Hmn, I wonder what the plan for this morning might entail. Oh yes, that’s right. It’s race week so down to the pier for a swim. Just to the coffee boat though, none of this long distance nonsense! I’ll save that for Saturday. Don’t want to wear myself out now you know.
Sharon and I were down at the pier looking cool (er, just relaxing) by about 6:45am. The place is getting so busy this week. Seating areas along the race finish area were put up overnight. It’s all starting to take shape.
This morning Sharon and I swum out to the coffee boat. Sharon went for the snorkel/mask/flippers combo so she could see the fantastic sea-life on the way out. I was trying some new Aqua Sphere goggles. They just give you a pair to try and when you’ve finished you return them to them. No signing anything, no telling them who you are… When we got to the boat Sharon asked what we do next. The answer was obvious – not very much at all! We just mill around, drink a little coffee and just think how fortunate we are to be here right now.
It is just so surreal.
As I returned to shore and fought my way through the crowds of people standing around on the beach who were just, er, looking cool (I think!) and made my way up the steps a chap from triathlete.com asked if I wanted a photo taken. Damn right I do. I remember from previous years where they’ve taken photos of swimmers down at the pier and posted them on Facebook and was pleased to see them down here this morning. “Would you like a photo taken?” “I’d love to make a fool of myself (it seems to come naturally you see).” Well… here’s the finished product.
The photographer was very pleased with the photo, there was I, swimmers, the Kona church. In fact everything that makes a mighty fine photo from here! They posted 200 photos from today (Tuesday) on their Facebook page and will be back doing the same on Wednesday. Of course there’s no need to look at their photos as there’s only one worth looking at, and I’ve included that in the blog here!
We then headed to the coffee shop over the road beneath Splashers Grill and continued the discussions about nothing that were started over the road at the pier and at the beach. By about 10am a few of us decided that as registration had just opened we might as well get that one formality out of the way.
Registration was really efficient. A bit of a queue (loads of people register on the first day) and whilst waiting I heard a “Hello David” – oh no, who now…. It was a chap called Jeff who lives in the same condo complex as us who I chatted to a few days ago. He was volunteering for a few days – he said that many people from town and even overseas come over just to help out. This event is just *huge* in Hawaii.
Firstly you get your name ticked off on a list, then you move into another queue where you check and confirm all your name/address details, sign a waiver to say that if you drown during the swim they’ll bury you at sea and let the sharks eat you. Fine by me!
Once that’s done you get your athlete wristband, an envelope with all sorts of stuff in (race number, bike stickers etc.) and a ‘swag bag’ (rucksack). There’s all sorts of stuff in there too and I’ll probably post a full inventory another day. Right now I’m just struggling to keep up with all the things that are going on. OK, I could keep nice and low key, not do a blog or take photos and have a fairly relaxing time of this week.
Leaving registration I was noticed by someone else who was volunteering. This was a lady I’d seen during my last two bike rides on the Queen K. She’d been riding her little moped and we’d got chatting at traffic lights! It’s a small town.
But that’s not me. I want to have fun, I want to absorb as much as I can. I’m in Kona. At the Ironman World Championship. It may never happen again (not through want of trying though!). I will do my best to make the most of this trip. I think I’m succeeding.
Post-registration we headed to a supermarket to get a few supplies. I had a “do your best British accent competition” with the lady at the customer services desk (cheers, bravo, Mary Poppins, etc. etc.) and then headed home (getting back shortly before midday). We sat around for a bit (whilst my laptop chugged away downloading photos from the GoPro) and then I decided to go for a little run. As I’m tapering (I think) I thought I’d run about four miles. Really I just wanted to run to the nice beach that’s a couple of miles away and back!
In this hot weather you really need to take a drink with you whilst running. But not on race week. All up and down Ali’i Drive there are free little ‘fuel stops’ where you can pick up sports drink/gels etc. from different manufacturers. It’s amazing. They want you to like their products so they give you free samples. Hoping that you’ll get addicted and tell all your friends back home. I think that’s how marketing works anyway…
On my way back from behind me I heard this ‘Hey… Hey… David… David.’ Oh no, who is it now? I turned round and cycling back up the road towards me was Chrissie Wellington. You know Chrissie, four time Ironman World Champion! Calling me! Yes, honestly. I didn’t even notice her cycle past me beforehand. Now I’m the one getting spotted round here!!
Well, I thought it rude not to stop. She came over and said that she recognised the ‘pirate’ top that I was wearing as she’d read my Ironman UK race report. Because of her involvement with parkrun in the UK she knows Paul Sinton-Hewitt pretty well (the ‘boss’ of parkrun) and Paul had told her about my qualifying for Kona! It was bizarre. Naturally I had my GoPro with me at the time (they do say that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you at the time)….
We had a little chat for a few minutes and then she headed off (as she needed to be back in town for the ‘Parade of Nations’ later that afternoon).
I headed home, got myself showered and tidied up and then we headed into town as my schedule was super busy this afternoon!
I’d seen that between 2 and 3pm the 2012 female World Champion, Leanda Cave, would be at Sunglass Hut doing a signing. Nice. That’d be good to say a quick hello and wish her good luck, especially as she’s another British athlete.
She was tall. Not as tall as me (which is probably a good thing for a woman) and seemed very lovely. All good.
We then had about 30 minutes to get to the pier, via the a shave ice shop (for hydration of course) as I wanted to watch the childrens swim/run event – the ‘Ironkids Keiki Dip n Dash.’ It had been advertised in the race week schedule and was heavily promoted by the local radio station and we thought it would be a bit of fun to give the children a cheer.
As we waited for the start (the pier area was really really busy) Sharon saw Bob Babbitt cycle past. You know of Bob Babbitt don’t you? Well if you’re into Ironman and especially Kona then you bloody should know of him. If not, hang your head in shame.
Bob competed in the 1980 Nautilus Triathlon (this is what the Hawaii Ironman was called back then) and after this event got heavily involved with the sport of triathlon. In 2012 he was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame and his acceptance speech (at competitor.com) is brilliant.
“Babbitt spoke of his first Ironman and the nutrition his crew provided during the race, including a Big Mac, fries and a Coke. “I thought this would take me two days. I had no idea I could do it in one day,” Babbitt said. “So I thought, ‘there’s going to be a band. There’s going to be all sorts of people cheering for us at the finish. This is a pretty impactful event.’ Instead there’s chalk on the road and a light bulb. I hear this voice: ‘hey you, you in the race? You’re done.'” – triathlon.competititor.com
He does a regular radio show where he interviews the greats in the sport of triathlon and some other sports. I love his interviews. He also does live interviews with the professional athletes during Ironman week from Huggo’s restaurant in Kona which are broadcast live on the internet. Bob is awesome.
So much so that I told him so a number of times. He’s lovely. Just like on the radio/podcasts/interviews. He really is. He’s probably one of my best ‘meetings’ here on the big island. He’s awesome.
He was the lead bike for the run leg of the Keiki Dip n Dash race. Brilliant.
We watched the race, we screamed support, and we loved watching the kids running up and down Ali’i Drive. Some barefoot, some carrying their running shoes, some still with swim goggles on, some running with their parents and some wearing inflatable swimming arm-bands. The atmosphere was superb.
After the race finished we headed over to the start of the ‘Parade of Nations.’ Well… not before saying hello to (and of course a quick photo) with another fine UK athlete – Jody Swallow. I’ve followed her blog and on twitter for a good few years now, I think since seeing her run at Bushy parkrun back in February 2007. I reminded her of this and she said that it wasn’t long ago. Er, six and a half years ago!
She was with James Cunnama (her other half, also racing at Kona) and also with Dan Hawksworth (UK pro racing here as well). They’re all part of the same race team – Team TBB and if the race goes in her favour on Saturday she could do really well. Fingers crossed.
The ‘Parade of Nations’ is a strange old event. It’s a bit like when the different nations walk round the stadium during the Olympic Games opening ceremony. All the nationalities are given a big flag on a stick and a sign to walk with. There’s no obligation to attend and some people I believe think it’s a bit tacky. Well, it wasn’t at all. It was good fun. It got a large(ish) group of us UK athletes together for a chat and a walk through town and as there were loads of people lining the pavements it was great to show our support of the event and the locals that so kindly allow us lycra clad folk to invade their town each year.
Chrissie Wellington was our ‘mascot’ (hmn, I’m not sure if that’s the right word) but she was sat on the back of a convertible car leading the UK folk as part of the parade. When I took a photo of her waving a Union Flag (one that Sharon brought out here to Hawaii and gave her to wave!) she said ‘I bet this is going on your blog isn’t it?’ Yes, Chrissie, it is!
The parade finished at the event Expo where many different companies were exhibiting bikes, clothing, nutrition and everything else you didn’t think you needed but do need in the world of triathlon. Before heading in for a walk around we saw Greg Welch. Haha, he noticed Sharon and told her that he’d loved a message she wrote about him on twitter the previous evening that he re-tweeted it (sent it to) his 9,000+ ‘followers.’
Stood next to him was Andrew Messick. He’s the CEO of Ironman Corporation. Yes, Ironman is a company who has to make money for its shareholders but to an age grouper athlete who’s soaking up all things Kona I think they’re doing a fine job here at this event. I told him that I loved the ‘Heroes of Hawaii’ event the previous night and Sharon and I chatted to him for a few minutes. It was nice.
We squeezed our way round a lap of the expo and as well as buying a couple of new tops picked up a couple of freebies. Actually, today has been pretty good in the freebie department… Coffee’s of Hawaii swim caps, a Castelli cycling top, a couple of visors and some YurBuds sports headphones. Not bad.
This was another long and busy day so we called it quits and after grabbing a nice meal in town headed back. Then I started to write this blog. Thanks for stopping by and reading.
Oh, and there’s another busy day planned for Wednesday!