Our second trip to the Ironman World Championships was once again as spectators, as observers of the spectacle that it is. We recommend it, and quite honestly, are not sure whether or not we'd like the trip as much if one of us was racing. It'd be a great honor, and accomplishment to qualify, but there'd be fewer Kona Brewing Longboards consumed, and our tans would be a lot less even.
Even if you've been to Kailua-Kona on a different week, the week's scene might make it borderline unrecognizable. Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but cafes and restaurants are plastered with banners, athletes are everywhere, and you can just sense everyone sizing everyone else up.
There's not a good way to describe the amount of activity along Ali'i Drive in the week leading up to the race, excessively obsessive is the closest, but in a good way - if that's possible. It's a constant parade of people running or on bikes, from as early as before the sun is up, until after sundown. It's a bit contagious, and makes for a good week to get motivated to train, that's the thing, there's not a way to not be motivated while here.
If swimming is more your thing, you'll likely want to visit "Dig-me Beach" is where all of the pre-race open-water swimming takes place. This is the same spot where the race starts, right next to the pier and it's not just open to people racing, anyone can swim the course, and our guess is that everyone doing the race does at least part of it.
Part of the weekly festivities is Bob Babbitt's "Breakfast with Bob", it's about the only way fans of the sport can get a sense for how most of the protagonists for Saturday's race are feeling on the days leading up to the race. The schedule tends to be favorite-heavy towards the beginning of the week. As the week goes on, the line-up transitions a bit to lesser known athletes as well as coaches, or former winners. We caught coach Siri Lindley on camera, with Matt Dixon nearby when we stopped by.
When in Kona, whether you're racing or not, but especially if you're not, you've got to grab coffee at Daylight Mind Coffee Company, and of course visit Island Lava Java for food and drinks. We were happy to see Lava Java's keeping its tradition of having items on the menu named after current and former pros. This year's main sponsor at Lava Java was Kask, though a couple of other manufacturer's made it on the menu as well.
It wouldn't be surprising to see a full page of our credit card statement filled with charges from the aforementioned two establishments, and our newly discovered go-to smoothie and breakfast place, Evolution Bakery & Cafe. A nice plant-based, vegan option that seemed to be quite a hit with the Ironman crowd. Maybe it's because you can make fun of both with the same joke?
Closer to, and in transition, the mood was a bit different than it was a mile or so uptown. Both volunteers and contractors setting up seemed to be rushing to make sure all was finished for Saturday. It wouldn't be fair to compare this race's magnitude to the Super Bowl, but in relative terms, the Ironman World Championships are sort of that much of a big deal to the sport. Transition is quite nicely set-up, even with nicer bike racks, the volunteers are plentiful, and the finishing chute is lined with grandstands and a jumbotron.
By the time Friday evening rolled around, it quieted down quite a bit. With everyone racing having signed in, it was time for one last Kona sunset before the big day. It'd be a good one, regardless of the outcome, that we were sure of.
Our gallery from bike check-in.