Kona Ironman World Championships 2014

Marathon Barbie has been on holidays…. In real life, and also in the blogosphere. It’s been a little while since I wrote my last post, which saw me run a PW (personal worst) in the Western Sydney Marathon back in October. A few hours later, I jumped on a plane bound for Hawaii, where I would get to be a spectator and enjoy watching someone else race.

My first stop was Honolulu, where I would stay for a few nights before heading over to Kona to meet Richard.

I went for a few short runs (5-12km), but on my last day in Honolulu I  decided to try to make my way up to Diamond Head. I left really early, to try to beat the heat. I carried a bottle of Gatorade, and some extra cash. I had no idea how far I would be running.

I passed some marks on the road indicating that I was running on the Honolulu Marathon course.

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I found myself at the entrance to Diamond Head national park, and about a kilometre later I was in the carpark. It was not long after dawn, but the tourist buses were already arriving. From the carpark, it was only a couple of kilometres to the lookout at the top.

Up I ran. The path was not too steep at first, paved and zig-zagging up the caldera. I was passing tourists  walking in jeans and impractical footwear, as well as a few hikers. A few said I was crazy. One guy asked if I ran up here everyday.

Eventually the pavement gave way to dirt, and then stairs. By now I was going almost straight up, so I knew the top wasn’t far away.

The view from the top was amazing, and as I walked around the lookout, I could see in all directions. After a quick chat at the top to a couple of hikers, it was time for the fun bit: downhill.

View from the top!
View from the top!

My hotel is somewhere behind me in the distance… About 10km away.

Unsurprisingly, the trip home was a lot quicker than the trip there. It was time to go to the airport and fly to Kona!

Richard picked us up from Kona airport. I was surprised at how much hotter it was there. We tried to go for a run that afternoon, but I only lasted a few kilometres. I had no idea how he was going to manage a full marathon (after a bike and run!) in that heat.

The next day, we participated in the Kona Underpants Run, now an annual event which has been running for 17 years. The event originally started as a way to mock the Europeans, who would come to town for the race and walk around in their speedos, including into inappropriate places like stores and restaurants. It is now an integral part of the Ironman World Championships race week.

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Luckily it was only about 2 kilometres.

After the underpants run, Rich and I went for a swim out to the coffee boat. In the bay where they do the swim, they moor a boat offshore, and you can swim out to it. When you get there, they give you a free cup of coffee which you can drink while bobbing around in the ocean.

At Digme Beach
At Digme Beach

On our way back to our accomodation, Rich stopped and bought us coffees. Breve Latte’s to be precise. It tasted amazing. I later found out that Breve meant ‘half milk, half cream’… No wonder it tasted so good!

The next day I managed another run, about 10km in total. I got up really early to try to beat the heat. My saving grace was that several of the sponsors had aid stations set up along the road, for everybody who was training.

Power Bar drink station.
Power Bar drink station..

On the day before the race, Rich tried to take it pretty easy. He got his bike ready, checked it in, ate lots of food and went to bed early. I stayed up painting banners.

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My handiwork.
My handiwork.

Race day began stupid-early. Like, so early that the alarm started with a 3. The drive into town was so busy, and soon enough we had to say goodbye to Richard, because he had to go through into the athlete’s only area. It was still over an hour to the race start.

Richard’s mum, my mum and I found a spot on the sea wall and watched the sun rise. The tide was coming in, and the waves began to break over the wall. The race began. There was no way of spotting Richard at that distance.

The swim start.
The swim start.

He came out of the swim in 1:01:46. He said it was a tough swim, With no clear water. He had lost his goggles at halfway. We were waiting just past the transition area to cheer him on. We yelled loudly as he rolled on by. He would be gone for over 5 hours now, as he began the long journey out across the lava flats, up the Queen K highway to Hawi, and back again.

We wandered the streets and browsed the race expo for awhile, and then had breakfast. After that, I took my $3 box of chalk to the streets, writing messages in places that I thought Richard might see them.

The hours passed really quickly, and soon it was time to head back to try to catch Rich as he finished the bike. He did so in 5:11:32, and we were there yelling and cheering when he did.

Finishing the bike leg
Finishing the bike leg

He seemed to take forever in transition. As he ran out, he came over and stopped for a kiss before heading out up Palani Rd. He had a couple of turns to make, so I ran down Ali’i Drive, hoping to make it before he did.

I made it just in time. He was surprised to see me, and tossed me a handful of GU’s that he had decided he didn’t need. He looked good. Hopefully I would see him again in a few hour’s time.

Starting the run leg
Starting the run leg

We were standing by she side of the road a couple of hours later when the winner, Sebastian Kienle came through in a finishing time of 8:14:18. Hopefully Rich wasn’t too far away. So far, I had been pretty accurate at estimating his times, but the run leg was the leg with the big question mark over it. If he could pull out a 3:30 marathon he would break the 10 hour mark, but he had hardly done any training at all in the lead-up to this race, due to work commitments, so a blow-up and a 5 hour marathon was also a very real possibility. My fingers were crossed for the former.

I was standing on the side of the Kuakini highway, watching the minutes tick by. I was trying to calculate how long he had been out there, and how many minutes he had to run past me in order to break the 10 hour mark. It was about 5 minutes.

5 minutes passed, still no Rich. The next few minutes seemed to take hours, but finally I saw him running up the highway. I screamed as he passed, and then dashed off down the alleyway to try to beat him to the finishers chute.

Running home
Running home

I made it, and told the mums that he was nearly here. He had run a 3:40:55 marathon. Add in 12:38 spent in transition, and he had finished in a time of 10:06:51. Not a bad effort for someone who didn’t do any training. It was certainly an experiment in muscle memory.

After the race, it was time to relax and enjoy the beach holiday.

Hello from Hawaii, Wish you were here!
Hello from Hawaii, Wish you were here!

But somebody in particular was glad to see us come home!

Tequila wants to come next time!
Tequila wants to come next time!
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