6 Day Count Down
Flying into Kona-Hawaii for my first time was spectacular. The first sighting of The Big Island was the endless black lava fields meeting the tropical blue ocean. The dormant volcanoes responsible in the distance and the remaining active volcano out of sight further along the coast. Landing at Kona international airport and disembarking onto the tarmac, to be faced with traditional Hawaiian style appearing airport buildings…apparently looking like we’d “arrived at Pizza hut HQ”, according to Cody (see photo).
Grabbing our bags and bike boxes from the baggage claim area, photos of world champion triathletes on the walls, reminded us that we were in the triathlon mecca. Cody, Simona and myself then waited for our bikes to be picked up by our Airbnb host Craig who was to arrive shortly in his torquise coloured Ford Ute. Going from the cold temperatures in Melbourne, we were now all sweltering wearing jeans or the like in the 30-degree heat. We couldn’t wait to get into our hire car and blast the aircon. We’d definitely been catapulted into summer.
After a 45 min drive along the Queen Ka’ahumanu highway and through the desolate lava fields we’d seen from the sky, we arrived at our accommodation in Waimea. The house was as good as it had looked online (phew) and our host had even stocked the freezer with frozen fruit and bananas for post training recovery (legend). We quickly settled in to what would be our home for the next 6 days, in the lead up to our first 70.3 half Ironman event.
Having taken our precious bikes apart, packing them into odd shaped boxes and trusting Jetstar and Hawaiian airlines with their safety, we set about putting them back together to hopefully get stuck into our first training ride on the island. We were lucky enough to get out along the highway without any catastrophic problems, completing a 40km ride in what really felt like perfect riding weather. A stop off along the way was made to make sure instagram knew we were in Hawaii. Because if its not on Insta or Facebook. Did it happen?
Morning trainings continued in the lead up to race today. Gradually we were getting up earlier and earlier to cope with the time difference (20 hours), meaning that waking up at 7am Hawaii time really felt like 3am Melbourne time. This was pretty important as race start was 6.44am meaning a very early wake up call. Not having always been a swimmer, registering for this race and having to tick the box online to acknowledge that Hawaii 70.3 is strictly a ‘no wetsuit swim’ had been daunting to say the least. The safety of my buoyancy device had always got me through the Gatorade series swims. So getting out for our first swim, for me, was full of anticipation. I was anticipating regret. However, the warm weather, picturesque Hapuna beach (where the race swim was to be held) and the surprisingly warm temperature of the water made it feel slightly less daunting. Apparently the ocean water in Hawaii is slightly saltier (is that possible?) and that helps with buoyancy. Whether that’s true or not swimming without the wetsuit was relatively okay. Perhaps all the hours I’d put into my swimming had paid off?
During the days we would visit different parts of the island, take in the sights and spend more time in a car then is probably enjoyable during an island holiday. The sites were worth it though. Here’s some of the things we did during this time:
- Snorkeling in Kalaemamo (south of Kona) with the coral dwelling fish and the amazing Honu (turtles) feeding on the moss covered rocks that lined the shore
- Visiting the volcanoes in the south of the island. Kilauea, which has been erupting since 1983, albeit not violently like you imagine when thinking of erupting volcanoes, was the one we visited. Whilst some people are lucky enough to get close to the slow moving lava-when we visited the sulphur dioxide gas levels being expelled were to high to safely get up close and personal. So no Insta ops here.
- Driving up to the top of Mauna Kea, through the clouds and seemingly several completely different climates. Phenomenal views from the top of the mountain at a staggering 4200m above sea level. Its so high and the arid weather so favourable for astronomical observations that there are 4 telescopes located at the top. Going from the beach earlier that day where it was 30 degrees and next to no wind and then going up Mauna Kea to where it was 5 degrees with winds of 50km/h.
- Swimming in the natural springs right next to the ocean that were warmed by volcanic energy
(I have put links at the end of this report in case anyone is interested in the above activities)
Being the first 70.3 race for all three of us we were unsure of how the day before and the morning of the race would be. Having to check both our bikes and our T2 gear in by 2pm the day before the race was a first and forced you to make sure you had everything planned out and organised almost two days prior to the race. To add to the experience of checking our gear in so early, this race had T1 and T2 located 10km apart, which was just a completely new concept. With all this out of the way we set off to the supermarket to buy our race day nutrition and our final supper for a day that we’d all been building up to and training for over the past 3 months.
4.15 am. We forced ourselves to eat breakfast at a time that looked and felt like it was the middle of the night (12.15am Melbourne time of course). With bikes and half of our gear already checked in it felt like we were jumping in the car and travelling a little light for what we were used to on the way to a tri.
A deep water start was another new experience for the three of us. As we warmed up in the water and wished each other good luck, it all became very apparent, very quickly, that this was the moment we had been training so hard for since the end of March. It may sound overly dramatic but it really felt like everything had been built up to this very moment. The training time, the money to get here, the mental investment. I began to feel quite nervous that I would underperform, not do well, fail. But before I could get too much into my own head the starting gun went off-Thankful to be in the first wave of swimmers.
The 1.9km swim was a rectangular shaped course. I felt good for the swim, not pushing too hard but maintaining a ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ pace that I knew I could maintain. Keeping myself pushing, knowing I had done 2-3km sets in the pool with paddles at this pace many times. Getting out of the water in a time of 37 min was slightly disappointing given how I felt during the swim but for a first hit out at that distance, without a wetsuit, I didn’t really have a bench mark for comparison. Happy to get the first leg out of the way, I somehow found myself thinking that the swim had gone from being my least favourite to it probably being the easiest leg of the day right before me. At least in terms of duration, fatigue and exhaustion.
Running across the beach and up the short climb to T1 I knew this was where the hard work was really going to start. Directly after the mount line at T1, the road took a steepish gradient-not too dissimilar to that of Port Arlington for those that have raced there. Unlike my first race in Port Arlington where I fell off my bike trying, and failing, to clip in-this time around I had a little more experience and managed to get up the first incline unscathed. Settling into the undulating 90km bike course along the highway, heading towards the turnaround point in Hawi – I was able to take stock of where I was. It was exhilarating riding along the same course as the Ironman World Championship bike course. The desolate highway, and expansive Pacific Ocean and individual triathletes pushing themselves. Back to reality. I was keeping my eye out for Cody who I knew would have gotten out of the water way before me (He did, 10 min earlier in fact in a time of 27:15, and snaring a ROKA first out of the water prize in his category). And he appeared much sooner then I thought, being only 20 min or so into the ride. Speeding past him at 38km/h he was behind me in a flash.. He had a flat. Not just any flat, as I knew he had just put tubular tyres on his wheels for the first time in this race and had only ever watched a video on YouTube about how to change a tubular. Whilst I had been counting my lucky stars for not getting a flat, the triathlon gods struck me down just 5km from T2 and I had to change my own rear flat (happy to have clinchers at this point!).
T2 was relatively seamless due to the helpful volunteers that handed you your gear bag and I even had a seat to sit on whilst putting my runners on. The run course was a two-loop, 21.1km course located around the Fairmont Orchid Hotel. A majority of the run was actually on the hotel golf course and about 7km of that was on grass. By this time the sun was out in full strength and the light rain that had come down during the ride now turned the conditions into what felt like a sauna. Not forgetting that I had, and without doubt the others, just smashed our legs for 2.5-3 hours along a tough bike course. After getting through the first 2km at my goal pace it all hit me at once and my pace dropped significantly. It was at this point that I felt like the next hour and a half would be a world of pain. And it definitely was. With aid stations every mile, they provided the motivation to ‘just get to the next station’. After shoving a couple of wet sponges down the back of my tri suit at the first station, every subsequent station I would pour more water on them, ice and hydrate with water and flat coke. This continued throughout the extremely mentally challenging and undulating course. Somehow amongst the blur I spotted another BCB member on the run course, Mick Dawson, who looked like he may have been experiencing something similar. It all did come to an end though. Crossing the line was shear relief and despite running my slowest half marathon time I was happy in the end to finish in under 5 hours given the conditions.
The highlight was easily Simona snaring 3rd place in her category, getting up on stage to be awarded a Hawaiian fruit bowl and being offered a World Championship 70.3 spot (which she turned down!)
Then the post race festivities began. Ironman put on a great event and I would recommend Hawaii 70.3 to anyone who wants to travel for a triathlon. I will definitely do this race again at some stage. And sorry for the long report! Well done for getting all the way through
Links for things mentioned in text:
Race result links:
|Competitor||Time||Category||Category Position||Overall Position||Swim||Bike||Run|
|Simona Infantino||5.22.54||Female 40-44||3||179||0.37.13||2.45.18||1.52.17|
|Cody Alison||5.23.53||Male 30-34||23||163||0.27.21||2.47.21||2.03.46|
|Michael Dawson||5.49.14||Male 55-59||19||397||0.35.32||2.50.44||2.13.47|
|Simon Preston||4.58.12||Male 25-29||7||61||0.37.17||2.31.58||1.43.55|