Franko Kona Blog

Kona Insider: What To Expect at the IRONMAN World Championships

Franko Vatterott has been involved on the business side of triathlon for the past 15 years. From managing sports science/technology brands in the sport, to the creation of a big budget professional team, to eventually leading a professional sports management and marketing agency, he’s seen it all from a unique perspective. With a strong love and knowledge of Kona, Franko is preparing to attend his 15th IRONMAN World Championships. Knowing the nature of the course and what goes into making an IRONMAN, Franko offered his insights for both athletes, and spectators heading to the Big Island:

HOTSHOT is thankful to have your support and a partnership with your longtime friend and client, champion Crowie Alexander, What drew both of you to HOTSHOT?
Craig’s mindset is very high performance oriented and also very black and white. He shies away from marketing and hype and gravitates towards science and proven performance strategies. His most impressive feat is his consistency throughout his career versus any particular race accolades. For nearly 20 years, he has been producing podium-level performances and is constantly approached by companies seeking his endorsement. When Craig first heard about #ITSTHENERVE, his natural tendency was to question the efficacy. He spent a summer trying the different prototype formulas in training and racing and honed in on the neuromuscular claims. Meeting Dr. Rod MacKinnon, the scientist who invented HOTSHOT, was a pivotal moment for Craig when deciding to get behind the product promotionally. He had certainly cramped in races before but he was not really a chronic cramper. He liked that Rod had invented HOTSHOT as a solution for his personal issues with cramping while endurance kayaking, not as simply a way to commercialize a product.

Can you talk about how powerful a positive mindset can be for someone training for Kona?
Even the most consistent performing professionals get nervous leading into race day. There is so much preparation, training time, and sacrifice required to even get to the start line in Kona, so it’s only natural that athletes will question their readiness and jitters will set in as the Kona hype grows throughout race week. The top athletes will tell you to simply find confidence in your training plan, relax and enjoy the experience of being part of a world championship atmosphere.

Physically, you can train as best you can to prepare for a race such as KONA, but mentally, how can athletes prepare themselves?
The most common thing I hear from our clients is that they find mental comfort race week simply knowing they did the work in training. You have to trust in your Kona plan. Coaches, family and loved ones are all part of the journey and their support race week is critical for the athletes on race day – so harness that.

This will be your 15th time at Kona. What can athletes expect on race day?
The conditions in Kona always make the race tough. Crosswinds on the bike, Hawaiian heat, the mental aspect of racing in lava fields, racing against the best of the best, etc... But the atmosphere of Ironman Hawaii is very special and the vibe in town is surreal. So, despite the challenging conditions, remember that it is a world championship and the best thing you can do is try to enjoy the experience.

What are some of your favorite places to watch the race? 
The swim start is breathtaking and should not be missed. Try to arrive early to get a good spot. The pace (of the professionals) is quite fast through town as they try to distance themselves from slower swimmers before settling in on bike on the infamous Queen K Highway. Spectators are not really allowed out past a certain point on the bike course, so be sure to catch the action in town. (Note: You can access the bike course by taking a high road though the hills that will allow you to see athletes on the Queen K out by the airport.)

What are some things that one must do the week of Kona?
Lots of things happening race week. The parade of Nations on Tuesday usually kicks off the official events such as the Ironman EXPO. The welcome reception on Thursday is a fabulous production and it’s always fun to head down to the Pier on Friday to watch the bike check-in. Lots of carbon candy down there to see!  Keep an eye out for HOTSHOT activations throughout the week.  

What would you pack in your “special needs” bag for a long day of spectating during Kona?
Sunscreen, water, camera, and your game-day voice to cheer on the athletes. Competitors love seeing and hearing their support when on the race course. Ironman does a great job with their live broadcast, which you can access from your smartphone. So, bring a full battery and a way to recharge (bonus for solar chargers). Did I mention sunscreen?

What do you think athletes will struggle with for this race?
There are many ways to struggle in this race – they don’t call it Ironman for nothing, you know. The important thing to remember is that it’s a long day and athletes will go through ups and downs throughout their race. Some athletes will experience muscle cramping in Kona; we see that every year. If you know you have a tendency to cramp, stop by and see the folks at HOTSHOT and ask about their 1.7 ounces of wonder used to treat the nerves that cause cramping. You can thank me later for that.

Any predictions for finishers of this year’s race?
I predict a male and a female will win the pro race. Sorry, bad joke. Both the defending champs will be tough this year (Frodeno and Ryf) but as recent Ironman history will dictate, it’s pretty tough to defend the title in Kona. There are lots of obligations for defending champs race week and of course the pressure from outside sources, as well. Those two are exceptional, though, and it would be no surprise if they repeat their 2015 dominating performances. On the men’s side, the Germans have some seriously talented athletes such as Kienle, Dreitz, and Andy Raelert. The American tri of Hoffman, Potts, and O’Donnell are proven and hungry, as well. On the women’s side, Carfrae is always tough and is essentially a human cheetah with her run ability. With 3-time podium finisher Rachel Joyce sitting this year out with her new baby, there will surely be some new dynamics in the women’s race.

The last two hours of Kona are quite special. Can you describe that scene to people who have never experienced it?
It’s a tradition and a sort of a Kona rite of passage to bring the last competitors home (i.e. cheering) at the finish line before the midnight cutoff. There is a massive amount of energy on Ali’i Drive in those last two hours. Make your way back down to the finish line about 10 pm and experience the magic.

What is your favorite Kona race moment?
My favorite moment was in 2011 when Craig Alexander broke the course record and won his third IMWC title. Obviously, I am a bit biased, but considering we had a pretty ‘wild’ couple of months leading into that year’s race on the business side, it was pretty special when Craig crossed the finish line in record time and as the oldest man to ever win the event — at 38!


Crowie and FV 1 copy



5 Best Stretches for Swimmers:  Add these to your regimen. 

Carbs and Protein: 7 tips for proper intake for optimal fuel. 

Crowie Alexander: Tips on training for IRONMAN, how to conquer obstacles and why he trusts HOTSHOT to keep cramps – and limitations – out of the picture.  Click here

6X Ironman Finisher Karel Sumbal: Read about his training mantra, goals for the World Championships and more.  Click here




Back to blog