One bite at a time: Koch uses analogy to finish triathlons

Kevin Koch spent some time within the past few weeks thinking about why he continues to go back to Hawaii to compete in the toughest of all Ironman triathlons.

“I think it’s because it’s hard,” the Grand Junction resident said.

Ever up for a challenge, Koch competed in (and completed) his fourth Kona Hawaii Ironman Triathlon on Oct. 10.

Yeah, swimming 2.4 miles, biking for 112 and finishing with a full 26.2-mile marathon run ranks up there in terms of testing one’s athletic endurance.

This year was even tougher for Koch. Racers in the Hawaii Ironman only get invited if they achieve an approved time at an Ironman qualifier during the year.

“Normally I qualify earlier in the year, but I qualified at Louisville (Ky.) about six weeks before,” Koch said.

That didn’t allow him the recovery time he normally enjoys and forced him to compress his training for Hawaii in a shorter time span. By the time he qualified, he was also scrambling to find affordable flights and hotel accommodations.

Putting all that behind him, Koch finished this year’s race in 10 hours, 2 minutes.

“I had a better finish last year,” Koch said of the time of 9:52 he posted last year.

Still, it was a very respectable time. The cutoff time for an official finish in the race is 17 hours.

All triathlons, especially Ironmans, pose their own set of challenges. Hawaii is a different animal itself. Koch lives in an arid climate and the heat, humidity and wind in Kona are always a factor.

The swim leg admittedly is Koch’s weakest of the three.

“I tend to make up ground during the bike,” he said.

In fact, he passed 840 people during the bike leg.

Still, that portion has its own set of conditions. The temperature begins to climb by mid-morning. Then there’s the incessant Hawaii winds.

“The real trick for Hawaii is you get a headwind both ways,” he said.

There is a headwind going up the mountain to the turnaround point. Riders usually get a tailwind for four or five miles when they start back down, but the course then opens up and riders get a headwind from the ocean breezes blowing in.

By the time the marathon run begins by mid-afternoon, the heat and humidity are at their peak.

“If you’re going to blow up, it’s generally on the run,” Koch said. “There’s nowhere to hide on the run.”

So what runs through Koch’s mind during the 10-plus hours he’s on the course?

“The best thing to do is stay in the moment,” he said. “If you start being negative, you start slowing down.”

Koch uses this analogy.

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

He drink a liquid diet during the race — water, Gatorade, Goo Packs (an energy gel).

In each of his four trips, Koch has viewed his visit to Hawaii as a ‘racecation,’ taking his wife Shannon along. The two have explored different parts of the islands on each trip. Shannon even worked as a volunteer at this year’s race.

After a little recovery time (for Koch, that’s cutting back his weekly training from 20 hours a week to 10), he will gear up his workout regimen again.

“I’m doing an Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico in six weeks,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll qualify (for next year’s Hawaii Ironman) there.”

If so, that will give him 10 months to plan for his fifth trip to Hawaii.


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