Just the mere mention of it, sends chills down my spine. How many years have I sat dreaming about this place?
For a triathlete, it is the Holy Grail of racing. The Ironman World Championships! The race that started out when I was a mere 8 years old. I have watched it, countless times on TV. Every year rooting for my favorite male/female athlete to cross the finish line on Ali’I Drive. I have watched as they have talked about the heat, the humidity, the Queen K, the Energy Lab, Digme Beach at Kailua Pier, and the struggles these incredible athletes go through, to not only get to the starting line, but to finish this Ironman.
So this year…., many, many years after watching, and dreaming about this place, and 10 years after I started racing multi sport, I finally got go.
It’s funny, that even though, I have only been racing Triathlons/Duathlons for 10 years, I have kept up on the racing in Kona. In my 20’s, I watched and thought, what an amazing event to be a part of, and ALWAYS knew I would race in Ironman. When I met my husband, as a young 20-something girl, a runner, a non-swimmer, and mountain biker, I told him, I would race an Ironman! And always dreamed of Kona.
Well, as the story goes, I was not in Kona to race, but to cheer on a couple of friends who were racing. One who qualified, and one who got in through the lottery. Both equally incredible!
Of course, when our friends called the morning that they found out he had been picked in the lottery, I was doing the Happy Dance in my bathroom. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on at first, when she called, Greg answered my cell phone because I was brushing my teeth. His face! If I could’ve snapped a picture of his face…..he was standing there in amazement. Saying things like, NO WAY!! SERIOUSLY!! OH MY GOSH!! ARE YOU SERIOUS! THIS IS INCREDIBLE! I am looking at him, toothbrush vibrating in my mouth, saying, WHAT???? Then…I hear it. Kona! Our friend has gotten into Kona. Pause. Butterflies! Tingling! Eyes that feel as if, they might bubble over with tears. I start to dance. Wildly dance! Our friend got into Kona through the lottery! I dance in my PJ’s in the bathroom, with Greg shouting, “WE’RE GOING TO KONA!!” And thus starts the adventure.
Quickly, in a manner of days, us girls are on the phone, meeting for coffee, and figuring out our trip, our flights, our condos, cars. Of course, we all need to fly together. Our excitement was insane! Kona was all we could talk about. We had dinners together and talked about Kona. Us girls shopped together, and talked about Kona. We worked out together and talked about Kona.
Then, finally, we were going.
We flew over together with so much excitement. Laughing, drinking Kona Long Board beers on the plane.
When we arrived, it was hot, sticky, smelled of Plumeria. We loved it, and were ready for an adventure!
We got to our beautiful condos. They were gorgeous! HUGE! And right up against the ocean. The waves crashing, the salty air, the heat, was intoxicating!!
This tiny little town of Kona is amazing! The energy that this place puts out is inconceivable. The people are all outgoing and hospitable. It seems the entire island comes alive from the enthusiasm of people landing daily for this race.
Living in an Ironman city, like Coeur d’Alene, we are used to “everything” Ironman….but Kona, WOW!! It’s spectacular!!
Before race day, we took full advantage of what this tiny island has to offer. Every day some sort of adventure was in store for us. Of course, we had our mornings, rushing down to swim, and watch athletes swimming down on Digme Beach. We HAD to get in a swim here. The place where Ironman starts. And even though, some of us weren’t racing, swimming here is like an out-of-body body experience.
Digme Beach/Kailua Pier
Our 1st morning, we were up early to run a 10k. This was also an amazing experience, since the run was along Ali’i Drive, part of the run course for Ironman. The heat that morning was stifling. The humidity came in and slapped you in the face when trying to take a breath. My gosh, how does anyone run a marathon in this heat, I thought. AND…after swimming and biking?? At this point it was 8am. I found myself a couple of times, getting chills, thinking about running along Ali’i Dr where so many amazing athletes had run before. It was surreal. I soaked up every single bit of the experience.
The gang after the Path 10K
After the race that morning, we were off to the beach for the day. Thank goodness.
Most of the time, I feel like a fish out of water…living in Idaho, with no ocean, makes me feel like my gills dry up. I adore the ocean. And could, like a kid, stay in the waves, for hours on end. It’s where I am most at peace. I feel my most natural. Serene. And like when I am in the mountains, feel the closest to God. So I could not wait, to get in!
We enjoying the sunshine, relaxing, snorkeling, and loving all the sea turtles swimming and beaching themselves next to us. That night…a Luau!!
At Kahaluu Beach
Huge Hibiscus outside the condo!
Luau at The Hilton Waikoloa Village
Sunset from our Luau
Before we had even left on this trip, one of the points of interest for us, was to see the Green Sand Beach or Papakolea Beach.
There are 2 of these in the World. One in Guam, one on the Island of Hawaii. This entire day, was unimaginable!! From start to finish, I knew, this was going to be "quite the day"
We knew that to get to this beach, it was going to take, a 4x4, a good pair of walking shoes, water, resolve & determination. We had heard about parking, and walking in. Reviews I read, said it was a "hard" hike in. Some said, "un-walkable, too far, too windy, don't wear flip-flops, DON"T drive yourself, you name it. We thought, "Huh? We are ALL athletes, how freakin' hard can it be?" This was laughable, once we saw what was in store.
We jumped into our Jeep....SIX of us, with the top down. We thought, if there was the slightest chance at driving to this beach, we better take the Jeep. We pile in, like a bunch of teenagers, going to a beach kegger. Being that we were limited on space, Alicia and I decide we will take the back. Like as in, the cargo area. No seat. We fix our beach towels into make-shift seats, and think....easy enough. The drive to the beach took 90 minutes. We should've thought better about this decision. Her and I sat in the back, like we were the Labradors heading for a swim with the redneck in the back of his pick-up. It was hilarious!! Her and I laughed our butts off sitting back there. It truly made me feel like a high-school kid. Thank goodness neither of us got car sick.
We finally make it to the "parking lot" of the beach, climb out, and think we are going to start this walk to the beach. Up pops David, this sweet, funny, sweaty little Hawaiian man. He is ready to drive us. We look around and think, we can walk. "3 miles in" David tells us. We are taking the ride!! This proves to be a fantastic decision. Even in our Jeep there is NO WAY we would've been able to drive. This road he takes us on is like Mr. Toads Wild Ride. We are all crammed into (this time there are 7 of us, including David) into his old, extremely worn-in Expedition. He is taking us over boulders, and dunes, and ruts like I have never seen. I wish, I would've jumped out to snap a picture. David, our driver, and in the front passenger seat, Dennis and Brenda....Bren sitting on his lap. Backseat; Greg, Alicia & I, and our Ironman, Randy, crammed into the back cargo area. All of us bouncing up and down, smacking our heads on the ceiling practically. The wind is blowing so hard, sand is flying EVERYWHERE! Some of the windows work.....either in the all the way down position, or the opposite...which is making us all sweat to death in this cramped little SUV. We are sticky, sweaty and sandy and thankful to make it out of this car alive, by the time we reach the beach. The wind in this area is incredible. We all step out and look over the edge, where we need to climb down, and are utterly amazed at what we see. This tiny, little cove, turquoise water lapping up onto this stunning, olivine beach. It truly is green. I was taken aback. I have seen all sorts of sand, but never green. We make our way down, and all of us just stand in amazement of this place. God, you really know how to create a masterpiece.
Looking down on Green Beach
Awesome blow hole that people were jumping into.
Water was amazing from 50 feet up.
Green Beach Facts:
If ever in Kona, this place is a must see. It was like nothing I have ever seen. We splashed and played, took pictures, and sat digging our hands into the sand. It is just so unusual to see green sand. We REALLY wanted to bring some home, which is not allowed.
We climbed back out of this bowl, and back into the SUV ride from hell. **Another note: If you do ever get to Kona, and decide to go to the Green Beach, park and look for David. This man, was so sweet, full of the funniest stories, and made the experience that much amazing for us! And although, I say it was the "ride from hell" this has nothing to do with David's driving skills, which were top-notch.
The waves here were out of control! Huge, crashing, and scary to stand up to. We watched cliff divers, and divers jumping into a giant blow hole. It was spectacular!!
Leaving there, we climbed back into the Jeep to make the journey back into Kona. We drove past lava fields, coffee farms, rain forests, and tiny little towns. In one town, we even spotted a silly looking animal, that Alicia and I laughed about for days. We were unsure if he was a sheep, or goat. It may have been the heat, the jostling around in the back of a Jeep, the humidity, or too many Mai Tai's, but we thought our (cleverly named) Hawaiian Geep, was something to write home about.
Our Hawaiian Geep....just so you all know he wasn't fictional!
On our way back, with no tops for the Jeep (we left them in the condo) as we are driving through beautiful, tropical, coffee farms, we are hit by a torrential downpour. A DOWNpour!! We just had to laugh. We were getting soaked!! When in a rain forest....right? At that moment, we knew, and proclaimed it...THE BEST DAY EVER!! (which we found out soon enough, we would say many more times over the next 9 days!!)
~To be con't