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Runnin’ with Rani: World champ triathlete Terenzo Bozzone finds Kona perfect training ground

August 15, 2014 - 12:05am


Saturday: Kona Marathon Events presents the fifth annual Volcano Rainforest Runs at Cooper Center in Volcano Village. Start time for the half-marathon is 7 a.m., with the 10K and 5K races beginning later. Race packet pickup is Friday at Volcano Art Center from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be no race-day registration for the half-marathon. For more information, visit volcanorainforestruns.com.

Sunday: Frozen Pea Productions presents the Brown Bear Bash and Sunny Sprint at Kaiakeakua Beach. Start time is 8:08 a.m. for the free 1/3-mile swim in Kailua Bay and 3.1-mile run on Alii Drive. A shorter Pea Wee course of a 200-yard swim and 1-mile run/walk is available for everyone. There is no sign-up; participants just sign out when finished. For more information, call Peaman at 938-2296.

As the No. 1-ranked professional triathlete in the world going into September’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont-Tremblant, Canada, and gearing up for October’s Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Terenzo Bozzone says there is no better place than Kona to get fit for the action.

For the past three weeks, the 29-year-old from Auckland, New Zealand, a five-time world champion, has been swimming with dolphins in Kailua Bay, riding his bike along Queen Kaahumanu Highway, and running five-minute miles along Alii Drive — all to reach his goal of podium finishes at both upcoming World Championship races.

“I really like training here in Kona,” Bozzone said. “There is no real distractions and I can stay focused on my training, eating healthy, and making sure I get the recovery I need. I can get fit real fast with the heat and humidity. It’s perfect.”

Bozzone said his main focus during this trip was the run and bike. This past week Bozzone logged 640 miles on his bike — more miles than most of us drive in seven days. Even with Tropical Storm Iselle causing stronger than normal wind gusts, Bozzone kept his sharp focus and hammered out a 120-mile bike ride while everyone else stayed home.

Unlike many professional triathletes who go through several coaches throughout their career, Bozzone has trained under Jon Ackland since starting at the age of 14.

“I’ve been doing triathlons for 15 years now,” he said. “The biggest thing that I like about Jon is he never goes easy on me. He’s really focused and really understands me and how my body is adjusting to training or racing. He can tell how I am feeling just by speaking to me over the phone. He knows me that well.”

Bozzone’s good looks, talent and engaging personality have quickly made him one of the most photographed faces in the sport, appearing on the front cover of numerous triathlon and running magazines. Yet for the man who is affectionately known as “T” to family and close friends, Bozzone is well-grounded, humble to the core and appreciative of his opportunity to make a living out of a sport he truly enjoys.

A young Bozzone burst onto the triathlon scene by winning four junior world triathlon and duathlon titles between the ages of 16 and 18. In addition, he set a blistering course record at the Wildflower triathlon at age 21, and won the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at 23.

After a long winning streak in numerous half-ironman distances — also known as Ironman 70.3 races — Bozzone decided it was time to make the leap to the full Ironman distance, completing the Hawaii World Championship races in 2009 and 2010.

“Both were tough experiences,” Bozzone said. “Both times I did a seven-week training camp and found out Ironman was on another level that I’m used to. The race really took a lot out of me and left me completely drained.”

Bozzone said that shortly after his 2010 Kona Ironman, he sustained an Achilles tendon injury that would prevent him from returning as a competitor for several years. Yet, he decided to watch from the sidelines and learn all he could on this legendary event, which led to a profound realization.

“It was amazing to see that everyone was hurting,” Bozzone said. “Whether you are winning or in the back of the pack — everyone was going through the same feelings. I realized it’s how well one can overcome those hard patches and hang tough mentally to pull yourself through. Those are the ones that will reach the finish line, and for the top contenders, those are the ones that will get there first.”

But for Bozzone, there is so much more to Kona than just training or racing on the most talked-about course in the triathlon circuit.

“I love the vibe here,” he said. “I love how relaxed and easy everything is. The people are friendly, the food is amazing and the training is great. Kona is one of the most beautiful places that I enjoy coming to.”

Fresh ahi poke bowls and mouthwatering papayas have become favorites, while Bozzone also frequents Daylight Mind Coffee Co. and the Poke Shack. The sandy and picturesque cove of Mauna Kea Beach is another gem he and his wife Kelly discovered and adds to the idyllic setting they have come to enjoy.

And now, with the massive training miles over and done with, a more fit, healthy and confident Bozzone can look forward to a little rest and recovery before the 70.3 World Championship race slated for Sept. 7 — a race he finished in second place last year. As far as Kona is concerned, Bozzone said there is still much to learn and figure out.

“Being that it’s a world championship, there is so much more pressure,” Bozzone said. “The best is here and the conditions, the course, it’s not easy. My biggest goal is to get through the race and come out with a more positive race experience than in years past. I want to create and leave with memories that will be memorable, and not the painful ones that I’ve had to carry with me so far.”

With his main sponsors 2XU, Argon 18, Clif Bar nutrition, Aqua Sphere and others backing his every move along with unconditional support from his wife and coach, there is no stopping this Kiwi from adding more world titles to his impressive resume.

“It’s been a real exciting road and journey, and I hope the best is yet to come.”

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