Road to Kona Quali: Multi-year Plan



So it’s the world championships this week. Qualifying for the event is obviously an enormous achievement, particularly for the busy age groups.

While I acknowledge that every athlete may have different paths, I’m interested to hear your opinions - how do you set a multi-year plan to qualify? Do you base it on limiter development? Do you race 1-2 IM per year with gradual improvements ?


While I have not qualified, I have come agonisingly close (within 60s and one place in my age group last year!)

  1. Get saving your £$¥€ - kona is expensive
  2. Pick your qualifying race
    A) remember that some races qualify you for kona the same year and others for the following year. I’d suggest qualifying one year and then racing kona the following - avoids having to engineer a double peak - but there are cons to this too
    B) pick a qualifying race that You can probably pre ride - depending on here you live you will want to pre ride the course as much as possible
    C) pick a course that plays to your strengths - if your a good climber then a hilly or rolling course should suit you better then a pan flat one
    D) as above but for the run
    E) look at the previous slot allocation and times - tells you what you need to aim for. There are very few ‘soft’ qualifying races these days
  1. nail your nutrition - trail and error is probably the only way
  2. get long rides in the legs - each time I have done an IM i have wished I had done more longer rides
  3. don’t over bike it - a marathon is a bloody long run so save your buscuits. So many good triathletes detonate on the run

That would be my top 5, but there are probably more


Great suggestions from @TriathlonTom ! Especially number 1 and 2! I am aiming for 2021 and 2023 (The 45th year) so a multi year plan like you. 2021 will be to test the waters, get my feet wet, have fun, and recon the course, then 2023 will be racing it. Here is what the long term plan looks like:

  1. Save money
  2. Get used to racing long course
  3. max out my speed on HIM distance
  4. Build volume conservatively and slowly
  5. Learn how to race for 9 hours

This year ('18-'19) will be dedicated to experiencing and enjoying IM distance training and racing, 19-20 will be toning it back a bit and focusing on HIM distances again to get that speed with a late season qualification, 20-21 focus on Kona if I qualify or another IM distance race, 21-22 back to HIM training with a late year qualifier, 22-23 back to Kona focus to qualify OR to get ready to race for a year. (For reference, all years begin the day after Kona–it’s like New Years for me).

It’s too early to focus on Kona limiters so each year will go from general fitness/strength/high end endurance–> speed–> IM focus, rinse, wash, repeat

Just my two watts :slight_smile:

Thank you for the post!


Just interested in what your times are like now at 70.3 and 140.6 if you have ever raced that and what sort of time and wattage you are looking to put out in order to get there?


@schmidt I had a five year plan to qualify which I missed by one year and qualified for the first time last year, raced Kona in 2017 and was lucky enough to win my AG at Maryland a couple of weeks ago and all being well will be back in Kona in 2019.

Endurance gains come over a year by year basis - people talk about building a base and at a macro level really you do this all the time, each year building on the previous years. For me I have averaged around 12 hours training per week over multiple years which include all the zero and recovery weeks. More regularly I hit 18-20 hours consistently in the build to races.

For what it’s worth my tips are.

  1. Consistency is key. You don’t need ‘hero’ or breakthrough workouts. If you finish hard sessions (especially running) with a little left in the tank you’ll still get the progression while reducing the risk of injury.

  2. You’re absolutely right about building volume slowly. A few years ago due to circumstances I had the ability to train pretty much full time for a period. I had the time to go straight into 20hr weeks of training but physically it turned out my body didn’t have the capability. That was a hard lesson learned.

  3. A few judicious race choices are better than racing a lot and should be enough to practice race nutrition and the like. Consistent training is often better than tapering and recovering multiple times.

  4. Time trial if you can. There’s not a lot better for finding out exactly how hard you can ride without falling off. You might get a few comments if you run off the bike after a TT but they are just jealous!

  5. If you able, a job with flexible working hours can make a massive difference as well as getting family involved and on board.

  6. Consider a Championship race which have more slots especially if you’re a middle aged bloke. I qualified for 2017 in South Africa and irrc my AG ended up with 12 slots. Along the same lines I tried to qualify the first time as I aged up and was one of the youngest in the AG

  7. Never give up. Whatever happens in your chosen races remember Ironman is a long day and a lot can happen. I punctured in the first 10 miles at Maryland and lost around 8 minutes. One of the things I am proudest of is that I kept my head in the game when in reality I thought the day was gone but still raced well.

  8. Agree entirely with the comments about saving your cash. I’ve had some great experiences in triathlon but it’s cost me a bloody fortune!


Given where we are I probably should add… use TrainerRoad a lot!

I have used TR since the original beta a long time ago which coincided with me starting out in triathlon and beginning to think about Kona.

Aside from racing I ride almost exclusively indoors using TR and I credit that with the vast majority of bike improvements I’ve made.


When you got there was it everything you hoped? What was the time of your first IM compared to the time that got you to Kona?


Right now I am a 4:15 HIM guy and am doing IMLP next year as my first full. No time expectation next year because its my first and I want to enjoy it to the fullest :slight_smile: Based on Best Bike Split and workouts that I have done on the course, I could currently (at least on paper–key term there) do a 5:00 bike at 75% intensity and 240 watts. I hope to get that to sub 5 but with a stronger run off the bike so build my FTP this offseason and running volume and speed.

In order to get to Kona I will most likely need a 60min swim (definitely in the ball park of that already), 4:50 bike, and 3:15 run. In order to do well in Kona so 2023 goals, I would like to do that in the heat and humidity which is why I’m giving myself ample time to prep


Yes, it was a great experience and I was intending it to be a one and done but in the end I didn’t feel I really did myself justice on the day. Next year is obviously a long way away but having experienced it once I looking forward to it more than last year. Fingers crossed I have a good years training and get to the start line fit.

My first IM in 2010 The Outlaw was 11:36 (1:06; 6:06; 4:11)
First KQ IM South Africa 2017 9:27 (1:07; 4:54; 3:17) 3rd in AG
Second KQ IM Maryland 2018 9:09 (1:04; 4:46 ride time was 4:38 without the puncture; 3:12) 1st in AG

Inbetween times there was

2011 Challenge Vichy 12:15
2013 Midnight Man (UK race 9:36 - it was a bit short so realistically would have been around 9:50)
2014 IM Mallorca 10:04
2016 The Outlaw 9:49