Kona baby! Part 1: How not to prepare for World Championships

Having qualified against all odds at IMUK, I didn’t have long to pick myself back up before Kona.  As well as a perfectly-timed and remarkably persistent chest infection, I’d had a niggling stress response in my foot ever since Bolton and had done no running at all in the lead in to Kona.  I was also 3 weeks into Project: “Learn to Ride the TT Bike”… what could possibly go wrong?

We decided not to worry too much about performance, and to treat the trip as a “fact-finding mission” so I could go back better prepared to race well in future years.  And, of course, as a holiday and end of season break after an eventful year’s racing.

The journey to Hawaii was fairly unpleasant (being in transit for over 24 hours was never going to be fun) but we eventually arrived on Friday 4th October, just over a week before the race.

Ed is defeated by the biggest plate of nachos I’ve ever seen en route in San Francisco

Ed is defeated by the biggest plate of nachos I’ve ever seen en route in San Francisco

Possibly America’s most picturesque airport

Possibly America’s most picturesque airport

At Kona airport an American lady who’d come to watch the race pointed at my t-shirt and asked if I was Canadian, then in response to my puzzled look, quickly corrected herself, “I mean, Australian”.  This was the t-shirt.  Just saying.

GB tshirt

We’d travelled earlier than previously planned so that we could both take part in the Ho’ala practice swim the following day at Dig Me beach, and stayed near Waikoloa, a 40 minute drive away from Kona itself.  Our choice of hotel was determined more by my late qualification than anything else, but it turned out to be a relief to be away from the circus in the lead-up to the race.

Sunrise from Kailua Kona Pier before the practice swim start

Sunrise from Kailua Kona Pier before the practice swim start

The swim was well organised and a reasonable simulation of the real thing, both in terms of the mass start and the course itself.  I came out in just under 74 minutes, having swallowed quite a bit of water and feeling really rather sick.  The key on race day would be making sure I didn’t swallow much or any water, even if that meant sacrificing a bit of immediate speed.

The finish arch, on the other side of the pier from race day

The finish arch, on the other side of the pier from race day

Back at our hotel, I did my last strength and conditioning session of the season and had a good stretch, then we stuck our bikes back together in preparation for the next day’s fun and games…

My first time riding on probably the famous triathlon bike course in the world…. I was excited!  We even overtook another competitor in the first few kilometres, giving me some hope that perhaps I wouldn’t be the slowest person there.  My excitement lasted a good 30 minutes until I was very nearly killed by a truck towing a boat (why is it always the ones with boats…?).

We caught up with the gentleman in charge of the vehicle at Kawaihae Harbour, and it quickly became clear that it was fully in accordance with his belief system that moving out of the shoulder to avoid some debris should be punishable by death.  I didn’t know how to argue with that: in his mind he was being perfectly reasonable.  It terrifies me that there are people like this in the world.

We carried on up to Hawi, trying to block out the fear of death by homicidal maniac and concentrate on cycling.  Given the hot weather, the fact I clearly wasn’t going to win the race anyway and the availability of coffee and ice cream, we stopped for a break at the excellent Kohala Coffee Mill at the turnaround point of the course in Hawi.

The turnaround!

The turnaround!

Ice cream sandwich, highly recommended!  Mint & chocolate ice cream between two yummy squidgy cookies (I am writing this up several weeks later while trying to lose weight and this is alternately making me want to cry / go to the fridge and eat ALL THE CHOCOLATES....)

Ice cream sandwich, highly recommended! Mint & chocolate ice cream between two yummy squidgy cookies (I am writing this up several weeks later while trying to lose weight and this is alternately making me want to cry / go to the fridge and eat ALL THE CHOCOLATES….)

The ride back home was less eventful, though more hot, than the way out.  Needless to say I was terrified on the descent from Hawi, which Ed kindly ‘made’ me do on the TT bars, but we made it back in one piece.

During the rest of the week, we did very little: short swims and rides, combined with some excellent eating, a bit (OK, quite a lot) of stash acquisition and an inordinate amount of sleep.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions; if we’d spent any more time there they would probably have started charging us rent!

Breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions; if we’d spent any more time there they would probably have started charging us rent!

Sunset from the Natural Energy Lab, while we were checking out the run course

Sunset from the Natural Energy Lab, while we were checking out the run course

We found a beach near Waikoloa to swim at to avoid the journey into Kona – less crowded, but the tide was brutal the first time we swam there

We found a beach near Waikoloa to swim at to avoid the journey into Kona – less crowded, but the tide was brutal the first time we swam there

I have no excuse for this photo.  I am a terrible poser and should not be allowed to breathe.  Nearly every item of kit I own now says “Kona” on it..

I have no excuse for this photo. I am a terrible poser and should not be allowed to breathe. Nearly every item of kit I own now says “Kona” on it…

Continue to see details of the race itself, or skip to some details of Hawaii Island and post-race downtime here.

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