He’s made 13 attempts to qualify for Kona, but the closest Brunty’s come to Hawaii is putting pineapple on his post-race pizza
Bravery comes in many forms. It could be the first time you wade out among the weeds for your debut open-water swim. It could even be – to bring back a humiliating memory – the first time you wear a Lycra skinsuit in front of your family.
There’s another kind of triathlon bravery, though, which is performed each month by the long-suffering editorial team of 220, because not only do they give an entire page over to me, they let me write whatever I like! This month, however, for the first time in almost 10 years, I’ve been given a specific topic to cover. It’s a topic I know nothing about because it is… Kona. And, in 13 Ironmans, the closest I’ve got to Hawaii is heaping pineapple on my post-race pizza.
Finishing my first Ironman in Canada back in 2006, I recall hovering around the results tent waiting to see the Kona qualifying times and, when that prospect evaporated, intently watching the roll-down of places to the next fastest qualifiers – although, considering I’d taken almost 12hrs to finish, it would have had to rolldown further than Laurel and Hardy’s piano to reach me.
The following year, with dreams of the land of Magnum PI burning in my heart, I trained like a demon for Ironman Lake Placid. Sadly, I missed out again thanks to finishing even slower than I did at Canada. What followed over the years was a familiar pattern of missing out on the opportunity to unleash my lilywhite legs on the Queen K Highway, falling agonisingly short of qualifying by an hour or so. As such I began to dream up strategies for making it onto triathlon’s second most dreaded volcanic island:
1 LIVE LONG ENOUGH
A popular strategy among confirmed mid-pack finishers like myself, who look wistfully at the 7075 age-group and realise our finishing times would see us just about creep in to the top three. Yet, considering my diet regularly consists of blocks of cheese so big you could use them as a weapon, making it to 70 in a condition to finish a jigsaw, never mind an Ironman, might be a big ask.
2 TARGET A NEW RACE
Every so often a new Ironman venue emerges, and its first event represents a chance of nabbing a Kona slot because it’s less likely to attract the usual speedy suspects. The drawback is that getting trounced by first-timer locals can knock your confidence. As the old saying goes, ‘The better you get, the further you’ll travel to get beaten.’
3 ENTER THE BALLOT
Each year the Kona race organisers hold a ballot so, for a considerable sum, you could win a place without all the aggro of qualifying. The drawback to this approach is trying not to die of shame while appearing alongside a bunch of people who have all qualified through supreme athletic effort.
4 BECOME A CELEBRITY CHEF
The long-game approach, but it worked for Gordon Ramsay, who took to the start line at Kona thanks to an invitation from the organisers. Frankly, becoming famous at anything would probably guarantee a celebrity appearance, and you might argue that my fame has already reached such heights, but I’m mostly famous for being a crap triathlete so it doesn’t really work for me.
5 TRAIN HARDER
This is the last resort because I’ve tried it, and it’s really tiring. A few years ago I went all-guns-blazing for a slot at Ironman Austria and, thanks to a herculean effort, reduced the time by which I failed by just 30mins. Given the amount of effort required to lop another half hour off, I decided that perhaps Kona wasn’t to be, and promptly signed up for the volcanic torment that is Ironman Lanzarote.
After 13 Ironman finishes, I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll never see the Queen K. Instead, I’ve settled for the more satisfying Iron challenge of beating my club mates. I’m still keeping an eye on the 70-75 age group times, though…
“With dreams of the land of Magnum PI in my heart, I trained like a demon”