Saturday, October 18, 2014

Kona Race Report: Part 1 - "The Anticipation"


After qualifying at Ironman Louisville back in August, I began preparing for Kona immediately.  Although the preparation was filled with excitement, the excitement was a small part of the emotional roller-coaster leading up to Kona.  First, the stress of booking lodging and flights after qualifying at the final race of the season (IM Louisville), which meant availability was low and cost was high.  Next, the stress of preparing lesson plans for a substitute teacher for three different classes for an entire week.  Then, the stress of leaving our boys, Lucas and Matthew, to go halfway around the world.  And, finally, the sadness of the death of my Grandma just a few days before we left.  Oh, and I put in a solid 4-week training block before tapering to stay physically ready.  Well, all of this caught-up with me, and just a few days before we were to leave, I cracked.  I was emotionally spent, and considered not going.  However, with tremendous support from my entire family, friends, and co-workers, Laura and I left our house at 5:30 in the morning on Wednesday, October 8th feeling positive and excited about our trip to the Ironman World Championships!

The flowered M-dot in the lobby of the King Kamehameha host hotel.

We arrived in Kona Wednesday afternoon as our plane pulled right up to the outdoor airport just like parking your car in your driveway.  It was so very different than the hustle and bustle of the Pittsburgh International Airport.  We retrieved our luggage, which included my 64 pound bike case.  We picked-up our rental minivan, which I think every other triathlete rented as it seemed to be the only car on the roads that week.  And, we made the 14 mile drive down the coast along the Queen K highway to our hotel passing through downtown Kona on our way.

First view of the Big Island from our plane.

Thanks for the ride US Airways.

Where's the tram to baggage claim?

Hotel lobby

View from the lobby

Ready for a dip!  The slide in the background was so much fun!

The better view from the pool.
Thursday, I took care of some business with a 45 minute bike ride and a 2000 yard swim at the Kona Aquatic Center.  I just so happened to swim in the lane next to 2012 Female Ironman World Champion Leanda Cave.  Needless to say, she was a little faster than I was. :)  

Quick stop for a scenic view.

Who is that guy?

Thursday evening we met up with fellow racers and Pittsburghers, Matt and Kristen Mauclair and Jason Jacobs and his fianc√© Laura, for the Ironman Welcome Dinner.  While the food preparation was less than ok, the festivities included Hawaiian entertainment and lots of talk about the budding tradition of Ironman and the accomplishment of being at the World Championships.

Enjoying the Welcome Dinner.

Hawaiian Entertainment.

From left: Me, Matt, & Jason.
Friday morning I awoke early to get to the bay for a swim.  I needed to experience the water before race morning.  It was like swimming in an aquarium.  I could see the bottom of the ocean for as far as I swam out that morning (20-40 ft deep).  I had heard stories of people swimming with dolphins.  I didn't see any, but saw a lot of other fish minding their own business on the sea floor.  It was really cool!  Later that afternoon after some final equipment preparations and some relaxing at the pool, Laura and I went down to transition for the bike and gear check-in.  That is where I got my first glimpse of Craig Alexander, 3-time Ironman World Champion.  As he walked out of transition, there was a lot of mumbling amongst the crowd probably saying the same thing I was, "there's Craig Alexander."  This was even cooler than swimming with the fishes. :)

Morning swim with some other athletes.

Bike and Gear Check-in.

Friday evening we enjoyed a very relaxing dinner with Matt, Kristen, Jason, Laura and Jason's family at the house they rented.  It was great to spend the evening with friends relaxing to take your mind off the race.  Then it was back to the hotel for an early bedtime.  Tomorrow was the Ironman World Championships!

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