My perspective is that of an age grouper triathlete, a former competitor in the race, and a long time resident of Kailua town. My opinions are just mine and nothing else. I will try to keep an eye on the thread and answer the questions that you may have. If you‚Äôre a returning veteran either as a competitor or as a visitor, please chime in with your view points and opinions to help make life easier on the first time visitors and racers. This years guide is all new from the ground up as there have been numerous changes in town since last year that make it worth rewriting instead of updating.
There are at least 2 reasons I‚Äôm looking forward to seeing how this year‚Äôs race comes off: the clear skies and the run course change.
If you're an old pro at this race here's what you might want to know (in no particular order):
1. The Queen K highway construction is complete (at least as far as it matters to bicyclists). That means the danger areas for the bike are a bit different now.
2. The Volcano is silent ‚Äď for now.
3. Lava Java moved last year. If you haven‚Äôt been here in a couple of years, it's just a couple of buildings further south. If you were here last year, it's where it was last year.
4. If you need a bike shop your choices are VeloFix Hawaii (mobile bike shop) or one of the two Bike Works locations (brick and mortar).
5. There is a run course change this year. Pay attention during the athlete briefing.
6. There are no current volcanic eruptions on island. The. Air. Is. Clear.
Various local maladies
Our Weather during a ‚Äútypical Race‚ÄĚ
Other swimming locales
Health club options
Road and cycling information
Running in Kona
Where to refuel while training
Race day things
Other fun things to do
Our town name is Kailua not Kona and not even ‚ÄúKailua Kona‚ÄĚ. This is why you'll often hear long time locals call it Kailua Town or Kailua Village. The Post office name for this area is Kailua Kona. Every island has a Kailua and every island has a Waimea. The post office can only have one of those per state though. Kailua means two waters or two currents in Hawaiian. Waimea up north of Kailua town is called Kamuela by the Postal Service (Kamuela is Samuel in Hawaiian, after a prominent local when the post office named it). Waimea means reddish water. Kona refers to the Ahpua'a in this area. Those were pie shaped land divisions in old Hawaii.
The island name is Hawaii not ‚Äúthe big island‚ÄĚ (my own personal pet peeve :P). The state is actually named after the island. Dig Me Beach has an actual name, it's neither Dig Me Beach nor Kamakahonu (that's on the other side of the pier btw), the beach real name is Kaiakeakua beach. That's ‚ÄúSea of the Gods‚ÄĚ in Hawaiian. Mauka? Makai? Mauka means mountain side and Makai means ocean side. We use that a lot while giving directions and you'll see it throughout this post.
Mountains. We have 2 big ones. Mauna Loa (‚ÄúLong Mountain in Hawaiian) is the world most massive mountain. It rises 13,678 ft/4169 m above sea level and another 20,000 ft/6096 m below sea level. There are weather observatories there and it is an active volcano though not currently erupting. The other tall mountain is Maunakea. It rises 13803 ft/4207 m above sea level and the same 20,000 ft below making it the worlds tallest mountain measured from it‚Äôs base. Oh and Maunkea is the correct spelling now. The name was officially changed to be reflective of it‚Äôs real name ‚ÄúMauna o WńĀkea‚ÄĚ (The Mountain of Wakea. Wakea was one of the progenitors of the Hawaiian people). ‚ÄúMauna Kea‚ÄĚ was a descriptive name meaning ‚ÄúWhite Mountain.‚ÄĚ They‚Äôre both pronounced the same though.
Hawaii island is made up from 5 volcanoes. 2 active, 2 dormant and 1 extinct. In order Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai (Towering over Kailua town), Maunakea, and Kohala. As of this date (September 9, 2018) none are currently erupting. More on that in a bit.
Water Restrictions, Rat Lung Worm, Hurricanes and Other Annoyances
If you‚Äôve been here for a few of our races you know there‚Äôs always something. Last year we had half the fresh water wells for the area out of commission during the lead up to the race (they lifted water restrictions anyway for race week then promptly reimposed them), there was the rat-lung worm troubles and the dengue fever a few years ago. And the race occurs during our late hurricane season.
Fresh water is not an issue this year, while there are still wells and pumps out of service, we have no restrictions in place at all.
Rat Lung worm disease is still a thing. While Rat Lung worm has been around this island and the state for 50 years or more, the arrival of the semi-slug to the island a few years ago has made the cases more prevalent. Rat Lung Worm is a nasty little worm barely visible to an unaided human eye. It likes to hide on lettuce leafs and other produce crops. A simple quick rinse isn‚Äôt sufficient to eliminate them -- you actually need to rinse each leaf under a good stream of water. There are options: Bagged lettuce or Hydroponic lettuce in a plastic container. Both are more expensive and both have their own issues of course. Keep in mind though that despite the nastiness of the disease, it‚Äôs still quite rare.
Dengue Fever. This pops up occasionally in Hawaii and elsewhere in the tropics. It‚Äôs not been around since the 2016 race time frame though. It‚Äôs a mosquito borne illness. Use mosquito repellent when frequenting mosquito prone areas.
Hurricanes. Yes we get them ‚Äď sort of. Hurricane Lane passed about 250 miles south of the island last month and Hurricane Olivia is approaching the Hamakua coast this week. It‚Äôll be a weak tropical storm or tropical depression by the time it gets here though. Our topography, including the nearly 14,000 foot tall Maunakea (new name and spelling) and Mauna Loa do a good job of beating hurricanes to death. The down side is that the same protection also causes the Hilo area to get a deluge when they‚Äôre close. Be aware of it but don‚Äôt worry about the news reports ‚Äď unless Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel shows up reporting.
October is peak temperature time in this part of Hawaii. Expect temperatures off the asphalt of the Queen K well into the 80's (expect 30C or higher) every day. Race day can be, and usually is, quite toasty. Riding and Running under a tropical sky on asphalt can be draining ‚Äď the 2009 race featured record 120F/48.9C temperatures on the Queen K at 3pm measured well above the pavement. Hydrate accordingly during your practice sessions and on race day.
Race day is also in one of our rainy seasons. We've been known to have extreme heat and extreme heavy rain all in the same day, though that's unusual. October is still within hurricane season for Hawaii, and although Hawaii island is generally protected by two very large mountains, they are possible. Those are what drive the worst weather of the season even though they're well offshore.
Winds? Yes. Expect them. They can be quite strong as well. The race is famous for them. More details in the bike section.
Air Quality and Volcanoes
Returning veterans can tell you all about our Vog laden skies. Vog is ‚ÄúVolcanic fOG.‚ÄĚ The emissions from Kilauea, particularly since the summit eruption began 10 years ago, were bad enough to reduce our air quality to poor a good deal of the time. Being able to see an actual sunset was a rarity.
The good news is that for the first time since 1983 there are NO eruptions in progress. While lava has returned to the surface of Fissure Number 8 recently, nothing is erupting or flowing and we‚Äôve had clear beautiful Hawaiian skies for sometime now.
What that means is that this could be the first race in decades taking place without any VOG under beautiful crystal clear skies. Keep your fingers crossed.
Normal Water Temperatures
Peak water temperatures occur in late August through mid-September. The water is quite nice right now. On race day the average temperature should be 77 ‚Äď 79 F/ 25 ‚Äď 26 C. The race is never wetsuit legal. The water temperature near the pier can vary wildly. There are numerous cold spots due to rain water percolating down from the mountains and then up into the bay near the pier. If we've had rain, the water can get rather cool along the pier due to the fresh water springs (two waters, remember?). There is another set of cold spots about the time you're abeam Hulihee palace and the last set near the Kona Inn. These cold spots are a good way to know just how close you are to finishing the swim. When you feel the first ones, you're abeam the Kona Inn. The second set means you have about 1/6 mile to go and then you'll be at the pier for the last sprint to shore.
The Hoala practice swim will be your only official chance to swim the course before race day. You must register in advance. Registration can be found on the athlete link on the IMWC wesbite or through Active.com:
Of course, the ocean is open for business and swimming prior to the race. You do not need an official training swim to swim the course or part of the course. And if you‚Äôre not blessed with warm open ocean to swim in you absolutely must get some practice in before race day. There are usually a group of locals swimming up to Ironman week and sometimes during Ironman week. Groups leave after first light (6:15 or so), around 7 am and again around 8 am. Most will be glad to have someone else tag along. These are all informal groups and have swimmers of various speeds, abilities and distances. Just ask if you're there.
Don't forget to swim out to the coffee barge during race week, it's a tradition and a must do part of doing the race! The Coffee Barge is really a Hawaiian sailing canoe set up at various locations fairly close to the pier and serves up very small cups of local coffee to the swimmers. Give the cups back to the staff when finished.
Practice Ali`i Drive Run
The traditional kickoff to Ironman week is the fund raiser for PATH, People's Advocacy for Trails Hawaii. This year's event will be held on October 7 at 7:30 am at Hale Halawai on Ali`i Drive. There is a 5K and 10K flavor as always. The race has gotten so big that Ali`i drive south of town is closed for at least the 5 K. Preregister at https://www.athlinks.com/...walk-run-2018-152795
Keiki Dip and Dash
Bringing the kids along? A kids only race on October 9 (Tuesday) at 4pm. It's on the Kamakahonu isde (where the canoes are) of the pier. Two run version (ages 2-14): a 1/4 mile dash and a 1 mile dash. One version of the dip and dash (ages 6-14) involves a swim in the lagoon with a beach run between the two loops then a run down to Hale Halawai (where Ironman Village will be) and back. Register at:
Swim Course Set-Up
The swim course setup usually begins on the Thursday prior to the race and is finished Friday afternoon. The folks at Jack's Diving Locker have been setting up the course for nearly the entire time the race has been held here and do a fabulous job. Most years there have been a few extra swim buoys set up a week or two prior to race day to help guide the athletes in town.
If the additional buoys do not get set up for any reason you have the following guides. The swim lane is to the left of the buoy line as you face the water from the beach. Do Not swim to the right of those buoys. Boats come and go there ‚Äď you will get hurt. Beyond that if you keep sighting just to the right of the Royal Kona Hotel (the iconic ship like building south on the coast), you'll come abeam a flag pole near Hulihee Palace. The flag pole and back to the beach is approximately 1/3 mile. Continuing south while sighting just off the Royal Kona, the first swim buoy you'll come to is a round ¬Ĺ mile/800 m swim buoy. It's approximately abeam the third ‚ÄúN‚ÄĚ in the ocean facing ‚ÄúKona Inn‚ÄĚ painted on their roof. After that there's another round ¬ĺ mile buoy (all these are out and back distances), then there's the 1500m pencil buoy followed by the King's Buoy (the 1.2 mile turn buoy) abeam the Royal Kona. From there sight on a spit of land to the far south and follow a straight line. The next buoy is the Ironman Turn.
If you're not fortunate enough to be able to swim in open water on a routine basis, please use the week leading up to the race to get familiar with the ocean and it's currents. There will be a current on race day. Sometimes pushing you south, sometimes pushing you north. If there is surf near the pier race morning, try not to pay much mind to it. The swim will smooth out beyond the pier.
The beach where the race starts is often called ‚ÄúDig-Me beach.‚ÄĚ It has a proper name though. Kaiakeakua Beach (Sea of the gods). Kamakahonu beach (Eye of the turtle) is on the other side of the pier.
Other Swim Locales
Hapuna Beach State Park, north of the resorts (30 miles or so from town) is one of the nicest beaches on the west side of the island. From the south end of the beach to the landing at the Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel at the north end is approximately ¬Ĺ mile/800 m. This is the where the swim and bike start for ‚ÄúHonu,‚ÄĚ aka Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, is held every year. It's a protected bay and away from the hustle and bustle of Kailua town during Ironman week. It's also a popular swim and beach spot so get there early.
Aneahoomalu Bay, or ‚ÄúA-Bay‚ÄĚ is the beach and bay behind the hotels at the Waikoloa Resorts. It's usually a bit murkier than Hapuna or the pier but is convenient if you're staying up there. This is also where the Lavaman Olympic length Triathlon occurs every spring.
Kona Aquatic Center. The county pool is located on Kuakini Highway. The pool is normal split into two sections both have 25 YARD lanes. It generally opens at 6:15 on weekdays, closes for lunch, and then closes at 7:15 pm. Weekend hours are 8:15 am to 4:45 pm with time off for lunch. This is a busy time of the year at the pool, you will have to share lanes. Cost is free (you're welcome). Go swim in the ocean, you're going to have to anyway. ;)
There is another 4 lane pool at ‚ÄúThe Club.‚ÄĚ This is a private fitness center and to gain access you'll have to pay for a multi or single day pass. Again it gets busy in there this time of the year. It's also a 25 yard pool.
We actually have multiple health clubs in town now. In addition to the 2 names familiar to veterans, ‚ÄúThe Club‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúPacific Island Fitness‚ÄĚ there are 2 newcomers: Fitness Forever (in the old Hilo Hattie‚Äôs building near ‚ÄúThe Club‚ÄĚ), and Planet Fitness has just opened as well (In the old Border‚Äôs Books building on Henry St at the Queen K for the old timers reading this). Report back here if you give one of the new clubs a try.
Roads, Roads and Roads
The Queen K highway construction is complete. The nasty lips between the road and the shoulder/bike lanes that we had last year are gone. As of the date of this post (mid Early-September) there is some residual work being done, primarily on the center divides, so the speed limits are still low all the way to the airport.
One side effect of the highway rework is that there‚Äôs no longer a way to get from the mauka lanes (northbound) of the Queen K to the old entrance to the Energy lab. If you explored a bit last year you may have discovered the new Energy lab entrance just across from Kaiminani (the last stop light before the airport north bound). That is a frontage road paralleling the Queen K. Go look at it, drive it and walk it if needed. You will be running that road on race day (details below).
The second side effect of the Queen K widening project is that it‚Äôs no longer possible to run the center divider between the north and south bound lanes. Some of us used to do that because it was running on dirt. It‚Äôs all lava rock now. Sorry.
Bicycle Danger Zones
The choke points for bicycle rides during your training haven't changed significantly over the past few years. Most locals ride from the county pool or soccer fields up Makala (past where the Target store is) and onto the Queen K. That little section there has been the among the worst areas for accidents. People aren't expecting cyclists (go figure) and some are rather resentful of the whole Ironman time of the year. Stay out of aero position until you're safely on the highway shoulders.
Heading North bound on the highway your first danger area is the turn to the refuse Transfer Station and Police station. Cars will be merging into the right turn lane and the bike lane is on the left side of that lane. Sit up. After that you have Kealakehe Pkwy (opposite the harbor) which is the turn to the local high school and Civic Center. From there you have a short ride to the turn by the Union 76 Gas Station. There is no longer traffic crossing the highway to get into or out of the gas station (It‚Äôs now right turn in and right turn out only). There‚Äôs now 2 lanes of traffic plus a long deceleration lane prior to the turn and another long acceleration lane after the turn.
The next danger area is the Costco turn. This is no different than the past, the right turn lane and the bike lane cross each other. Sit up please. After that the turn into Kohana Iki where the Queen K Matsuyama‚Äôs is and the gas station are is the final choke point.
If you're in a group, please be sensible and ride no more than two abreast (Hawaii law actually requires single file but that's another story), don't bunch up and creep out onto the highway -- you will get hurt.
After the airport you're fairly clear until the resorts. Some distances:
Pool - Veteran's Cemetery/Kua Bay-Pu'u Kuil'i (Bum Crack Hill for the Aussies, if you‚Äôre not Australian just look at it for a bit and you‚Äôll understand)): 12 miles each way.
Pool- Scenic Overlook (This is barely on the descent to the resorts): 18 miles each way.
Pool - Waikoloa Resorts: Just under 50 miles round trip depending on how far you go into the resorts.
Pool - Kawaihae: This is a bit under 80 miles round trip.
Returning south bound the major areas of conflict with traffic are the road to the Mauna Lani, the Road to the Waikoloa Resorts, Kua Bay and more importantly the south Entrance to Kekahakai St park (Makalawena). Cars aren't expecting you at that entrance, and it's a nice down hill where you'll likely be zipping along in aero. After that the Airport Rd is really bad as it has a protected acceleration lane for the south bound Queen K that you need to cross and cars will not look.
After the airport you have the 4 way intersection at KohanaIki. The Makai side is a resort and golf course. There are extended deceleration lanes and acceleration lanes you'll need to cross.
Following that is the Costco turn again (Hina Lani). On the makai side, the southbound lanes, at the south side of the intersection there is a large pole. In. The. Middle. Of. The. Bike. Lane. It's the crosswalk button for pedestrians. In the middle of the bike lane. Single file please.
The next danger point is across from the Kohana Iki stores. There‚Äôs a stop light there but both directions have turn lanes and acceleration lanes you‚Äôll need to safely navigate.
The shoulders are not quite as wide in some areas out to the airport as before, but still plenty wide for single file riding and often two abreast. Just be careful for the cars pulling over to admire the view. They have a penchant for racing past you, cutting in front then stopping. The last danger areas are the harbor and the shopping center area on Makala.
If you continue on the Queen K instead of turning down Makala you will still have to cross traffic turning right into a protected acceleration lane at Makala, Kaiwi, Palani and Henry Street. The bike lanes end at Henry. By the way, the sidewalk on the makai side of the Queen K between Makala and Henry St. is a multi-use path. You can always bicycle there.
There is a bike lane on Kuakini between Palani Road and Kaiwi (That's the 4 way stop sign). These lanes were carved out of the traffic lane width, there was no expansion of real estate. Keep it single file through there and try not to creep towards the edge.
If you're heading down to Ali`i Drive beware there's no shoulder on Ali'i until you're around the Royal Kona or so. Also watch for runners when you're on the shoulder of Ali`i Drive. Oh and just for reference I've been trying to get a speeding ticket on my bike heading into town (Northbound on Ali'i heading down the hill by the Royal Kona) for years with no success. If you get one let me know!
Finally, watch out for glass. There are a few locals who think it's funny to trash the shoulders prior to Ironman. The roads do get cleaned before everyone arrives and also for the race. But there will be glass and wire from shredded truck tires.
Most of the runners in town have itband issues due to the shape of our roads. If we always face traffic the same leg is always high. For that reason and others, most of us run on the makai (ocean) side of the roads regardless of direction. Please be aware of it. Also the makai side has somewhat fewer vehicles entering the road not looking for pedestrians and cyclists than the mauka (mountain) side. While we do have wide shoulders on the Queen K, those on Alii Drive aren't quite as wide. I've seen people running 4 and 5 abreast along Ali`i Drive. The shoulders can fit 2 abreast. Please don't force your fellow runners out onto the road even if you're running facing traffic and they're not. Some of us will run right through you, your family and kids rather than get hit by a car.
Also, keep in mind that those that live and work here really don't care why you're in town. Most admire your dedication and ability, but frankly if you're running between cars stopped at a stop light, they don't care why you're doing that. You're slowing them down or they might not see you and then you get hit. You've worked far too hard to get here to have it end from a bit of impatience while waiting for the walk sign at a controlled intersection.
Soft running surfaces: usually that's the ball fields next to the county pool. Soccer and baseball. After that the local high school track is occasionally available but only well after school is out for the day and when there are no other activities.
Some Running Distances
Pier to ‚ÄúOutrigger‚ÄĚ Keauhou Crosswalk (just past the OLD Ali`i Drive run turn around): 5 miles.
Pier to the harbor entrance to (via Makala): Just under 3 miles
Pier to the Airport: 7 miles
Pier to the Old Energy Lab Entrance: 6 miles. (6.5 to the new turn)
Run Course Changes
Congratulations athletes, you‚Äôre going to be the first people to be running the 3rd version (or greater) of the IMWC run course. The first version started at the old Kona Surf and ran into the pit, the last version turning around down near Kahaluu Beach Park. And now there‚Äôs version number three necessitated by the highway changes. The good news? If you hated running on Ali`i Drive (I did), you have less time on Ali`i. The bad news? You have more time on the Queen K.
T2 will go as normal. Exit T2, head up Palani, right turn on Kuakini, right again at Hualalai the onto Ali`i Drive southbound. The difference is the Ali`i Drive turn around is at Lyman‚Äôs beach or a bit over 5k down Ali`‚Äôi Drive. Return as before onto the highway. Now instead of turning into the Energy Lab at the old entrance you‚Äôll continue running north to Kaimimnani where you‚Äôll make a sharp left and double back on the frontage road then down into the lab as normal. Return the way you came.
Some distances for the changed portion of the run:
Old entrance to new is approximately ¬Ĺ mile.
New turn to entrance to the energy lab is another ¬Ĺ mile.
This means there‚Äôs a bit over 2 miles extra all told on the Queen K. Aid stations have been adjusted for the run. From the old entrance heading to the energy lab turn around and back, you‚Äôll find an aid station about every half mile. This is a shadeless hot area, use the aide stations.
Refueling During Training
If you're here early and planning on getting that last long run and bike ride in you'll want to know where you can resupply for your run and bikes. For the swim: there's the coffee barge. ;)
The easiest is running. If you're focusing on Ali'i drive there are a lot of places in town if that's your turn around. ABC Stores (convenience stores), Kona Town Market (mini store) etc. As you head south towards Keauhou things thin out. There's a liquor/convenience store at Casa de Emdeco just shy of 2 miles south. After that down near Lyman's surf spot (the new run course turn around) there are a couple of places to get something, DaPoke Shop and the convenience store on the mauka side. In Keauhou there's the shopping center. Running long on the highway? Plan ahead. Leaving town there's the harbor shops but that's a mile plus round trip detour. The Matsumaya's on the highway past the Costco turn plus the convenience store there at the gas station.
Biking: Leaving town north, it's Matsuyama's or the gas station. Matsuyama‚Äôs is bike unfriendly though. No bikes in the store. I've never had trouble leaving my bike out front but keep an eye on it. There's also the convenience store at the gas station. Both of those require crossing traffic on Kohanaiki either coming or going though. Be careful.
After that it's the resorts. 24 miles or so. At the Waikoloa resorts there are the Queen's shops including a large semi convenience store. After that it's the Shops at the Mauna Lani including a small Foodland run grocery store. Beyond that your pickings are slim. The gas station in Kawaihae is the only spot between the Mauna Lani and Hawi town for refueling. If you're desperate there are public parks and beaches that have running water (though not all do). I've dropped into Spencer's Beach in Kawaihae for example when I found myself dry and without $ (poor preflight check on my part). Up in Hawi town there are a lot of places. Many are bike friendly (enough). The grocery store is off the main drag, ride through town then turn right as if you're heading out of town towards Waimea. The store will be on the left side shortly afterwards.
BTW, gas stations are scarce on the drive to Hawi. Use those in town or those on the way out of town. The resorts at Waikoloa. Waikoloa Village, Kawaihae.
Spectating the Race
Swim: Getting prime real estate for watching the swim means a very early start. If you want to see the cannon blast the absolute best spot for that is across from the fish tower that is on the pier. That means along the seawall on Alii Drive and the little beach near Hulihee Palace. If the Palace grounds are open to the public that's a good spot as well. Next is the Kona Inn grounds at that point the swimmers will be at the 1/4 mile mark and at just over 2 miles on the return. Beyond that there's Daylight Mind's upper floor, though they often charge a premium for that. Or if you have loads of money to spend, there's always the WTC VIP passes. There's also Bubba Gump's which is often open for breakfast during the race. If you're staying at the Royal Kona, the seawall side gives you a view of the King's Buoy area it's at the 1/4 mark in the swim. The swimmers are half way to the turn around when they're abeam the hotel and halfway back to the shore on the return.
1. The "hot corner". Palani Road and Kuakini you'll see the cyclists 4 times; exiting T1, returning from the highway on the in town loop descending Palani Rd, returning from the in town turn around and heading up Palani for the long ride and on the way in to T2 from Kuakini.
2. If you know what they look like on the bike another spot you might see them is at the "Costco" aid station. This is Hina Lani Rd. To get there from Keauhou and in town, head north on the Queen K to Henry Street, turn right on Henry, stay on that (the mid level road) until it ends, Make a left turn and head down that as far as you can. Park and walk the rest of the way.
3. Hawi Turn around. this is above and beyond as it requires a lot of driving. You need to get on the upper highway, the Mamalahoa Highway (Go up Henry St to the stoplight past Safeway and turn right). Follow the Mamalahoa (State Route 190 btw) all the way to Waimea (1 hour or more). Make a left turn at the end followed shortly by a right turn onto Kohala Mountain Rd (State Route 250). Follow that to Hawi. Make a left, find a place to park and walk to the bike turn around. This will take many hours.
4. Shorter version of the above. Go see the racers near the resorts. Follow the direction as above, except after you pass the Daniel K. Inoyue Highway (new saddle road) you'll come to Waikoloa Village road. Turn left. Follow that as far as you can. Park well clear of the road and carefully walk to the Queen K. The riders will be flying at this point on the way outbound.
5. In town Turn Around. The turn around is on Kuakini. To get there from in town: make your way to the Queen K. Head south from town and continue down to Kuakini. Turn right and follow that towards the road block. Park and walk. From Keauhou, head north on the Queen K and make a left.
In town works well anywhere along Ali'i drive. The Old Hot corner (Hualalai and Alii) is a good spot as the runners pass there 3 times (Outbound from T2, outbound to the highway at mile 8 or so, and inbound to the finish) . You can also get to the Alii Drive turn around by heading to Keahou and getting onto Alii near the Keauhou shopping center. Follow that up towards Lyman‚Äôs. Find a place to park and walk to the barrier. Also you can get to the Energy Lab if you're ambitious. Upper Highway again except come down Kaiminani as if you're headed to the airport. Find a place to park and walk to the new entrance.
The climb to Hawi. This starts at Mahukona and finishes just before you enter Hawi town. Yes, you descend to the bike turn around and climb out of Hawi. The Hawi climb from Mahukona is not an incredibly steep climb, but it is long. 7 miles of non-stop climbing at around mile 60 on the ride. It's steep enough and long enough that the few spots where the slope decreases a bit feel flat. They're not. By way of comparison, both Richter Pass at Penticton and Cougar Gulch in Coeur d'Alene are steeper.
This is also where most riders get their full realization of the wind for the first time. You've been riding in it for quite a few miles but usually as a cross wind (this is why disc wheels are not allowed). Now it's a full on headwind for 7 miles. Payback time: The rocket sled back to MahuKona. Enjoy it. I hit 51 mph/82 kph there during the 2014 race.
My personal hell section of the bike course is the climb from Kawaihae to Kawaihae Junction. It's hot, there's never a breath of wind, it's steep and you can see Bum Crack hill (Pu'u Kuil'i) in the far distance knowing you have to bike past that point. Fortunately it's also fairly short. (1 mile). Personally I'd rather climb the 7 miles to Hawi than do this climb.
The last climbs: The climb from the resorts to scenic overlook is the last long climb of the race. When you pass the overlook you have about 20 miles to T2. The last climb that matters is the climb from Kukio to Kua Bay/Veteran's cemetery (mile 99). It's steep but only a mile long. When you hit the top you are at mile 100 on the bike ride.
The Energy Lab: Signs will likely be up prohibiting bikes from being in there by the time you arrive. If they're not, don't ride in there anyway. There is no shoulder inside the lab, cars drive very fast and there is a lot of traffic from the businesses and charter school. People have been hit and seriously hurt riding bikes along that road.
If this is your first trip to the world championship you owe it to yourself to go visit the energy lab. Drive to the bottom and take a look back up to the highway. The road isn't quite as steep as it looks. It's an optical illusion caused by the slope of the hills on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway that makes you think it's god awful steep. The illusion is strongest at night. It's far from flat though.
When you exit the Energy lab on the run you have about 12K to the finish on the new run course.
Chicken Soup: If you're a MOP or later runner, the high sodium lukewarm chicken soup is found at every run aid station out on the highway beginning in the late afternoon. It can be a godsend if you're behind on your electrolytes. You can thank the aide station director for keeping all this stuff straight. :)
After dark Finishers: If you think you might be an after dark finisher (is there any other type?). The course can be a bit confusing to people at the 139.6 mile point. Once you turn at the hot corner from Palani Rd onto Kukaini it's one mile to the finish line. Turn right at Hualalai Rd. That's in front of the Union 76 gas station. The course is marked but often we have tunnel vision. From there follow it to the end and make the right turn onto Alii Drive. You're 800 meters from the finish now.
Those last 800 meters always made the rest of the pain worth it for me. Enjoy every step of it.
Body marking is done behind the King Kam hotel. Signs will direct you. You'll also have a couple of places to drop off your special needs bags. From there it's off to your bike and the wait.
The owners of Unision, Ron and Capi, open their shop up very early race morning (by 5 am). If you find yourself sans goggles or anything else you have to have, Ron will likely have it. If you're short on cash, because you're in race gear, leave your name and race number with Ron and pay him back later. Ron is also a 4 time IMWC finisher. They're located in the Banyan shops very near the pier.
The road isn't truly closed during the race. If you're MOP or later don't be shocked to see a bus near you. They're shuttling volunteers. There is also limited road traffic early during the bike race as some areas are land locked from the race, these are usually workers at Kukhio and they should steer clear of the cyclists. Oh and watch out for the camera crews, we all know they don't always miss the cyclists! Also if you're in the back 1/3 of the cyclists (been there, done that), the police will start forcing cyclists over to the shoulder around Waikoloa Road until Waikoloa Beach Road (the resorts). You're supposed to be able to use the highway but it happens every year. They will also let traffic head southbound onto the highway from the resorts as well. Again be careful as the drivers south of the resorts will be speeding well in excess of 70 because the highway is "empty."
Keep in mind that the staggered swim wave starts means your cutoff time is not midnight.
There is only a single brick and mortar bike shop in town: Bike Works. Bike Works carries Cervelo and Specialized but will work on anything with two wheels ‚Äď well maybe not Penny-Farthings (and if you're riding that at the race you will be in the highlights!). If you're staying out near the Waikoloa Resorts you might want to check in with Bike Works Beach and Sport, they're located in the Queen's Shops.
The other bike shop is the mobile shop: VeloFix Hawaii. Velofix will come to you in his big red van. It's the bike shop I use most of the time.
If you're staying up north another alternative is Mountain Road Cycles in Waimea (Kamulea). This is a small shop behind Big Island Brewhaus. Nice people who also have a rental fleet. Check them out when you're in the area.
Bike Works: 808-326-2453
Bike Works Beach & Sport: 808-886-5000
Velofix Hawaii: 808-785-5159 or http://www.velofix.com/locations/kona/
Both Bike Works and Velofix have rental bike fleets if you're in need or have a family member that wants to ride while here. Tri, road and mountain bikes.
There are a few services you can use now. There is a link to Tribike Transport on the partners portion of the IMWC website. Personally I‚Äôve used FedEx or the airlines in the past and had Velofix box my bike up prior to shipping, unbox it, set it up and tune it prior to the race and reversed the process for the return. Easiest bike travel I‚Äôve had.
Whatever you use though, plan ahead, it's busy season and both shops will be booked up.
Hawaiian Airlines has waved their no soft sided bike cases rule for the month of October. If you're connecting to or from Kona on Hawaiian, you'll be able to ship on their B-717's without packing the bike in a card board box or finding a hard sided alternative.
If you're looking for an A.R.T. Chiropractor (Active Release Technique) while in town for the race there are at least two that I know of. All deal with athletes of various abilities (from beginner to ultra elite pro's) on a regular basis. While they can do your standard adjustments if you're inclined, that is not the focus of their work. ART deals with soft tissue rather than the skeletal structure. Many find it valuable to help get things firing again.
Makai Chiropractic is Pottery Terrace (Jackie Rey‚Äôs). They have two ART chiropractors. 808-329-7900.
KTA: Is a local chain. They have locations on Palani Rd and in the Keauhou Shopping center. They carry grass fed beef (labeled as such) and have the better selection of local produce.
Safeway: On Henry Street. The also carry grass fed beef, it's labeled that way. They also are one of the stores in the state that carry the Paniolo brand beef. That is grass fed Parker Ranch beef.
Sac-N-Save: In the shopping center with Longs.
Island Naturals: In old industrial on Kaiwi. It's the only Natural Food store in the town.
Kona Town Market: On lower Walua Rd up near Kuakini Highway in town. If you're familiar with the Royal Kona resort, the road which heads mauka on the diagonal off Alii Drive near there is lower Walua Rd. They have a good selection of healthy items in stock and not too far of a walk if you're near that end of town. 75-5909 Walua Rd.
Coffee Shops Near Pier
Menehune right by the pier in the King Kam. They will be open for 24 hours on race day.
Kona Coffee and Tea. On Palani in the old Starbucks. Bike Friendly.
Starbucks: Two locations. One is a drive through the other might as well be. Henry and Kuakini and the other on Henry St across from Safeway. There's also a Starbucks in the Queen's Shops at the Waikoloa resorts. There's also a Starbuck's inside Safeway.
San Francisco Coffee Company: On Ali'i Drive. Yes, they have loads of Kona coffee
Lava Java: Enough said. It's the stop during Ironman. It will be busy. Oh and don't panic if you go to their old location and don't see them, they moved three buildings south of there to larger and better quarters. They'll still be busy though.
Hugo's on the Rocks: on the ocean side of Alii across from the Coconut Grove Marketplace.
Kopelani: On Ali`i Drive across from Hulihee Palace.
There are a lot of restaurants in town. Some are even good. The best restaurant though is someone's house. :P
Lava Java: For some this the iconic stop for the race. Down in the Coconut Grove Marketplace across from the water.
Kona Inn: Full service restaurant and bar. Seafood, beef and everything in between.
Krua: Good thai food up on Kuakini by Henry Street.
Da Poke Shop. Highly rated poke stop on Ali`i Drive about 5K down from the pier on the makai side.
Kona Crust: In the same shopping center as the Palani Rd KTA. New York Style pizza by the slice or pie.
Jackie Rey's: Down Kuakini towards the in town bike turn around. More locals there but you will need a reservation.
Haluakoa Inn: Nice food up in Holualoa.
Volcano House: In Volcano National Park should be open around Ironman time.
Kilauea Lodge: Volcano Village near Kilauea.
If you stopped at Cafe Pesto in Kawaihae during your past visits, sorry they closed shop last year. Their Hilo location on Bayfront is still open though.
Intro scuba dive. Jack's Diving Locker, Kona Honu, Big Island Divers. Too many to mention them all. No traveling to altitude (above 2000 ft) after diving though.
If you're a diver and want to see the majestic manta's, a night manta dive or snorkel is a great way to see these amazing creatures. I've only done the night dive with Jack's so I can't comment on anyone else.
Kona Coffee farm tours: Greenwell farms in south Kona runs a great tour and has free (brewed) samples. Royal Kona much further south often has tours that can be fun when they're drying or processing coffee cherry. The Kona Coffee Living History Farm is a working 1940's coffee farm down near the Greenwell Farm, call ahead for hours.
Hawi Town: It's not just the bike turnaround. It's been discovered though so it's a lot more touristy than it used to be.
Volcano National Park (Kilauea). If you followed the news this past spring, you‚Äôd have thought we were about to be buried. That never happened bu the park did close due to the rock slides and earthquakes. It‚Äôs slated for a limited reopening on September 22. Many areas will be closed permanently, including the Jaeger Museum, due to extensive damage but the viewing areas from Volcano Hose should open up and allow you to see the huge changes to Halemaumau Crater.
As for the 40th anniversary Ironman World Championship, it will be windy, it will be hot. You will be miserable. You will have fun and it's something you'll never forget ‚Äď whether or not Mike says the magic words for you. Be safe while you're here both before and during the race, race hard and above all have fun.
Future of this Guide
This will be my last time writing this guide as a resident of Kailua town. We‚Äôve lived in the heart of ‚ÄúKona‚ÄĚ for 15 years now and with all the changes, it‚Äôs past time to move on. Next year we‚Äôll be in up country Hawaii far closer to Waimea than Kona. Next year, I‚Äôll need to decide if I can maintain the same level of awareness as to Kailua town as before. If not, someone who is here a lot will likely step forward.
The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. -- A fake Albert Einstein "quote"