Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Sweet It Is...

Evotri teammate Chris Sweet and family have made their way to the big island for the ultimate Ironman showdown. Below is Sweet's first recap of life leading up to the main event. Big cheers from the mainland for you Chris!

Kona Update #1: At Play in the Fields of Lava!

Our flight to Kona left Peoria, IL at 6:00am last Saturday. It was going to be a rigorous day of flying with transfers in Chicago and Peoria. Things got off to a lousy start when I learned I was going to have to pay double fees on my bike case since one of the transfers was from American to United. Holy crap what a racket! Suffice it to say that I've flown myself cheaper than what it cost me to fly my bike one way! Flights to Chicago and then San Fransisco went smoothly...well as smoothly as possible when you are flying with a 1 year old. Our flight out of San Fransisco ended up being delayed almost five hours, which meant that we were up for a full 24 hours before hitting Kona. Even before we left San Fransisco we started seeing Ironman athletes and realized this race is really going to be different. Out of all the racers I saw at the airport, not one of them was from the states. Mostly it was Germans, Belgians, and Swiss. This was the first of many wake-up calls that a World Championship is vastly different from a big race in the states.

Getting off the plan around midnight local time, the first thing you realize is damn it is hot and muggy! Temp differences between highs and lows in Kona is only about 10 degrees. Karma swung back in our favor at the airport where the attendant felt bad for us and upgraded our vehicle so that I didn't have to make two trips to bring all of our gear.

We are staying at a small bed and breakfast that is up the mountain from Kona. So far this place is easily the highlight of the trip. We are smack dab in the middle of the Kona coffee belt and everything looks like a tropical rainforest. There are wild turkeys and chickens all of the place that help keep Jonah entertained. Every morning there is an awesome breakfast prepared by the innkeepers that consists of tons of local fruit (there are bananna and pineapple trees on the property). We are about 10 minutes from the race start, but the whole atmosphere up here is much more laid back. There is a big group of Belgians staying with us, including one pro who I don't recognize.

First day here I rode down the mountain from our lodging and headed out for a short ride on the Queen K! Cara and I started getting excited just driving in the first night as we passed all the names we've only heard and seen during IM coverage: the Natural Energy Lab, Palani Rd, Ali'i Drive. Even a week before the race the Queen K was a thoroughfare of bikers and runners. When I've visualized race day, I new it would be brutal hot, but I always thought I would get about 1/2 way through the bike before it got really bad. Wake-up call, it is way hot very early in the morning. Usually it clouds up in the late morning, early afternoon, but it is blazing hot by around 8am. Fun, Fun!

Tuesday morning I went down and did a half hour swim on the course. Again the place was just lousy with triathletes of all nationalities. I'm definitely going to enjoy racing without a wetsuit and being able to see what is going on around (and below!) me. During my practice swim there was some current and minor swells. I haven't gotten a good sense of whether the swim will be faster or slower than other races. Jonah got his first practice "Swim" on the course as well. We got to see some sea turtles right by the start.

Yesterday we did our big excursion of the trip and headed down to Volcanoes national park. The park was awesome, but the drive there was almost as good! One thing that you don't get a good sense of during NBC IM coverage is that most of Hawaii's terrain is much more rugged than the Queen K. The only flat part of the island is right along the coast. Everything else is downright mountainous- there is even snow skiing on one of the biggest mountains! The volcanic eruptions at Kilauea were spectacular not because it was spouting lava like you see on TV, but because of the sheer scale of the place. The perimeter of the crater is 11 miles! When we were there there was mostly just massive amounts of smoke and steam. There were steam vents all over the park- we got pictures of a few that were near the road- wild!

On the way home we stopped at a smaller, out-of-the-way beach that the guidebook recommended. Very cool little bay. Awesome snorkeling, with tons of fish (Cara almost touched some type of sea snake, so that put an end to her exploring). There were great warm tide pools that Jonah absolutely loved!

On the race prep side of things I am just doing one easy workout per day. Trying to acclimate to the heat, but would probably need more than a few days for that! Getting some good rest whenever Jonah decides it is OK (he is having more difficulty getting off Illinois time).

I'll try and get in another update before race day!