Carolyn Rohde’s road to Kona began when she received word that her name had been drawn in a lottery. Her initial reaction was jubilation that turned into fear as she recalled last year’s NBC broadcast of Ironman Kona. The broadcast showed extreme conditions that included high wind, and a heavy chop in the water. Being new to the sport and not a strong swimmer she had a lot of fears and doubts in her mind. She sought out the help of veteran Ironman athlete and coach Duane Franks.
Mark Davis: How did Coach Franks help you?
CR: “I worked with Duane very closely. He came up with a plan for me that was more on the high volume low-intensity side. Very conservative. He had me doing double days every day except for my rest day. A lot of work on my swim technique, as I’m not the best swimmer. I started the year doing a lot of base building, base miles and then my training really ramped up through the summer. Every weekend I increased my mileage. Typically Saturday was a long bike ride that got longer and longer each weekend with a brick run afterwards. Sunday was usually an open water swim and then a long run all zone 2, just easy aerobic endurance. And all that got progressively longer throughout the summer until I peaked in September. I did races leading up to Kona as well just to start practicing nutrition, outfits, race anxiety, transitions, all that kind of good stuff. Doing Olympic and half-Ironmans was really helpful in preparing for Kona.”
MD: What races did you do?
CR: “I did Vineman 70.3, and I did the Lake Tahoe triathlon which is a half-Ironman at altitude and it was a very hot day. That was great preparation. And I also did a bunch of century bike rides because they’re supported. I don’t have to worry about carrying a whole bunch of water and stopping and making sure there’s gas stations and things like that.”
MD: What centuries did you do?
CR: “I did the Devil’s Slide ride. I did the Marin Century. Devil’s slide ride was the hardest of the summer. That was crazy. You have this massive climb that lasts, like twenty miles or something. It just feels like it lasts forever. I also did the Tour of Napa Valley in August, it was the hottest year on record, 106 degrees that day. It was such good preparation for Kona. Not a lot of people finished it. I did that by myself and that was good mental preparation because with Ironman, you’re out there by yourself. Sometimes it’s good to do these long days where it’s just you and your thoughts.”
MD: Did you do any marathons?
CR: “No marathons. I did a couple of halves just to get my legs moving and to practice pacing. I did the San Francisco Half Marathon and that was it. I didn’t do many running races.”
MD: Did your coach give you useful feedback?
CR: “Duane’s unbelievable. He’s such a good coach. He was with me every step of the way. He commented on every single workout that I did. And tweaked my plan according to how I was feeling and my business obligations for work and travel. Which I appreciated because Ironman is a hobby. It’s not my number one priority in life. I have work and friends and other things.”
Next up: How Carolyn Rohde juggled Ironman training with her job obligations.