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It’s World Championship Time in Hawaii by John Post, MD



“It’s going to be a hard day’s night. The Beatles



We’re 40 days till the cannon blast signals the start of the 2012 Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championship. The athletes who are racing this year are beginning to struggle with the need to taper opposing that intense internal drive to get every bit of training they can out of every day. It can be as much as 20, 25, even 30 hours per week. Age groupers too! For the first timers there are so many questions involving bike transportation, accommodations, training on the island, heat acclimation, and learning as absolutely much as possible about the race and conditions to ensure they’re in the annually expected 93% who finish the event instead of those who don’t.

I think the biggest mistake that newcomers make is that in spite of spending 7, 8, 10 or more days on the Big Island, they don’t get it. They are so focused on the event that although come race cut off time at midnight on Saturday it’s “mission accomplished,” they’ve totally missed the Hawaiian feeling of Ohana (family) or the spirit of Aloha. And, for those who’ve brought family and friends, they’ve learned little to nothing about this wonderful place as they become consumed with Ironman.


To be fair, it’s this goal oriented behavior that got them here, but with actual pre-race training at a minimum now, there are frequent opportunities to learn and entertain while in Kona. Having been there 20 times, here are ten suggestions to ensure both the best race and the best experience for racer and family alike:

1. Get your bike needs taken care of early. Have it re-inspected after you assemble it by Bikeworks just because this costs less than a malfunction on race day. Drive to Hawi. Learn the route by heart and ride up Kuakini Highway a couple times – just because.

2. Early in the week, take a snorkel boat cruise on board the Fair Wind out of Keauhou (7 miles from the pier). Although spending time at the pier and Lava Java talking Ironman is beneficial, it has an end point. You won’t get shot if you leave downtown for a little while to snorkel.

3. Eat at some place different every day. Basil’s, Splashers, Kona Inn, Hard Rock, Lulu’s, they all have something good to offer.

4. Swim a little many mornings -at 7am so you can the light and shadows – more days than you think you need to. But not a lot. It’s fun, it’s social, and where else can you swim out to a coffee bar?

5. When thinking about gifts for those back home, particularly kids, both Longs Drugs and the ABC stores have a wide variety for not a lot of money. You will spend more money in the Ironman store than you think. (“Well, I’ll never be back here again and I do need 10 more triathlon oriented shirts in the dresser.”

6. Run the underpants run on Thursday…and bring a camera. It’s less than 2K at about a 10min/mile pace…when you can stop laughing. Bring a special hat or mask. One guy was Elvis a couple years ago and it worked. Have your family also run the PATH safety 5K on 10/3 downtown. It’s fun and for a worthy cause.

7. Everyone who comes with you should, no MUST, be a race volunteer – sign up before you go. Do it today. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say it wasn’t the highlight of their time on the Big Island.

8. On Saturday, say THANK YOU to every race volunteer you encounter.

9. Be kind and patient to the people of Kona – this is their home we’re invading.

10. Say hello to some one you don’t know every day. And, if they’re having a little trouble since English isn’t their first language, take a breath and see if you can work it out. It just takes a little patience to be a good ambassador. And besides, it’s fun.

11. I said there’d be 10,but I forgot one. After you finish, and get your medal and something to eat, and you realize you’re not going to die…when they take you to the massage tent and ask if they can help you, don’t say no. Get a 5 minute foot massage. It’s to die for. And besides, you earned it.