Friday, October 9, 2009

Greetings from Kona

Since arriving in Kona late on Wednesday afternoon (really late for us Easterners), it has be a whirlwind of activity trying to settle in here and prepare for the race. A hot, humid whirlwind! We arrived at the Keahole airport and stepped off the Hawaiian Airlines plane directly onto the tarmac on what seemed to be part moonscape, part paradise.

The airport is right on the western coast of the Big Island, right smack dab in the middle of a volcanic plateau, formed over the years of lava flows from Mauna Kea. After a somewhat lengthy stay at Hertz for get our car rental (in my experience, Hawaiians are super friendly and can talk forever), we were on our way into Kailua-Kona and our condo. When we got to our condo, thankfully my bike was already there waiting for me and check-in went smoothly. Once my family and the Smith family got situated, most everyone's first priority was to get some food after the long day of travel. An Ironman athlete's first priority is often different however, and I decided to get in a short run to stretch out the legs after 13 hours of airline travel. I ran to the restaurant, and met everyone there. Dinner was very good and long overdue for this group of travel weary zombies from Pittsburgh.
I think just about everyone was asleep within minutes of walking back through the door at the condo.

Thursday morning came early at 5am since it was pushing noon for our eastern time zone accustomed bodies, and my sister Jenny, brother Chris, Chris' girlfriend Alyson, and I congregated on the volcanic rock outcropping that served as part of the beach just outside our condo's balcony.
There we watched the waves crash, crabs scurry about, and morning surfers and paddlers do their thing while we waited for the rest of the crew to wake up. After a short run with Chris down Alii Drive into town and back, it was time to get on with the day. We went and got some breakfast at a great little bar, Quinn's Almost By the Sea, that only does breakfast each year for Ironman week. I have been told they are famous for their fish and chips, but they make a pretty mean western omelette as well! Then I parted ways with everyone for a little and went to packet pickup/check-in at the King Kamehameha Hotel, and then browsed all of the IM merchandise at the Ironman Store "trap" that caters to all of the proud athletes with open wallets. In the picture below, I had escaped the store with minimal damage done and posed with this huge, floral m-dot.

After meeting back up with the group to coordinate, Jocey and I were off to the governors office to get our marriage license for the big day on Sunday!

Next stop was the 'Anaeho'omalu beach on the south Kohala coast, for some sun worshipping and a little snorkeling. There wasn't too much to this beach, not a large swath of sand like I am used to from the Jersey Shore or North Carolina, but it had some really interesting sand, very coarse and multi-colored, most notably with some small green crystals of something mixed in with the larger percentage of salt and pepper type large grains.

Also at 'Anaeho'omalu was some pretty good snorkeling, with a fair amount of coral to swim over and inspect, with numerous types of tropical fish and even a good deal of sea turtles. Here you can see one of the fast moving reptilian fellows, staying a couple strokes ahead of the pesky, drafting triathlete swimming behind him.

After leaving the beach, we started on our way back to Kona for the Ironman Welcome dinner, aka pasta dinner and athlete's meeting. Here along the Queen Kaahumanu Highway, I got one of my first looks of the bleak and challenging landscape that I will be dealing with on Saturday for so many miles on the bike leg and marathon. I know it is going to be pretty hot out there, but I am crossing my fingers that the winds are reasonably light for the bike leg. Here is a view heading south, between Waikoloa and the airport region.

Next I went into the welcome dinner, where I got to stuff my face and meet some other athletes doing the race. I had a nice chat with Dana and Rob from Tulsa Oklahoma, and Temu and his wife Mia from Finland. We had some nice tri-talk and race prognostication, and learned a little bit about each other and how we all came to be in Kona. There was a cool hula dance and fire dancer performing at the beginning of the dinner, and that definitely set the tone for the evening and the race to come.

After the welcome dinner I walked down Ali'i Drive and met up with the rest of the family at Bubba Gump's where they were eating before heading back to the condo to turn in for the night. After a night of a little bit more and better quality sleep, I awoke for the last day of prep and relaxation before the race. There really isn't too much exciting going on with me today, just trying to hydrate and rest as much as possible. I will be dropping my bike and gear off at the transition area shortly, and then the real countdown will begin!

In other exciting news though, Happy 33rd Anniversary to my parents! Here was a little early morning Hawaiian offering/note to my parents from Chris and Alyson.

I don't really have too much to say about the race tomorrow, except that it is going to be an incredible challenge amongst some of the best athletes in the world on one of the toughest imaginable courses. The race will surely be a brutal affair and one that will test me to the limit, but I simply plan to stay on top of my nutrition, attitude, and effort, and the rest will take care of itself. I thank everyone who has helped or supported me along the way, this race tomorrow is for you! I will post more as soon as I am able. Aloha hiahi!

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