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One Month Till Kona: What You Should See & Do


Joe Friel: My Mentor, My Friend, One month Till Kona

This is my 663rd blog post.  I'd like to dedicate it to Joe Friel, my mentor, my friend, my patient.  None of what I have achieved in triathlon would be possible without him.  From coaching me for many years and meeting me at the finish line in Kona with an ice cold beer (or two!), to being my roommate and putting up with my endless questions about human performance.  We come at this sport from different angles and often agree to disagree on various topics.  Joe has about the strongest will power of anyone I know, absolute control over what goes into his mouth or the exercise he does and it's quite contagious.  When he's designed a work out for you and the goal is not met, you feel as bad that you let him down as you do in not meeting the preset parameters.

In short, Joe Friel sets the pace the rest of us might aspire to, lives life with honor and hard work, is true to his athletes, true to his family, true his team.

So, to Joe Friel I dedicate this 663rd blog.

Super coach Joe Friel (L) encouraging course record holder Bob Scott in Kona


"It's going to be a Hard Day's Night."   The Beatles


We're one month till the cannon blast signals the start of the Ironman World Championship. The athletes who are racing this year are beginning to struggle with the upcoming need to think about tapering, opposing that intense internal drive to get every bit of training they can out of every day. It can be as much as 20, 25, even 30 or more hours per week. Age groupers too! For the first timers on the Hawaii course there are so many questions involving bike transportation, accommodations, training on the island, heat acclimation, and learning as absolutely much as possible about the race and it's conditions.  This event, where the best of the best race, still has enough DNFs that athletes want to ensure they're in the annually expected 93% who finish the event instead of the handful who don't.

I think the biggest mistake that newcomers make is that in spite of spending 7, 8, 10 or more days on the Big Island, they don't get it. They are so focused on the race that although they finish well on Saturday, and it's "mission accomplished," so to speak, they've totally missed the Hawaiian feeling of Ohana (family) or the spirit of Aloha. And, for those who've brought family and friends, they've learned little to nothing about this wonderful place as they become consumed with Ironman.



To be fair, it's this goal oriented behavior that got them here, but with actual pre-race training at a minimum now, there are frequent opportunities to learn and entertain while in Kona. Having been there 20 times, here are ten suggestions to ensure both the best race and the best experience for racer and family alike.  Some for you, some for the family...and some for the family to give them something to do other than watch you obsess over the race.


1.  On Sunday, a week before the race, are the light hearted PATH 5K and 10K runs.  They benefit the Peoples Advocacy For Trails Hawaii.  It's a non-profit in West Hawaii that teaches elementary kids safe cycling.  Could there be a better use of you tax deductible entry?  And it gets the family in the Big Island mood.

2. Eat at some place different every day. Splashers, Kona Inn, Fish Hopper, Jackie Rey's, Lulu's, Lava Java, they all have something good to offer.  If you really like raw fish, Da Poke Shack on Alii Drive gets rave reviews.

3.  Most peoples training plans are in full taper mode with which I agree.  But I'd suggest you start most days with a short swim on the race course.  And I'd do it at 6:55 a.m. if I were an age group male, 7:10 am if I were an age group female since that's when you'll start on Saturday given the time changes for 2016.  You can judge the position of the sun, estimate the surf, pick distant objects upon which to sight off, etc.  You don't have to swim a lot but it's fun, it's social, and where else can you swim out to a floating coffee bar Tuesday through Friday?  The family can swim out there too.  Got a water proof camera for that Christmas card photo?

4. Everyone, and I mean everyone, runs the Underpants Run on Thursday, 7:30 am, King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. http://www.underpantsrun.org/  Register on line through 10/9 or at the Ironman Expo Tuesday or Wednesday...and bring a camera. It's about 2K at about a 10-12 min/mile pace...when you can stop laughing. Bring a special hat or mask. One guy was Elvis a couple years ago and it worked. 







5. When thinking about gifts for those back home, particularly kids, both Longs Drugs and the ABC stores have a wide variety of items for not a lot of money. You will spend more money in the Ironman store than you think. ("Well, I'll never be back here again and I do need 10 more triathlon oriented shirts in the dresser.")  Consider mailing things from Kona so you won't be overweight when your luggage is weighed at the airport.  It can get expensive.  Maybe even bring a mailing tube to mail IM posters for the gang at the pool.

6. Say hello to some one you don't know every day. And, if they're having a little trouble since English isn't their first language, take a breath and see if you can work it out. It onlytakes a little patience to be a good ambassador. And besides, it's fun.

7. Get with someone who has a rent-a-car and view every inch of the race course.  You might have to omit the two mile out and back in the energy lab, NELH (Or if you're really compulsive you could take the tour and see parts of it.)  I think you want no surprises on Saturday.  You can have lunch in Hawi.  It's really nice.

8. Be patient and kind to the people of Kona - this is their home we're invading.

9. On Saturday, say THANK YOU to every race volunteer you encounter. And every policeman.

10.  And finally, when you get to the post-race area, don't be in a hurry to leave.  Lots to see and do from finisher's medals, food of many types, pictures, etc.  Since many of you will leave Hawaii in the next 24 hours or so, and because of the stress your legs have endured and overall dehydration, understand that you are at risk for developing blood clots in your legs.  The best thing is prevention where your efforts at hydration begin now and continue until you reach your destination by air.  When on the plane, don't just sit or sleep please. Get up every couple hours, walk around, use those leg muscles - especially the calves - till you arrive home.  It'll pay off.


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