Coach Matt Dixon Talks Kona

  • By Julia Polloreno
  • Published Oct 5, 2012
  • Updated Oct 31, 2014 at 4:39 PM UTC
Linsey Corbin. Photo: Ironman

JP: Can you speak to Linsey Corbin’s Kona prep? We saw her in Bend, Oregon recently and she seemed excited for Kona and the opportunity to release an already building racing energy after having the mechanical in Vegas.

MD: Linsey’s had the best build up to a race that I can remember. We had a lot of discussions on where she should be based for her Kona prep. In previous years she’s gone to Hawaii and done a big block of work, arriving very early before the race. Personally I’m not a massive fan of athletes being out in Hawaii too early, I think it provides a depleting environment, and it’s like a pressure-cooker of athlete tension, where you see your competition all over the place everyday. Linsey naturally performs well in heat and humidity and doesn’t need to be out there early, so we’ve had her based in Bend. It has been a wonderful setting, and we have managed to hit rhythm and consistency. I have to say she’s had the best training partner possible, with Matt Lieto helping her on a daily basis. He’s volunteered to do almost every biking and swimming session with her, allowing her to really improve her open-water skills and being aware of other swimmers.

I actually think Linsey’s mechanical misfortune in Vegas was a little blessing in disguise for her; it really enabled us to not have a hot and humid race to recover from. Looking back at that race day, it was a tremendously hard day in Vegas that really depleted a lot of athletes that went deep. It was certainly way harder than the year before. Not having to recover from that race, instead being able to put together a really solid Ironman block, ended up in her favor.

With her preparation, I couldn’t ask for more and she is set up to have a solid day. She has also matured as an athlete, and understands how to approach the race with her run in, and her mental approach. She now understands how to race well, versus hoping she races well.

So far as strategy, she is in a position that she can keep her plan simple. She should race with blinders on. Swim her best swim possible, hopefully minimizing the gap between front group and her, then simply ride and run her race. She has to be confident that if she races with this simplicity she will find herself at the pointy end of the race near the end of the marathon. The biggest thing for her is to ignore everyone else and do what she needs to do for her.

JP: How has Meredith Kessler’s recovery been since her crash [where she broke her back] right before Vegas, and have you continued to dial in her nutrition in the heat?

MD: Everyone saw what the front half of her year was like—it was a fantastic banner year—and that was one of those crashes that completely derailed us. The week before Vegas we had a decision to make—do we try and respect the world championship race and go, hoping she can step up to a good one, or do we hold off and go do Branson 70.3 a week or two later. We made the decision to go to Vegas and it was the wrong decision; there’s no doubt about that. Luckily, For the past month, she’s been 100 percent healthy.  She is a ‘workhorse’ athlete and responds really well physically and emotionally to load. We sent her to Kona for a training block, so that she could experience the Hawi winds and really learn how to ride on the course.

In the last two years she has done a lot of work in the last year and a half to learn what’s right for her in the heat. We have had plenty of positives in that regard, including her winning performance at a very hot Eagleman 70.3

If you asked me three months ago, I would have said that she was in a golden place. The last few months have been tough, but Meredith is so resilient and has done an amazing job in recuperation. I now sit here a week out and feel that she is back to being in a good place with an opportunity for a strong race.

JP: How do you guide your athletes in terms of dosing out the energy output and pacing during the Hawaii Ironman in particular?

MD: The athlete can only do what they can do, and it is a game of energy expenditure and conservation, depending on the way you want to look at it. You have an eight or nine-hour problem in front of you. You can’t go as hard as you can go the whole time; there is an element of pacing to it. You want a consistent, steady output. For some athletes, that can be relatively specific where analysis of training over time provides a firm understanding of what wattage they can hold for that distance, or what pace they should be able to hold for the run. For other athletes, putting those boundaries down and utilizing power or pace drives them crazy and it becomes a limiter. It really depends on the type of athlete or how they tick.  For the minimal-type athletes, we train and tune the body for the feeling of what it’s like utilizing power and pace, but then on race day put the tools aside. It really is dependent on the athlete and the athlete’s personality and how they’ve trained. Ultimately the Ironman is, for most athletes, a game of ‘you can only do what you can do on that day.’ When people make decisions to try and go out of that box they usually blow up. The one caveat is, in the men’s race, because of the dynamics of the group, you have to be trained specifically to ride much harder at the start of the race so you can maintain your position in the group.

JP: And how about Luke Bell? How’s his form coming into Kona?

MD: Luke is actually in a really good place emotionally and physically. His build this year has not been focused on Hawaii, it was focused on New York [Ironman]. He did everything I asked him to do for New York correct, and it was one of those rare times where the coach got it wrong. I know what the mistake was and I left him cooked. So he didn’t have a good day. It was disappointing we really anchored on New York and didn’t follow through and I take responsibility for his performance there. With that said, we’ve really focused on getting his bike very robust for Hawaii. I think he comes into Hawaii with very little pressure and can ride with the front group, so I’m excited to see how Luke does.

JP: Ok, my last and perhaps most important question: What are you wearing to the Underpants Run?

MD: I might not be at the official event because I have a meeting at that time, but you will see me over the course of the week in a varied collection of underwear, ranging from faux-denim to flash gordon’s.  I feel a real man must take immense pride in his underwear collection. Anything else would diminish the status as a gentleman.

More from the 2012 Ironman World Championship.

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Julia Polloreno

Julia Polloreno

Julia Polloreno is the editor at large of Triathlete magazine. A Stanford University graduate with an award-winning track record in publishing, Polloreno is a two-time Ironman finisher and has been a competitive triathlete for more than a decade.

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