Monday, February 1, 2016

Kona 2.0

by Sue Aquila

If and when (think positive people!) you qualify for Kona the first time, you will not be alone if you suffer from a case of imposter syndrome. Some of us do this routine quietly. Others of us will tell fellow triathletes how they don’t really belong because of (insert disqualifier for qualifier here).

After the 2012 season, I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t a fluke. I wanted to know that I could qualify again and improve my performance at Kona. The original plan for my attack on qualification was:

  • January Mercuryman Triathlon Cayman Islands (70.3 distance)
  • February Endurance Corner Tucson Camp
  • March Gator Half (70.3 distance)
  • April IM Texas 70.3 (Galveston)
  • Ironman Texas

All went to plan with overall wins in the non-branded races and making my age group podium in Galveston. Camp was fantastic… except for the day when my coach, Marilyn Chychota McDonald, suggested I ride up Mt. Lemmon in my aero bars. The guys took one look at what I was about to attempt, laughed and left me in the dust. Chivalry is dead.

Seriously, everything leading up to Ironman Texas went great. Except I didn’t qualify.

It took exactly 48 hours to come up with a new plan. This plan included:

  • RAGBRAI (seven days of cycling, swimming and running across Iowa)
  • Ironman Muncie 70.3
  • USAT Age Group Nationals
  • Ironman Louisville
  • 70.3 World Championship

In one season, I was attempting more racing than most people complete in a two to three year cycle. And it worked. I qualified with 30 minutes to spare in Louisville and improved my Kona finishing time by over an hour.

I had one hiccup of a slight calf strain before USAT Nationals and had to pull out of the race a mile into the run. The DNF hurt but if I hadn’t called it a day, I would not have had the race of my life at Louisville.

Completing five 70.3 races and three 140.6 races in one year was possible only because of the following:

  • Consistency - In the last five years I have rarely missed a workout. Not because I am superhuman, but because I have designed a life personally and professionally that works with my training/racing.

  • Marilyn Chychota McDonald - She knew from her pro/coaching career how to roll multiple events across a season and get faster in the process.

  • Attention to detail - Fatigue cascades and you have to rely on your loved ones, checklists and practice to pull you through.

  • Recovery - I take sleep very seriously and implement naps during my highest training load.

  • Nutrition - I choose to consistently eat a healthy diet.

I am happy to report that the imposter syndrome has been replaced by the “I feel honored to belong” and “everything makes me smile” syndrome. I am excited about racing in 2014 and I look forward to the challenges and improvements ahead. Playing the long, as in 140.6 miles long, game.


Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50lb weight loss and continues as a Kona qualifier. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at fewoman.com. You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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