When Mark and I arrived in Kona for the Ironman we both had our own separate thoughts about how many more times we will be coming to Kona every October. It was a very weird feeling when we both discussed it. We were thinking similar things. He got this crazy thought that perhaps this was his last trip to Kona. I am sure it is not. The trip to Kona has become something I have to do. I was driving to the Denver airport and was not that excited about it. I was tired, had a little cold and had stayed up almost all night in pre kona preparations. I knew my kids were going to miss me and that did not help.
Once I got to Kona and went for a swim in Kailua bay with our team, it was very enjoyable of course. Kona has changed from my first visit in 1990. Here are some of the things I remember. I will also mention some new things I like now and give a summary of how I perceived the race this year plus our team results.
In 1990 the Queen K had no safety or bike lane past the airport so that meant that if you rode on the smooth pavement you risked your life. The Ironman organizers begged people to ride the rough rocky asphalt on the side of the road and bring extra tubes for flats instead of making the local drivers very upset.
In 1990 the title sponsor was Bud Light. How great was to have a beer company sponsor the Ironman? No one ever though anything of it. But how politically incorrect would that be today. How about the Corona Ironman?
In 1990 Ironman did not have a professional division. That meant that to qualify for the race as a 29 year old you had to beat professionals in that age group at a qualifying race. Tabulating results at a qualifier was a nightmare as they had to take the pro results and put them against age groupers to see who got the slot.
In 1990 Ironman gave money to whoever placed in the top 15, pro or no pro. Not a lot, they were very cheap. Ironman back then thought that everyone should be so glad to do the Ironman race, money should not be a factor. In fact for a long time there was no prize money at all.
In 1990 there was no internet or any other good coverage of the race. Everyone had to wait until the next day to get a copy of the local newspaper West Hawaii Today and read the list and times of the top 400 finishers or so that finished before the newspaper printing deadline.
In 1990 I could jump into Kailua bay and line up next to Mark Allen for the start of the swim. I did. One big start was fun. Today with 2 start times and only one finish line clock the fast age groupers get finish line pictures with the clock reading a time slower than what they actually did.
In 1990 the Ironman expo was inside at the King Kamehameha Hotel. You did not have to sit on the sun like you do today to talk to vendors and manufacturers.
What about the new and better things about the Hawaii Ironman?
Today there is better race coverage. People are able to track an athlete on the internet or on their text enabled phone. The race organizers can do even better actually but do not want to for some reason.
Today they have a big screen TV at the finish line so the lead professionals can be tracked all day by the people near the finish line.
Today you can ride the Queen K highway and ride in the emergency bike lane most of the bike course and feel a lot safer.
Today the highway is not as desolate dark lava road as it used to be. I remember riding the highway and seeing nothing but lava for miles and miles. Now there are more buildings. Today there is also more vegetation but more traffic.
Very nostalgic write up for sure. Mark Allen goes back even further to the early 80's I wonder what he thinks. I remember the initial Ironman marathons in Kona were an out and back on the queen K. They placed this one huge inflatable Bud Light can at the turnaround. You could see it for miles away which is a huge mental problem because running a mile seems to not get you that much closer to the inflatable Bud Light can.
This year in Kona we spent a lot of time filming and working with our athletes. We wil bring some videos to you soon.
The race itself was interesting. The big news was the drop out rate of many top contenders. The other big news is the performance of so many first time Kona participants. Yes Chris McCormack won (as I predicted ) but his countryman Craig Alexander was second on his first Kona. Then the top two women were incredible and had very fast marathons. I do not think Natasha nor Michellie stood a chance even on a good day for them. I almost always bet against first timers here. Kona is a hard race for first time competitors but I think that with good coaches and the more people like ourselves spread the word out and the more athletes listen the easier it can be. Then the more likelihood that someone new can do well and perform up to their potential.
Closer to home; all of our 41 athletes that started the Ironman finished, 5 of them took age group hardware and stood on the podium at the awards ceremony and we crowned an age group world champion in Kelly Lear-Kaul of Littleton Colorado in the W35-39. The other podium finishers were
Edie Fisher 2nd Place W50-54
Steven Smith 4th place M55-59
Jessica Jacobs 4th place W30-34
Solveig Gysland 5th place W45-49
Now I am getting ready to go to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater Florida. That should wrap up the North America race season for us.