Hawaii Ironman World Championships 2013
October 25th, 2013 by Fraser
This is where it all starts, and where it all finishes (it just looks a little different when they build the finishers arch and ramp!) Racing in Kona was Ali’s goal all year and it was also mine for a good portion of the year too but I was just glad that one of us held up to the task of qualifying 😉
You can just make out the crowds of folk milling around the swim start/exit in the background at Dig Me Beach.
We arrived in Kona on the Wednesday evening of the week before, giving a good 10 days to get as used to the change in surroundings.. it’s a long old haul to the other side of the world and save for a mad dash through the terminals of LA airport we had a fairly smooth ride from Edinburgh all the way to Kailua-Kona, 11 time zones behind. It’s a fair old shunt to the body clock though.
The biggest concern that Ali had about this whole adventure was the first little bit of it; the swim 😉 Now, swimming is what I grew up doing and Ali, well, didn’t. So we have pretty diverse opinions on being in the water and as such I’m not maybe the most sympathetic ear of a morning before an early dip in the Pacific. But I tried my best to help! We got in the water pretty much every day either at the swim start by ‘Dig Me Beach’ Pier or in the pool at the Kona Aquatics Centre (both are free entry!) We were both in agreement that this familiarisation was a big help, plus the helpful fun race around the swim course the Saturday beforehand too. Taking the comfort blanket of a wetsuit away is what scares many competitors so much prior to this race, but in actual fact the salt water is virtually as bouyant as the neoprene, you just have to get in there to get a feel for it.
The age group swim start – this produces some of the most iconic and lasting moments of the Ironman Hawaii race year after year. (I was fairly pleased with this regardless!)
Race day came around quick – they have a habit of doing that. The week leading into the race was filled with all sorts of last minute stuff; last minute training, last minute equipment checks, last minute chats with folk and did I mention the last minute panic training?! Saturday morning had arrived in a flash and Ali and I found a quiet spot at the back of the race hotel which is just behind transition. It’s dark in Kona until pretty much 6.15am and so it was only just getting light when the cannon sounded for the start of the Pro Mens race. The mass start age group wave got going at 7am and so I gave her as big a ‘good luck and enjoy it’ hug as I could muster and left her and her Freespeed buddies to it. I did my best to source some coffee in time to see the swim start in just under half an hours time (I found a pretty good spot I think you’d agree?)
Although I think this picture was taken on her way back into T2 during the last hour of the bike, I’d say it was safe to say she had an equally big grin on her face at the 2 mile mark after having finished the swim. I stood with the Freespeed Team manager – Richard Melik – (who took all of these race photos) and we cheered each of the team as they rode by. We then saw them about 20mins later and then that was them off and away down the famous Queen K Highway towards the Hawi turnaround some 50miles away. We then retreated to the comfort of some a/c… thirsty work all that cheering!
Caught in the act 😉 Richard and his camera snapped this one as Ali headed on down the Queen K. I found it hard to come up with insightful comments when on the side of the road and generally just resorted to clapping and shouting the persons name with something like “lets go” or “looking great” or some other equally not very original phrase…it’s not easy being a supporter!
I’ve been lucky for this to have been my 4th trip to The Big Island of Hawaii… once on a training camp, another to train for and race the event and the last 2 stints have been as a supporter. One thing I have no doubt about at all is that the marathon at this race is just such an incredibly gruelling and demanding thing to have to get done. It’s brutal, it really is. I stood and watched it with our Trek mechanic Mark Andrews who himself raced Kona many times, and we would just marvel at how many poor athletes were completely and utterly devoid of anything out there in the lava fields. Just totally empty. Thankfully whenever we saw Ali she still had a smile on her dial and was moving really nicely. The first ten miles of the race is an out and back along Ali’i Drive, and there is a nasty camber to the road, which wasn’t ideal for her ankle, but when we saw her again at the half marathon mark she was still truckin’ along nicely and moving up through the postions in her age group.
When we saw her again it was at about 22 miles and although she was having a sensible walk through the aid stations by this point she was still moving well all things considered. Many are not at this stage thats for sure! She was up to 2nd place in her category but I had to give her the slightly unwelcome news that the 3rd place girl was less than a minute behind her and that it might be a good idea to get a shimmie on! I then had to jump on my cruiser bike that I was following the race on and hot tail it to the finish chute to see her come down the most famous section of Ironman course anywhere on the planet.
She held onto 2nd more than comfortably (although wasn’t too pleased by my ‘encouragement’) and was simply delighted to get across that famous finish line. Good jaawb!!
After the race we had a whole week to hang out and have a wee bit of a holiday. Before leaving for Hawaii we weren’t sure what we would do, and many folk suggested looking at some of the other islands in Hawaii, but truth be told we were more than happy to stay put in Kailua Kona and enjoy the weather. After all, it wasn’t going to look like this when we got home to Scotland was it? 🙂