I had a big training day planned for today and was going to ride the whole course with a
lunch stop in Hawi and a 90 min run. Leanne was going to drive out the same route and meet me up there. Having put my sensible head on I decided that this was going to be too much so elected to ride out to Hawi (the turnaround) and then ride the descent to experience the cross winds before putting the bike in the car. It was also moving day where we packed up our stuff and departed our base camp at Royal Kona for our Airbnb up the hill just outside of town, so a lot to fit in.
After a good sized breakfast I climbed onto the bike and headed out along Ali’i drive to the Queen K. All was well, I was comfortable and zipping along. My averages were up and I was hitting my power targets. What was all the fuss about?! I caught and passed my US Coastguard friend again, not sure if she recognised me or just thought it was weird that someone could tell she was USCG!
On top of some of the rolling hills I could see the ocean, it wasn’t so blue but more a sea of white horses. Interesting…. At about mile 35 the road makes a little turn and OMG I hit a wall of hot air. I simply ground to a halt. It was unreal and instantly it was taking 250w+ to make 10mph. Up until now the road had been the main highway but the section up to Hawi is on a much smaller road and climbs from sea level to 640ft over 15 miles or so. Not so bad on the face of it but all this was into a 25mph headwind. It was tough and I could feel my soul being slowly ripped out, simply relentless. Eventually I made it to Hawi where there were a few other
shell-shocked looking triathletes all asking whether those conditions were typical. Apparently they are and that wasn’t even extreme.
After a coffee and a bit of lunch, I headed off downhill expecting an almighty tailwind and a wild ride back to the highway. I was so wrong! Somehow it was now a cross/head wind and the bike was a handful, I was blown fully off the road on more than one occasion. As I gingerly made my way downhill Alistair Brownlee made his way up and waved. So did Lionel Sanders who didn’t wave. I later saw a post on Instagram from Lionel who said he had sore arms from hanging on for dear life in the crosswinds and had a torrid time of it. By the time I met Leanne at the bottom I was more than ready to get in the car!
We made our way to our Airbnb which turned out to be amazing, via just about every supermarket in Kona and had a bit of a sit down and a debate about whether I was going to run or delay it until tomorrow. The plan was to hire a Boris bike for Leanne to ride along with me carrying the water. After a bit of procrastination, I made the decision to go for it.
It was fun actually and I think we both enjoyed it equally. We got to St Peters Church in short order and turned around. It was super cool running with a support rider in matching kit and made us feel like the pro’s or just giant douches! It was meant to be 90 mins but due to my indecision it was starting to get dark and a bit daft for running and cycling on the side of the road, so we called it quits at 60 mins. Still, a good run and 14km in the bank.
The last job on the list for today was to pick up Allan, our house and Navy buddy from the airport before a well earned sleep.
Day 6 - Thursday
With Allan joining us day 6 was almost a carbon copy of our first day on the island, mainly because we knew how rubbish he would be feeling. A short swim followed by a second breakfast and coffee at Lava Java.
But before that we needed to ‘quickly’ build his bike. It wasn’t quick. Turns out Allan is not an enthusiastic home mechanic.
We got most of it done with the exception of his front wheel which was stuck in the box with a bent skewer holding it hostage. An easy fix with some pliers, if only we had some! He also needed some stuff from the bike shop so we went for another visit and I managed to get hold of a replacement garmin mount after mine had made a break for freedom when I got blown off the road on my way to Hawi.
Day 7 - Friday
Another swim in paradise! Leanne and I were really getting into the swing of things with early morning swims now. It was fairly relaxed and of a slow pace but that was all I required.
Kona itself was really starting to fill up now compared to when we first arrived and the swim in and out was getting a bit hectic. The tide was flowing out and it was apparent there was a noticeable current, nothing too dramatic but worth remembering. A small bit of the Ironman Expo had opened at the top of the pier by the time we had finished so we made the obligatory purchases of a names t-shirt and strangely in 30 degree heat, I bought a bobble hat.
We had a cycle on the Queen K planned to check Allans bike and to introduce him to the heat and winds but this required another trip to the bike shop for him to get a replacement Garmin watch strap that had parted company overnight and fortunately not during his swim.
The plan was a 30 min roll out which would see us from the house to somewhere near the airport and then 5 x 4 mins at race effort (not very strenuous) with 2 min rests
and then a further 30 mins cruising to meet Leanne at the heliport before a trip to one of the resort beach clubs for the afternoon.
The wind was ON! The saving grace is that at the time we were out we should have either been off the bike or at least not going in the direction we were training in. It was hard work just to make progress and I could see that the heat was hitting Allan like a bus. By the time we reached Leanne he looked like a broken man, we had covered about 25 miles - he was in for a tough day next week.
The beach club at A-Bay was refreshingly devoid of chiselled ironmen with a cracking beach bar that I am sure we will revisit. Bloody windy though!
Day 8 - Saturday
No swim to start the day off but it was Hawaii PATH 10km which we had all entered. It’s a charity race that heads down Ali’i Drive and back. The atmosphere was really friendly and chilled out. Once again I met Lionel Sanders, this time in the gents but didn’t feel it was the appropriate time to chat to him. Neither did I want to shake his hand there although I am sure he washed them! I had aimed to just cruise the route and not press harder than I needed to. Yeah right! The race was well attended, including by the GTN crew and the pace was fast from the gun, plus I had to beat the others! From the start I was running about 100m behind a woman pushing her kid in a buggee but couldn’t make any ground up on her at all. Was I that slow? I checked my pace and HR, all good, I was moving well but she was speedy. I took time out of her on the incline only for her to pull
away again on the descent. At the 5km turnaround she was still ahead, just. I gave it some beans and drew level only then realising that it was Miranda Carfrae, only the fastest female Ironman runner of all time. Ha, oops! Oh well, in for a penny…...I put some more beans on the fire and pulled away trying to work out if I had enough in me to hold this pace over the next few km in order to fend her off in the last downhill section. I did, yay me - I beat a woman with a pushchair and an infant in a running race!
I ended up running one of my fastest 10k’s finishing completely soaked in sweat but I felt good, really good.
Post race I found myself chatting to Fraser Cartmel, not a hero or an idol exactly but someone I have always wanted to chat to after he went by me on the bike like I was stood still, one lap ahead in my first ever Ironman. I explained to him that back then I couldn’t even grasp how hard I would have to work to get to Kona and how I never thought it would happen. He was a really nice guy and very humble.
The larger expo was open now, they seem to release all the Ironman merchandise in dribs and drabs to get you to spend more money. What can I say, it works! We spent 30 mins in a very hot marquee looking at stuff we didn’t need but only after we had discovered Hawaii shaved ice. It won’t be our last time of this local delicacy!
The rest of the day was spent in full tourist mode - a coffee plantation tour and an afternoon at Two Step Beach chasing fish.