The plan for this season wasn’t to come to Kona but to have fun racing with friends and focus on building a better swim/bike leg for 2014, the year I plan to go back to Kona in the next age group. But, perhaps because of that more relaxed seasonal plan, I had some great races, nailing PBs and a number of wins, the most significant of which was at IMUK. A trip to Kona was too good to pass up.
As the taxi approached Kailua-Kona, after some 27hrs of travelling, we went up a slight rise – this was Mark and Dave hill or what might perhaps now be known as Chris and Andi hill. I felt like a small child on Christmas Eve, how could I have even contemplated not coming? This year we were stopping at the Kona Seaside Hotel, right in the thick of the action, the finish line visible from the room’s balcony. Making such a last minute decision to come meant my usual hotel, the Royal Kona Resort, was fully booked, in fact just about everywhere was fully booked!
By 4am Thursday morning I had given up trying to sleep in, my body totally confused as to what time of day it was. I got up, put the coffee on and set about assembling the bike. I managed to drag out a few more bits of admin until first light then took the 5 minute walk down to the pier. When I first made the trip out here, in 2008, there were no more than half a dozen athletes turning up for the swim the week before the race but things are very different now. It’s not as chaotic as the actual week of the race but there must have been at least a hundred athletes swimming the course or some variant of that route. It’s very organised now, a rack to drop your bag off, volunteers on hand with water and Perform plus canoeists and paddleboards out on the course directing swimmers.
By 7am I was stood on DigMe beach, warm water washing around my ankles, wow, this is it. In 10 days time I would be standing on that very spot with 1800 other athletes and the adrenaline pumping hard. I set off, planning to swim to the 1.2m turnaround buoy, just off the Royal Kona beach. As soon as my head went in the water I could see the tropical fish darting around the coral, I have even caught myself in the race temporarily mesmerised by them. I paused to watch for a brief moment then got into an easy stroke. With the shelter of the pier, the first few hundred meters are always easy but then clear of the pier, the swell starts to hit you. The date of the race is always determined by the timing of the first full moon in October and the tide was fully in by 7am, the time the race will start.
I swam along the line of buoys leading along the course and then passed the new 1500m buoy, seems the Americans discovered meters at last! As I approached the 1.2m mile buoy I noticed it looked a little odd – after umpteen years bobbing up and down, it had been pulled out of service and a shiny new one plopped in – is nothing sacred?? No sooner had I arrived at the buoy then a very familiar and exciting sound greeted my ears, the high pitched squeaking of a pod of Dolphins. Within seconds I was amongst them, swimming all around me, seemingly oblivious to my presence, shepherding the pups and occasionally jumping in the air, simultaneously spinning round. I hung around until hey had disappeared then set off back to DigMe beach.
Quick shower at the pier then off for brekkie – love it.