Some refer to it as the Mecca of triathlon, a race most people I know in the sport would give anything to compete in. Ironman Hawaii is by far the most widely-recognized race in the world. It’s the only race that most people who DON’T know anything about triathlon KNOW about.
Speaking from personal experience, at one point I was one of those who without knowing much about the sport, still knew about Ironman Hawaii. I couldn’t tell you many details about the race or distance except that it was in Hawaii, and there was a marathon to run at the end. As I’ve gotten more involved in the sport over the last several years, I’ve of course learned about some of the epic moments (Julie Moss, The Ironwar, Team Hoyt, Chris Legh, etc.) so needless to say, I was quite excited to go cover the race with This Week In Triathlon and soak in as much as possible.
Before even arriving on the Big Island you could start to get a sense for the magnitude of the race. Our flight from Maui had on-board non other than Andy and Michi Ralelert, Matt Dixon’s wife (Matt is the Purplepatch coach) and a few other participants. We talked with a few people during our layover and we got the sense that everyone was happy to be headed to the Big Island. The oversize luggage area at the airport was full of bike bags, and there were a number of triathlon “trip” companies with pick up signs. Hannes Hawaii tours even photo-bombed our picture with the Raelert’s (not pictured) – well played guys!
Once we checked in and settled into our condo, it was time to get to work. A quick run (when in Rome type of thing) dinner with Sebi and Tine at Huggo’s, and off to bed to tackle the rest of the week. Our condo was full of people racing and spectating and I can’t imagine it was any different elsewhere around Ali’i drive which made it quite nice as we felt like we were right in the thick of things.
As the week wore on, I was happier and happier I was here as a spectator and not a racer. The venue is beautiful, and there’s a lot of history and mystique surrounding the event, but there was nothing inside of me that wished I was racing. If anything, I would have most likely been too focused on getting everything finalized for race day and not enjoyed myself nearly as much. In other words, I didn’t envy those who were racing. Having said that, I knew this could very well change come race day.
The expo was busy from the moment it opened, and all of the big industry “players” were in attendance. To my surprise, even companies that don’t do business in the US (Canyon in particular) were in attendance. With a large European, South American, and Australian contingency it made total sense. The abundance of companies present at the expo also means that for anyone who plans on racing Kona in the future, take a bigger suitcase, it will inevitably get filled with giveaways from the different vendors or cool limited edition products such as Saucony’s Kona Kinvara or This Week In Triathlon water bottles.
Another interesting dynamic of this trip was sharing a condo with Kevin Taddonio and his wife Kristi. Kevin had been to Kona once before as an amateur racer (finished 1st OA American Amateur) and had a lot of insight into what most people competing are going through. Being that he stayed over 30 minutes away from Ali’i previously, he was also looking forward to enjoying the event from a spectator’s point of view, which of course, included getting some Lava Java… and that, we all did.
The rest of the crew
Aside from the expo area, and the various “XYZ Brand” houses along Ali’i drive, there wasn’t a more well-branded spot on the island than Island Lava Java. I was told, it’s been a tradition over the last few years for one of the industry manufacturers to completely take over with their products, even down to the menu. As you can see by the pictures below, aside from replicas of Marino Vanhoenacker’s would-have-been Kona bike, Sebi’s World Championship Plasma, and Luke McKenzie’s machine, the menu was very “Scott-centric”
Had Marino raced, this is what his custom painted Plasma 3 would have looked like
Though it looks the same, we could spot a few differences between the real one and the replica
Not pictured was my favorite item, the “Depth Charged” coffee with Espresso
As we got closer to race-day, the events became more and more race-focused. The Kona Underpants Run (Ok, maybe not that one), seemed to have as many participants as Ironman. And of course the pro athlete panel and bike check in (I’ll write a separate post on that). The expo and town as a whole got quiet as Friday evening rolled around, although apparently some got to go to a TGINR party (Thank God I’m Not Racing).
Susan and I at the Slowtwitch Gathering on Wednesday
By Friday night the mood was a lot more subdued, and even for us non-racer-spectators, we knew we’d have a big day ahead of us. Aside from a few Pro and AGer friends we were planning on cheering for, we were also hoping to get as much coverage for This Week In Triathlon (Kevin with the video camera, me with the DSLR, both on social media).
Lava Java was busy all day long, pro bikes could be spotted regularly
Keep an eye out for my next blog about the Kona Bike Count and the race itself. Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to ask any questions below, or by emailing me.