It’s that time of year again. After a hiatus of 3 years, no doubt it will be bigger than ever, with a new two day race format for Kona, Ironman's holy grail.
Get ready for a social media bombardment: sunsets, palm trees, turtles, Mai Tais and banyan trees. Add to it the gatherings at triathlons most mythical locations - swimming at Dig me beach, TT bikes on the Queen K, fit bodies running up and down both Ali'i Drive and the Energy Lab.
The evolution of the race has been profound, on both a competitive level and as a marketing event. In the earliest of days there were only newspapers, with results printed the next day. Then the monthly Tri mags with their race summaries and photos which would come out in the following weeks. Kona used to feel so far from the rest of the world.
Everyone used to start together. Pros, age groupers, men and women. The mass start, whilst terrifying for many, was also part of the appeal. Wave starts, live coverage, broadcast specials - the sport has evolved and became more professional (curiously the prize money hasn’t evolved at the same rate). The depth of both the professional and age group fields has dramatically risen in just the last 10 years alone, 80% of the field now finishing before the early Hawaiian sunset.
The expo seems to expand every single year! Tri bars, triathlon specific bikes, 650 wheels, carbon wheels, carbon frames, gps watches, swim skins, shoes and nutrition - all constantly changing, marketing driven, and sometimes evolving! An endless list of 'free' speed (except for the cost) that fascinates many.
The experience, not just the race - the underpants run, the coffee boat, the pre-race athlete bike check-in, which is now an event in itself.
Whilst some things change, some things stay the same.
Drafting…, did someone say drafting?! The ever present issue that won't go away. Always expensive, but now astronomical for people travelling outside of the US. How many who are good enough are priced out?
However the Hawaii Ironman, whilst still a subset within a subset of a niche sport, still remains the jewel in the crown and a celebration of our sport. A social gathering, familiar faces and catching up with old friends from afar. Soaking up the aloha spirit whilst each day counting down to race day.
For all who have been to Kona before, the memories come flooding back; the good, the bad, the ugly! For the many who haven’t, it represents a pinnacle and the motivation to keep following the elusive dream. Beware however, chasing Kona can quickly become a dangerous and expensive obsession!
If you are fit and healthy enough to be on the start line, you are truly blessed. So many would gladly take your place. While the majority will fall short of lofty goals they have set, for a small moment in time the world stops for you; or so it seems.
Wishing all athletes a super experience and best mechanical luck in 2022!