Saturday, October 24, 2015

2015 Kona Pre-Race

This is just about the week leading up to Race Day.  Feel free to skip this and go right to the race report.  Because although this post is filled with tons o'pics, it is long, tedious, and boring.  It does however include Bike/Gear Check.

Saturday October 3rd
The day had finally arrived.  When you qualify 54 weeks before the race, it can seem very far off at times.  But we had an 8:45 am flight so Friday night was spent getting ready, and there was no waiting around the day of the flight

So you gotta fly to Hawaii (much to the chagrin of my wife). Our first leg was Charlotte to Denver.  The same one we flew this summer.  This time (obviously) we had to make another flight.  We only had an hour and fifteen minutes to make the next flight.  Our plane and crew were ready to go in Charlotte, but something with the plane was not.  They did not have enough fuel for the flight.  Really?  You had ONE job!  We sat on the tarmac for almost an hour.  Fortunately with the schedules and flying faster than they had planned we had about 45 minutes to make the next flight.
Open Air Style Airport
So we flew through the concourse, grabbed some sandwiches for the flight and were one of the last people on the plane to Kona.  But we were on the plane.  Good thing too, as this was the only flight from Denver to Kona that day.  7 hours in the air. Yeah, that's a long time to be on a plane and still end up in the same country.  Zero food given, and only crackers to purchase.  Thanks United.

So we finally land, and get my checked bag (which had all non-essential race items or items I didn't think would get past TSA).  We take the shuttle to Dollar, and wait.  It takes about an hour to get the car . . . from Hertz.

Yeah they had no cars left.  I felt lucky to get the car we did.  The dude next to me got nothing.  They were telling him that they were waiting on people to return cars so he could have one.  They've only had this race for like more than 30 years in Kona, how would Dollar know they needed so many cars? Reservations? pfft.
We ended up with a Chevy Traverse which worked out very well. We finally get headed out and meet my sister and her family at the condo.  A little snafu to get past the guard gate (the rental place assured me it would not be an issue) and we were in the condo.

We got there and the lack of AC hit us as we opened the door.  It was pretty toasty in there.  Once we got all the windows open and all the ceiling fans on, it was livable.  We headed out and just grabbed something quick at a Chinese place and got some breakfast/lunch stuff at Walmart.
Not a bad view from the Condo.

My niece. Every day.
The condo worked out really well.  Close enough to walk to everything if we wanted, but also had a buffer to get away from all the hubub.  It was on the ocean, and about a 2 min walk was a little beach and area.  Which actually had some good snorkeling as well.  I rented two sets of snorkeling gear for the entire week, which we really enjoyed.

I ran out to the airport to get the last contingent to join us for the week (other sister and parents).  So now we had 10 people in the condo.  When I got back, it was past 2am eastern and we were all exhausted.  Fell asleep pretty easily that night.
Sunrise from the condo

Sunday October 4th
We slept in til about 5am local time.  EST body just couldn't sleep anymore.  My wife and I headed down to Dig Me beach to take a few pics and I went for a swim.  The water was pretty rough that day.  Not like whitecaps or anything, but constant swells.  I got thrown up and down.  It was hard to sight because you couldn't see over the waves.
Dig Me Beach

Reppin' Mecklenburg Swim Association Masters
I just did a short 20 minute swim to try and start getting used to it. The salt water didn't taste too good either.  I walked out of the bay thinking that it was gonna be a tough swim.  So I'm not sure if it was the salt water or what, but my nose was running basically the entire week.

Ironman Expo Location
Went back and got something to eat, but soon it was time to go get Green Lightning.  I hadn't seen her in two whole weeks.  I parked at the library on Hulalai and I got there right at noon.

 Tri Bike wasn't quite ready yet and there were 6 or 7 people waiting already.  Soon they brought her out.  I gave them my pedals to put on, and I pumped the tires up just to walk her back out to the car.
The Wall

My Name!

A note from my Bike Shop

 Back at the condo I immediately went to work on her to get her ready to ride.  Hydration, flat kit, CO2, Garmin.  I was anxious to get out on the Queen K.  I drove over to the shopping center at the corner of Makala and the Queen K and parked there to head out.

Once out on the Queen K, the wind wasn't too bad.  Being in the later afternoon, it was actually blowing north, the opposite that it typically is on race day.  I saw a few other riders out there, not a lot.  Although I did see Daniela Ryf (google her kids).  I felt good.  I cranked right about 200 watts and that gave me a 23.7 mph average, so I felt good about that.  I just did 15 miles out and then headed back.  I did a quick transition at the car and headed back out to the Queen K for a run.
Lava, Lava, Lava

I felt pretty good there too, as I averaged just under a 7 min pace.  It was hot, but really didn't feel too much hotter than back home.  I got back to the car and I was sweating profusely (I like that word, profusely).  I dried off a little bit and then headed back to the condo for a shower before we went to the Luau.

The whole gang walked over to the Luau at the KBH hotel.  I sprung for the hanohano seats, which is basically the VIP seating.  You get to sit upfront and get in line first for the food.  It's just one thing on a very long list of things that you do when you are only going to be someplace one time.

Temporary Tattoos

So they had cooked a pig and turkeys in the ground all day.  They had poke (which I really liked) and poi and lomi lomi salmon mix thing (that I did't much care for).

The show was pretty good, but pretty long as well (3 hours).  The fire twirling guy was pretty good, although he seemed to feel the need to constantly coerce applause and praise out of the crowd.  A little bit needy for my tastes, but talented nonetheless.

So halfway through my mom passes out from the heat.  She laid on the ground for a while until the hotel staff could get a golf cart to take her up to the air conditioned lobby.  Afterwards we found them in the lobby and then some of us walked back to the condo.  My sister went to go pick people up, and I went to Walmart to get some fans for the house.  Went to bed pretty tired still trying to get used to Hawaiian time.
KBH Lobby

Monday October 5th
We headed out around 8am.  One benefit of the time change is that everyone is up early.  We piled into both cars and headed south towards Volcano National Park.  We drove out of town to some beautiful views.  We stopped at the Punalu'u Bake Shop and got some malasadas.  We then stopped at the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Park.  That was pretty cool.

We then headed to Volcano NP.  By the time we got there and figured out what we were gonna do, it was lunch time.  So we walked over to the Volcano House from the visitor center and had lunch.  It was a pretty good view overlooking the Halema‘uma‘u Crater at the summit of Kilauea.  We did a little hike to Sulphur Springs and drove the Crater Rim road.  It was a little disappointing that you cannot see lava.  The ranger told us that you could only see lava via an air tour.

So we left and headed north towards Hilo.  We just wanted to drive back a different way and see more of the island.  We hung a left in Hilo and drove back across the island between Mauna Loa and Maune Kea.  There is a lot of nothing in Hawaii.  Some the areas of lava rock on that stretch were really cool.  We finally got back to the house and most of the family was pretty tired.

Some of the family had gotten burgers and dogs to grill out.  My wife, sister, oldest son and myself decided we wanted to go out.  So we went down to the Fish Hopper there on Ali'i.  It was pretty good.  The placed was pretty packed and we checked out a couple of the local shops while we waited.  We started adjusting to Hawaiian time by then.

Tuesday October 6th
It was back to Kailua Bay for a swim.  This time I rode the sweet ride provided at the house down to the pier and parked it there.

 I had to get out to the coffee boat right?  This time I felt more comfortable in the water.  I wasn't any faster, mind you.  There weren't as many swells, so that helped.

A Little more crowded today
So afterward I went for a quick stroll down Ali'i to check everything out.  Everyone was starting to setup along the road.  It was interesting to see all the vendors setup that were not in the official Ironman Expo.  My throat had developed a little bit of a tickle in  it.  But I figured if I was getting sick, today was better then later in the week.
The Famous Coffee Boat

Back at home I got some more 100% Kona coffee (yeah!) and soon headed back down to KBH to check in.  I got in line in at the lobby and waited about 20 minutes to get into the next room.  People were talking about how many Ironman's that had done.  I'm like ummm, one.  Yeah, never been to Kona before.  I did run into Anton from South Carolina.  I finished ahead of him at Chattanooga, but he punched his Kona ticket at Texas earlier in the year.

They finally let me in.  I signed the initial forms and waivers, and verified who I was. Then I headed over to get the packet, then to get the backpack.

While waiting in line for the backpack, I saw Caitlin Snow and Jeff Symonds registering.  Then we were herded out the side of the hotel into the mechandise tent.  I checked out what they had and wanted to get a few things, but the line was crazy long all the way across the tent.  I decided to wait until the next day to check it out.
Changing Rooms

So naturally when I got back home, I checked out all the stuff in the bag:

We were supposed to do our snorkeling cruise to Kealakekua Bay that afternoon, but high winds postponed it until Thursday.  High winds.  Yes.  High enough to blow over a tree right next to the Kona brewing company onto Kuakini and take out a power poll.

  Yeah, we had no power in the condo for a couple of hours.  Good thing we had a pool.  No power and no internet! Ahhhh! The Humanity!  I hit the merchandise tent that afternoon and got all the stuff I wanted.  Another check on the list because you're only here once.  On my way back I saw the power pole.

So for dinner we had to head over to the other side of Palani because all the restaurants around Kona Brewing had no power.  I had forgotten about the Parade of Nations.  I hadn't planned on doing it because we were gonna be on the snorkel cruise.  So the traffic was crazy backed up.

 It took us 30 minutes to get to Big Island Grill about a mile away.  But it was worth it.  I had the loco moco with hamburger and 2 fried eggs atop a bed of rice and then covered with brown gravy.  Trust me when I say it was good.

Wednesday October 7th
My throat felt better, but my nose was still running.  But now I was a banded "Kona Athlete".  I headed back down to meet up with several teammates for a swim.

We met up on the pier and got some good pics.  I saw Sean Astin getting interviewed by a Japanese media outlet.  Pretty sure I could take him, like in a Fight Club type situation.  We swam out to the coffee boat again. and then back.  It was great to see all my BSR mates.  I wore my swimskin that day and actually swam a little faster than the past couple of times.

That morning we headed down to Greenwell Farms to check out a Kona Coffee plantation.  Along the way we stopped at a farmers market to check out the Hawaii Fruits.

The coffee plantation was pretty interesting and I learned a lot of things.  We tasted many different types of the coffees and got some to bring home and some for friends.

On our way back we hit Annie's Island Fresh Burgers.  It was really good.  You can't go wrong with Bacon and Avacado.  Then we hit the Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store.  Basically chocolate covered macademia nuts.  They had chicken balls (peanuts) and other assorted chocolate items.

So I ended up going for a run from the condo, just 3 miles to loosen the legs up.  I had felt a little stiff and tired.  I felt much better after the run.  I saw Marino Vanhoenacker (2010 Kona Podium) and he gave me a little unprompted wave.
View from the Slowtwitch House
Then my wife and sister headed over to the Slowtwitch gathering way down Ali'i drive.  We registered in the front and checked it out.  The house had a great view of the bay.  I ran into Brian Lowman who finished one spot ahead of me at Chattanooga.  I talked to the FLO cycling guys.  One of them kinda remembered my name because I ordered my wheels on the very first order.  That's the one that got all screwed up and they ended up calling everyone on the phone.  I talked to Sylvan with Sportstats, who does all the North American Ironman timing.  But that was about it. I saw Dan Empfield and Herbert, but didn't really feel the need to talk to them.  We stayed about an hour and headed out.

We decided to try and hit Kona Brewing.  We were told and hour wait (and it was before 6pm).  But we knew it would only get worse as the week went on.  We ended up only waiting a half hour.  Everyone really enjoyed their food.  They had many beers on tap that are not available on the mainland.

Thursday October 8th
Thursday morning was the annual Underpants Run.  A tradition unlike any other.  It was especially fun as Big Sexy Racing had special "Kona Edition" suits made for us.  I got a one for my sister and my brother in law.

 We all met outside the KBH and got some pics (including one for Triathlete Magazine).  There were about 1,000 people participating.

We started at the back parking lot where all the banquets were.  So as it turns out, with us near the back we were went out the opposite way, so we were kinda near the front of the "race".  It was an absolute blast.  People were really into it.

When we cam onto Ali'i there were people lined up several rows deep on each side of the road. Phones or cameras in everyone's hands it seemed.  I was great to see some of the costumes.  I gotta hand it to the Japanese contingent in their little sumo front rags.  It was great to be with all the Sexies and some of their families as well.  It's only a 1.5 mile run, so it doesn't last too long.  It's all for fun, and fun for all, as they say.  We ended up making it into Lava's gallery in addition to Triathlete's

Later that morning I took a leisurely bike ride down to the expo to see if I could meet the CEO of Quintana Roo.  Mission accomplished.  We talked for a bit (he just completed Ironman Chattanooga).  We of course talked about my bike.
QR CEO Peter Hurley
 I also got to meet Brittany who does such a great job handling all QR's social media stuff.  I then headed out the Queen K for a couple of miles and back to the condo via Makala.  There I saw Fredrick Van Lierde (2013 Kona Champion) running along Kuakini.

Then it was time for our rescheduled snorkel tour.  It was about 15 minute drive down to the dock area for the cruise.  It is just south of town off of Ali'i and the K III.  Oddly though, you don't park on the dock.  you kinda park on the other side of this bay and walk down the end of the street and then across a beach to the dock area.  So we got checked in and had a little wait to get boarded.

It was a beautiful day and it was a scenic boat tour.  It took us about an hour to get down to Kealakekua Bay.  They gave us snorkeling gear on the way down, and went through some safety procedures.  In the bay is also the memorial to Captain Cook.  Remembered, but not too popular by the locals.  The memorial is technically on Great Britain soil, so no one gets mad at the US government for having it.

Capt. Cook Memorial
So the snorkeling was incredible.  There were so many fish it was crazy at times.  It was a lot better than anything we saw on St. Thomas or St. Maarten last year.

My wife (much to her chagrin) even saw a small shark.  My brother in law is a big time snorkeler and he got some great pics.  My older son jumped off the top deck a few times, but I couldn't get my younger son to go down the slide.  It was a really good trip.  I had read that this bay was the best snorkeling in all of the Hawaiian islands.

We ventured out to Umekes for dinner that night.  It's a good local place.  Tons of seafood, poke bowls and the like.  I stuck to the chicken.  My son got a whole fried fish.  Yeah, tail and head included.  He ate some of it.  Overall it was really good.

Napkin Dispenser
I walked over to the Athlete briefing straight from Umeke's.  The welcome dinner was from 6-8 with the meeting after.  I got there about 8:15, but they didn't start the briefing until 8:30.  It was mildly interesting.  I really didn't learn much other than coming up Palani hill on the run is about the 10 mile mark.  They told you the order of the offerings at the aid stations, but all the pertinent information is in the athlete guide.

Friday October 9th
Time to get all the bags ready to go.  Get GL washed and prepped.

I walked over to bike check about 2:30, which was the beginning of my check window.

Bib numbers under 1000 were supposed to be noon to 2:30, and the rest 2:30 to 5p. I get over there and there are a lot of people milling about.  I wasn't really sure where to go at first because they have all these barricades up, but eventually I see.  They were calling out age groupers' names over the PA system as they are coming through.

Of course when I get up there, is the same time that 2 time defending champion Mirinda Carfrae decides that she is gonna check her bike in.  So I get passed over by the PA announcer.  That's OK.  So we get our bike checked out (not sure for what other than bar end plugs) and get shiny little 'M' sticker.  Then you proceed down the red carpet.  You kinda feel like a big deal.  Everyone is checking out your rig and your helmet.

Thanks QR!
Quintana Roo had their tent setup and I got a really nice visor and t-shirt.  The Cobb cycling guy thanked me for my saddle.  The FLO guys were there.  Everyone is literally checking you to try and get an accurate count of all the gear that everyone is using.   It was cool.
Rudy made me an offer on a New Helmet I couldn't refuse

Even the Port-o-lets are better in Kona
As we get into transition you are assigned a person.  Kind of your own personal transition concierge.  He takes you to your bike spot.  Shows you how the layout is to run around the pier.  Gets you to your bag dropoffs. Then he escorts you out.  Personal service.  I hung out for a little bit to take it all in, then headed back.

It was uber cool to walk through transition and put your bike and your gear on the pier that you have seen on NBC sports for so many years.
Tunnel to the Changing Tents

Post Swim Washdown Area

All the people still coming through the red carpet:

We had reservations at Jackie Reys for dinner that night.  It was a nicer place (and they have parking).  We enjoyed a little bit upscale place and again I went with the chicken.  My dad got this huge dessert that about 4 people shared.
Time to put the feet up and Rest
Eventually it was time for bed.  I felt a little funky that evening.  That's the best way to describe it.  Not super nervous, just a touch out of sorts.  Actually I was OK with the way I felt given that the next day would be one of the biggest days of my life.  I did what I could to keep the nerves at bay, and eventually turned in for the night.