Racing the Ironman World Championship in Kona was a dream come true.
Whether it's because of all the work that goes into getting there, a chance to test yourself against the best Ironman athletes in the world, or simply the opportunity to participate in the most storied and recognized IM event in the world, it is one of those races that deep down makes you feel really special.
For me, after 30 years in the sport, it was a combination of all three.
No matter how many Ironman races I do there's always something unexpected. And with all the hoopla that surrounds this race I knew the Big Island would not disappoint. Here are just a few of the things that really stuck out.
More: How Kona Ate My Husband
Leading Up To The Race
The Open Water Coffee Bar: You heard that right: there's a coffee bar out in the bay in the days leading up to the race. If you feel a need for a caffeine jolt just head on out and get a cup of Joe. Then you can get back to the business at hand with a little more snap in your stroke.
Vendors, Vendors Everywhere: Every IM race has plenty of vendors but nothing like this—it was the very definition of Ironman Heaven. They had tents on Alii Drive where they handed out ice cold drinks while on training runs and rides. There were even a few that set up shop out of vans on the bike course. It was just the thing to help me forget just how hot it was. Well, almost.
Language Skills and Volunteers: From the racers to the volunteers, Kona is truly an international event. Everyone is assigned a volunteer to walk you through the transition area to drop off your bags; pretty nice. My German escort, whose English was vastly better than my German, and I did our best to communicate. It must have worked out OK, because everything was in the right place when I needed it.
When did My Feet Grow?: There's something about the heat on the Big Island that just seems to rub my feet the wrong way. It was a good thing I brought my old, ready-to-be-retired running shoes or it was going to be a painful, blistered marathon.
Something in the Air: Volcanic fog or VOG has been a constant around the Big Island for many years. On March 19, 2008 there was an explosion at Halema'uma'u Crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano which is releasing sulfur dioxide at increased levels and this noxious gas is carried westward over Kona. If you or any member of your party tends to have sensitive sinuses, which apparently I do, you're likely to experience flu-like symptoms. If this happens to you try some flu medicine, stock up on tissues, and don't let it get you down. It may likely be the VOG.