Two of the team are off to Kona again – both for their second trips, both having also raced in 2013. We wondered how they got to this spot again and how they’re feeling about Round 2 of The Big Dance.
How and where did you qualify for Kona?
David: I qualified at Ironman Wales in September 2014. I’d just come off of 12 days of crazy training in the Rocky Mountains of Canada (www.epiccamp.com) and I had no idea whether I’ll be exhausted or fighting fit come race day in Wales. Luckily I was fighting fit and battled through to an automatic qualification slot in the M40-44 age group. This is one of the first races in the qualification year for Kona 2015 and gave me 13 months to become in the best shape of my life ready to smash out an awesome race in Hawaii. Or perhaps not… I’ve been injured on and off for pretty much the last 10 months and to top it all off came crashing off of my bike a few weeks ago which really pushed things back (if they could go back any further!).
Elaine: I did 9:53 to come second in my age group (35 – 39) at Ironman Austria in June of this year. There were 2 slots on offer. It was my goal to qualify there, having come close, but not quite being good enough on the day in France 2014. I knew I was fit, I just had to do what I’d trained to do.
What made take the slot given you’d be there before?
David: It was a complete no-brainer! When we (my wife and I) went to Kona in 2013 I was like a child at Christmas. I’d seen the videos, read the stories, seen the photos and this magical place on the big island of Hawaii was for real. I loved it. In 2013 (after qualifying a few weeks previously at Ironman UK) I treated Kona as a once in a lifetime opportunity and loved it (and have the credit card receipts to prove it!). Getting the option to race in Kona again proved to me that I’m not just a one trick pony and after the fun we had then it was an easy decision to make.
Elaine: I loved my first trip. I went in 2013, having qualified at IMUK, so the race was only 10 weeks after my qualifying race. I’d never done 2 IM in one year before and for me, this was quite a lot of racing in a short time scale so I made my 2013 Kona experience about the experience. I have no regrets about that, but this time the plan is to weight the race slightly more. We also felt there was more we wanted to experience in Hawaii, so we’re taking advantage of going back to see even more this time.
What are you most looking forward to about being back on the Big Island?
David: I would say being able to hear the ocean from our apartment but having since moved house in the UK last year where we’re close enough to hear the sea I’ll have to think of something else. Hmn. Probably just seeing the buzz of the race week unfold. Getting to Kona early (i.e., at least two weeks before race day) means you see Kailua-Kona in more of its natural state (i.e., you still get table service at Lava Java). It’s peaceful and not overrun with tanned hair-less triathlete-types. Then the ‘Ironman Show’ comes to town and it all changes. It’s great to see and be part of the transformation. You need to embrace it. Yes, there’s lots of people who are trying too hard to be cool but that’s just how it is. Then watch it all disappear two days after the race.
Elaine: The coffee. Swimming in the beautiful clear water with a ridiculous variety of brightly coloured fish. Fresh avocado. Stunning sunsets. Tropical flowers. Fresh fish. All of it – I can’t pick just one thing!
What did you learn from 2013 which you’ll be putting into practice this year?
David: I learnt not to put so much ice down my shorts to cool myself! All the ice did was melt and run into my shoes which squelched from about mile 2 of the run. It was like running through a 26 mile puddle! I got new shoes that have better vents however I’ve barely run this year due to injury so will probably just wear my old (non) faithful pair instead. And just have less ice! I’ll also go a little easier on the bike earlier on. The ride back from Kawaihaeto Kona is tough – real tough.
Elaine: It’s useful to know how well you can handle that sort of heat and the cross winds on the bike. I also learnt that I need to slightly refine my sunscreen strategy – that was serious burn! Also, just knowing where things are – feeling a bit more at home in the town, knowing how it all works, what’s necessary and what’s not.
What piece of advice would you give to first timers?
David: There are different types of ‘first timers’ that go to Kona. Those who have fought long and hard to qualify and are there for the celebratory ‘victory lap’ on race day. These are the ‘once in a lifetime’ folk which is exactly what I was in 2013 (ok, ignore the once in a lifetime bit). I wanted to experience as much as I could of Kailua-Kona and the Ironman. The race week programme is full of great things to do, the Path 5k race, the Keiki Dip’n’Dash (just watching it is great fun), the Underpants Run, Breakfast with Bob. All of that sort of thing. Do it all. Who cares if you wear yourself out and spent most of your day on your feet doing stuff. Just enjoy it. The place is special, it’s amazing and if you are like me and every October you spend hours and hours online reading everything on the internet you can find about the race then you’ll love it. Be a part of it. This was me in 2013.
Then there’s the uber serious folk – the ones who are there to raise their game for a stellar performance on the Big Island. I was hoping to be in that camp this year but it’s not happened. Either way I would have done all of the previous things anyway! Just remember to have fun – you’re only young once.
Oh, one thing that is very important – don’t take your Ironman finishers flower lei home – no matter how beautiful it is. This is seen as bad luck. Leave it on the island.
Elaine: Try to experience some of Hawaii. It’s a long way to go to stay inside the triathlon bubble and it’s an amazing place. Make sure you soak up the finish line atmosphere – it has no equal anywhere in the world. It should go without saying that you should stick around till midnight!
What’s the best non-triathlon thing about the Big Island?
David: The people. Don’t just hang with your mates all the time. Go exploring. Go up into the mountains (even if just for the cool air!). Talk to the locals. Chat to people in the shops, in the condo where you’re staying. You’ll find friendly people wanting to hear your story. Share a little aloha.
Elaine: The complete extremes of microclimate that you can experience all in one day – the barren wasteland of the mountaintop, to the lush cloud forest, to the black and white sands of the tropical beach, to the volcano. Oh, and Hawaiian shaved ice.
What’s your favourite thing about race week in Kona?
David: Every morning! For someone who dislikes swimming, going swimming from the pier every morning is a bizarre answer. The atmosphere, the build-up, the coffee boat, pro-sightings, the post swim chatter amongst friends. It’s what Kona is all about. You’d be a fool to miss it.
Elaine: I love seeing everything start to come together. The atmosphere gradually builds from Monday and then reaches heights of insanity. It’s also great how friendly people are – locals and other visiting athletes. I’m looking forward to catching up with some friends I made last year, putting faces to some familiar in name only and hopefully forming new friendships in the process.
What are your goals for your race?
David: 12 months ago it was to get an Ironman PB on the big island. A few weeks ago I wasn’t sure I’d even make the start line. Now I just want to finish. I’m not fit by any stretch of the imagination. I’m nowhere near where I was two years ago (I had a tough day and finished in 10:29). This time it’s all about completion of the race. I’d love to go sub-11 hours. This will be my 10th Ironman distance race and my average time is just under 10 hours 30 minutes. If I finish in under 15 hour 30 minutes then my average will stay under 11 hours! I am hoping to finish a little quicker than that though.
Elaine: Always first to enjoy it – this is the prize I worked hard for, training and racing Austria. Secondly, to put in a performance I am proud of, with memories I can savour when I’m old and decrepit! I try not to set goals that are dependent on other people (although if you’re trying to qualify in the first place, that’s necessary to a degree), so it’s about my race and how I feel I’ve performed.
Any plans to go back to the Big Island again?
David: Definitely. I always thought I’d go to Maui when I was young (Maui is the world ‘capital’ of windsurfing – which I’m a big fan of) and then I end up going to the big island – twice. Next time we’ll probably go on a bit of an inter-island holiday and then take in the Ironman race as part of that. I may well try and qualify again for Kona in a few years time. We’ll see.
Elaine: Not for several years at least. I’d never say never, but it’s not going to feature in my immediate plans. We’re spending some time on Maui and O’ahu this time too, but there are a lot of other places in the world I want to see.
What are you plans for 2016?
David: Very little. We now live in a beautiful part of the world and I want to enjoy where we are a bit more. I want to go windsurfing more, maybe buy a little sailing boat for Sharon and myself to sail with, etc. Hmn… not much triathlon talk here is there? Well – I will do a few races – probably Olympic/standard distance and possible a half-distance race. I’m really not sure. Knowing me I’ll probably end up doing very little. I will attempt to do some cycling time trials as I’ve still never done one.
Elaine: The London Marathon (which I’ve never run before) and then probably Embrunman.
Who are your male and female picks for the pro podium?
David: Male: Frodeno (1), Kienle (2), Van Lierde (3). Female: Ryf (1), Carfrae (2), Joyce (3).
Elaine: Top 5 women: Rhyf, Carefrae, Neath, Swallow and Gajer. Top 5 men: Frodeno, Kienle, Vanhoenacker, Hansen and Hoffman.