there is a lot of chat about the winds in

Kona so that's something to consider first and foremost

in terms of what you use out there on the bike.

The winds in Hawaii are very famous for getting up to

as much as 60 miles an hour

or something like 90, 95 kilometers an hour

at their gustiest and, thankfully, I never, touch wood,

managed to ride in those sort of horrible winds,

but it's a possibility, so on that reason alone,

no disk wheels are allowed in Kona, so you can't have those.

And also an awful lot of athletes just decided to opt

for shallower wheel sets, particular on their front wheel

because that just helps you avoid getting any sort of

twitches on the bike because of those winds.

- Okay, so what about with your clothing choices?

Anything change there?

- Yeah, well, again, I think you want to be able to have

the feeling of being a lot more cool because of the heat

so I always try to opt for lighter color fabrics

and would veer away from anything that's darker colored,

you know, just so that you're reflecting that heat

rather than the sun getting absorbed into the dark colors.

I also always like to opt for a two-piece,

but that was personal preference,

and I just felt that was a little bit more ventilation

and felt a little bit cooler, but things are moving on

in terms of aerodynamics these years,

so possibly if I was going back,

I might look into using a one-piece these days.

But, yeah, you definitely want to think

about clothing choice too.

- Okay, and I guess the other big question,

there's a big topic for debate on it, is the helmet.

So what helmet would you normally use?

- [Fraser] Yeah, you're right, Mark, because you really feel

like you're just boiling inside a TT helmet.

And not to say a lot of people don't

quite happily use a TT helmet,

you'd always want to use, I would say, a white one.

Again, just feels like that's going to be cooler,

but in terms of helmet choice,

I always liked an aero road helmet.

There's an awful lot of athletes

even just go for a bog standard road helmet.

In fact, Chrissie Wellington and Craig Alexander

famously won Kona using just that.

- Okay, so this definitely isn't your ordinary race.

That's all the kit discussed and sorted,

but what about actually getting yourself there?

- [Fraser] Yeah, now the big thing about Hawaii

is the accommodation, 'cause Kona, or Kailua-Kona,

the town itself isn't really that big,

so accommodation can get snapped up

really quite far in advance,

and if you don't manage to get that

booked up as early as you can,

obviously some people are qualifying a lot closer

to the race, but it can become very expensive,

or you're just going to end up having to be

quite far out of town, which is not as easy for logistics

coming in and out during the race week.

- [Mark] Yeah, and it is obviously great atmosphere there,

so a lot of people really do want to be in that town.

Now, given the uniqueness of this event

and how brutal it is, a lot of athletes actually try

to get out there a little bit earlier on, don't they?

- Yeah, they do because, of course, you got a long time zone

to try and get over and adapt to, but as a pro,

I was lucky I always managed to get there

at least two weeks before, which is a long time.

Some pros are out there for even longer,

just to try and adapt because they're able to.

For a lot of amateurs and age groupers,

they're trying to get there a week, or if they're lucky,

maybe up to two weeks before,

but that can obviously be rather tricky with work.

- Yeah, now this is obviously an absolutely amazing event.

I haven't raced it but I've been there in person,

and definitely soaked it all in

and it is absolutely incredible.

If it is on your bucket list or a goal for you,

we do hope that you manage to get yourself there someday.

But one last suggestion for you is that

there is so many exciting things going on there,

so much fun to be had, but try not to get caught up

in too much of it because it isn't that conducive

to a great performance on race day.

- What, doing your mile reps up and down Ali'i Drive

the day before the race, no?

- Looks great but yeah, we don't suggest it.

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If you'd like to see our Kona In Numbers video,

you can see that by clicking just down here.

- Yeah, and then we have a Kona Behind the Scenes video

which you can get here.