World Ironman Championships 2009
Kona, Hawaii, Saturday 10th October.
We are visiting Hawaii for the third time, and each visit gets better.
Hundreds of tropical fruits, most of which are still untested.
The warm sea, full of tropical fish, turtles elegantly swimming, and grazing sea weed from the rocks, and most special this year, twice swimming in the midst of a pod of Dolphins as they surface to breath.
And the race itself, the 31st running of the Hawaii Ironman, the pinnacle of the Ironman organisation. Nearly 6000 volunteers this year, & organised to impress and to remain the event to which triathletes world wide aspire.
Which other race can you get fresh espresso coffee (Kona of course) half a mile out in the ocean when swim training in the mornings?
Not an easy race though.
Usual stuff, body marking at 5am, and the whole town of Kailua Kona is full and buzzing though, check out the bike and make our way to Dig Me Beach, a 50 foot bay until at 7 am the Cannon goes and the race is underway.
I am positioned on the outside and manage a stress free start. No wetsuits, though most are wearing the modern one piece swimming suit for the 2.4 mile swim. It seems a long way to the turn buoys, where the sea is roiling but the return is quicker, and I climb up to transition clocked 1:17 for the swim the are 1200 athletes already in front of me and only 500 behind.
Transition is smooth, and out onto a loop through Kailua Kona, before heading out onto the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway. I have to pull in as my front tyre is soft, but there is a volunteer with a track pump so I suspect a valve problem, & elect to pump up the tyre & tighten the valve rather than change the tube, and soon get underway again, out onto the highway slight headwind.
By 25 miles the temperature is rising and most of the water collected from the aid stations is being used to pour over the feet and body.
35 miles and the wind is really building, climbing toward the town of Havvi where the turnaround is, the winds a gusting and progress is slow. At the top at last and pausing briefly to collect more sunscreen, start a speedy decent with a tailwind for the next 15 miles back to rejoin the Queen K highway across the lava field.
Having had a headwind out, it is reasonable to expect a tailwind back but not here! The next thirty miles are the hardest of the race. Clear skies and strong sun, and hash unfavourable cross wind make progress painful and a long line of suffering cyclists claw their way back to Kona.
Strangely a slight change in direction for the last ten miles and the winds shift again spirit and speed both rise, and into the transition again off the bike and heavy legs running.
The first five miles of the run follow Alii Drive next the ocean to a turn around beside a small church, then back in Kailua Kona, just after 10 miles is a short climb, and I am reduced to walking. Run training has not gone well this year and uphill I am more efficient walking, in the high temperature and humidity… The course at this point joins the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway and follows the bike course for 6 miles out to The Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii, where the course drops back down to the sea to a turn around then retraces back to Alii Drive and the finish..
The heat is intense and I walk the hills and run the downs as the Queen K undulates towards the energy lab.
I run down to the sea & the sun is setting, reaching the turnaround at 19 miles, I unexpectedly find my energy levels rising as the temperature drops. and I manage to run slowly, up & out on to the highway, and soon the lights of Kailua Kona and the noise of the finish start to build.
I know the finish is coming and my speed builds, Crowds surround me as I turn onto Alii Drive and feeling strong stride out to the finish, and the pain of the last 7 hours are justified in elation, joy & a certain knowledge that I want to do this again.