Unofficial IM® Hawaii Race 411

Welcome to the Endurance Nation Race Strategy page for Ironman® Hawaii!

Endurance Nation is four-time Division One Global Ironman® TriClub Champions — no team on the planet has raced more often or as fast as Endurance Nation. Explore this page for some of our guidance, head over to the EN Blog or consider creating a FREE 30-day trial for a season plan, instant workout and expert coaching! 

Our goal here is to get you 100% up to speed and ready to have your best race possible. Every single race is unique, and Ironman® Hawaii is no exception. From the one-loop ocean swim in Kailua Bay, to the hottest (and windiest) bike of your life on the Queen K to the unbelievably hotter (and often desolate) run, you will leave with a sunburn, a terrible burning in your quads and hundreds of incredible…guaranteed!

Three Bullets Video | Detailed Race Info | Equipment | The Swim | The Bike | The Run | Free Trial

Three Bullets on Ironman® Hawaii

Don’t have time time to dive into a full review of the course? Then cover the most important highlights in this short video with Coach Patrick from Endurance Nation.




Detailed Race Information
 [top]

  • Race Date: October 14, 2017
  • Distances: 2.4 Mile Swim, 112 Mile Bike, 26.2 Mile Run
  • Qualified Athletes Only!
  • Contact Race Support


Equipment Recommendations [top]

The World Championships is guaranteed hot with high humidity — it’s what takes a “normal” course and makes it the annual testing ground for the world’s best. Our general guidance, for nearly every race, is to bring everything you think may need, even if you’re pretty sure you may not need it! In short, be prepared for any and all weather conditions. 

The Swim:  This will be swim skin central, as you navigate with the elites of the triathlon world. You’ll want a snug fitting outer layer to reduce the chances of chafing that will be magnified 100x when you are out suffering in the sun and heat on the Queen K. You best goggles please; you’ll need to be sighting like a pro and dealing with the inevitable contact — no swim is rougher.

Daily swim sessions out of Dig Me Beach will give you plenty of chances to test your outfit (and adjust) as required.  Look around you and see what the others are up to; you might learn a new trick or idea!

The Bike: You won’t find a harder 112 miles in North America. It’s not the terrain that gets you…it’s a slow burn. The combination of the competition (500 watts just to pass someone), the shifting and gusting winds and the ever increasing heat that eats away at your ability to stay focused and steady. 

You’ll want the best combination of aero and safety possible — don’t go too deep on those rims with the crosswinds! Every second counts: nail down all those lose cables and flapping food.

As for gearing we nearly always recommend a compact crank (50/34) or “super compact” (52/36) if you’re a bit of a stronger rider on an 11 speed bike. Everyone should have at least a 25-tooth cog on their cassette (for example, a 25-11 for stronger riders), with less strong riders always benefiting from a 28t or higher (for example, a 28-12 cassette).

There’s no such thing as “too many gears” on the Kona course. Elite riders will typically go with a bigger front chain ring (54 or 55 vs the standard 53) just to get some more speed on the return trip…but only if you plan on being top 20 AG please!

The Run:  Unless you have a 7.5 hour bike split, you should expect a super sunny and hot first 10 miles along Ali’i Drive. You’ll not only want a visor or hat, you’ll need to reapply sunscreen in transition. And you’ll 100% want to start with hydration (first aid station is a scorching 1.5 miles in) that is salt-friendly for the heat. 

Lightweight, water-repellent footwear is a must. The Sahara-ready headgear is appealing but honestly not effective when running on the Big Island. Instead you’ll need a good plan for transporting ice (RaceSaver™ Bag anyone?) and consuming as much fluids as you can tolerate.

The second half of the run is quite solitary; there’s nothing you can count on here other than mental fortitude and an unbreakable resolve. Whatever you packed for Special Needs will likely have melted by the time you get there (it’s at Mile 18 and the temperature on the ground there is often above 130-degrees Fahrenheit.


Swim Course Breakdown  [top]

The swim is as scenic as it is difficult. Pick your line wisely here. The diagonally laid out course is buffered by cross swells (especially the closer you are to shore). And depending on the tide…you could be enjoying a push back to the pier or facing a seemingly endless uphill swim that you just can’t break. 

If you can make it to the Big Island one week early, you’ll be able to participate in the Ho’ala Practice swim…a timed 2.4-mile event over the same course. This swim is like a marathon, where the halfway comes too easily but the finish line seems to be moving away from you. Practice negative split swim efforts and non-wetsuit Open Water Swims….you’ll be glad you did!

>> View the online map here

Key Points:

  • Tinted goggles a must.
  • Don’t seed too far left…or too far back.
  • Be ready for a long second half, find good feet or else!



Bike Course Breakdown [top]

There’s not much to look at on paper, but honestly this course is the World Championships for a reason. Don’t be deceived. After the early admin loop of ten miles, including a jaunt up Kuakini, the fun begins on the Queen K Highway.

Due to the incredible competitive nature of the race, the field will likely be very crowded even at through the first 40 miles of the bike. You’ll need to be patient and cautious as the race unfolds early — use this time to get that critical nutrition started!

Once you make the turn towards Hawi, the “easy” part with a slight tail wind is long behind you. You face a 19-mile section with a relentless grade and fierce crosswinds. And remember that halfway is approximately mile 58 on the day (yes, those extra 8 miles outbound make a MASSIVE mental difference). The initial return down that climb allows you to recover before you start the arduous return trip.

The headwinds grow by the hour, and so does the mercury. The final 40 miles on the day are rife with chances for you to break. This is where you begin to face the reality of the effort required to complete your day. You job will be to stay aero, stay steady and fuel up. You’ll have plenty of time to wonder where all the folks from early in the day went!

Key Points:

  • Easy start with some “free” tailwind miles.
  • Steady climb to Hawi, with a chance to recover on the return.
  • Relentless, solitary return with wind and heat.

>> View the map online here.



Run Course Breakdown [top]

You’ll feel the heat the minute you step off your bike. Without the wind in your face, it suddenly sinks in just how hot it is out there at sea level. The first aid station is inside transition, and we recommend you avail yourself of all the fluids you can get your hands on. Anything offset your heart rate which is currently skyrocketing. 

The ten miles along Ali’i Drive (five out, five back) will be hillier than you remember and hotter than makes sense. Slow your pace down — the only true metric you have to manage your performance here is heart rate. Every aid station is your salvation; don’t miss out on a single thing they have to offer.

Your reward for finishing that section is to climb Palani — aka Pay and Save hill. Be wary of the heart rate, as you’ll need those beats out on the desolate Queen K. The fans are gone, the lava flows form long slow hills that hide all signs of civilization. The only thing to break the monotony of your breath and footsteps are the aid stations. The Energy Lab entrance is a welcome sight, but means you still have 2+ miles of running down into — and back out of — the hottest (or darkest, depending on time of day) part of your race.

Once you hit the top and turn back on the Queen K, you have only 10k….6.2 miles…until the finish. Ignore what your body and the geography are telling you. Focus on the watch, your heart rate, and the miles to go. You can do it!

Key Points:

  • Super hot at the start; be smart!
  • Cap your heart rate and avoid “racing” anyone else.
  • Pace yourself up Palani — it could break your day.
  • Be mentally tough over the last 10k…you’re body will say NO but your mind can do it!

>> View the map online here.



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