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Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon
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I can't stand Kona and I think it is evil as an institution and oppressive as a social force. There, I said it.

Don't get me wrong. I was basically on my feet screaming when Patrick Lange was poised to make the catch on Lionel Sanders. What a beautiful thing to watch -- athletes excelling at the highest level of the sport on the grandest stage. Lange, Ryf, Crowley, Charles, Potts -- these are the athletes who performed to their potential.

But what about everyone else? How did Ben Hoffman fare after months of absolutely batshit training and volume? What happened with Jesse Thomas? How did Pete Jacobs' final race on the Big Island go after half a decade of irrelevance? Was this not supposed to be xyz's year to run away with the overall amateur bowl? Most of those people did terribly. Who shit the bed in the women's race? Most of them! We all saw Frodeno crumble...that hurt to watch.

These athletes all failed and many of them failed publicly and spectacularly. Among the amateurs, not a single person on my facegag feed or that I irontracked did well -- by that I mean nobody did the marathon under 4 hours -- which is just such an embarrassing thing after a week full of UPR photos, selfie's in front of the wall of names, equipment laid out the night before, etc. Then came the follow up blog posts and reflections -- "Not the day I'd hoped for..." "I was defeated here once again" but then "I'll be back to finally conquer this race. It's Kona!" -- and it's just insanity.

Get a clue folks. You're never going to do well at this race! It's an absurd event in ridiculous conditions in a dumb place to be running a marathon, let alone a marathon in the afternoon heat and humidity after riding 112 miles and swimming a few more. No amount of equipment and nutrition optimization, training rigor, specific preparation is sufficient for the overwhelming majority of athletes to do passably. If you haven't done well once or twice, you probably won't do well ever.

Why is this race so important in our sport and in our culture?

First, because IRONMAN WTC. Did you know they lose money on this race? They lose a lot of money on this race. But this race is branded and marketed as the end all be all, the beginning and the end of all things triathlon, and despite being awful in every sense as a participatory event, the motifs of tradition and history -- IRON WAR! TOO MUCH GLOOOO -- and a carefully managed brand presentation are apparently intoxicating enough that this race has been called "more than a triathlon; it is triathlon."

Second, because commerce and profit for endemic companies. The Kona expo is a corporate circle jerk where triathlon's fastest and most influential (and wealthiest) athletes descend and get their bikes rubbed and egos stroked. The Rudy Project helmet gambit being the most notorious, this event is all about selling shit. Rudy Project doesn't care about your hopes and dreams -- they know you have two things: you have influence and you have money. Of course you have money. Because you're there. This race is so incredibly expensive it's painful, and nobody without serious means or supporters gets to go unless they make unconscionable choices to deprive or neglect other aspects of their financial lives.

Third, because it's a social construct and a cultural paradigm that nobody ever seems willing to subvert because it is reified in our language -- Kona! KQ! -- and in our lives by its maker and the companies that profit off its halo. Triathletes are sheep and follow the herd and the biggest flock into KOA each October, following the asses in front of them. Rudy knows this. Despite witnessing the train wreck of our friends' performance failure on our instagags, we still see the 15 hour finisher trying to do ten IRONMAN races just to do this one awful one.

There is not a more influential mechanism of social power than "Kona". There is not a less justifiable and more psychologically destructive cultural institution in this sport than this race. Except maybe Thomas Gerlach. But seriously, Kona is such a ridiculous thing and a psychologically destructive institution. Terrible for the sport and even worse for the athletes that fall victim to its wrath. If Foucault were alive and a triathlete, he'd have a field day with the 50 Women to Kona debacle.

Jesse Thomas was basically sobbing on his instagag feed like a total Sally. This race literally makes grown men cry. Dirk Bockel's wife was crying for him at the end of the great 2012 documentary that captured his maniacal quest to stand atop the podium in Kona. After Dirk's 2012 failure at Kona, Dirk's wife -- who seemed to be the greatest asset he had in either sport or life -- said: "Why do we do this? Why do we put ourselves through this pain? This is so hard. It is so hard." Sobbing, but in a way that is much more relatable than Jesse Thomas who needs to just not do this race, like the Wurteles. She is in love with someone who insists on harming himself in the name of achievement. I call it emotional abuse and shame on him.

We glorify the hardness, the toughness, etc. -- what a bunch of bullshit. Dirk Bockel is now divorced and living in a van and writing a book or something. Ben Hoffman was going on like a fool about how the race is mental -- yes, the race is totally mental, and you are totally mental -- and by the way, what happened to you last Sunday? And now the Hoff is out there again training just as stupidly as he did in the lead up to this race, like he didn't just get blown off the Big Island by the best in the world.

Watching Jordan Rapp fuck up this race every time out has been just so painful to watch but so predictable, because you can't show up to this race utterly exhausted from what it takes to get there and expect to bang out a top ten. And you can't show up with a head space so clouded and muddied by the personal and cultural import of this race that you can't see the buoys in the swim, which seems to be what happened to him every go. You have to realize that it's just a social construct and you probably won't do well, and the bigger head case you are, the more important that realization is for your performance and your sanity.

This race makes people crazy. The KQ is the acronym that defines the right of admission, which is itself just an invitation to embarrass yourself and fail to live up to your potential in the most public and wretched way possible. The only athletes crazier than those who get there and go is those who can't and don't. Those people hate themselves the most. Which is basically everyone. What an uplifting thing.

I did this race one year and let me tell you, it was terrible. Kicked and punched like none other for an hour in the swim. Draft fest on the bike -- if you were willing to draft, which I was not at the time, so I lost ten minutes to the 25-29 Euro pain train -- followed by lonely riding in the ugliest geography on earth, on a highway, in 85 degree heat. The run, or should we call it a "run" in quotes, because nobody runs the thing. Do you know what it feels like to walk 5 or 10 or in my case over 15 miles in those conditions in that place? It sucks. Don't do it.

There was nothing transcendent or uplifting about Kona for me, except maybe my parents being proud of me for finishing. That pride in my parents' pride last about 5 minutes before I was back to the drawing board, full of self hate and renewed determination to get back to this island and attempt this same ridiculous task.

This race made me feel like shit. And still does. Including the fact that I haven't been back since.

Now excuse me while I go drink bleach.
Last edited by: kileyay: Oct 25, 17 19:44
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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I wish I had the talent of playing the keyboard like you do (English is not my mothertongue but also in my mothertongue I can only write boring stuff compared to your poems).

Thanks for sharing
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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I still enjoy Kona. But I also enjoy this post. Bravo, Kiley.
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks for sharing, an enjoyable text to read =)
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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We'll make you feel better Sunday at SwimRunNC!!

David
* Ironman for Life! (Blog) * IM Everyday Hero Video * Daggett Shuler Law *
Disclaimer: I have personal and professional relationships with many athletes, vendors, and organizations in the triathlon world.
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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I think I've made all these points over the years, but didn't offend as many people. LOL.

I will never waste $5k and a weeks vacation to do Kona. There are so many great races out there worth more of my time and money.

Note to all triathletes: try looking for races somewhere other than ironman.com.
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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It was getting a bit boring around this forum lately I must say....

Aaron Torrelio
--everything in moderation, including moderation
Last edited by: TravelingTri: Oct 25, 17 9:11
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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I agree completely. The fact that people get beat down after beat down and WANT to go back to what is - let's be honest - a truly terrible event among terrible events (take away the WC designation and like 100 people would sign up for this race as a stand alone IM) is mind boggling. And I'm honestly sad I've never KQ'd. Damn it me.

The "Quest for Kona'' series is an incredibly interesting series if you look at it for what it is: a marketing piece. It's like the idea that EVERYONE should be considering Kona as a goal (even the guy who goes like 14 hours!) should be ubiquitous is...normal. Very strange, but very compelling.

I'm racing 2019 IM Arizona as part of Team Smile Train. Will I implode? Will I finish strong? Donate to find out more!
Last edited by: jkhayc: Oct 25, 17 9:28
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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Time to change your username back to Pubes.
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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Couldn't agree more. There are way better, more scenic, and cheaper venues than Kona. If not for it being the WC, it would've been squished (unfortunately) like CdA, Tahoe, and any others.
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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nice perspective!

People find out I do Ironmas and they can't understand why we do the sport, they couldnt understand Kona.

There is a secular component of the social construct that is in it for the challenge to say you were one of the few that qualified. That is different than buying or legacy lottery entry's. Like becoming a US Marine or Navy Seal.

This post has inspired me to qualify for Kona...#1 bucket list item!

Cheers!
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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kileyay wrote:
There is not a more influential mechanism of social power than "Kona". There is not a less justifiable and more psychologically destructive cultural institution in this sport than this race. Except maybe Thomas Gerlach. But seriously, Kona is such a ridiculous thing and a psychologically destructive institution. Terrible for the sport and even worse for the athletes that fall victim to its wrath. If Foucault were alive and a triathlete, he'd have a field day with the 50 Women to Kona debacle.

x2 on the Pubes...

So what about Marino? What are you thoughts on his decision to avoid the race like the plague? Is he the smartest, most rational professional that you now know? Ironically I think Potts was just flat out lucky, it turns out not giving two ..... about the race might actually be the way to perform to your potential.

What the boys learned this year is that it is crazy stupid to go with Lionel. Nobody can ride with Lionel even with all his cycling faults and the race is only going to get more extreme in the years to come with Starky coming back, Gomez, and the race to get to the front of the race. Almost seems like racing your own race and expecting the massive meltdowns as the ticket to the Top 10.

Regardless you are probably right and to me the real question is not only how many people have been crushed by Kona, but how many others have been crushed trying to qualify for it?


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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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kileyay wrote:
I did this race one year and let me tell you,

Nice backdoor brag.
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [NordicSkier] [ In reply to ]
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NordicSkier wrote:
Note to all triathletes: try looking for races somewhere other than ironman.com.

Amen to this!!!
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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I tried to reply but fuck it... Can't add anything more to this except it's 100% correct.
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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OK - you were trying to be over the top and you made it!

Getting to the top of any sport / discipline is a challenge that can grind up and spit out a lot of talented people along the way - that is part of the package. For every gold medal in the Olympics, there are probably hundreds of disappointed aspirants, some of them broken by the effort and sacrifices, some of them stronger for it. A prima balerina, a Nobel prize winner and for that matter, the contestants on the Bachelor/Bachelorette . My own kid is still recovering from the disappointment of not getting into his choice of schools.

A championship is hard and almost everybody will fail by definition - unless we are going to outlaw achievement, what you say will be true about almost any way of sorting out the best.

In defense of Kona and Triathlon in general - it is one of the most accessible championships anywhere, despite the costs and distance. Good luck getting a tee time at the US Open, or a court at Wimbledon. I was at the Olympics last summer and never met a single athlete - let alone got a chance to run around in my underwear with them. $5,000 would probably buy you a seat behind home plate for the World Series, for one game - maybe you get a foul ball.

Does it have to be Kona? I don't know, I guess that is up to whoever owns it. World Cup and 70.3 championships rotate around so if you are looking for better weather feel free to qualify there. Part of the big deal of Kona is the place and I think it would suffer without the Energy Lab and Queen K as touchpoints... but if someone put together a prize package that would pay the winners like the winner of a major golf or tennis tournament, I could live with the crucial move being made on Fisherman's Warf or 5th avenue.

.

" I take my gear out of my car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of of their lives shocks me. "
(opening lines from Tim Krabbe's The Rider , 1978
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [dprocket] [ In reply to ]
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dprocket wrote:
kileyay wrote:

I did this race one year and let me tell you,


Nice backdoor brag.

it eliminates the response to the post of "sounds like someone's a little butthurt they've never done kona." and it's not a ''backdoor'' brag.

I'm racing 2019 IM Arizona as part of Team Smile Train. Will I implode? Will I finish strong? Donate to find out more!
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [jkhayc] [ In reply to ]
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+2 for use of butthurt and backdoor in the same post

--------------------------------------------
Team Wattie Ink
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [TriDevilDog] [ In reply to ]
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TriDevilDog wrote:
OK - you were trying to be over the top and you made it!
Getting to the top of any sport / discipline is a challenge that can grind up and spit out a lot of talented people along the way - that is part of the package. For every gold medal in the Olympics, there are probably hundreds of disappointed aspirants, some of them broken by the effort and sacrifices, some of them stronger for it. A prima balerina, a Nobel prize winner and for that matter, the contestants on the Bachelor/Bachelorette . My own kid is still recovering from the disappointment of not getting into his choice of schools.
A championship is hard and almost everybody will fail by definition - unless we are going to outlaw achievement, what you say will be true about almost any way of sorting out the best.
In defense of Kona and Triathlon in general - it is one of the most accessible championships anywhere, despite the costs and distance. Good luck getting a tee time at the US Open, or a court at Wimbledon. I was at the Olympics last summer and never met a single athlete - let alone got a chance to run around in my underwear with them. $5,000 would probably buy you a seat behind home plate for the World Series, for one game - maybe you get a foul ball.
Does it have to be Kona? I don't know, I guess that is up to whoever owns it. World Cup and 70.3 championships rotate around so if you are looking for better weather feel free to qualify there. Part of the big deal of Kona is the place and I think it would suffer without the Energy Lab and Queen K as touch-points... but if someone put together a prize package that would pay the winners like the winner of a major golf or tennis tournament, I could live with the crucial move being made on Fisherman's Wharf or 5th avenue.

It may be difficult to meet athletes at the Oly Games b/c of security plus the athletes' focus on their races but, if you swim at any pool, or run on the track at a D1 school with Olympians on their swimming and/or track roster, you can meet them pretty easily. If you include Oly Trials qualifiers, you can probably meet a dozen or more in one year's time. :)


"Anyone can be who they want to be IF they have the HUNGER and the DRIVE."
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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A great post - it is nothing short of insane

Everyone I tracked had below par races ; nearly all overbiked but pretend they did not despite walking for half of the run and shuffling for the rest - they all blame something else

I saw interview after interview where the pros claimed they would ride their own race - they rarely do and did not it seems

Despite that I will go again next October as I love the course despite the conditions - so far I have had good races by being patient and listening to my wise owl coach Jonnyo
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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You want more people to perform better at the World Championships? There's only one winner...in every sport...the one who performs the best. that's the way it should be.
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [Multisportsdad] [ In reply to ]
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I couldn't agree more!!

I just had another.....really, really, really crappy Kona race.

I am a good swim/bike triathlete.
(With an OK run).

On the bike my weight to power is good.
My cda to power is not so good.

My swim/bike advantage at Kona, every time, is totally chewed up and defecated by the huge packs of drafting riders.

And for some reason, I cope poorly with the humidity, so my run is also usually sub-par.

That said, I am a pretty decent 140.6 athlete.
I want some kind of AG world championship 140.6 event.
But what else is there?
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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It seems like a lot of your post points out just how brutally hard kona is...
But isn't a world championship supposed to be?
Isn't it supposed to also be hard to qualify for?

I would like to go to Kona someday because that's where this craziness started, and to a lot of folks it does represent an achievement, just like, say, qualifying for Boston.

I certainly don't have your gift of writing, so I won't say anymore, other than, I'd still like to go to Kona! :)
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Re: Made Crazy by Kona: An Editorial on the Most Malignant Social Force in Triathlon [kileyay] [ In reply to ]
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On the "real coaching" podcast a few years ago, this idea actually came up. They were sorta poking fun at the idea that IM world champion has to be able to handle heat, and that if you can't do that and you suddenly don't win in Kona, that it's then perceived you "suck" and cant win the "big one". When it's not the lack of winning the big one that is the issue but climate/heat acclimation. I've actually thought and made some comments with a few coaches that with new owners, I thought the world championships would start moving around by 2020, that maybe Kona is every other year, etc., but that it will start being moved around.

-USAT L2 coach, M.S. Exercise Physiology
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