Meredith Kessler: “There is no substitute for experience on a course like Kona”
Matt Dixon’s star pupil on pre-race preparations, adapting to the heat, and why muscle memory will be key this weekend
She’s had a strong 2014 season with wins at Ironman New Zealand and the North American 70.3 Champs in St George, and a relatively restful build-up means that US athlete Meredith Kessler is one of our top 10 contenders for the grand prize in Kona this weekend.
We caught up with her to ask how she’s feeling with the race now just days away, what areas her coach Matt Dixon has been working on, and why muscle memory is going to be key come Saturday…
220: How are you feeling ahead of race day?
MBK: As everyone who is racing Kona can attest to, our sport is a continuous long season; that’s what makes it triathlon and Ironman – it’s never easy. The goal is to get to the starting line as close to 100% as you can.
Understandably, after a lot of racing, most athletes will have some sort of issues they are dealing with whether it be a slight niggle, tiredness, travel lag, etc that they have to manage. It is a true luxury that our preparation has been great leading up to Kona and my body feels like it has adapted to the heat which is all I can ask for during this time.
What changes have you made to preparations this year?
Our preparations were solid last year so we have done a lot of the same this time around. This includes heat adaptation, riding the course multiple times, running in the energy lab and open water swims.
There is no substitute for experience on a course like Kona so we want to come into the race with as few questions as possible so a lot of the racing comes from muscle memory. As with any race, there will inevitably be unforeseen problems so being as prepared as I can for these situations breeds confidence.
What areas is coach Matt Dixon focusing on?
We have been specifically targeting trying to improve my marathon within an Ironman – a process that we have been working on especially since Kona last year. The key is to have the energy in T2 to sustain a quality pace throughout the 26.2 miles.
Any inefficiencies in an athlete’s race are very vulnerable on the run so being able to be smart on the swim and bike to have that energy through the run has been a main focus. There are some races where you can get away with a subpar run to obtain a quality finish; Kona is not one of those races.
What’s made the biggest difference to your times?
The biggest difference in times over the past few years has been swimming, biking and running with individuals who are faster than me! Within Matt Dixon's community, PurplePatch, we have the fortune of training with the wonderful Every Man Jack triathlon team in the Bay Area led by Ritch Viola - my great friend and training partner.
As a result, I am constantly trying to keep up and improve. I have also been working with my good friend and professional strength coach, Kate Ligler, on core training, balance and hip activation which has enabled me to keep up my energy through all three disciplines.
Little tweaks like these make a big difference as it's the little things that have the potential to make the bigger things happen.
You can follow all the race action via our liveblog right here on the 220 website from 5pm UK time on Saturday 11 October – see you there!