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Meredith Kessler Wins Ironman New Zealand


Pro Talk | Laura Bennett on Ironman Boulder

We caught up with Olympian, ROKA Pro, and Boulder resident Laura Bennett to get some key race travel tips and an inside track on all things Boulder — Ironman and otherwise.

ROKA: With IM Boulder approaching, a lot of racers are starting to think about travel — something you’ve done a lot of as a pro in you career — can you share any wisdom in regards to destination racing? Hydration and sleep are the two biggest factors with travel, if you’ve got long haul flights staying hydrated on the plane is super important. If you’re flying economy, try avoid an overnight flight if possible; missing a night’s sleep and then racing in two or three days time can really hurt you. If possible, bring your own food for flights to keep your nutrition as normal as possible.

That’s great advice. Speaking of sleep, how do you tend to deal with adjusting to a new time zone? Time change can be a really big factor. You really need to learn quickly how many days you need to adjust to it [time change] and how it affects you. We’ve found that traveling west is always easier. If you go east, try getting on the time zone enough days ahead to be prepared. It’s especially tough for most people who are competing in Ironman and are balancing full-time jobs with families and don’t have the freedom to come in a week before the race to adjust, so one thing to try is start manipulating your body clock by going to bed earlier and trying to get on the time zone in advance, if possible.

Looking back, what are some mistakes you’ve learned from with respect to traveling? Well as you get older, everything gets a lot harder! We’ve had to really fine tune travel and sleep. We used to chuckle at people who would bring their own pillow on the plane, and now we’re those people who say “I wish I had my pillow!”. I don’t think you’re quite as resilient as you get older, there’s less margin for error. You have to refine and become more detailed in all those things to still get the best out of yourself. It’s not that we made mistakes early on, but we just didn’t get affected by them as much. 

Anything to consider specifically for folks coming into Boulder?

Altitude can also be a factor for some people. Boulder is only at “One Increment”, which is basically 5,000 feet [above sea level]. It’s not too detrimental, especially at Ironman pace. I think what catches everybody by surprise up here is hydration, it’s so dry you don’t sweat as much and don’t feel like you need to refuel, but you do.

For people coming in to town can you recommend any local spots to get ready to race IM Boulder? The swim on race-day is in the Boulder Reservoir, and Boulder Aquatic Masters runs an open water swim on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. They mark out a 1km course, so that’s an opportunity to get a feel for the reservoir and do some open water swimming. Scott Carpenter Pool is at the Colorado Athletic Club and it’s also a great place to train. As far as riding is concerned, you can go up any of the canyons to get a feel for the elevation and terrain. Ironman has also mapped out the bike course ahead of time. The bike is just one big loop, and becoming familiar with the course is always a great idea.

If you want to run on hard-pack, the best place is probably out by the Reservoir. The run course on race day is almost concrete and is pretty rough, it’s two loops so once you get through the first, it’s all good and you become more familiar. It leaves a mark, for sure!

Can you give us some specific details on the swim course and start? It’s very calm in the reservoir, it doesn’t ever get too choppy unless the wind is absolutely vicious. I’m sure it’ll be a wetsuit swim again this year, the reservoir doesn’t really warm up too quickly over the summer. You get in the water using the boat ramp for the in-water start. The course is one big loop, you go North first, then West and then South, it’s very straightforward.

Conditions wise, what’s it like in August? It’s definitely warm, it can be windy and I’ve experienced a brutal south-easterly wind a couple times. There’s a lot of drag that runs south, but the easterly wind feels like a headwind. It’s pretty unpredictable, you can go out for a ride anytime in the summer and have a headwind going out and a headwind coming back!

What are some things you love about Boulder? We were living in Victoria, BC before we moved here. We were drawn to the healthy lifestyle, there are so many fit people here in Boulder. We enjoy being in this environment because we feel like we fit in, and it makes it a lot easier to get out if everyone else is out there exercising. Of course the altitude was also attractive, the mountain trails, and easy rides to get out of town.

Any can’t miss spots? We think of Boulder as a little piece of Europe in the US, it’s got a cute little town on Pearl Street which I would say is a must-visit. It’s closed off to cars and there’s lots of good shops and restaurants. A great post-race restaurant is Bohmeian Biergarten, on Hide and 13th, it’s a really cool pub to celebrate. Rubens is on Walnut and Broadway, which is another good pub. That area is a great place to stay, especially if you want to take in Boulder after the race. There’s a bus everyone takes to get out to the reservoir for the race. There’s also great running trails in Flagstaff which is at the Southern end of town. It gives you a great view and there’s a really pretty restaurant called Flagstaff House up at the summit.

Follow Laura on twitter and keep up with @rokasports on Instagram and Twitter for more exclusive stories, inspiration, and insight from ROKA Pros!

June 03, 2015

Pro Talk | Jordan Rapp on Ironman Texas


We caught up with Jordan Rapp, Ironman Texas Champion and ROKA Pro, to get his thoughts on scouting Lake Woodlands, the Texas heat, and keeping things simple on race day.

ROKA: Could you set the stage a little bit and talk scouting for Lake Woodlands? The swim at IM Texas is about as straight forward as you can get. The course goes south and then north, and then turns east down the channel. By the time you’re swimming into the sun it’s pretty overhead, so you shouldn’t have any issues with sighting.

Probably the hardest part is when you’re on the way back — there’s a bunch of these little inlets and you’re like “Oh that’s definitely where I’m gonna turn in” but it’s not. if I’m in a group I just stay on people’s feet because it’s much easier, especially on this course where the only time you have to make a decision is when you make that right hand turn [into T1]…there’s no reason to sort of out think yourself.

That right hand turn into the channel, do you have to hook that buoy on the inside or can you cut that corner? You can cut it as much as you want, you don’t have to pass that buoy on your right shoulder. It’s a channel, so there’s no way to cheat the course. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.

So with the layout of the course being straight forward, and no real current to deal with, how do you pace it? It depends. The pro race is basically the opposite of the age group race. The pro race is essentially ‘start as fast as possible and then try not to slow down too much’, where for the age grouper that’s basically the opposite of how you should pace a race. This is a rolling start race so you can sort of self seed — [ideally] you’re starting near people who are of similar ability to you.

The big thing with the turns on the course is you want to make sure that heading into the buoy, you don’t get dropped into where people [bunch up], you want to give yourself a little bit of cushion to be controlled, so you may have to take a wider line around the buoy. That’s all stuff you have to decide in the race. If you have dropped into the pack, then it would be better to slow down around the buoys and take it smooth…but sometimes if you see people and there is a small gap, you can pick up the pace a little bit leading into the buoy so you can hang onto the group. That’s all stuff that’s totally dependent on what’s happening during the race. The key for any swim in a triathlon is do whatever you can within your race plan to keep on people’s feet. 



For something you can’t control, like water temperature, how do you plan for that? I would definitely say that this is a race where you want a wetsuit and a skinsuit, if you’ve got one. As a pro, at 72 degrees I would probably pack a wetsuit, full sleeve, but for age groupers who still have that 76 degree cut off, I would personally bring a sleeveless if I had one. 

Big picture, how do you approach Texas in particular from a tactics standpoint? There are a lot of tactics over shorter distance races, a lot of ways you can spend your energy. But there’s pretty much only one way you’re gonna have your best Ironman race. If you go too hard early in this course, it’s gonna be pretty brutal — and that starts with the swim.

Don’t swim hard, swim smart. Yup. Also, the weather is typically such a factor in Texas. From a conditions stand point, [Texas] can be one of the hardest races in the world. It’s typically hotter and more humid than Kona, and you don’t have the wind. There are pluses and minuses to that, but Texas is generally a very, very still course. If you get an outlier, like you did last year, where you’ve got northern winds coming down and cooling it off, that means the second half of the bike is much harder because you’re riding straight into a headwind. [The course] is one big loop so an advantage can quickly become a disadvantage. It’s not like one of these multi-loop courses that you can suss out and adjust.



For the racer taking on their first IM down at the Woodlands, do you have any Pro wisdom to share? You have to be so careful with modulating your energy — it’s very hard to recover If you go too hard at any point, that’s especially true in an Ironman with conditions like Texas. If you go too hard early in this course, it’s gonna be pretty brutal. Overall, I think a lot of people over-think it. Don’t swim too hard. Don’t bike too hard. Save something for the second half. The longer the race, the less complicated it should be.

Be sure to check out Jordan’s blog and follow @rokasports on Instagram and Twitter for more exclusive stories, inspiration, and insight from ROKA Pros!


May 06, 2015

What I Learned in St. George by Meredith Kessler

Meredith Kessler

A true veteran of the sport, Meredith Kessler has plenty of experience racing (and winning!) some pretty tough courses. Despite competing in over 50 Ironman events, she continues to learn something new every race. On the eve of this year's hotly contested Ironman 70.3 St George, we caught up with the defending champ to see what she had to say about her gutsy performance last year.  Go get 'em Meredith!

As we approach the 5th year of St. George being offered on the race circuit and the 5th year I have had the pleasure of racing this course (3 times as a full ironman and once as a 70.3) -  there is always something new to learn, absorb, adjust and deliver. Last year, "chasing Svenja" was absolutely the theme of the day. When she amazingly flew past Annabel Luxford and me at mile two of the bike like we were going a true SNAIL'S pace, we had to make the decision right there to just race our race and hope to catch her later! I know I had no chance to try to hang with her on the bike - she was humming like a freight train!

Coming into T2 about 4:30 down on Svenja, the thought process was to take it mile by mile and mainly, hydration and nutrition like a rolling buffet at every aid station. Oink Oink I know - but it was absolutely needed to survive out there and not pop like a champagne cork. I felt grateful to have known the trials and tribulations of this beefy St. George run course and thankfully knew where to hustle and hum up the longer inclines best I could muster. As the miles ticked off and I could see Svenja semi in reach up the long, dry, hot road amongst the gorgeous red rocks - it was the raw moment of pleasure and pain to try to go as fast as I could up to her to have even a glimmer of hope to make the pass. A risk that had to be taken in the moment. At mile 11, the TT effort to Svenja combined with my piggy like nutritional feast seemed to work out a-okay and the rest of the course was a downward grade to the finish! It was a risk worth taking and you always relish the days where the body behaves as a result of this mindset and risk.

I'm delighted to have the opportunity to come back to St. George again this year and have a chance to share the course with the MOST world class field of pro women that this race has seen yet. The "US Champion" title is back up for grabs and the person willing to take the most chances and "go for gold" will be the one to come out on top. I wish everyone the absolute best for a safe and happy race!

- Meredith Kessler

May 03, 2014

Jesse Thomas' tips on racing Wildflower

ROKA's Co-Founder Kurt Spenser interviewed Jesse Thomas ahead of Wildflower this year.

KS: Wildflower is a BLAST, but it is also a BEAST!  How do you set yourself up for a great race here every year?

JT:It all starts with the Maverick Pro, obviously. :) Honestly, you've got to approach this race with respect. It's a tough, hilly course, and usually pretty dang hot. I'd say it's impossible to be too conservative early in the race. That starts with the swim, staying as relaxed as possible and keeping in mind you have LOTS of racing left once you exit the water. The last two years, I've had guys fly by me and pull away from me on that first hill on the bike, only to come back hurting 30-40 miles down the road. I really gauge my effort on that first climb, and try to find a pace that feels too easy, because that's probably about the appropriate pace. You have a lot of adrenaline and excitement at the start, so do your best to chill. I tell myself to keep from pushing until about 40 miles into that course, and even then, it's with the knowledge that I've got a super tough run ahead, so you never want to feel buried.

KS: Wildflower is an awesome campground-community experience for most athletes.  Super fun - but not the always the best pre race sleeping conditions..... 

JT: I strongly believe that sleep the night before a race doesn't matter. I've raced well with 8 hours of sleep and 3 hours of sleep. Because of nerves, weird sleeping environments, and busy prep, my typical pre race sleep is no more than 4-5 hours. So don't over think it. You want to do your best to get as much rest in the 3-4 days leading up to the event, which includes sleep, but also just means staying off your feet, trying to sneak a nap in and in general keeping chilled out. My wife tells me to "keep it low," which means I do my best to not worked up or worried about anything. It's as much a mindset as anything else, and how relaxed and refreshed you are mentally is more important than how you approach it physically.

KS: As you pointed out - this race can get get HOT!! (and we're not talking about the naked aid stations...)

JT: For the heat, the most important thing you can do is be conservative with your effort. It can be like an extra weight on your shoulders that you don't feel until it's too late. So I'll adjust my effort on the bike and early run to account for how hot it is. I'll also take in plenty of liquid and electrolyte. I'm using OSMO at the moment, which seems to work great. I'd say it's impossible to over drink, so slow down at the aid stations and take in plenty of liquids. I'll literally walk through the run aid stations to make sure I get enough water in. It doesn't matter how strong you are, if you get dehydrated it's game over!

Thanks for taking the time out for all the "crazy-ass fans" and Wildflower athletes JT -- we'll be wearing our Aviators and cheering like maniacs on Saturday!


 -Kurt, Rob, T-Bone and the entire ROKA team

May 03, 2013

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