Thursday, 8 October 2009

Kona Pics

Figured I should finally get around to writing about Kona itself and my experience so far, and post some pics for people to enjoy. I feel in some ways that being here for the race and spending so much of my time and energy living Ironman that I haven't been a proper tourist so to speak. I've certainly left my camera at home more often than not! But I've still managed to see and do some things, as evidenced below. Here's a mishmash of sights seen, both triathlon and non-triathlon related.

Every day from sunrise to sunset, athletes can be seen swimming at Dig Me Beach, aka the start of the swim course at the pier. I've been there a few times myself, usually around 7am when it's the busiest. Last week it was pretty quiet; come Monday it was crowded and busy with a bag check-in, free swag and tons of glistening muscled bodies in Speedos everywhere. Speedos are nearly outnumbered by speedsuits by now, but not quite! On race morning I'm sure speedsuits will be the order of the day.

Lots of athletes gather at the beach, many leaving their $5,000 bikes unsecured in the racks nearby.

A view of the practice course, curving around the orange markers parallel to shore.

This week the floating Coffees of Kona espresso bar appeared, handing free coffee out to anyone who swam the 700m to the boat.

I tried out my new speedsuit (which is indeed speedy!) but all the coffee in the world can't take away that awful warm saltwater taste.

Afterwards, this iconic cafe is the main attraction for many people (the guy riding on the bike is one of hundreds who will pass by during the day).

Earlier in the week, we went snorkelling at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, aka the Place of Refuge and found this little guy getting a few swim lessons of his own. At 10 weeks old, he wasn't too fond of the water!

The big dog tried to show him how, but he just wouldn't get off that rock.

Cruise ships come to Kona every few days, full of (ahem) more average-sized Americans or Australians who stand out like a sore thumb against the backdrop of 1800 fit and ripped Ironman athletes. This one was about to pull away for another night of cruising the ocean.

Like a giant floating city of its own.

The finish line isn't set up yet, but this sign stands here year round. It's right next to the swim start, but seeing as the actual sign is about 4 feet above my head, we had to photoshop this pic a bit to fit it in.

That's King Kamehameha, the first Hawaiian king, on the sign, by the way.

Jim and I finding some shade and breeze from the relentless 31 degree heat made worse by the strong sun here. One of the coolest things about Kona is how much "indoor" stuff is outside, like the airport gate waiting areas and baggage belts, and hotel check-in desks. All are covered in case of rain, but temps of 20-35 degrees year round mean outdoors is always comfortable if you're out of the sun.

Having been sunburned already, we weren't taking any more chances!

I registered today and got all my kit and wristband. Every age group gets its own colour, meaning I'm checking out the wrists of every female athlete I see, sizing up my competition. Ironically, I'm neither representing Canada nor Great Britain; instead I'm one of only threes Dutch women here, the other being last year's 2nd place pro Yvonne van Vlerken and handcyclist Monique van der Vorst.

Blue is my favourite colour, so I'm hoping this lovely blue wristband is a good omen?

And finally, my bike is primed and ready, just need to attach the number plate and put the bottles on. Aero helmet is a go after I discovered that my brains were frying under my regular helmet too. My position is so aggressive that every fast-looking guy I passed going the other way on the road the other day had a long good look at me... so apparently I must look like I'm good at least!

The mean machine ready to eat up those miles.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Postcard from Kona

In keeping with my lack of blogging myself and instead writing for other sites, my club the Kingston Wheelers has published a little blurb I wrote in a rather introspective moment in Kona (complete with a photo that's only a tiny bit photoshopped, ha ha. Those familiar with Kona will know what I mean!)

Here's what I wrote:

It's now halfway between our arrival to Kona and race day, and I actually feel normal again. Jetlag from the 24-hour trip - and along with it an 11-hour timezone shift - have passed, though we still rise every day before 6.00am: early mornings are the best part of the day here. We've been surrounded by fit, fast, and bronze-bodied triathletes since we left Heathrow, sharing our flight with over a dozen other competitors judging from all the bike boxes that were unloaded at LAX. The flight to Kona was entirely filled with people sporting Ironman finisher's shirts and M-dot tattoos, and every day more arrive here to enhance any feelings of insecurity or inadequacy I might have had about this race. That girl running 6-minute miles, is she in my age group? That guy motorpacing, surely he's a pro? TT bikes outnumber every other type of bike 10-to-1. Not a minute goes by without someone running down the road past our flat, and on the highway it's one cyclist after another, all riding alone in full aero mode. Mornings at the beach are packed with people swimming the course, followed by the required breakfast at the iconic Lava Java bistro. It's all a bit overwhelming... and it's not even race week yet!

So today instead of wrestling my bike through 40mph crosswinds, running in 30 degree heat or swimming mile after mile with the tropical fish -- all of which I've done in the past few days - we took a day just to be tourists. With a rented boogie board we headed to the beach where I tried my hand at surfing with the local kids while Jim sat in the shade with his book. It was a welcome relief from the constant reminder that everyone here for this race is just as fit and ready as you are, with the speed, body and kit to prove it.

Any training I do from now on will just be to satisfy my mind and keep my body reminded that there's a race to come. I've come to know the course, I've steeled myself for the relentless heat and wind that are hallmarks of Ironman Hawaii, and I've made sure everything I can do to prepare has been done. Now it's just a waiting game until Saturday when all of us line up at the start, eyeing each other warily and wondering who will have the race of their lives and who will be reduced to a cramping shuffling mess by the finish. Needless to say, the former is the only option for me!

More to come later, with photos I hope, as I go to town to register and check out the expo. Nothing planned but a short run today, otherwise it's IM tourist time!