In preparation for what could very well be his last Ironman World Championship on Hawaii, former Ironman World Champion Sebastian Kienle takes us back to his races on Kona. This time: 2015. “I was fit and aggressive”, he looks back at how he felt moments before the start. As the winner of the Ironman World Championship 2015, he had all eyes on him.
“I took it a little easy at the end of 2014”, Kienle takes us along in his preparation. “My Achilles was sort of OK and I had some momentum leading into Kona 2015. Jan (Frodeno, ed.) won the Ironman 70.3 World Championship that year, but I came second, and he did not seem to be that untouchable… I had done some good work with my swim coach at that time, Jan Wolfgarten, and the preparation in Kona was pretty good. Lubos my coach once more did an amazing job in these weeks, and we had some of the best training sessions ever.”
But then race week came… “I was prepared for a pretty stressful race week – sometimes when you expect something to happen, you’re not trying to avoid it anymore. So I almost always said yes… Instead of a nice taper week, it turned into a big circus, but I did very little to avoid it. I think, if I had a tool like ‘Whoop’ (a sports watch giving insights in your recovery, ed.) at the time, it would have been very helpful. I now know how much of an impact all these interviews, photoshoots, etc. have. I’m just always on when there are a lot of people around. I even was on the parade of nations, doing push-ups on a truck.”
“The start of the race was almost like a relief”, Kienle continues. “But I was fit and aggressive. I made the first main swim pack and was not waiting for anybody on the bike. At around 50K into the bike, I caught Jan. A lot of experts were predicting that I will never even see him in the race.” However, as he wasn’t prepared for this scenario, Kienle didn’t know what to do. “Just like the whole week, I was too generous with my energy. The others seemed to have studied my 2014 win and learned some valuable things. I had a target on my back. I was almost confused what I should do, we also did not expect that I would take the lead this early. I made the worst out of it and hesitated between the two options of keep being aggressive and completely holding back. So I just pulled the group for a long time… Hitting the run, I was cooked.”
It resulted in a struggle until the finish line. “Up until today, the 2015 marathon is my slowest ever. And I also had to walk a couple of aid stations. I think the only time when I ever walked in a race (except from Xterra Maui). I was very disappointed that I had made too little out of what was a pole position for me. I ended up in eighth place, which still is my worst result in Kona.”