This is one part of triathlon and particularly here at Kona that I really appreciate. The heroes and superstars rock up here in economy class flights, unpack their own bike bags and stand in queue at Safeway (the supermarket) to buy milk and eggs.
One particular stalker is defending male champ Jan Frodeno. He must’ve downloaded the same “Your Best Ironman Training Programme” from the web as it appears we’re doing the same sessions (just kidding coach). I’ve been out riding the same routes as him about four times already, and yesterday he jumped into the pool just after I finished.
Today we went out to Hawi (Frodo was there as well) to ride the last 30 km of the course up to the turnaround and test the notorious winds. I had to make the seats flat in our big Dodge 7. Still half asleep and with the coffee intake not yet adequate, I went out to the car shirtless and in my pyjama bums. Remember it is about 25 degrees and 80% humidity at 6 am.
Anyway, it was a bit awkward when I closed the car door and was staring at our neighbor ex-ITU World Champ, Tim Don, about to head out for a bike ride. “Morning Tim…” “Um morning….” Learning for the day: always make sure your PJ’s are decent!!
Getting back to the matter at hand – the Ironman World Champs. After our Hawi ride today and a run through the Energy Lab, I’ve now had a look at most of the race route. If I uploaded it to Strava, I wouldn’t get many Kudos for climbs. Overall, it’s a fairly average route on paper (or Strava). However, the weather is brutal.
It’s nice to be able to stroll around in your (clean) PJ’s at 6am. But by 3pm most days we are inside with the aircon on. The run is mostly along the freeway that heads out to the airport and then down to the Energy Lab. This area is surrounded by black lava fields, so at 2/3pm when you’re halfway through the run – the road temp can be 50 degrees, the hot air is 30 degrees and the humidity is 80-90%, with little chance of rain.
Secondly, the wind. I grew up in the Bay of Plenty (Port Elizabeth) and lived in Cape Town, so I have fair experience of wind. However, the winds here are plain weird. It changes directions 4 times every ride. And behind all the bumps and through the eddys created by the lava flow, the wind can blow from three different directions in the space of a kilometre. For a first timer, don’t consider a deep section front wheel more than 50mm. You may be able to handle it, but A) it's not worth the risk; and B) you will spend a lot of energy fighting the wind.
Thirdly, and this is probably for the guys that spent six months training on indoor bikes, running treadmills or being under a few layers – is the sun. Today we had our first bit of cloud cover, which made the run into the Energy Lab a lot more bearable, and also some evening rain en route to the airport for a pickup. But the sun is a shock to the system. Even with suncream lathered on, I picked up some serious burn on day one.
Outside of the challenging conditions, the training has been really enjoyable. When I’m not swimming in the pool with Jan Frodeno, I’m swimming in the sea looking at Nemo and Sammy the Turtle. The rides are on big wide roads with an excellent road surface, and the runs are mostly short.
The first few days were however quite tough with the jetlag and heat adjustment. Even now, 7 days after arrival, I have some feet/ankle swelling issues. I don’t believe it’s wise to arrive anything less than 7 days out if you are coming from South Africa. Time-delay, heat, humidity, and the distance travelling is tough.
To get acclimatized, we are lenient with the aircon to get used to the temperatures and humidity. I’m paying particular attention to eating and drinking. Drinking wise, I’ve been smashing the Mai Tais and Pina Colada’s… I mean electrolytes and ice water. And eating, I’ve been trying to eat as much fresh veg and salads as possible with some proteins.
I don’t know if it’s working, but I am feeling closer to normal (very relative….) every day.
So there it is so far. Some of the exhibitors arrive soon to kick off a town-wide expo. I’ll check in next week and let you know more about what I’ve chosen to race with and why, and also some of the cool stuff we see at the expo.
A sneaky preview: the new Cervelo P5 has been spotted (unofficially) and it looks pretty rad with some new features. This release is on Tuesday.