Stories about the final preparation for the world’s most famous triathlon
Jan van Berkel is racing the World Championships in Kona for the second time after 2015. After a learning experience last year, he wants to prove himself what he’s capable of in the most important race of the season. This year he chose to conduct his final preparation on the island and flew to Kona right after the 70.3 Worlds. He partnered up with fellow SCOTT athlete Sebastian Kienle for some key sessions.
During one bike ride together with Sebastian, Jan hit a rock during an interval at 50kph. His front tire deflated instantly and Jan was unable to avoid a crash.
Sebastian riding behind Jan was able to get around him and luckily Jan fell on the shoulder of the road as a car was about to pass the two riders. Severe road rash only a couple of weeks out from the race forced him to revise his planned training almost entirely.
Swimming was impossible in the first couple of days after the crash as the risk of infection because of open wounds is high. Also riding the bike on the road proved to be impossible as Jan’s palms were severed in the crash. In order to get moving again, he organized a stationary trainer and rode on the balcony of his apartment.
Fortunately, the wounds healed pretty quickly and Jan headed back out on the streets again, while swimming still had to wait for a couple of days. “Everybody has different advises for you. Some say go and swim in the sea it will help the healing process. Others advise you to stay away from the water until the wounds are closed entirely. I went for the advise of my sports doctor in Switzerland and didn’t swim until the skin had recovered,” Jan says.
One of the last longer rides, Jan started on the infamous Queen-K Highway. The Queen-K has become very busy with traffic and the closer race week comes, the more triathletes are training on the race course. After passing the helicopter landing base, Jan left the highway to ride past Waikoloa village to Highway 190 which he followed until Waimea. From there, he road to Hawi, the turning point of the 180 kilometer bike leg.
“I’m really glad I chose to come here early,” Jan says.
The tropical climate makes one think it’s impossible to complete a full distance triathlon on this island.
Acclimatization is key. “If you train a lot you are used to drink a lot but over here it’s a whole different story,” Jan comments his consumption of water and sports drinks.
Hawaii might be associated with white sand beaches, big wave surfing and tropical heat. However, the highest point on Big Island is on 4205 meters above sea level- almost as high as the famous Matterhorn in Switzerland. Because of the elevation, Big Island features 11 out of 13 global climatic zones. A lot to discover on a tiny island.
Refuelling with local food: a cold mango smoothie and some banana bread provide energy for the way back home.
Running in the most beautiful sunset of the world: with temperatures dropping slightly in the evening, triathletes often choose to finish their day with a little run along the ocean.
Running topless (or showing off) on Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona is nothing special in the days leading up to the race but rather a must-do for the participants.
Running along Ali’i Drive also allows for a quick hello and a gaze at the visual state of fitness of competitors: Jan high-fiving German Pro Boris Stein.
With the “Pier” becoming a common location to start an ocean swim in the middle of town, some athletes are looking for different spots to do their open water sessions. For the final two weeks before the race, Jan is fortunate to have his sister, an Olympic swimmer, in order to spice up his swim training.
“Jesus, what’s that?” These moments when your heart skips a beat. Swimming in the ocean makes you realize that you’re not in full control of everything. It gives you an awestruck sensation.
The heartrate stays up. Not because of fear but excitement. Swimming with dolphins is an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After a difficult phase in his final preparation, Jan is back in the ocean and back in the game. Race week has arrived, nervousness is ever-present and the entire community can’t wait for race day to come.