Saturday, October 17, 2009

Training on the Big Island

Iron Man was last weekend.  The race took place on Saturday, October 10th (it's always the second Saturday in October) and as always drew lots of visitors and excitement to Kona.  (For race winners and details, please visit the official Iron Man website:  The weeks leading up to the race are always exciting.  Athletes come from all over the world to train here and acclimate to the weather before the race, and visitors pour in to volunteer, watch the race, and cheer the triathletes on.  We've had both athletes and volunteers stay with us here at the Inn and their energy is always contagious.

In the spirit of Iron Man, I thought it'd be interesting to post the experiences of an athlete training on the island.  Although my dad isn't a thriathlete, he is a world record-holding masters swimmer and spent the summer here training in the Bay.  He took part in several local swims, including the Alii Challenge and the race to Honaunau, as well as the Waikiki Roughwater Swim on Oahu.  Here's an excerpt from his summer journal:

All around me there is nothing but warm, clear, blue water.  I am one hour into the 10K Alii Challenge open water swim from Keauhou Bay north to the Alii Pier in Kailua-Kona.  I should be feeling good right now but I am suffering a bit and the blood sugar appears to be gone.  This is not good because almost an hour and a half remain in the race.  Roberta, my escort paddler, carries some food and drink so I "pull over" and try to replace the spent nutrients and then off we go.

The plans for this race started in June when we arrived at the Luana Inn for an extended summer of swimming in the beautiful waters around the big island of Hawaii.  The Luana Inn is perched less than a mile above the fabled Kealakekua Bay where Captain James Cook met his demise in 1797.  The inn is the perfect launching point for the open water swimmer.  Kealakekua Bay is a breathtakingly beautiful crescent about 1.2 miles across.  On the south side is Manini Beach and on the North side is the Captain Cook Monument.  

Most of our training swims began at Manini Beach and followed the perimeter of the bay to the monument.  The visual feast was fantastic.  Tropical fish of fantastic colors, coral formations of surreal shapes and sizes, sea turtles, rays and the ultimate treat, populate the bay: dolphins.  The spinner dolphins often come to the bay to rest and on occasion will "join" the open water swimmers.  I think they find our pathetic efforts comical so we provide a source of entertainment for them.  For us seeing the dolphins is electrifying and we redoubled our efforts to swim well and swim fast but most of all we try to just enjoy the moment while we are suspended in that beautiful blue medium from which all life on this planet emerged.

My swimming friends and I were preparing for a series of open water races.  July 5th the Hapuna Swim a one mile race at Hapuna Beach north of Kona, July 11th the King's Swim a 1.2 mile race on the Iron Man course by Alii Pier in Kailua-Kona, August 16th the Alii Challenge a 10K race from Keauhou to the Alii Pier, and finally on Labor Day, September 7th, the 2.4 mile Waikiki Rough Water swim.

The races were wonderful and well organized but the key to the summer of swimming was all the training swims in Kealakekua Bay.  Our swims were mostly about 4 kilometers in length; however, before the 10K Alii Challenge we did do a few 6K and 8K swims.  After each swim we would hang out at Manini Beach and talk, eat, and plan the next swim.  During the summer, I estimate we swam about 250 kilometers.

Back to the Alii Challenge.  I am now about 90 minutes in the race and am still suffering a bit but we have a following sea and the King Kamehameha Hotel is starting to emerge on the horizon.  At about the two-hour mark we can see the pier and then finally 2 hours and eighteen minutes after the start I am on the beach.

 I will be back next year to do it again!

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