Kona man starts triathlon school

Kona resident Oliver Kiel is using his more than 25 years of road racing and competing in triathlons to help athletes reach their goals.


Kona resident Oliver Kiel is using his more than 25 years of road racing and competing in triathlons to help athletes reach their goals.

Kiel, who owns Velissimo Cycling Destination and Cycle Station, recently launched another venture — Triathlon School Hawaii, which offers customized training plans, one-on-one sessions, and a variety of camps for different ages, gender, abilities and race distances.

The school is a dream come true for Kiel, a 46-year-old former amateur triathlete who competed for the German Postal Service Tri team. It also fulfills his desire to give back to two sports he’s passionate about.

Kiel said he did cycling for pleasure until 1984, when he and a friend saw their first Ironman competition on TV. His friend convinced him to enter a triathlon. All it took was one race and he was hooked.

After careful consideration, and requests from customers worldwide, Kiel said he determined there was no better time than the present to open his school. He began coaching individuals in the summer and advertising the school this fall. The camps kick off next month and Kiel likes to keep camp enrollment to eight triathletes to ensure personalized attention.

“We see it on a daily basis. Athletes need more help in achieving their goals,” Kiel said. “We provide what the media or online training can’t: small, high-quality, hands-on classes in an inspiring environment covering the six principle disciplines of triathlon.”

These disciplines: swim, bike, run, transition, nutrition and recovery are taught by Kiel and his team. The other head coaches are Michael Khazalpour, a California physician and exercise scientist; Jason Braswell, Big Island Running Co. owner; and Penn Henderson, who has claimed the fastest amateur bike split at the Ironman Hawaii 70.3 more than once and won the 2010 Lavaman Keauhou.

Most of the school’s students are between the ages of 40 and 60. Kiel said he would agree to coach an athlete no younger than 18.

Prior to training, students go through various evaluations, including testing what their fitness levels are, determining one’s running gait, and taking into account different strengths. No training plans are exactly the same, and each evolves with the student. Also, none of these training plans are computer generated and all come with honest, to-the-point coaching, Kiel said.

The goal, Kiel said, is to assist athletes in swimming stronger, cycling harder and running faster while maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle, preventing injuries and making steady progression toward race or performance goals. He hopes the experience, whether it’s a day, week, months or years, makes an impact, one that lasts long after the camps and training sessions are over.

Training typically takes place throughout West Hawaii, including at the Kona Community Aquatic Center, Kailua Bay, Kaloko, Queen Kaahumanu Highway, Alii Drive and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. Kiel said the classroom is the outdoors and the students learn by doing.

“Our training sessions and lessons are mostly held in and around Kailua-Kona, utilizing the genuine swim, bike and run course of the Ironman World Championship,” Kiel said. “With average air temperatures in the mid-80s and water temperature around 80 degrees, Kailua-Kona is an unsurpassed destination to train.”

However, the school also offers a 13-day camp in Mallorca, a Spanish island located in the Mediterranean Sea that’s known as “a training paradise for cyclists and triathletes.” Besides participating in the daily swim, run and bike excursions, campers can compete with the school in the Thomas Cook Ironman 70.3 Mallorca on May 10.

The price for the camps varies depending on the package and what the student wants. For instance, the Triathlon Weekend Warriors Camp, which features three day of training sessions and no hotel accommodations, is $1,699, while the eight-day Triathlon Base Camp for beginners with a single hotel room accommodation is $3,199, according to the school’s website.

Kiel said the biggest challenges students often face are patience, time, desire and the want of instant gratification. But building a strong foundation is key, he added.

Stacey Kayden, a resident of San Francisco, just began her monthlong one-on-one training with Kiel and has already seen unexpected positive changes. Kiel pushes beyond her comfort zone and gets her to excel. She admitted one of her weaknesses as an athlete is her resistance to change.

Kayden has never had a coach before. She decided to get one to help her growth in triathlon, especially to feel stronger during the run portion. She said her dislike of running sometimes causes her to pull out of races.

Kayden researched a couple of schools and coaches. She picked Kiel because of his expertise, his “tells-it-like-it-is,” yet “charming” personality, and his intense focus and hands-on approach that allows for no cheating.


For more information, call 800-219-2324, email TSHI@cyclingdestinations.com, or visit triathlonschoolhawaii.com.

Email Carolyn Lucas-Zenk at clucas-zenk@westhawaiitoday.com.