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Stories about the final preparation for the world’s most famous triathlon

Long runs are a must when training for an Ironman. The majority of the professionals include one every week in order to prepare for their races because the physical costs of these sessions are comparably high. In order to reduce the stress on the joints, these runs are ideally done on gravel roads instead of tarmac. We’ve followed Luke McKenzie and Beth Gerdes on one of their last long runs in the back country of Kona.

One of Luke & Beth’s favorite running spots is at Mana Road near Waimea. The town is located on 2676 feet (815 m) above sea level. The climate is therefore noticeably cooler than in Kailua-Kona.

“We enjoy running out here because the environment with the farmlands is totally different to the lava fields near Kona,” says Luke.

Beth Gerdes is one of the fastest female runners in long distance triathlon, so running with her fiancé is no problem. “I know the formula I need to execute to run right around 3 hours off the bike. It comes naturally to me. In order to do that, though, I need to be very bike fit,” says Beth.

“The longest we usually run prior to Kona is 2.5 hours. But we also do double run days which consist of a 2 hour run in the morning and another hour in the afternoon,” Luke explains.

“Our long runs usually incorporate some over and under Ironman pace or alternatively finishing with a 30 minute effort at or under Ironman pace,” Beth comments on their training.

The running volume of a normal week would be around 75-90km a week for Luke and Beth. However, at times the volume would increase to 100+ kilometers if they set their focus on running for a couple of days.

Asked about how they prepare for the specific conditions of the marathon in Kona, Luke explains, “we like training in hot conditions and we prepare with specific heat acclimatization runs throughout the build up to the race.”

The heat and humidity can really sap your body during the marathon in Kona,” says Beth. “Hydration and pacing are key for a fast run split in both the professional and age group ranks,” advises Luke.