Ironman Alistair Brownlee knows he needs to be patient in Hawaii
While a gold medal remains the pinnacle of sporting achievement, within triathlon there is nothing more prestigious than the race held in Kona, Hawaii, every year.
Brownlee will take on the 2.4-mile sea swim, 112-mile bike ride and marathon as he bids to become the first British man to win the title and follow in the footsteps of four-time women’s champion Chrissie Wellington.
The 31-year-old said: “I’ve known about this race for a long time and it’s always been in the back of my mind. It’s great to finally be here.”
Horsforth’s Brownlee has dipped his toe into longer-distance racing since winning his second Olympic title in Rio in 2016.
He has twice finished second in the half Ironman world championships but this will be his first full-length race.
The Ironman he won in Cork, Ireland in June to qualify for Kona missed out the swim because of the poor weather conditions.
Brownlee, still mulling over whether to defend his Olympic titles in Tokyo, has been training intensively for the past five weeks and said: “The obvious three things to focus on, more than any other triathlon, are nutrition, heat and the distance.
“I’ve enjoyed the challenge after so long racing in short-distance racing. I’ve definitely found this the most interesting and challenging thing I’ve done for quite a few years.”
The numerous bits of advice Brownlee has received have had one word in common – patience.
Known for pushing himself at times beyond his limits, the Yorkshireman said with a smile: “Through my racing career, I guess what you see is patience definitely not being a virtue.
“But I’ve been an endurance athlete for my whole life. I want to find a nice happy medium where I want to keep myself near the sharp end of the race to be competitive without doing anything that would be considered a bit silly.”
First-time winners in Kona are rare. Brownlee’s long-time rival over the shorter distances, Spain’s Javier Gomez, made his debut last year and finished 11th.
“He just said it’s really hot and hard,” said Brownlee. “We just joked about it. I think that’s what you’d expect racing here.”
He is enjoying preparing for a race without huge expectations – Germany’s Patrick Lange is bidding for a third straight title – but the competitive juices remain.
“This is a race I want to do well in. I think it is important that I have a learning experience but put me in the race and, if it goes really well and I get off the bike in a great position and I’m running along Ali’i Drive, I’m not going to be thinking ‘I’m just going to jog it in from here because this is the experience’.”