The Kona Race-Day Morning Perk: An Empowering Return To Coffee

  • By TJ Murphy
  • Published Oct 7, 2010
  • Updated Aug 30, 2011 at 7:18 PM UTC

Spurred on by advice coming from the likes of Peter Reid and Mark Allen, some triathletes, like Montana’s Linsey Corbin, break a one-month fast from coffee just hours before the Hawaii Ironman cannon goes off.

Written by: T.J. Murphy

Spurred on by advice coming from the likes of Peter Reid and Mark Allen, some triathletes, like Montana’s Linsey Corbin, break a one-month fast from coffee just hours before the Hawaii Ironman cannon goes off.

Three-time Hawaii Ironman champion was known for his massive capacity for discipline. His hunger for winning routinely beat out his hunger for any vice or habit that might interfere in the slightest with his year-in-year-out quest for the championship.

Reid, in fact, reported that in the buildup to the Hawaii Ironman he would keep his cupboards empty—no food in the house except for the minimal amount he required so that he could sustain a fierce training level but would also burn his body down to the bare essentials. “I would go to bed so hungry,” he told Inside Triathlon, “I would have a headache.”

Despite this audacious level of discipline, it was coffee that Reid missed the most. In his blog leading up to race day Reid’s excitement for the competition seemed equal to his excitement to enjoy a cup of his beloved joe. Following advice by Mark Allen Reid went off coffee during his buildup weeks to sharpen his mind and body for the level of racing that consistently landed him in contention for the win.

Consider these thoughts from Reid’s blog in the days before the 2004 Hawaii Ironman:

October 11, 2004: Some of you might know that I am a HUGE coffee guy.  I love a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  Other than my new 42 inch plasma TV my favorite thing in my little home is my kick ass Saeco coffee machine.  It is one of those fully automated suckers.  You hit a button and it makes the most amazing Americano coffee.  In the past I would go off coffee on travel day to Kona which was yesterday.  Even then I would cheat a bit by drinking the odd cup of decaf coffee.   One of the biggest thing Mark [Allen] felt that I needed to do this year was cut coffee out three weeks from race day.  THREE WEEKS!  I haven’t been off coffee for more than five days since I started drinking coffee 14 years ago to make it to early swim practice.  I managed to find this pretty good tasting tea that I have substituted for my coffee.  Anyway, I can’t wait until race day morning for a good cup!

October 16, 2004 (day before race): This morning I woke up early answered some e-mails then crashed again.  It was important that I got out of bed early so that tomorrow’s early wake up call won’t be such a shock to the system.  Although, I am going to be pretty excited to get out of bed tomorrow – COFFEE!!!

As it is with these things what works for one champion often gets passed down to the new generation also pursuing ultimate performance. Reid gets much of the credit for the fact that almost all the top pros, and plenty of age-groupers, come to train in Kona in the weeks leading up to the race thanks to his fabled “Kona Camp.” Likewise, the Coffee Fast has also begun to catch on. Witness a recent blog post by Ironman Coeur d’Alene champion Linsey Corbin from her site, where she goes into the specifics of why:

Wanting to make the most of the above situation on race day, I eliminate caffeine typically 4-6 weeks before the main event. My reasons for cutting out caffeine:

1. There is no need to mask being tired. A month out from my goal race is all about getting proper rest & recovery to make the most of my sessions.

2. Caffeine is a diuretic. This can lead to dehydration and gastric distress. Neither of which set you up for a great Ironman race. It’s hot in Kona and the last thing you need is to be dehydrated race-week.

3. Cutting out caffeine a month out allows my tolerance to caffeine to decrease, so on race day I get a maximum caffeine effect. Perfect!

4. A gift to the Hawaiian Gods. Before each big event I write down a list of things I have sacrificed and given in the name of Ironman. While there are physical benefits to giving up the caffeine, I think it just as hard socially. Its something I have given and on race day I don’t forget that.

5. My Lava Java bill will be cut in half.

FILED UNDER: Ironman / Nutrition TAGS: / / / / / /

TJ Murphy

TJ Murphy

T.J. Murphy is a 2:38 marathoner and five-time Ironman finisher. He is the former editorial director of Triathlete Magazine, Inside Triathlon and Competitor Magazine. His writing has also appeared in Outside Magazine and Runner’s World. He recently authored “Inside the Box: How Broke All The Rules, Stripped Down the Gym and Rebuilt My Broken Down Body.”

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