Monday, June 22, 2015

Ironman Hawaii 70.3 Race Report

Kapoha, Hawaii

T1, Hapuna Beach

If you're going to do a 70.3, Kona, Hawaii might as well be the place to do it.  

The fam and I planned a vacation adventure around this trip this year for lots of reasons:  1. It's the perfect time of year - end of school/beginning of Summer  2. The course is challenging yet not outrageously hilly  3.  It's, well, it's HAWAII?  

My race recap is short and sweet:  go do this race.  It's not easy, but really, what Half Ironman IS easy?  There is a long (mile 19-23) climb up hill called Hawi, on the exact route of the REAL Ironman (full), which takes place in October.  You'd think that would make up for the climb with plenty of downhill as your reward.  But there are crosswinds coming down the climb that prevent any real serious speed gain here but plenty of amazing views of the Pacific.  

I digress.  Let's cover the Swim.  Beautiful, warm, clear, tropical fish, coral reefs, a bit of an undulating swell but no serious barrels to swim against.  This was my all-time favorite swim course of my career.  I loved everything about it from the white-sand beaches down to the crystal-clear water.  The race is a wave start so you're not clogging the sea with 2500 swimmers who take off at the same time. It's also warm, too warm for wetsuits.  There is lots of room to move around, yet one could enjoy the line and suck of the draft.  

Bike (again): No Alpe D' Huez here, just an uphill out-and-back course on the lava fields of the most famous road in triathlon history.  No shade, no relief, but nice, wide shoulders that were passable if you could navigate through the rumble strips that line the entire bike course.  Man oh man it felt good to turn around and head back to the Transition 2 (did I mention that there are two transition areas? ).

And the Run.   Well, let's just say it's not super fun to start a half marathon with 80 degree temps and 70 percent humidity.  This course is HARD but quite beautiful and kept me interested due to it's twists and turns and out-and-backs and ups and downs.  Aid stations were set up every mile providing plenty of relief for runners with endless buckets of ice and handy chilled sponges to squeeze over your head or push down into your tri top.  Thank you, Ironman Hawaii, for being so cognizant of those runners' needs out there.  Hot, no shade, and lots of running on grass -- even the pros add five minutes to their expected run times here due to the squishiness of the golf course conditions.

The race course ends on the grounds of the Fairmont Orchid Hotel, a spectacular locale for a finish line.  The emerald green grass of the golf course butts up to the pristene waters and white sand beaches that surround the Fairmont.  Polynesian dancers are entertaining the waiting crowds and there is plenty to eat for athletes and spectators there.  Nothing was as delicious as the shaved ice for sale by the food vendors.  I loved the tropical flower finish line -- so Hawaiian and perfect.  

If you decide to do this race, I'd recommend Tri Bike Transport to ship and haul your bike for you. Post race, I just wheeled my bike up to the nearby tennis courts and dropped it off to the waiting wrenches for home delivery.  They require your bike to be at their partner shops about two weeks before your race, so it's most handy if you have a secondary bike to train with before and after the event.  (My bike is still not back home three weeks after the race.) 

Another recommendation is lodging at the following hotels:  Fairmont Orchid, $$$ but so convenient  since that is where the finish line and expo is located.  Marriott Waikoloa $$, a beautiful spot less than five miles from the expo and finish line.  Hilton Waikoloa $$, same exit as the Marriott so just as handy for all the event.  

I had no clue Kona was as desolate as it was going to be.  I figured all of Hawaii was tropical and jungly.  But Kona sits on the lava field on the east side of the island.  While the resorts are quite wonderful here, the scenery on the course was similar to the Bush country of Africa (or so my daughter who has been to the Bush country says), very little vegitation, dry and hot.  We loved spending time after the race on the opposite side of the Island, near Hilo.  Our daily outings and adventures were truly breathtaking views of this dreamy place.  

Two thumbs up for Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.  I'd love to return here, if I can afford it.  Aloha and Mahalo to this wonderful place.  The race was great, and the memories will remain forever in my heart, and in my Shutterfly scrapbook. 

This rainbow bid us aloha on our final day in Kona. 

Below photos are all of Hilo's side of the Island.  
So many waterfalls and swimming holes

Rainbow Falls 

Shangri La, Pahono

Black sand beaches of Hilo

Sunset on the Red Road

The Red Road - a hidden gem near Pahono 

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