||Hawaii Ironman 70.3 Race Report 6/2007
||Half - Ironman
Aloha from Kona, Hawaii.
Here is my race report from the Hawai Ironman 70.3 I absolutely loved everything about this race despite two!! flats on the bike course. I hope more of us clubbers will make it to Kona next year in early June for this Half that is a Kona Ironman World Championship and 70.3 Florida World Championship qualifier.
Weather:90 plus degrees humidity, slightly windy, rain possible part of the day
Water temp: 78 degrees/ no wetsuits allowed on the swim
Get there early if you can. It's hot and it's very humid. Riding the course and swimming at Hapuna Beach is useful on this challenging course. This race is organized by the same team that works on the Ironman Worldchampionship and they are so good at organizing a race which became apparent at the way they organized the expo. registration, and the mandatory pre-race athlete meeting in a big banquet hall at the Mauna Lani resort. I heard other clubbers and athletes who have been to the Worlds in October telling me that the race feels like the "real thing" including the intensity before the race.
Stay at one of the resorts they recommend. We followed the advice and stayed at luxurious Fairmont Orchid. The Mauna Lani and Fairmont Orchid are right on the course in the Mauna Lani resort and the prices for athletes are great and up to 50% discounted. These world-class resorts provide everything you can imagine from ocean kayaking to snorkeling. They are super-athlete friendly and accommodating. The whole Mauna Lani resort turned into athlete village it seemed. We all swam together, biked together, lounged at the beach together and met for dinner days before the race. The woman who rented the ocean kayaks to us raced the course last year. The bellman placed second in his age group this year. Triathlon talk everywhere.... but it was easy to get away if you wanted as they also have an excellent spa.
The shuttles provided from the hotels brought us to Hapuna Beach. The beach is wide and beautiful, the green-blue water very warm with crystal clear and clean water...just like paradise.
Swim Start: 7:00am - no swim waves for the age groups, just a mass start. Yes, a MASS START! with over 1,100 athletes. All at once, even the pros.
No wetsuits, just the willingness to fight all the way to the second buoy for a spot in the water. Rectangular course, almost no waves, small swell, just lots of other athletes.
I waited and stayed in the back at a swim start that started on the beach. Some in the front stood in the water all the way to their waist. It was crazy to watch, and I honestly do not know why they would not have swim waves, but as long as you know where to place yourself you are ok.
I chose wisely as others were pummeled all the way from what I heard, I swam and managed to find a rhythm after the second buoy. Well marked, lots of life guards, excellent swim conditions made me feel safe in my first sans-wetsuit swim in a race. 52 minutes seemed slow but then again I was happy considering that I am not experienced with mass starts on the beach etc.
Special: a giant sea turtle greeted me before the first buoy and gave me a reminder that I was slightly off-course. Thanks, I was swimming right into the rocks at that point. Off to the buoy, sigthing was easy, conditions excellent except for the part that this swim was very crowded all the way.
After the swim a long run of about a 1/4 mile up the hill to T1, showers provided, and ready for the bike.
Same bike course as for the World Championship in October. As it is only half the Ironman course it starts at Hapuna Beach up north a steady climb on Queen Highway to Hawi and back to the Mauna Lani. It's an out and back and it's hilly and towards Hawi very windy. I was warned that there would be cross-winds that could blow me off the bike. I had no problem on the climb towards Hawi as I was experiencing headwinds, but on the back it was hard to stay on the bike at times.
No disc wheels were allowed for this race. I was told to lean into the winds, to just go as fast as possible. I have to say I tried all, and it was fun and scary at times. It got really hot around mile 5 but my bike went great all the way until mile 31. I had a 1 hour 20 minutes split at mile 28 of the course is all that I remember, just half way there, and I felt great.
And then the first flat! Followed by a second flat just 10 minutes later. Cost me altogether 35 minutes and my bike time went from a 2 hour 45 minutes to a 3:20. But I was lucky with my second flat in that I had the support from bike mechanics who were helping athletes out.
No worries, I told myself I catch up on the run as usual. It's my first time at Kona, and I have fun. I tried to remain calm about it and remember that having flats are just part of the race. I also could not help remembering the Norman Stadler "episode" on this course and the fit he threw when he had multiple flats. Lots of flats in this race it seemed, made me wonder that it was because they had us ride exclusively on the shoulder of the highway.
Did I say that it was hot and humid and windy. I was fixing one of my tires on a road that had lava rocks to both sides of the road. It was extremely hot even for someone like me who typically like hot conditions. No shade anywhere, even the wind was hot. Three water bottles on the bike only lasted half way through. I got another bottle of Endurance Gatorade, a two bottles of water at one of the 3 or 4 aid stations, and poured an additional two over my head and legs....keeping cool and preventing overheating seemed as important as anything in this race.
Special: Watched Chris McCormack, runner-up at the Worlds and winner here yesterday and last year, rushed by as he was on the way back in this out and back course....way ahead of the next pro. Then Michellie Jones, World Champion, and winner here last year. Amazing. What an inspiration watching those two....then more pros and age groupers on this bike course that was crowded at times..it's an out and back...sort of reminded me of the Olympic at Wildflower.
I was told the run course would be brutal. My response was that I cannot imagine it being all that hard as the entire run course was on the beautiful Mauna Lani resort grounds and for the most part on the golf course.
Ok, I know why it's a hard run course now: the run is only in part on grassy and hilly areas with little shade on the golf course, it's running in the sand and on hot asphalt with lava rocks on each side of the road otherwise.....it seemed like steam was coming off these rocks and even the asphalt road at times. The course was hilly, hot, humid, with lots of twists and turns that reminded me of an Xterra at times...even a deep sand section right by the beach....definitely not boring. I felt comfortable as usual on the trails and loved the run and stayed loose all the way to a 1:53 run split....but never before took I advantage of every single aid station that were all well stocked with everything from Endurance Gatorade, to Cola, to just plain cups of ice and ice cold sponges that kept me cool for 30 seconds..many athletes stored these sponges in their race jerseys to keep them cool for at least a short time....after mile 10 there seemed to be aid stations every half mile....and medical vehicles like the organizers knew already...I watched many walk part of the course, cramps, heat, hydration issues....never seen that many walk before in a race. I ran it all the way as I stayed loose and felt strong with my usual dose of Endurolytes and Endurance Gatorade, a couple of Power Gels....and for a first time Cola...in the end I did not care what I poured over my head and down my race jersey...my only question while running by the aid stations was: Is it cold? Cold? Good, I take it!
Finish: What a relief to see the finish....but then I was sad that it was over....one of the most challenging and hot courses I have experienced so far. But I felt strong at the end and as I sprinted the last quarter mile and passed a few more I was cheered on by spectators all the way to the finish line where were were all presented with a finishers' medal and T-Shirt. Results were posted immediately.
Awards Banquet. Now, this was amazing, full buffet, Hawaiian dancers on stage, Beer and soda galore, a lot of us were already dressed and showered, some others must have just finished and came straight from the finish line. The whole banquet took 3 hours...long, but was worth it....many awards were rewarded, Kona slots, 70.3 slots....interviews with Chris McCormack and Samantha McGlone on stage....also Michellie Jones, many age groupers who came just to qualify. This race was very competitive this year.
This race is on a beautiful course, the bike course is part of the big Kona Race, the team organizing it makes you feel like you are doing the Worlds, this is a very competitive race, challenging course, hot, humid, windy, hilly...all you can ask for from a great Half Ironman.
I plan on coming back next year....it's 4 weeks after Wildflower and you can do both and get there early as the race it the week after the long Memorial Day Holiday weekend and make it a vacation. World-class resorts give you a special deal if you are a registered athlete for this race. Take advantage. I never stayed in luxurious accommodations like this for any race before.
Huge thanks to the great team who organized a perfect race...congratulations to all from the club, or few I should say who finished it: Liz Kollar, Mike Ireland, Balthazar..it was fun hanging out with you all, having dinner, or just plain saying hello...I only saw three L.A. Tri Club jerseys during the race..I hope there will be more next year..write me if you have any questions about this race.....I will certainly make sure to bring more tubes for the bike course next year.