Patience plus commitment equals Ironman run success for Kevin Portmann

Patience plus commitment equals Ironman run success for Kevin Portmann

Patience plus commitment equals Ironman run success for Kevin Portmann
Patience plus commitment equals Ironman run success for Kevin Portmann

Patience plus commitment equals Ironman run success for Kevin Portmann

Patience plus commitment equals Ironman run success for Kevin Portmann

We chat to Kevin Portmann about his Ironman run today on The Kona Edge. Kevin shares his frustration when it comes to reaching his run numbers but reveals the value of patience and commitment.

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BRAD BROWN:  Onto your Ironman run now. You mentioned it’s not your strongest. Do you think it’s stronger than your swim? Or is your run your weakest at the moment?

Make the biggest impact on your Ironman run

KEVIN PORTMANN: The run is definitely where I could make the biggest impact I think in my racing. It showed some good signs and in my training I’m showing some really good numbers and good progress.

It hasn’t materialised during a race and again, I have to be patient. But I’m frustrated. Not to be able to produce what I do in training. I think if I can gain a minute and a half on the swim that would be fantastic for me.

On the run I think my fastest split for half Ironman was Oceanside at 1:19 but that’s nowhere near competitive. I think you need to be at 1:15 or faster these days, and your fellow compatriot Rich Murray decides to join in the fun and breaks the 1:10 at every single race.

Room for improvement gives you confidence for your Ironman run

But for now if you’re not running a 1:15 or faster at a very competitive race it’s just very difficult to compete. I don’t know if I can get 1:15 but I’d like to be at 1:17/1:16, that would be great.

BRAD BROWN:  As much as it’s frustrating, it must be knowing that there is still time to be made up there. That must fill you with a bit of confidence knowing, it would be a different story if you were on the edge and there was no gains to be made there. But there is lots of room for improvement.

KEVIN PORTMANN: Yes, you’re absolutely right but what’s even more motivating is that I see those numbers in training. Not all the time, but I see those numbers coming in sometimes. And just seeing that I’m there and trying to find what is missing for me to be able to do it.

Believe in your Ironman run abilities and see your numbers grow

It’s definitely exciting, it’s very motivating. I guess it just needs to click one day on a race where things work out in my favour and I can actually prove to myself that I can do it.

It ties back to how much do I believe in myself and the mental strength. But you are right. The work has been paying off. It hasn’t necessarily shown in my run abilities but if I keep the focus and the commitment I think I will be able to see some progress in the coming years. Going 1:17 is not going to happen tomorrow but I’m working towards it for sure.

BRAD BROWN:  And I think that’s an important lesson, particularly for age groupers. Yes there are some age groupers who burst onto the scene and they’re phenomenal to start with. Often those guys then fade away and 2 or 3 years later they’re no longer in the sport but for the vast majority of age groupers, it’s a work in progress.

The realities of your Ironman run performance

It takes years to put in performances and it might mean jumping up to another age group or moving on before you do start getting those results. It’s a consistency thing and it’s a patience thing as you said.

KEVIN PORTMANN: Yes, and you hear some age groupers thinking that for them to qualify for Kona they need to run a sub-3 marathon. And when you see results out there and what’s published in the media and social media, yes, you see the splits of young Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle which are incredible, 2:42, 2:45, 2:44. That’s amazing but that’s not the norm. Those guys are beasts but some age groupers think it’s the norm.

You start hearing people say that if they run a 3:15 or a 3:30 it’s bad, it’s slow. But let’s face it a 3:30 marathon in itself is fairly fast at a 7:30 pace. So a 3:30 off 112 mile bike, that’s pretty impressive.

I think people are in this virtual reality where they think this 3 hour marathon is the norm to go to Kona. There are a few age groupers that do it but there are not that many. And there are not that many pros that can run a 3 hour marathon. It’s interesting to see where people’s heads and mind-sets are.

I wish I could do a 3-hour marathon. That would be amazing.

Using comfortable Ironman run gear is part of your success

BRAD BROWN:  We spoke about my Zurich Ironman. I was quite happy with the 3-hour first half of my marathon that day. But that’s a whole other story. Let’s talk gear wise, what do you run in shoes wise, what do you use?

KEVIN PORTMANN: I love my On running shoes. I discovered them 3 years ago and I just wanted to switch things around a little bit, just to try a new brand. And I tried Asics and it just wasn’t for me so I switched back to On.

I don’t know what the sports do but they did it right. At least for me it works. It’s such a comfortable shoe. I use the CloudSurfer for training and I use the new CloudFlow for my racing and no blisters whatsoever. No pain in the feet and I love it. I can’t think of anything bad to say about the shoe and love the brand and love the shoes.

BRAD BROWN:  And once you get in something that works don’t change it. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

KEVIN PORTMANN: Yes and I’m not sponsored by On’s. I’m not paid to say good things about the brand. I haven’t tried other brands like Saucony and those brands so I can’t really speak for other brands. But On has worked for me and is still working for me. I have no plans of changing that unless someone wants to pay me to change.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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Mix your Ironman bike training up to get the best out of your body

Mix your Ironman bike training up to get the best out of your body

Mix your Ironman bike training up to get the best out of your body
Mix your Ironman bike training up to get the best out of your body

Mix your Ironman bike training up to get the best out of your body

Mix your Ironman bike training up to get the best out of your body

Amy Farrell shares valuable tips on improving your Ironman bike here on The Kona Edge. We find out how mixing things up in our Ironman bike training can improve performance.

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BRAD BROWN:  You’re listening to The Kona Edge. We’re joined now by Amy Farrell who is in upstate New York. Amy welcome back onto The Kona Edge. Thanks for your time today.

AMY FARRELL: Thank you for having me.

BRAD BROWN:  Amy let’s talk about your Ironman bike. You are pretty strong on the bike. Obviously I think your run is your strongest of the 3 disciplines, but in order to be competitive and win an age group title in Kona you’ve got to be fairly decent on the bike. You do put in a lot of time.

Putting time in your Ironman bike because you love it

Tell me a little bit about your feelings about that bike. Is it something that you love doing or is it unfortunately a necessary evil of triathlon?

AMY FARRELL: No, I love cycling. I feel like the older I get the more I love it. My coach prescribes quite a bit of quality work in terms of cycling and running so it’s kind of all about hitting those watts. But also, I love where a bike can take you when you’re outside.

BRAD BROWN:  You live in a beautiful part of the world. Obviously winters can be quite brutal where you are but do you try and get out as much as you can? I know you do a lot on the indoor trainer just because it’s necessary. If you had the choice, would everything be done outdoors?

Take on the challenge of the hills to strengthen your Ironman bike

AMY FARRELL: If it was always warm enough. Sometimes it is hard to get out there when it’s 30 degrees on a late September morning but I love the scenery and the challenge of the hills around here. I feel like it has really strengthened my cycling.

BRAD BROWN:  Amy you talk about strengthening cycling but tell me about some of the things that you’ve done over time that you think has improved your cycling performance.

AMY FARRELL: I just think the evolution of my coaches plans and pushing the strength proponent of cycling, has really helped.

Every week is a different workout, it’s a different goal. That’s really kept me on my toes. Even if it’s a super long ride, then we go easy for a couple of hours then it’s a few hours of hard stuff.

Mix up your Ironman bike training to get stronger

BRAD BROWN:  Amy tell me about the importance of mixing things up. You say it keeps you on your toes. Is it a case of keeping you engaged and not getting bored? Or do you feel that your body responds better to mixing things up and mixing intensities up in your training?

AMY FARRELL: I think my body definitely responds more to mixing things up. I’ve always responded better to quality over quantity. Even as a high school kid so I think that’s important and it really helps keep me engaged.

BRAD BROWN:  But in order to do an Ironman you still need to do the volume. How do you get that balance right of quality versus quantity? You still need to do the miles but obviously you don’t need to be doing 6 hour rides every second day.

Ironman bike training on quality versus quantity

AMY FARRELL: Yes. So one of the big things that my coach likes to do is send us out for a 50 or 60 mile ride outdoors and then we come indoors on the trainer and do another 2-and-a-half to 3 hours of quality work inside.

It’s more controlled and you can hit the watts and I think those workouts are kind of my favourite because it’s a mix of getting out and then by the time I get back my family’s around and I can get on my trainer and hit the watts.

BRAD BROWN:  Tell me the importance of power in your training. Obviously you’re quite clued up on the numbers. Does it play a massive role?

Using technology can increase your Ironman bike performance

AMY FARRELL: Now I try not to freak out about my watts but I do love working with power. I was kind of a late adapter to technology in triathlon and I think it was about a year before my coach could get me to use a heart rate monitor.

It’s been about 3 years since I’ve been using a power meter and it’s just nice to see where heart rate and power match up. And I’ve been around long enough to know that if my watts are off but my heart rate is on, then I follow that or vice versa.

BRAD BROWN:  Tell me about gear. What do you use power meter wise, what bike are you on, what helmet do you use? Tell me a little bit about your set up.

AMY FARRELL: I’m on a Liv Avow Advanced with Ultegra DI2. This is my first bike with DI2 and I think for a triathlete it’s an amazing investment. I love it.

Ironman bike setup is really important for optimum performance

I think fit on a bike is really important so I do check in with that with the bike shop that helps me out with my bike stuff. I think it’s a Liv Attack helmet that I use and I’ve just kept the stock wheels that came with the bike.

BRAD BROWN:  And power meter wise, what power meter are you using?

AMY FARRELL: Stages Cycling.

BRAD BROWN:  And indoor trainer wise, are you on anything special there?

AMY FARRELL: No, I have a hand-me-down trainer, it’s Travel Trac Fluid. I’m looking at it right now. I’ve never really looked at it.

BRAD BROWN:  Often people get really sucked into the gear and yes, things do make a difference. But at the end of the day it’s about the legs and the body and what you put into it. It’s cool to have the good gear but if you’re not doing the work on that gear, it doesn’t really matter does it?

AMY FARRELL: No it really doesn’t. And you know it’s funny, I keep looking at Wahoo and different smart trainers and as long as I have a power meter or a heart rate monitor, I can get the work done just as well without breaking the bank.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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Support Us

If you'd like to find out more about becoming a Patron of The Kona Edge, click here.

Contact Us

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Focus on correcting one thing at a time for greater gains in your Ironman swim

Focus on correcting one thing at a time for greater gains in your Ironman swim

Focus on correcting one thing at a time for greater gains in your Ironman swim
Focus on correcting one thing at a time for greater gains in your Ironman swim

Focus on correcting one thing at a time for greater gains in your Ironman swim

Focus on correcting one thing at a time for greater gains in your Ironman swim

We are joined on The Kona Edge by Bob McRae to talk about Ironman swim sessions. Bob shares the challenges he has faced during his illness and improving his Ironman swim performance. He also reveals his favourite Ironman swim sets.

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Swim faster without spending more time in the water

Discover the 4 most common swim killers and how to fix them so that you can shave minutes off your swim time.


BRAD BROWN: Time to chat some Ironman swimming now. We head back to Colorado to catch up with Bob McRae. Bob welcome back onto the podcast. Thanks for joining us today.

BOB MCRAE: Thank you.

BRAD BROWN: Bob, Let’s talk about your swim and you mentioned it as a bit of a throw away comment, in the build up to your first triathlon that you literally took up swimming. And then you later eluded to it not being the strongest of the 3 disciplines. Would you agree that you’ve got some work to do in the water?

It’s not natural and I still don’t like it

BOB MCRAE: Yes. I’ve been working with a relatively new triathlete and I basically told them I’m one of a kind, it will take decades. When I first started swimming I think I was maybe the 40th person out the water. These days, on a good race I’ll be in the top 10% but when you’re aiming for those top slots there’s a lot of ground to be made up there. It’s not natural and I still don’t like it but I’m keeping at it.

BRAD BROWN: What are some of the things you’ve done over time that you think has really helped improve your swim performance?

BOB MCRAE: Just keeping at it and trying to do different things. I’ve done a number of things that I think have been helpful and having a number of different people watch my swim stroke.

Ironman swim – is it a skill based activity?

I’ve really focused a lot on technique and I think that’s probably where, not only just not swimming out and swimming, but out of all 3 disciplines, it’s really a highly skill based activity. And if you don’t have good form you can work really hard and not get much faster. So that’s where I’ve spent a good amount of time and that’s probably where I’ve made up the most amount of time and gotten faster.

Just as an example last year, there’s an incredible coach at the local Ywam which is where I swim, he’s 86 years old and as youthful as anybody. Running up and down the pool deck yelling at kids and coaching them. He told me one day, I wasn’t finishing my left arm, and literally after focusing on that in the next set, I took 20 seconds off that 500 yards time which is really substantial. And again, it was just technique.

A lot of drills and just underwater photography. Last year I started working with a swim coach who gave me workouts and would analyse my swim technique using a go-pro that I bought so that I could work with him remotely.

Small changes take time off your Ironman swim

Then last year I decided I’m going to throw some volume at it so I swam 100 000 yards in January including 10 000 on January 1st solo. I don’t know whether it helped me or not, but it certainly gave me that early season confidence going into the early part of last year.

Then I didn’t need to work on the swim. I was always feeling like that was something I had neglected but I felt pretty confident and I think last year was certainly a good year for the swim. I had a number of races where I was in the top 10 or 15% and even at Kona that was a 1:02 swim time which is pretty darn solid I think.

BRAD BROWN: Yes, particularly not a wetsuit swim, that’s fantastic. As far as the technique stuff goes, you mentioned that coach talking about you not finishing your stroke with your left arm. Is that the way you’ve approached it? You almost zone in on one thing and try and correct that one thing? As opposed to going maybe; my catch isn’t good, and my kick’s not right and trying to fix it all in one go. Would you advise people to just hone in on one thing. Work on that in the session and then move onto the next thing.

Place the focus on one thing to improve your Ironman swim

BOB MCRAE: Yes, one at a time I think. I was one of those kids that couldn’t do jumping jacks in high school. So I need special attention. I can really only focus on one thing at a time. Also I’m a man.

BRAD BROWN: I can’t chew gum and walk at the same time Bob.

BOB MCRAE: Yes, so I like to, where there are drills, physical queues are helpful. Just work on one thing at a time really. These days I’m trying to just keep my head down because I have a tendency of looking up too much.

BRAD BROWN: As far as the help is concerned, by the sounds of it you’ve got a couple of different people over time to have a look at your stroke. Would you suggest that’s the way to go or are you opening yourself up to where you are just focusing on the next thing? As opposed to having one person over time trying to sort out your swim technique.

Different perspectives are helpful in your Ironman swim

BOB MCRAE: I think it’s such a complicated thing and it’s really difficult. And everyone’s got their own bias. Different theories of how to swim properly. I think it’s helpful to get different perspectives.

Try those things out for a while, see if you’re progressing, see if it makes sense to you. And then eventually you’ll find those theories with people that will be consistent. Those are the things that you can focus on, I think. So I think a variety of perspectives is helpful.

BRAD BROWN: As much as I know you’re not the biggest fan of swimming, what are some of your favourite workouts? What do you love doing in the water?

BOB MCRAE: Well actually, you’ll be surprised to hear I picked up swimming at a Master’s group this year. This is the first year I’ve been able to do that somewhat consistently and that’s been fun.

Long tempo sessions are best for me

But you know, my favourite workouts swim wise and I think you’ll hear this pretty consistently in the different disciplines, I benefit mostly from long tempo sessions and the build into those.

So what I enjoyed yesterday for example, I teach a spin class a few times a week. Before the spin class I will jump in the water and do 1000 standard free style then I just build into that. I go from a relatively slow control to a threshold level probably at the end. Then I put on my paddles and did another 1000. Most of my sessions have been relatively short so I’ll do anywhere between 1500 and 3000 typically a few times a week, 3 or 4 times a week. But I like to include a few of those a week and that just lets me get into that rhythm.

You’ll hear this with the run, and on the bike as well. Just that long high level, you get where you’re reaching against or pushing up against your threshold and holding it there for a while.

But I also like to do some variation on that which is 1000 builds to tempo and then do another 10 x 100 on a fixture in the wall and I got to close to 130 interval this year in yards, and those are probably my favourite. Kind of boring for most folks but that’s what I do.

BRAD BROWN: No worries, it sounds brilliant.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


If you'd like to advertise on The Kona Edge, download our rate card.

Support Us

If you'd like to find out more about becoming a Patron of The Kona Edge, click here.

Contact Us

7 + 3 =

Setting the trend in a family of 9 – The Zack Carr Ironman Story

Setting the trend in a family of 9 – The Zack Carr Ironman Story

Setting the trend in a family of 9 - The Zack Carr Ironman Story
Setting the trend in a family of 9 - The Zack Carr Ironman Story

Setting the trend in a family of 9 – The Zack Carr Ironman Story

Setting the trend in a family of 9 - The Zack Carr Ironman Story

Zack Carr joins us on The Kona Edge to chat about his Ironman story, Coming from a family of 9 children and leading a very unhealthy lifestyle, Zach shares the decision to enter the world of Ironman.

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Swim faster without spending more time in the water

Discover the 4 most common swim killers and how to fix them so that you can shave minutes off your swim time.


BRAD BROWN:  We head to Wisconsin now to catch up with our next guest here on The Kona Edge, Zack Carr. Zach welcome onto the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

ZACK CARR: Thanks for having me.

BRAD BROWN:  Zach you’re one of the lucky ones. You’ve got an Ironman in your back yard so you could do one every year. You don’t even have to travel much. Is it a blessing or is it a curse?

The convenience of racing in your back yard

ZACK CARR: It’s a bit of both. It’s a blessing that I can go on the course and I can train the actual course and figure out how to race it properly. But it’s also a curse because it is that close. I need to get up there more often than not to ride the course, so it’s a bit of both.

BRAD BROWN:  Do you end up using that one as your qualifier for Kona, is that the plan generally?

ZACK CARR: I’m doing it in September and this will be my fourth time doing it. I did it in 2010, 2012 and 2016. I tried to get others to qualify but this one is just so convenient, it’s hard not to race it.

BRAD BROWN:  How far is it from home? Do you get to sleep in your own bed the night before the race?

ZACK CARR: I do. It’s just over a half hour, so that’s great.

BRAD BROWN:  That is awesome. Zach you were telling me before we started recording this that you’ve been around the sport of triathlon for close on a decade now, just under. How did you get involved in the sport?

Unhealthy lifestyle leads to Ironman achievements

ZACK CARR: A little bit of a back story. I was travelling a lot for work and I’d put on quite a bit weight. 70 Pounds heavier than I am now and I just had a very unhealthy lifestyle. Was a heavy smoker, I didn’t work out, ate a ton and kind of just had that ‘Aha’ moment where I needed to make some lifestyle changes.

I needed to lose the weight and my wife was training with a group of cyclists and I joined her on the training rides. The weight wasn’t falling off as quickly as I had hoped, so I started to jog and run and the weight started to melt off. Someone said “Hey, have you thought of doing a tri, just add a swim to it”, and the rest is history.

BRAD BROWN:  70 Pounds, that’s seven zero for people listening. That’s one of the Jonas brothers, that’s incredible.

ZACK CARR: I started to lose the weight in the fall and the winter, and I came out the spring and my neighbours didn’t even recognise who I was.

BRAD BROWN:  Isn’t that a cool feeling?

AC: It is. A very cool feeling.

Make the decision to become healthier

BRAD BROWN:  You say working too much and poor lifestyle choices and I think it happens to a lot of us where we go to college and we end up like a slow spiral where we just let ourselves go. I’m putting my hand up here because my story is almost the same, and before you know it, like you say, you’re 70 pounds heavier than what you should be and it’s time to take some drastic action. Is that pretty much yours? Was it eating, drinking, and smoking, what was the deal?

ZACK CARR: All the above. It was going out late for dinners with clients and co-workers and then going back to the hotel and having deserts and not working out and smoking and drinking. It was a combination of all of that and just gradually over time putting on the weight. You don’t realise how much weight you’re putting on until there was that moment and I grabbed a handful of gut and realised how much weight I’d really put on.

BRAD BROWN:  What was the turning point for you? Can you remember where you thought to yourself something’s got to give?

ZACK CARR: Yes I remember pretty vividly. I was in a hotel room in Cincinnati Ohio and I was laying on the bed. I don’t know exactly what hit me but it was like I said, I had put on a ton of weight and I was sitting there thinking about my young kids and what the future would be like if I continued down this road. It was like a lightning bolt struck me.

Be smart with your health if work gets in the way

I needed to make some changes if I wanted to be around for them. I just started to change my lifestyle and make choices that would help that. One of them was to cut down on the travel. Travelling is very difficult to be healthy. You can do it if you’re smart about it but at the time I wasn’t educated enough to know how to do it.

BRAD BROWN:  And that’s two-fold because you’re missing out, especially if you’re active, you’re missing out on your regular routine. You’re probably not training as much as you should unless you’ve got the discipline to go to the gym in a hotel or find the local YMCA closest to where you’re travelling. And the second one is the eating. You’re not eating at home. You’re eating in restaurants pretty much 3 meals a day and that’s not ideal.

Use available resources for training when you’re travelling

ZACK CARR: That’s right. I’m a CPA and accountant so I’m still pretty busy and travel quite a bit between January and April so I’ve learnt how to do it on the road. The hotel usually does have treadmill and workout equipment. I usually bring my bike trainer with me and just hook my bike trainer up in the hotel room and like you say, you just learn where to go to eat.

I always have a bag full of food just in case there are not appropriate things around to eat, just more prepared.

BRAD BROWN:  In case of an emergency, break the glass. It’s one of those. Zack tell me about growing up and Zack Carr as a kid. Were you active as a youngster?

ZACK CARR: No I wasn’t. I come from a pretty large family. I’m the oldest of 9 kids. I played T-ball as a kid and we were just active around the house with each other. I’d go to the YMCA and play Basketball occasionally but I really wasn’t involved in any sports.

Changing unhealthy habits get you hooked on Ironman

And like I say I had smoked for quite a while. I started in high school and it carried on and I really didn’t have any athletic ability after I was a kid. I did play inter-mural sports in college just as a fun thing with my buddies but that was pretty much the extent of it.

BRAD BROWN:  And that first triathlon. Tell me about that experience. It must have been a bit of an eye opener.

ZACK CARR: Oh definitely. I kind of went into it thinking I could get through the swim with no problem and as soon as the gun went off I’m getting kicked and water in my face and I quickly realised that it’s not as easy as you think it is.

But when you cross that finish line there’s nothing like it and just the sense of accomplishment and the camaraderie, hanging out with people after the race. It was definitely something I was hooked on.

Revel in your Ironman achievement

BRAD BROWN:  Was it love at first sight for you? I think we all have that experience in our first one when there are times you think “what am I doing here?” But afterwards, as you say that sense of achievement. For you, was it a case of you almost felt like I’m home, this is what I want to be doing?

ZACK CARR: It was. I think with all my workouts and with my races, you have this kind of relationship you’re kind of talking about. During the races there are parts where you just hate it and you think why am I doing this, it sucks. And then when you finish you have this high and you love it and you want to come back for more.

I was instantly hooked and I think what really hooked me was going and spectating at Ironman Wisconsin. Just the energy of the crowds and the athletes. It definitely draws you in.

BRAD BROWN:  Was that the turning point for you, spectating at an Ironman event where you went “You know what, I want to do this. I’ve been involved in the sport, the shorter distances but this big one, as crazy as it seems at the time, this is what I want to do?”

Inspired by spectating at an Ironman

ZACK CARR: For sure. And one of the guys that were part of the cycling group that my wife was a part of was doing an Ironman. I had never heard of Ironman before and he started naming off the distances and I just thought it was insane. There’s no way that someone can possibly do this, let alone do it in a day. It just seemed overwhelming.

But I went and watched and saw people doing it and it was such an overwhelming challenge that I wanted to see if I could take it on and do it.

BRAD BROWN:  It’s so interesting you say that Zack because I think it doesn’t matter what calibre of athlete you are, everyone has those doubts in the build up to that first one. You think to yourself this is stupid, there’s no way I can physically do this in a day.

I said it to someone last night, we were talking about the mental side of it and I always say that Ironman is not 226 miles, it’s 6 inches. It’s the 6 inches between your ears. If you can master that, anyone can do an Ironman.

Don’t get in your own way with Ironman training

ZACK CARR: Yes exactly. That was one of the things I learnt when I first got a coach. I was in the sport for a couple of years before I decided to get a coach but that was one thing that they really challenged me on.

I would often get in my own head and get in my way where I would go into a workout and think there’s no way I can hit these numbers that they’re asking me to do, because I did X the day before.

But if you just put those blinders on and go out and do the work you surprise yourself. You realise you’re capable of more than what you think. As long as you don’t get in your own way and overly think what you’re doing.

BRAD BROWN:  And it’s also important, I’m sure you’ve had this experience too, is to focus on now. Don’t worry about what’s coming in a month’s time or 6 weeks, or 12 weeks. Focus on the session you need to do today because if you take care of that session, next week will take care of itself.

If you’re focusing too much on those and worrying that you’re never going to get there, it’s the sessions today that are the ones that aren’t going to get you there if you don’t do them.

Focus on now with Ironman training

ZACK CARR: I had that same talk with myself last night when I had to get out. I have a 2-hour run tonight, 3-hour bike tomorrow, and a big weekend coming up. And if you think about it in totality it’s just overwhelming.

Just get through the 2-hours tonight and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow and make this a good quality key session and the rest will follow. You’ll surprise yourself and the rest will just follow.

BRAD BROWN:  Talk to me about the decision to get a coach a few years in. You had obviously felt your way around the sport and figured things out for yourself, but where did that decision come from? What brought on that decision that you went “you know what, I want to get better at this, and I need help?”

ZACK CARR: It was after I did Ironman Wisconsin in 2010. I was a couple of hours away from qualifying for Kona and I didn’t think it was a real possibility. But after a year off from Ironman I started to become more comfortable in my abilities.

Make Kona your goal and get a coach

At the same time I was getting injured a lot because I didn’t know how to structure training plans. I would get injured and then I’d come back and try to make up for lost time and I just didn’t have the consistency in the training. I hear that word quite a bit, consistency. And that really is key because if you’re consistent you’re able to stay healthy.

It’s when you’re injured and you try to catch up, you get injured again, it’s just a vicious circle. I was having trouble staying injury free, I needed someone to challenge me and I had a goal that I wanted to get to Kona. So kind of all those things together led to me get a coach.

BRAD BROWN:  When did Kona first pop up on the radar? Was it after that first one? Tell me about the thinking. I don’t think anybody goes into their first Ironman thinking Kona is the deal. When did it first pop up for you?

Research your game plan and qualify for Kona

ZACK CARR: It was after. I was training with some buddies and a couple of them had been to Hawaii and they were talking about their times and it really had never entered my mind that I can do it. But then just training with them, seeing what they were capable of doing.

I would draft behind them and I started to get the idea that maybe it is a possibility. Then I went looking at researching times and data. What it would take to get to Kona and basically created a game plan.

I realised these are the times I need in the next year if I want to get to a qualifying time, and this is what it’s going to take. I’m a pretty analytical person so I had the data all charted out, and this is what my goal is and I’m going to go see if I can do it.

BRAD BROWN:  As a CPA I’m sure you had spreadsheets, you must have had spreadsheets?

ZACK CARR: Oh I still have the spreadsheets.

BRAD BROWN:  Tell me about that first one, how it went from a performance perspective because I get asked that question a lot. People listen to this podcast and they go I want to qualify for Kona and then everyone is telling them they debuted with a sub-10 hour. What was yours?

Make your goal fun in your Ironman debut

ZACK CARR: Mine was 11:01. Not quite under the 11-hours but I really had no time goal. My goal was to go in and have fun and just enjoy the day. I was afraid that I would blow up.

I think it was probably my third triathlon so I had no idea how to pace an Ironman or what it would feel like. I just wanted to get to the day, I just wanted to be a finisher and enjoy the day and that’s what I did. And I felt I was very controlled and steady the whole day and really just had a great time.

BRAD BROWN:  Can you remember what your splits were?

ZACK CARR: You’re challenging me. I think it was roughly an hour five swim, I forget, a 5:45 bike and 4 hour run, something like that.

BRAD BROWN:  Just for an idea. Guys are always asking me, particularly on debut. Then from that decision to get a coach, how much did your training change? Obviously it must have been a lot more structured. What were some of the major changes that you made from a training perspective with a coach?

Learn to put it together to create a consistent training environment

ZACK CARR: I would always get injured running and so the biggest surprise and change for me was running more consistently and running more frequently than what I thought I should have.

And it wasn’t that I was going out and running 20 miles every day, it was just a few miles here and a few miles there. But then also varying the terrain and surface so I wasn’t always on black tar.

It was really just learning how to put it all together and create a consistent training environment.

BRAD BROWN:  Zack, the onslaught to Kona qualification in that build up, you had obviously targeted a race, you knew the race you were going to do and you more or less knew the times you were going to do. How did you approach it from a mental perspective to get yourself ready and in that frame of mind, knowing that this it.

You’re going to suffer and it’s going to be a long time of suffering, but this too shall pass as they say. How did you get your head right to get into that zone?

Be prepared to suffer in your Ironman race

ZACK CARR: That was really it. Just being prepared to suffer and that was my goal going into the race. I’ve never not finished a race but I really didn’t care if I didn’t finish a race. It was just be smart about what you’re doing. You’ve put in the training.

Just having confidence in what you’ve done and the preparation. Even now just going into an Ironman. There’s always doubts of have I done enough, will the results show up on race day. But just having the confidence that what you’ve done will work and then just leaving it all out there.

Not being crazy about it because it is a full Ironman and a long day but still going out there and giving it your best shot.

BRAD BROWN:  Yes, the go until you blow strategy can work in an Olympic, it tends to not work in a full Ironman, I’m afraid.

ZACK CARR: No, not at all.

BRAD BROWN:  Zach tell me did you qualify at first attempt? Was that the case for you?

The glory of qualifying in your first Ironman attempt

ZACK CARR: I did. It was kind of funny that the goals I had put out there over a year before, I hit almost those times exactly. So I think I was 17th overall including the pros and second in my age group. It was a great day and being from the area my whole family was there, and friends and it was one of the most memorable days.

BRAD BROWN:  That’s awesome. And then the change, did you change anything in the build up to Kona? From a preparation perspective did you do anything differently, or was it pretty much that it worked for you in qualification and you were going to do the same thing for Hawaii?

ZACK CARR: I had changed coaches between qualifying at Wisconsin and Kona and so there were different strategies in training. The actual volume of training was pretty consistent.

When I went into Kona I was injured because I had done age group nationals for the Olympic which was a month and a half before Kona, so I was trying to do speed work and incorporate long runs and my body just didn’t handle it very well. So I went into Kona injured but the build-up was relatively the same other than the change in the running.

BRAD BROWN:  And the first experience of racing in those World Champs, for an amateur athlete it must be pretty special.

Experience the energy of being among the best of the best

ZACK CARR: It’s amazing; it is easily my favourite race. One, it’s an extremely tough race. It’s very challenging but you’re among the best of the best and everywhere you go there are professionals that are hanging out and everyone is there in Kona for the race. It’s a very cool experience. Even if you’re not racing it, just to experience that energy it’s very unique.

BRAD BROWN:  If I say the word Kona, what do you think of?

ZACK CARR: The finish line. I think of the heat and the wind first, but surely after it’s the finish line. There’s nothing that compares to finishing that race and when you come up the finishing chute, it’s a pretty steep ramp but behind it, it’s a huge wall of cameras and video cameras. You feel like you’re on top of the world finishing that race.

BRAD BROWN:  For you, what’s been your proudest moment in Ironman racing? What are you most proud of so far.

Enjoy the pride on your family’s faces with an Ironman win

ZACK CARR: My proudest moment was actually in the half Ironman. Two years ago I did a local half Ironman and it was my first ever win and it was relatively small so there weren’t a ton of people out there. But my wife and kids were out there and just to see the expression on their face when I’m coming up this big hill with the lead bike on the run. They don’t expect me to be there and all of a sudden here I come in the lead and just to see the pride in their face.

That was really cool. And then coming down the finishing chute having them there just that pride and excitement is something I’ll never forget.

BRAD BROWN:  It doesn’t matter how many people are there Zach, claim it. It’s yours. You’ve won it.

ZACK CARR: Oh I’m claiming it.

BRAD BROWN:  Let’s talk work life balance. You’re a professional. You said you’re a CPA, you’ve got a family, and you’ve got kids. How do you get the balance right of training enough that you can be competitive in these races but also that things are in check at home. You’re keeping things going, you’ve got bills to pay, and how do you get that balance right?

Your support system is critical to your Ironman success

ZACK CARR: A patient wife. It really comes down to her. We plan out our weeks ahead of time. The kids are obviously involved in their own events like swimming and Taekwondo and we try to make the kids activities a priority so we structure our training. She’s done Ironman a couple of times and she’s training for marathons.

She’s going to be doing the New York City marathon here. So we try to structure our training around the kid’s events but really she’s very patient and lets me go out for long rides and takes the kids to practices. Without her I wouldn’t be able to do it. But that being said, we try being up early getting workouts in and late at night.

On weekends I try to get the workouts in before the kids are up so it’s training in times when the kids have their down time or around work hours.

BRAD BROWN:  What’s the biggest life lesson that Ironman has taught you?

Ironman teaches perseverance and confidence

ZACK CARR: Probably perseverance and also confidence that one, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. You just put achievable goals out there and the more you do it the more confident you become. It’s about perseverance and confidence.

BRAD BROWN:  You mentioned you’re 1 of 9. You’re the eldest of 9 siblings. What does the family think of your transformation of where you were 8 years ago to now?

ZACK CARR: They think I’m crazy for what I do.

BRAD BROWN:  Are any of the others into endurance sport?

ZACK CARR: No not at all. We went camping as a family last weekend and I spent probably 7 hours on Saturday riding my bike around the countryside and they’re sitting around the camp fire and playing games and they just think I’m crazy for spending my time that way. They’re probably right, that’s not the way to spend your time but anyway, they think I’m crazy.

BRAD BROWN:  What’s still left for you to achieve? When the time comes, when you need to hang things up and no longer in the sport, what will you is happy to have achieved?

Dreaming of top 5 at Kona

ZACK CARR: I’m happy with what I’ve achieved to date. There’s only 1 thing on my checklist of things that I would like to accomplish and that’s top 5 at Kona. I was close this last year, top 8 and really it came down to a lack of confidence. I had been injured the 2 previous times I did.

This was the first time I was really healthy going into the race and so I didn’t think I had the ability to compete with the top guys. But finishing top 8, realising that I left something out on the course, mentally, where I probably could have pushed more than I did and so just having the confidence that I can come back and potentially finish top 5 that would probably be the 1 goal that I would like to accomplish.

BRAD BROWN:  What are you struggling with right now? What are you working on?

ZACK CARR: Motivation. It’s hard when you’ve been doing the sport for a while. Just to go out for those 6 hours workouts and just to keep the motivation and the drive to keep going.

When you’re out there you still have to stay focused and there’s a goal for the workout it’s hard to get up for those workouts time after time and just to keep focused. That’s probably the biggest struggle.

How to stay motivated for Ironman training

BRAD BROWN:  It’s interesting you say that because I’m struggling with the same sort of thing. I’m not riding and I’m not swimming at the moment. I want to just get really consistent running and that’s what I’m focusing on and I’m really struggling to wrap my head around getting back on the bike and back in the water in the build up to my next Ironman.

How do you keep yourself going? Is it a case of drawing a line in the sand saying this is the goal and you know what we’ve got to do it otherwise we’re going to suffer?

ZACK CARR: Yes, exactly. Putting the race on the calendar like Ironman Wisconsin and saying this is what the goal is and I know what it takes to get there. The faster I become the more it takes to maintain that level especially as I age. It doesn’t get any easier.

Hit those key sessions

And so I realise I need to hit the key sessions every week if I want to get out there. I guess that’s probably the motivation is to just keep at it because I know if I don’t it’s going to be a suffer at best.

BRAD BROWN:  Talk to me about the confidence thing. I find that fascinating because in what I do for a living, I chat to a lot of top class sports men and women and not just in triathlon but across the board and one thing I’m realising with a lot of them is it’s not an ability thing.

They’re all good at what they do and it’s the same thing I guess in Ironman triathlete. All the top age groupers are good. What separates them I’m finding is their mental capacity to whatever it is. To believe in themselves, to suffer, to push through when things are tough.

What are some of the things that you do to work on that? I think we train ourselves physically but a lot of us don’t train ourselves mentally hard enough. Is it something that you work on a lot?

The fear of failure

ZACK CARR: It is. I think the bottom line is it’s a fear of failure. I want to succeed in everything that I do and that really drives me. Not to get too deep but that acceptance. Coming from a large family it was hard to get acceptance and so I found something that if I train hard at it I can gain that acceptance and that really drives me.

When I’m out doing a workout I try to challenge myself to push beyond what I think I can do and a lot of that is at the end of a long run when I feel dead tired. Just to put myself in the spot where I’m on the race course, it’s the last 10k and really try to make that last 10k my best. I think a lot of it is training by yourself.

I really enjoy training with groups because it makes the time go by, it’s social but it’s hard to really focus and push yourself when you’re with a group. Especially on a long hard effort and so I really try to focus on, not to bury myself, but really pushing myself beyond what I think I can towards the end of a long workout. And that really helps build that confidence that when it comes to race day I know what it feels like. I’ve been there before.

BRAD BROWN:  That’s exactly what I was going to ask, is it those sessions, the really tough ones in training that prepares you mentally for when things do get dark because we know they do get dark on race day and it’s those tough sessions that enable you to pull yourself out of those moments on race day.

Training alone build mental strength

ZACK CARR: Yes, and then on race day I’m thinking about those times. There’s a bridge that’s 4 miles from my house, that’s like from here to here and I’ve done that 100 times before. It’s nothing new, I’ve been there before. I can do it again.

BRAD BROWN:  And visualisation, are you a big one on visualising?

ZACK CARR: Yes when it’s getting tough I like to visualise. Especially during training. The night or two before a race I’ll visualise and really basically play the race in my head and how it should go.

You can’t prepare for every variable but I think about what happens if I get a flat, how am I going to handle that. And when I come to race day I’m very calm and I feel like I’ve prepared as best as I can and I just take whatever comes.

BRAD BROWN:  Brilliant. Well Zack I look forward to talking about your swim, your bike, your run and your nutrition but we’ll save that for next time. Thanks for all your time today here on The Kona Edge.

ZACK CARR: Certainly. Thank you.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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What makes you nutritionally efficient on Ironman race day?

What makes you nutritionally efficient on Ironman race day?

Ironman Run Injury – Hacks to keep you injury free

What makes you nutritionally efficient on Ironman race day?

Rob Cummins Ironman Bike

We chat to Sara Fix on this edition of The Kona Edge about her Ironman nutrition strategy and training your body to do what you need it to do. Sara reveals why you should know what your nutrition  needs are and why you need to cut back on the proteins.


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BRAD BROWN:  Sara, let’s touch on nutrition. Looking at your approach, just generally nutrition wise for you as an athlete. Tell me a little bit about how you approach things.

SARA FIX: I’m sure you’re getting the idea I’m really definite about the things I feel. After all this time, it’s almost 20 years I’ve had lots of athletes around me and my husband. It cracks me up. People just don’t think about their nutrition. I just can’t wrap my head around that.

Come up with a plan for Ironman Nutrition

The fact of the matter is whether you want to go see a nutrition doctor or you want to go see a sports doctor, whatever it is. You want to come up with a plan. You want to figure out what your calorie intake is. And you want to know your calorie intake in different weather conditions and in different environments. You want to understand what your calorie needs are and what your hydration needs are.

It’s actually really serious because if you don’t figure out your salt and you don’t figure out your water, and you drink too much water, that can be fatal. So you really want to take your nutrition and your calories seriously. I can’t tell you how many times I hear I’m ready, got our nutrition dialled in and we’re out on the course and they have nutrition issues. Did you have anything like that in your Ironman?

BRAD BROWN:  I was pretty good if I have to be honest. I don’t think I over thought it too much but I’ve got a cast iron gut so I can pretty much eat anything. And I think I’ve got it pretty much dialled in. I think I’m sorted but it did take some testing and tweaking and I think we’ve got it pretty much sorted. But you’re right, I think a lot of people don’t think of it at all.

You can train your body to do anything

SARA FIX: They don’t think of it at all. You want to come up with a plan and I always say anybody can train their body to do anything. So someone obese can train their body to take millions of calories. Someone anorexic has learned how to not eat at all. You can train your body to take in whatever you want it to take in.

But it’s making the decision and figuring out what is going to keep you at top performance. What calorie is going to keep you at top performance allowing you to keep pushing, stay strong. Break down the nutrients, break down the calories, utilise the calories.

So it’s kind of really trying to figure out what it is that’s going to make you the most efficient on race day. To do that, you have to train with it.

What Ironman nutrition will make you most efficient on race day?

You have to practice and figure out was it 4 GU’s or 5 GU’s, or 10 Gus’s or do I not do well with GU. Does that not add up over time? After 2 days of training with GU and you go out on the 3rd day, does that make you sick. Ok well I can guarantee you on a 7 hour bike ride if you can’t train with GU 3 days in a row, that 7 hour bike ride with 3 and 4 and 5 GU’s an hour, is not going to happen for you.

Don’t keep trying different Ironman nutrition plans

So you have to make a decision and you have to start figuring out what will work. And train with it. You need to know these are important things. Your calories, how much actual liquid you want to take in.

We had a speaker at our camp this past weekend and people over hydrate more than they under hydrate. So, finding out that perfect medium and typically 2 bottles an hour is spot on. Now if you’re just going to go hydration and no GU’s and calories in any other way, you may have to delve into 3 bottles an hour. But finding out calories, carbohydrate, sodium, amino acid, those are in salt, straight up salt.

Those are your main things that you want to address and then train with it and then when you show up on race day there’s no question. Set your watch for every 10 minutes to take the same nutrition. You do the same thing and make a plan and start training with it.

Ease up on the protein in your Ironman nutrition

I have athletes who say this week I’m going to try doing nuts. I’m going to work with packs and nuts. Really? Last week worked. Why can’t we just keep working on that? You don’t want to keep trying different things. If it’s working keep going with it. If it’s not working, tweak it. Don’t just try things to try things. Because like I said you can train your body to do anything. You can train your body to use this nutrition if it’s working. It’s really important.

And not a lot of protein. Don’t use a lot of protein during racing. Your body is working really hard to break down calories and break down what’s in your system. And it’s also working really hard to do the sport and those protein products take a lot more to break down.

So, you just want to be using some little water that’s okay but you want to be careful of not overdoing the proteins.

BRAD BROWN:  Sara if we want to find out more about you and what you guys are up to, where can they get more info online?

SARA FIX:  So it’s Endure It Sports. We’re in Naperville in Westmont, Illinois. You can just go online and I’m really an open book and I’m really available. My phone number is on there, my e-mail so if anybody ever needs anything, I’d love to help. Just call me or e-mail me.

BRAD BROWN:  Well Sara I’ll put the links into the show notes to this episode as well so if people want to click straight through they can.

Thank you so much for your time today on The Kona Edge, much appreciated and best of luck. I hope all things go according to plan and you get back to the big island in 2018.

SARA FIX: Thank you so much. It’s been fun talking to you.


About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


If you'd like to advertise on The Kona Edge, download our rate card.

Support Us

If you'd like to find out more about becoming a Patron of The Kona Edge, click here.

Contact Us

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