Hard life. Just over 6weeks ago I was writing a prologue, about to get on a transatlantic flight for a once in a lifetime experience involving swim, bike and run, which I’d wanted to do for about 7 years. Here I am again about to do the same. Where did it all go wrong, eh? If Epic was epic it surely follows that Kona will be… well… Kona I guess.
Or will it? What is ‘Kona’? Embarrassingly I’ve spent 7 years trying to get somewhere that I don’t exactly know the location of*. My geography is beyond poor, but I do know where Heathrow is. I guess for the first time newbie like me you can’t describe it – you have no idea. You’ve never seen it through your own lens. I’d spoken to a bunch of people before my first marathon but London exceeded all expectations (including the finishing time unfortunately!). I spoke to another, more select, like-minded bunch of people (including fellow Buccaneers Gary and Nick) prior to my first taste of Ironman. But Austria wasn’t what I’d expected or visualised and that too certainly didn’t disappoint (except again maybe that pesky finishing time!). So it’s unrealistic to think Kona will be any different apart from the fact of course it’ll be different to pretty much any race out there.
I rocked up in Austria in ’07 thinking I was pretty fit. I looked around me on the first day at the Expo and immediately felt a little bit more like an out of shape Uncle Buck. I probably wouldn’t feel like that going back now, but in Kona? There’s a tonne of super fit people I can think of who didn’t make the cut so I can only begin to imagine the ones who have. I think I’ll make sure I stick close to Gary and any legacy dudes at all times in the lead up. At a big race you maybe see half a dozen top people that you could put a name to (admittedly I’m not much of a groupie) but there’s gonna be 90 of the world’s best all in the same place at once… not to mention some kickass dudes whose best is behind them who are still involved in the sport. That’s more rockstars in one day than Live Aid!
What’s the atmosphere like on race morning? What’s the swim really like when the cannon goes off? What’s the biffage factor when you’ve got fewer weaker swimmers and a lot more people desperate to do well? I can tell you the names of some of the parts of the bike course but I have no idea where they are (apart maybe from ‘the turnaround at Hawi’)? I listened to coach John Newsom on his IMTALK podcast last week and he explained the course pretty well…I’m gonna go back and listen again… but seeing is believing. Molina’s telling us to be prepared for a lot of strong bikers and to expect surging and coasting to stay out of the draft zone. How’s that gonna feel? Worse than my mind’s eye has it or better? How hot is it? How oppressive is the wind? How will it affect me? What’s it gonna feel like getting off the bike? Where’s Palani? Run Palani? What’s a Kona aid station like? How many people will be around you – especially as it’s a one lap course? Will I be quick enough to see the leaders come the other way? What will that feel like? Running on a highway with little or no support? How’s that feel? What even is the Energy Lab? At the end will I be desperate for it to be over or wanting it to last forever? Then what? Elation? Emptiness? A sense of job done? A burning desire to get back?
I sure as hell have got a lot more questions than answers at the moment. The one thing I do know is I’ve never heard of anyone come back disappointed at the experience when asked how it was. Surely even the anti-tri geek cynic in me can’t Uncle Buck that trend.
Game on, like donkey kong!
* I just checked. It’s a small town to the left (or should that be West?) of Mexico which apparently is joined to the bottom of some place called America. I’ll have a word with the captain as I board just to be on the safe side.