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Home / News / Kona 2019: An age-grouper’s perspective

Kona 2019: An age-grouper’s perspective

The Ironman Worlds are the Holy Grail for age-group athletes. Here GB’s Will Newbery captures the AG experience in Hawaii

With over two thousand age-group athletes competing, the 2019 Ironman World Championships were far from being just about Frodeno and Brownlee, Charles-Barclay and Haug.

The GB team had a sizeable contingent of around 150 racers, having qualified from Ironman races around the globe in the 2019 and late 2018 season.

One such athlete was Will Newbery, a long-term presence on the UK tri scene, former national champion and head coach at ‘9 Endurance Coaching’.

Having hit his goal of going sub-10hrs in the M40-44 category in Saturday’s 226km-long race, here’s Will’s verdict on the Kona experience for age-groupers…


Kona is like Disney land for triathletes. All the big brands are grabbing your attention, all the fittest humans in the world wandering round in their Speedos. There’s a huge buzz for the few days before, and some panic training to try to emulate the super athletes when really you should be resting! The locals are so friendly and they seem genuinely happy and in awe of everyone.


I went to the Parade of Nations and that’s a brilliant experience, but I wanted to have a bit more time with close friends and family rather than do the Team GB thing. I had eight athletes – and myself – that I’ve helped coach over the years here, so I tried to give them support if they needed it.


The course is so tough. On paper it should be fairly easy but the elements add a whole new dimension. The heat wasn’t ridiculous on Saturday but the humidity hit hard. The swim waves were interesting and definitely broke up the majority of the packs but disrupted the swim. My age-group started 2nd and within 400m we were catching the weaker swimmers from the group in front.


The wind on the last 55km of the bike was brutal but the run is awesome. Ali’i drive is crazy. Busy. Loud. It’s tougher than you’d think with the gentle undulations. And the Queen K is like an oven with no wind. And it’s so quiet out there with no traffic, so the only noise is your feet on the asphalt and the aid stations.


The return to Kona town is okay but by that time the energy reserves are fading. Coming down Palani is a blessing because you know you’re a mile from home, but it’s so painful on your quads. With cheering and shouting crowds, it’s one of triathlon’s most recognisable finish line experiences and it doesn’t disappoint. I set out to go sub-10hr and managed to do that, so I’m super happy.

Profile image of Matt Baird Matt Baird Editor of Cycling Plus magazine


Matt is a regular contributor to 220 Triathlon, having joined the magazine in 2008. He’s raced everything from super-sprint to Ironman, duathlons and off-road triathlons, and can regularly be seen on the roads and trails around Bristol. Matt is the author of Triathlon! from Aurum Press and is now the editor of Cycling Plus magazine.