Onno de Boer: IRON MAN Triathlon World Championships Hawaii

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Onno de boer - Horse back riding in Waipi'o Valley

Xelvin can report with great pride that our colleague Onno de Boer, working at DAF Trucks, will take part in the IRON MAN World Championship in Hawaii on Saturday 11th October. This day he will swim 3.86 km (2.4-mile), bycicle 180.25 km (112-mile) then run a full marathon (42.2 km/26.2-mile) under extreme weather conditions. The coming weeks you will be updated on Onno's journey to this big event via the Xelvin website, but also through our social media channels. Karin, Onno's girlfriend, will support Onno during these trainings and of course on the 11th October.

This week Onno tells us about the last preparations before the race day. This week also a view of the nice scenery at the island in the movie Onno made us. Next week Onno will tell us about the Ironman race, his achieved time and what his feelings are about the race itself.


"Today is the day before the race and everything has to be perfectly prepared. Drinking bottles with powder already in it are waiting to be filled with fresh water tomorrow morning. Next to them there are some oral rehydration drinks. In the bedroom my racesuit is laid out (a trisuit which is a top and a pant combined in one suit), my swimming goggles, the obligatory swimcap provided by the organization and my heartrate monitor. The rest of my racing gear is waiting for me in the transition area on the pier. My bike is already racked today. In my story about the race I will further explain about this process.

This week I've been doing my final preparations at the race location. The first morning in Kailua Kona we did a pre breakfast run to the supermarket to combine training with buying some extra stuff to get us through the day. Pre breakfast training is a type of training we use for the last three years to activate and enhance the fatburning system, which is essential to endurance athletes. After a good night sleep blood sugar is low which means your body would rather use fat as its main fuel. In longer endurance race like Ironman you don’t deliver a maximum effort, therefore your body can use this almost unlimited energy system. At 8 o’clock when we run over the shoulder of the highway to the shops the temperature is already high. The sun is burning and we were out of water in the first 30 minutes. In the shop we buy some extra for the way back. In the afternoon we go down to the seaside at the for triathletes famous Ali’I Drive (Road of leaders) to find a spot to swim. At the small beaches between large holiday residences there isn’t much much swimming going on, just like on the other side of the island. The ocean is rough and at lot of large rocks prevent a nice smooth entrance. There are a lot of surfers and children on body boards though. Like the trainer had said you have to swim in the morning as the water will be more calm. Nevertheless I make my way into the water to get some swimming distance in. During the swim a noticed I was pushed from side to side along with the tropical fish near the bottom. Especially the returning to the beach was challenging. Every time a wave was pulling back from the beach I had to swim as hard as I can to stay in place. I managed to get out without any real issues. Later that day I enjoyed the sunset on the bike as I accompanied Karin on her training on crosscountry rollers along Ali’I drive.

The next to days were reserved for course examinations. The examination has multiple goals mostly depending on the type of challenges on the course. The first day we biked the entire 180 km bike course. Leaving the house we ride through the Kailua village using Kuakini Highway and climb up Palani Road for the first time. The climb is part of both bike and run course. The maximum incline of 11% sounds to me like no problem, but a lot of competitors are in doubt whether they will run up, since it is at 16 km into the run. With my trail running experience of the past 2 years I have no doubt I can run up. At the top we turn left onto the Queen Ka’ahumanu (of short ‘Queen K’) Highway. This highway is followed for 55 km both going out and coming back. The road passes the Kona airport and runs relatively close to the coast through the desert climates of the island. Next to the black asphalt the surrounding contain of only small spot of vegetation and enormous lava field. This can only be hot. The wind at this part of the island blows from the west during the day and most of the time perpendicular to the road which goes north. In previous editions of the race cross-winds up to 100 km/h were reported, one thing the race is infamous for. This day there were almost no cross-winds and although the winds increased during the weeks, only 30 km/h winds are predicted. Unfortunately this makes the heat even more noticeable. At the other end of the highway we turn right on Highway 270, which adds another 60 km to the course. The way out contains mostly of the climb to the town of Hawi. However the climb doesn’t start before you return all the way to sea level in the harbor of Kawaihae after the left turn. At the town shop we stop to buy water to mix new sports drinks and a nice cold coke. We do the same as we return from Hawi. In total we both drank 7 drink bottles of 750 ml and found myself sweating about 1.35 liters per hour on the 6 hours of mostly easy riding. This is a minimal of what I have to replace during the race. The way up to Hawi starts quiet steep, the rest has a more gentle incline. Again the wind plays an important role here. To get to Hawi to road bends to the east since you are at the most northern edge of the island. This way you end up with a nice tailwind and don’t feel the incline at all. However the lack of a cooling wind lets you feel the hot temperatures. Back down you end up having headwinds, but with my relative high body mass I am pushed through that by gravity. The part between Kawaihae and Hawi seems to be the easer part of the course. Back on the Queen K I increase my intensity, because that was the goal of the training, and we ride back trough the mild cross-winds. The legs feel so great and we overtake a lot of other athletes training, even a scooter who is motoring another biker. Within 6 hours we complete the course and return to the pier of Kailua, where the transition area will be on race day.

The next morning we get up early to do a proper swim training. At the pier it is even more crowded than expected. The first 300 meters in the water I have to zigzag and watch out not hitting anyone. The swim course is along the coast in the Kona bay and is basically 1.85 km straight, 90 degrees turn, 100 meters, 90 degrees turn and 1.85 km back. Following the coastline is a safety precaution because of the large reef drops further away from the island. Near those reefs the currents are that strong that probably most of the participants would never return. I swim about 2.5 km en chat with other Dutch participants afterwards. For the afternoon session we pick up Karin’s brother and drive up to Honokohau State Park, which is close to the Natural Energy Lab. NEL is close to the airport and was one of the first locations on the planet to harvest solar power. During the marathon this is a second breaking point for many athletes next to the climb of Palani Road. Especially faster athletes will be running it during the hottest hours of the day since it is between 25 and 32 km into the run. To heat experience is amplified by the lack of wind after running in the cooling winds on the Queen K. The Queen K is used also in the run to get to and from the NEL. The desert bundles its forces there with all black and the thrilling sun and temperatures above 45 degrees. Since training there is not allowed we replace it by the park where there are winds. However the training of 15 km shows some nice insides in my nutrition needs and sweat rate. The rate in this training on medium intensity was 1.75 liters per hour and the use of ORS was well accepted. In triathlon races nutrition needs are met by eating gels and drink sports drinks, water and cola. These items will have to replace fluids and carbohydrates used during the exercise. The higher the environmental temperature during the race, the more fluids you need. Dealing with the large sweat rates on Hawai’i during the run I have to use all the processing capacity of my stomach to process fluids. Therefore using gels is technically impossible. Therefore the trainer and I have devised a trick. Your body also loses a lot of electrolytes through sweating and normal sports drinks don’t suffice in replacing those. Instead of absorbing the fluids you drink into your blood and muscles/skin, it flushes out through the urethra. Oral Rehydration Solution, used to rehydrate patients in hot countries who suffer from intestinal diseases, is like a sports drink without the carbohydrates. The additional electrolytes which are in the ORS instead of the carbohydrates improve absorption of fluids and keeps muscles more elastic. The energy for the run is provided by drinking cola at the aid stations, added by a few liquid gels.

After the training on Monday the taper starts by reducing training intensity and volume. On Tuesday I ride for an hour or two, unfortunately a little bit less easy than planned because the road was closed. Because of that I had to resort to climbing another road with an average grade of 18% in very warm conditions. Because of my fitness level that only felt tiresome while I was actually doing it. On Wednesday the last run is scheduled in the early morning before breakfast. Someday I could barely run 8 km/h in the 45 minutes of an average morning run. By now even the rolling Hawaiian highway doesn’t prevent me from running almost 11 km/h. Karin is joining me on the crosscountry rollers and lets me function as her breaking system on the downhills. Thursday is Karins special Kona moment. She replaces her participation in the race on Saturday by her own challenge of rolling the 90 km to Hawi on crosscountry rollers. En route I make sure I can assist her in the more dangerous downhills by foot or by bike. Besides that the car trunk functions as a mobile aid station. This time again we stop in Kawaihae for cola and water. Het is a wonderful day and all volcanoes are visible without clouds. Temperatures rise to above 35 degrees and a strong headwind is present along most of the Queen K highway. It takes her 7 hours of rolling to get to Hawi because of that. On Friday we swam 400 meters out to the famous coffeeboat, an inititative of one of the main sponsors based upon the long history and tradition of drinking locally grown coffee on this island. After that another 1,5 hour easy spin in the morning. That should be enough to get me ready to roll on raceday.

Of course there is time for some entertainment and plenty of rest besides these last training sessions. My parent have arrived on Monday evening and are staying in our holiday home. On Monday we are out on the beach trying or best on bodysurfing, the next day we visit the Kailua town where I go through registration and stroll around over the expo. The expo is a temporary park with booths where sporting brands market their products ranging from bikes to nutrition and everything in between. There are a lot of opportunities to taste or try out new goodies and food. One of the attractions is a swimming pool with current, where you can swim without having to turn around at the end of a lane. In the afternoon I take part in the Parade of Nations, a parade like most of you know from the Olympic Games with all the athletes presenting themselves and their nation in the future finish chute. Wednesday we returned to Waipi’o Valley for a horseback riding trip, showing us a lot of the stunning nature and culture of the island. In the afternoon we did one of the most amazing trips the Big Island has to offer. A night snorkel experience with Manta Rays who closely swim past to the eat the plankton attracted by your bundle of light. On Thursday the Ironman organization provides for a welcoming banquet for all athletes. During a venue decorated in a very American style everyone is welcomed with dinner and Hawaiian traditional music and dance. Today it is time for the final gear preparations and a hanging around our pool. Tomorrow race day we’ll see what race day brings.

Onno de Boer"

Twitter: @TriOnno

Onno de Boer - Morning swim at the Pier Onno de Boer - Karin X-country Skiing to Hawi Onno de boer - Horse back riding in Waipi'o Valley


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