How Ironman World Champion Pete Jacobs won Kona in 2012

Pete Jacobs - Boardman

After 10 years and 24 Ironman races, Pete Jacobs returned to Kona, Hawaii in the shape of his life to win the 2012 Ironman World Championship. PJ gives us an insider’s guide to what it took to be crowned the world’s best:

“In the build-up to Kona, I just lock myself away. I don’t really do any social outings and I start to prepare the technical aspects of the race and start thinking about all my gear. Mentally, I’m visualising more and more frequently, as the race gets closer, just so I know how I’ll react in certain situations and can then develop ways to counteract those situations.

“I focus on getting into a happy frame of mind too – getting some playlists happening on the iPod and just having a few things ready so that when I get to Kona I’m in a good headspace and can keep that visualisation going all week while being fairly relaxed about it as well.

“I only run about twice in the last eight days before the race, so I can rest my legs, but I cycle nearly every day and those rides get to be shorter and sharper efforts. I swim a little but every other day – nothing too long and just by feel. But I make sure that I spend as much time doing rehab as I do in the pool, just to get back all that flexibility and range of motion again.

“I’ve had a lot of experience of race days, but I’m always anxiously excited for the gun to go so I can test my ability. During last year’s swim, I made the decision to stick in the pack from the start and not to try to go with Andy [Potts, legendary US Ironman swimmer]. But because there was a really large pack, I did try to stretch it out at the halfway point to see if I could pop a few people off the back, and it turns out that I did. It made a big difference getting on to the bike when guys like Dirk Bockel, Andy Raelert and Chris McCormack fell off the back because of the acceleration. I expended a little bit of energy, but the rest of the time in the water I was sitting on feet so it was a pretty balanced swim.

“Getting onto the bike, I started out a bit easier and lost a fair few places. I was still in that main pack, but taking it easy at the start and being patient. I knew what I needed to do to get from A to B and it was just about being in control all day. I’d run through the race 100 times in my head and I’d already raced there six times so I was very familiar with it and every decision came quite easily. When I needed to pass people, I was patient and made sure I chose the right place where I wouldn’t get stuck out wide and get a penalty. When I saw that there was another group and Craig [Alexander, defending champion] was bridging to that front group, I decided to try to bridge up to him. When I passed him, he dropped off and then I was in the front group – just three or four of us.

“I race really well when I’m at the front and don’t have to go by someone else’s fluctuations in pace, so I was quite happy to just ride at my own pace and push when I felt good. That’s what I did and I found myself out on my own and that just built my confidence and my enjoyment – I was really enjoying being in the lead. Coming back in, I felt a bit flat but I was still sticking with a couple of guys who were with me, so I went to the back of the group so I could be pushed mentally to stick at that pace. I went to the front again shortly after and the confidence buoyed me right back into transition.

“Getting off in second place gave me a lot of confidence and I relaxed into my run. Having visualised, I knew that my hips were going to be tight so about five miles into the run, I stopped and stretched them out with a few lunges.

“That’s what the day was like – just a feeling of being in control. Again, I knew what I needed to do physically and mentally to get to the finish line in the best shape possible, as quickly as possible. I just kept running and I thought at one point that I wasn’t going to catch Marino [Vanhoenacker]. When I headed out onto the Queen K [the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway], I thought, ‘I don’t think I’m going to catch him, I’m happy with second, he’s still five-and-a-bit minutes in front’. I started to doubt myself a little bit. But I very quickly came to Marino when he walked and then stopped at the aid station. I was a little bit overwhelmed that I was leading the race and that there was a good chance I was going to win. In the last 10km, I knew I had it. My confidence came back and rather than being overwhelmed by the feeling of leading, I started to enjoy it and relaxed a lot more.

“The crowd was so big, there were so many people spectating over the last couple of miles. They just gave off so much energy and were so excited for me that I couldn’t help but be excited as well.

“Winning Kona was something I’d dreamed of for 10 years and to finally get it was like the best present ever on Christmas Day times 1,000! It was just pure overwhelming joy and excitement, and I wanted to make sure I soaked it up as much as I could because I knew then that it wasn’t something that I could ever re-live.

“It was only going to happen once so I made sure that I made the most of it. I wear my heart on my sleeve so I wanted to show how excited I was that I was winning and fulfilling my dream.”

  • Ironman Nutrition

No matter what you do in training, you still need to get your race-day nutrition right in order to have a perfect race like PJ:

“The biggest difference I made [in 2011] was that I had a solid nutrition plan,” he says. “It was more planned and thought out than ever before thanks to Darryl Griffiths, the brains behind Shotz Nutrition.

“My plan was a few gels every hour, along with bottles of Shotz Electrolyte Tablets with an extra gel in each. We’d planned for the inevitable, which was missing my special needs bag on the bike section. So I was prepared with a concentrated bottle of salt tabs and plenty of gels. They were packed like sardines into my stem bag, my back pocket and even my tri short legs.”

“Dietary requirements during Ironman differ, but you’re likely to need a litre of liquid every hour and between 300 and 600 calories of carbs per hour, depending on your size, sweat rate and the race intensity. If it’s humid or you’re a salty sweater, you’ll need extra salt too.

“It’s not easy to load up with carbohydrate during a long-distance race because the oxygen in your bloodstream gets diverted to your working muscles, and away from your gut. So the more tired you get, the more you’ll struggle to digest gels, bars and sports drinks – which can lead to the runner’s trots.

“This is why Ironman triathletes often feel sick and also why they revert to simple carbs like cola and water, as they provide a quick energy fix. You can condition your gut to accept certain types of food and drinks, by always using them in training.”

See the rest of our 2013 Ironman World Championship coverage here. We’ll be updating regularly in the run up to Kona.

Pete Jacobs is the reigning Ironman World Champion and is sponsored by Boardman Bikes, Asics, GoldCross, Alaska Milk, Yurbuds, Rudy Project, blueseventy, F2P, Sram, Zipp, Quarq, Shotz nutrition, Healthwise Active Travel, Xlab, Computrainer, ISM saddles, BPM Sport. PJ is also an Ambassador for the John Maclean Foundation.