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Keauhou Kona 1/2 Ironman
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I have entered the 1/2 Ironman for next may in Kona, this will be my first triathlon. I have about 10 months to train for this event, and have been starting to train. Has anyone been involved in this event? Is the bike part of this triathlon flat for the most part? I am trying to get an idea if I should be training for the most part on the flats for my long rides. I would appreciate your input for a first time 1/2 Ironmaner as well as how the course is laid out.


"You're guaranteed to miss 100% of the shots you never take" - Wayne Gretzky
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Re: Keauhou Kona 1/2 Ironman [flytri] [ In reply to ]
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The bike course is rolling hills. Usually there are pretty strong winds especially the last half of the bike. Miles 26 to 45 or so have heavy headwinds (often). The run is mostly flat except for the first 4 miles. During the first 4 you run into the 'Pit'. Very very hot in there. I'm betting it was over 100 w/ high humidity. The swim is pretty easy now that they've moved it.

My big problem is heat adjustment. Since I'm from Seattle I can never seem to handle the heat. So for me at least that's the big problem. I've done the race 5 or 6 times and have had heat related issues everytime. Last year I spent time in a sauna and did indoor training with a heater. This year I'm doubling everything.

Good luck!
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Re: Keauhou Kona 1/2 Ironman [TriHanrahan] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks for the help. Sounds like I better get in the sauna and turn up the heat as I live just south of you in Portland. If anyone else has more input that would be great.

"You're guaranteed to miss 100% of the shots you never take" - Wayne Gretzky
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Re: Keauhou Kona 1/2 Ironman [flytri] [ In reply to ]
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Although the bike course does have some rollers, overall I'd describe it as a flatter course. You can stay in aero for extended periods. One year there was almost no wind - while last year, the wind coming back was definitely there (although it wasn't a real killer).

The swim is very easy - no wetsuits, but the salt water really gives you great bouyancy and there are plenty of beautiful fish and even sea turtles sharing the day with you. Be careful near the last 30 feet of the swim - it narrows into a "channel" with sharp coral on the sides - lots of swimmers get in a bottleneck here.

The run is flat once you get around mile 3. Before then, you have the dreaded pit which seems to bake you on all sides.

Heat and humidity will be more challenging for you than any hills is my guess.

Have fun though - it is an awesome race on the ultimate course.

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Re: Keauhou Kona 1/2 Ironman [flytri] [ In reply to ]
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Its lengthy - and I think there may be formating problems (line breaks) but here is a race report from the SF triathlon Club newsletter of my Kona race in 2002 ....my 2003 one will be done soon....I got lazy :)


"Holy Sh........!" These were the first words from my mouth as I stepped out of our plane and onto the stairs leading to the tarmac. Here I was at Kona - the Mecca for triathlons, an Ironman's Holy Land. Yet, as soon as I passed through the open door of the plane, I was almost pushed back into the fuselage by the force of the wind, a hot wind at that. I came to Kona to do the Keauhou Kona Half-Ironman - held almost entirely within the course of the Hawaii Ironman. This was to be my shot at a Personal Best for that distance - my first ever sub-5:00. Standing there at the top of the ladder as my glasses fogged up from the humidity and my shirt instantly stuck to my skin from the hot wind I told myself "Great choice for a p.r. course Alan. What's next? Dante's inferno." (I also had two other goals - to break the top 100 finishers and to do the half-marathon in a sub-1:30 time. But the sub-5 hour was my big goal. )

My wife and 4 year old son joined me for this race and we all walked down the stairs to the Kona airport. The entire airport is about the size of Kezar stadium. We walked over to baggage claim, picked up my bags and my bike case and headed out. I was thankful for my USAT membership. It would have cost $75 each way to transport my bike - but thanks to the USAT, I used both my bike case vouchers and got the bike to and from Kona for free.

We picked up our rental car and headed to our condo. Our friend set us up with her timeshare and it was perfect. About 1.25 miles from the starting line at Kona bay, right on Alii drive. We unpacked and I did what a triathlete would do: I donned my running shoes, tucked my goggles in the back pocket of my SF Tri Club tri suit and jogged down to the Kona bay. When I got there, after an easy jog, I was already drenched in sweat. I kicked off my shoes and went down to the water's edge. I could see a couple of swim caps about 200 yards away, so I put on my goggles and started swimming. Wow! This was great. I immediately understood why wetsuits were not allowed - the water was so warm, it was like a bathtub. Beats the hell out of Aquatic Park (sorry Pedro). The water was warm and calm. Fish of almost every color swam beneath me - some close enough to touch. I passed over a dark reef of volcano rock and right under my nose slowly glided a green sea turtle. This was fantastic! I did about 800 meters and got out. I started talking with a couple other swimmers next to me as we all dried off. They had done the course before and pointed out a rough outline for me. One, from L.A., had been drawn in the Hawaii Ironman lottery and was using this race as his qualifying race. The other, from the Netherlands, had done the race multiple times.

Afterwards, I jogged back home. After a quick shower Brandon, Sheryl and I headed out for a bite to eat. We decided to stop at the local KTA (similar to a Safeway) and pick up some groceries and cook up some pasta. I noticed B&L bike shop across the street. I had to stop here at the flagship bike store for IM Hawaii. The staff was very friendly and after dropping a few bucks on some new sew-ups and Gu, said good-bye and headed home.

The next morning I jogged back down to the bay to do another swim. As I was putting on my goggles I looked down at my feet. No more than 6 inches from my toes was a large green sea turtle floating in the water, glancing at me. I couldn't decide if it was welcoming a fellow swimmer to his bay or telling me to move away from his breakfast. Either way, I stepped over it and went out for a swim. I did about 3/4 mile that day and hooked up with a contributing writer for Inside Triathlon. We swam together for a bit and chatted about the race and our goals. Then, it was back to shore and a jog home. I was amazed just how drenched in sweat I got after a short run.

The next couple of days, we did the normal sight-seeing. When you go there - these are what you should do: Volcano National Park - a 2 hour drive. If you have been to Lassen, this is a smaller version, but still very interesting. On the way home, take the east side of the island and stop at Hilo for a bite. The Hilton - this is located at the bike turn-around, near Hapuna Beach. The Hilton is built right onto the ocean and they have about 10 dolphins, hundreds of fish and some turtles swimming around the grounds. Great pools and even though you are supposed to be a guest to use them, no one seemed to mind when we took advantage of the pools and waterslide. Hapuna Beach, voted one of the top 3 beaches in the U.S. is a huge white sand beach. Great for some fun and easy swim practice. That's about it. Of course, the mountains are beautiful and you can get the freshest Kona coffee, but to be honest, Kona is a place where you go to either do triathlons or to do very little.

A few days before the race, I got on my bike and headed north on Alii Drive and then up onto the Queen K. This was fantastic. A huge smile was on my face as I pedaled through the black lava fields - complete with names and images "drawn" in the lava fields along the side of the road with white coral pieces. The wind was definitely there, but not horrible. I had certainly encountered worse along the SF Bay. The road had some climbs, but overall it was mostly rolling. I did 6 miles out and then turned around to go home. After I got back, Sheryl, Brandon and I loaded into our car and drove the bike course. I noticed that further out than I had just rode, the course had more climbs and the wind got stronger. Every so often we got out of the car and, using one of Brandon's sidewalk chalks, wrote out things like "GO PEPS!"; "SF TRI CLUB"; and, the club emblem along the bike route. We were going to do the run course too, but ran out of chalk. Even though we had fun doing this, each time I stepped out of our car, the heat, humidity, wind and the course itself made me think again that I had picked the wrong race to try go sub-5 hours.

The next day we headed to the pre-race meeting. This was well organized and I had my race packet in my hand in a very short time. The meeting was held outside on a lawn, the Pacific Ocean about 50 yards to our right. I met up with a bunch of SF Tri Club members here. Jim McCormack, Tracey Mlodozeniec, Stephanie and Nicola Stewart and Claire Sears were all sitting around us. The race directors chatted about the race and introduced a few racers. They announced that Paula Newby-Fraser decided to join the race the next day. One director walked around and just tossed out free goodies to the crowd. Then some USAT reps gave a discussion on rules and penalties. Then we were done. I passed out some SF Tri Club tattoos and we all headed out. That night, I did a final check on my bike. I filled up my Gu flask, filled the water bottles, laid out my race clothes and turned-in early. The race started at 6:30 am and we were expected at the start by 5:00 a.m.

The next morning, I woke up about 10 minutes before my alarm. I crawled out of bed, took a quick shower and did a quick shave on my head and legs (got to cut down on all that wind/water drag you know). Then, I got my race stuff together, got on my bike and rode down to the start. Once I got there, I realized that I had forgotten to place my PowerBar pieces on my bike frame. Oh well - I had plenty of Gu, hopefully that would suffice.

I found my bike space - they were divided by race numbers. Knowing where we exited the water, I set my bike up near the water exit. Then, I laid out my stuff. Race number on the race belt looped on my bike seat. Gloves speared onto my aerobars. Helmet cradled in the aero bars with my glasses inside the helmet. On the ground, I placed my shoes with my socks sticking out of them I dusted the inside of each sock with some baby powder to ease entry after exiting the water. Next to this, I placed a small towel. I then headed over to check-in and got my swim cap and bodymarkings.

I walked around a bit and found some PEPS! We chatted for a short bit and then I decided to go for some practice swims. Along the way, I borrowed some sunblock from another triathlete and covered myself with it - the skies were absolutely clear and blue at 6:00 am. It might be a hot one. I entered the swim course and began to do some strokes. Oh-oh. My right side of my goggles was leaking. I never had any previous problems with this pair, so I figured I could adjust it and it would be fine. Twenty minutes later as we were waiting for the final countdown to the starting gun, they were still leaking. "Screw it!".

I watched the other swimmers line up. The announcer shouted to everyone to back up - the race was to start from waist-deep water. Still, even at the start, there were a good 50 triathletes 20 to 30 yards in front of everyone ignoring the race announcer in neck-deep water. they never did move back. The announcer counted down and then "Boom!" we were off.

I started swimming and almost immediately my right goggle filled with water. I fell in behind a pair of feet and started drafting. The one plus of being "blessed" with my swim speed is that there were always plenty of feet off of which I could draft - and to lead me since I had trouble seeing where I was going. We were told that the swim turn-around was a BodyGlove boat - but I couldn't really see any boat so I just played like a lemming and followed the crowd. My breathing felt great and before I knew it, we were swimming around a boat. Then, we headed back to shore. I begin to pass some people and pick up some new feet from which to draft. About 90% through the swim course, I was drafting off of one pair of feet and upon closer inspection noticed that they were sticking out from a San Francisco Triathlon Club tri-suit! So, whoever you were, thank you for the draft.

We entered the channel leading to the finish line on the beach. One unique thing about this course is that the swim-finish is almost harder than the swim. The water gets shallow and it is full of sharp volcano rock/reefs. Everybody slowed down and tried to weave through the rocks without getting sliced. Finally, there was clear sand and I stepped onto the shore. I looked at my watch 37:55. Not bad, I thought. About 4 minutes faster than my Half-Vineman time from last year, but still a couple minutes slower than I had hoped. Oh well, on to the bike. (Official swim time was actually 38:30 - maybe due to the beach run up to the timing chip pad).

I ran up the beach and through some fresh water showers (garden hoses) and to my bike. I grabbed my race belt and tried to slide it on. Damn - that didn't work. I just unsnapped it and snapped it around my waist. I slipped into my socks (that powder really helps) and put on my shoes. I pulled on my glasses, snapped my helmet tight and headed out the transition area. Total T1: 1 minute 40 seconds.

I hopped on my bike and headed out of town. People were cheering and clapping. We went up a short city block, made a left turn and followed the road towards the Queen K. Right before the Queen K, I passed another SF Tri Club skinsuit. "Go PEP!" I shouted as I started picking up the pace. By the time I hit the Queen K, I had both my gloves on and fell into my aero position. My legs felt good and I headed away from town.

One thing I noticed earlier in the week was the large amount of glass on the race course. I was constantly wiping my wheels with my bike gloves after seeing glass around me. The race day was no different. We weren't even one mile into the ride when I saw the first flat tire victim. I saw at least 15 others during the day.

I was watching my speedometer. The last few weeks it had been acting really screwy - adding about 10% to my average speed and distance. It appeared to be doing it again - either that or I was feeling really great! Anyway, I rode the first 10 to 20 miles at around a 21 mph pace (adjusted down from the 23mph+ that showed on my faulty cycle-computer). I was feeling good. I was drinking a lot from my water bottles. I had one that was plain water, the other was a mixture of Ultima, RedBull and water (actually doesn't taste that bad). The water stops were every 5 miles which worked out perfect. I was emptying a bottle about every 5 miles. At each stop I grabbed two bottles . I replaced the empty one in my cages and dumped another over my head. At mile 20 I downed a Thermotab as I was beginning to feel the heat. By Mile 30 I was taking down closer to a bottle and a half each 5 miles.

I had been steadily passing people, probably around 25 riders between each water stop. I didn't know what place I was in, but it was fun to be actually passing people. Every now and then., someone would pass me - but I counted no more than 10 passes on the way out to the turn around. Then somewhere around mile 20-25 (I think) I saw the leader. Man, was he booking on his way back to town. He had a nice lead on second. Then there was a huge gap before third. I started counting riders. By the time I hit the turn-around, I had myself almost exactly at number 200.

"Time to make up some places" I thought. I made the turn around and started picking it up a bit. The wind, coming from the North West was now a bit of a tail wind. I started picking off people here and there. I tried to count and subtract from the 200, but after about the 40th mile I lost track at around 165. Besides, the times that I was passing people were getting fewer and far between. It appeared I had entered into the group of riders that was riding about my pace so I had only a few passes. Along the way, I saw one of the "Go SF Tri Club" chalk markings we made earlier. That made me smile and I started climbing a hill. I passed this guy who had passed my about a minute earlier and then just started cranking. I could see the airport ahead and knew that I was getting closer to town.

I entered the town and turned off of the Queen K and dropped back down to Alii. There, I was pushing about 25 mph through town, weaving among tourists and cars (speed limit is 15 mph). I passed our condo and hoped to see Sheryl and Brandon, but they were nowhere to be seen - must still be eating breakfast. Then it was a few miles left to the bike-to-run transition. I entered the transition and someone immediately grabbed my bike. Total bike time: 2:36:30.

I ran over the timing chip pad and shouted my race number. A volunteer handed me my bag and I sat down. My helmet and shoes were off and my running shoes on almost immediately. I grabbed my fuel belt and started running. Total T2 time: 40 seconds.

I started up the road and snapped on my fuel belt. God my legs were tired. "Should have done more bricks in training" I thought. I looked down and realized that I was still wearing my cycling gloves. Almost laughing, I took these off and shoved them in my back pocket. I passed a water stop and welcomed the ice-cold sponges and ice water they offered. I was only 100 yards into the run and all I could think was "Sub-1:30. Yeah right." I had hoped to break a 1:30 half marathon on this race. My P.R. is a 1:17 and I had recently done a 1:19, so I thought 10 minutes was quite a cushion. As I headed up a long gradual climbing hill about a half mile into the run, I began to wonder if I would break 2 hours for the run.

At the top of the hill, I thought I had just finished running out of "The Pit". The Pit was an infamous climb that had been part of the Hawaii Ironman course for years. But, unfortunately, I was wrong. After nearly another mile and a half, I dropped down into a deep dead-end road. A volunteer greeted me happily with a "Welcome to the Pit." Then, it was a turn-around and right back up. My legs were really heavy as I left the Pit. I got to the top and picked up the pace a bit. As I approached the mile 3 table, I glanced at my watch. I expected it to read 24 minutes, but was surprised when it showed 22 minutes and a few seconds. Still, this was quite a bit off of my goal of just under 21 minutes. Oh well, just keep running.

I grabbed some water and a cup of crushed ice at the table. I downed the water and dumped the ice down the back of my tri-suit. About this time, I saw a SF Tri Club member running towards me. He shouted "Get some energy." He looked much stronger than I felt and I assumed that he would be passing me within a few miles. I continued on the run and passed the finish line around mile 4. I believe that it saw the eventual winner run past me at that point. Bastard! I thought - it wasn't fair that he looked so fast and relaxed :) Oh well, just keep running I told myself again.

Each mile, I was amazed at how heavy my legs felt and how hot I felt. I was completely drenched - in sweat, in wet sponges and in cups of water. I began to look at my watch and do some mental calculations. I was still on course for a sub-5 hour finish, but just barely. Every mile I re-did the math and each time came up with the answer that I would finish with less than 30 seconds to spare. All along the run, I was slowly passing runners.

At about mile 6 my legs were really beginning to feel bad and I wondered if I could do the whole run without stopping. I had long given up on my sub-1:30 effort, I just wanted to try to break the 5 hour mark. I entered the aid station and someone shouted "ice" another shouted "Cola". I grabbed both. After dropping the ice down my tri-suit, I downed the soda. Last year, Orange soda gave me a second wind on the Ironman Florida bike course. I hoped to feel a similar reaction. After a while, the only thing I felt was pain. I was gasping for air and my legs were screaming. I entered the run turn-around at a place called Huggo's. There I heard some feet approaching me. Up to this point, not one runner had passed me. Now, I was afraid that this trend was about to end. Right before the aid station, a triathlete came along side me. I said "Hi". He replied with an Australian or New Zealand accent. Then he stopped at the water station. Well, that was one streak still secure. I headed out of the turn around and actually began to feel a bit of a second wind.

I started to pick up the pace a bit. At mile 9 I glanced at my watch. Strange, I thought. I knew I was running faster, but I calculated that I would finish at around 4:59:50. That was too close to risk, so I tried picking up the pace a bit more. I now realize that in my state, I must have miscalculated my time, but at that point I seriously doubted that I could maintain that pace all the way through and thought I'd miss my mark by less than a minute.

At mile 10, I was in front of my condo - once again no Sheryl or Brandon. I had hoped to see them on the way out and on the way back. Unfortunately, I hadn't seen them at all. Damn! I could have used that encouragement. I decided to take off my fuel belt and I tossed it in some bushes alongside our condo's driveway - I would retrieve it that evening.

I kept running, drinking, dousing myself and glancing at my watch. Along the way, I saw a few other PEPS! I high fived one - actually - it was a low five, my arm was a bit tired. Some PEPS yelled "Go Alan". But I have to admit, I was too tired to even respond. I just kept running. At mile 11, I was gasping and my breathing was getting pretty loud. Then I approached the 12 mile marker. I came up on this runner and asked him if he thought we'd get the 5 hour mark. He said "Oh yeah. Easily." I was surprised and looked at my watch. He was right. I realized that I must have been miscalculating. I picked up the pace a bit. After a while I turned a corner and could see the red cones leading down to the finish line.

I turned right and dropped down into the driveway of the finish line. There in front of me was Sheryl and Brandon yelling at me and snapping photos. I glanced at the clock over the finish line as I crossed it: 4:54:28 (my official time came out as 4:54:34 - but I'll take it).

I almost fell to me knees. A volunteer cut my timing chip off of my ankle. Sheryl and Brandon came over and congratulated me, but I couldn't hardly speak. I just knelt there gasping in air as volunteers doused bottles of water over my head. After a while I got up and slowly walked over to a bench. Sheryl said "Congratulations! You made your goals!" and gave me a kiss. She immediately backed away telling me how wet I was and how salty I tasted. I smiled and thanked them for being there.

I headed over to the refreshment stand to get them some watermelon and snacks. As I entered the food tent, a volunteer asked me if I wanted anything. "Morphine" I replied. He chuckled and instead handed me a chocolate chip cookie. I grabbed a few things and brought them back to Sheryl and Brandon. Brandon munched on the watermelon as I excused myself. I was beginning to feel like I would throw-up and my thighs were cramping. I mentioned that I was going to get a massage. I went over to the massage area and put myself on the wait-list. I turned around and almost bumped into Paula Newby-Fraser. I said hi and congratulated her on her recent Ironman Japan victory. I asked her to sign my race number and as I was leaving, I heard her mention that a drafting penalty she had been slapped with was totally bogus. Almost everyone around her echoed that sentiment. Then I limped away for my massage and almost collapsed onto a mat and a volunteer came over and started massaging my legs.

Afterwards, I headed over to get my finishers' shirt. Due to computer problems, they only had the first 77 finishers names printed out, so I couldn't get my shirt. (After waiting for more than an hour, they just took people at their word and gave out the shirts. Turns out I was finisher number 78. One person off of the list....but within my goal of the first 100).

I turned away from the table and my legs went out. I was kneeling on the lawn when two medical volunteers came over. I was breathing really hard and was beginning to feel like I had the chills. They helped me up and led me over to a cot. By the time I got there, I was shaking with the chills. It was nearly 90 degrees outside and I felt like I couldn't get warm. I asked for a blanket and was wrapped up. I don't know how they found me, but Sheryl and Brandon suddenly appeared next to me. They watched as the medics took my vitals and dumped ice water down me. After about 10 minutes, my breathing began to return to normal and I was no longer feeling the chills. After a bit, I stood up, lost my balance and fell right back down. Lucky there was a bench there. I tried again and felt like walking. About 15 minutes later, I was tired and sore, but much better. God - triathlon is fun!

Sheryl, Brandon and I watched other finishers and shouted out names as other PEPS crossed the finishing line. Nicola and Stephanie came through holding each others hands. That was great! We walked over and said our congrats and then went out to pick up my transistion bags and my bike.

After a hot shower and a nap. I felt much better. Brandon, Sheryl and I enjoyed a great diner at a place called Merriman's. I enjoyed a mai tai and ate some of the best seafood. That night, I broke down my bike and put it in the bike case for the next day's return trip. I then fell asleep and slept like a rock (much the same way I swim). The next day we left Kona. I will return!

Goals: Sub-5:00; Top 100; sub 1:30 run.

Results: 4:54:34; 78th; 1:36:30.

Hey - two out of three ain't that bad :)

Would you like to do this race next year? If so, get on-line at: <http://www.keauhoutriathlon.com> early on June 15th. It sells out FAST!
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