Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ironman 2011 taking over Kona

Once again Kona has been taken over by the Ironman World Championships.  Thousands of athletes and their families and fans fill the streets and sidewalks.  They ride their bicycles in groups on Ali’i Drive and the Queen K highway blocking traffic everywhere they go. One minute they are talking causally as they cycle along and the next minute they are zipping between huge pick-ups that can’t even see them. We can only guess that they don’t grasp how invisible they are to the drivers. Or maybe they just love taking risks since they are willing to run a marathon in 110 degree F heat on a lava field after a 112 mile bike ride and 2.4 miles of ocean swimming. We are big on being healthy and fit, but the Ironman race is extreme.

Eighty-five of the competitors are pros racers vying for the $560,000 purse distributed among the top 10 male and 10 female finishers.  You can spot the pros because they have vans with pictures of them that follow them around the town.  Their bicycles are usually one of a kind, custom made with price tags of $30,000 and more.

Like the pros, many of the 1500 qualifying age-range athletes are covered from head to toe with advertisements from their sponsors.  The remainder of the 1935 entrants got lucky in a lottery or paid up to $55,000 for the privilege of going through the brutal ironman experience on Ebay.

Fed Ex and UPS trucks are busy delivering boxes of food and liquid goo to the athletes, because Ironmen don’t come to Hawaii for the fresh produce, fish, and grass-fed beef. They eat only pre-made sugar-loaded energy gels with names like Hammer, Gu and Clif Shot.  They not only don’t eat out much, they hit the sack early so they can wake up at 5AM to swim to the King buoy from Kailua-Kona pier.

Today the pier was crazy with hundreds of athletes checking in, swimming the race route, and posing for their adoring fans staring at their skimpy outfits.  Camera crews rushed from athlete to athlete to interview them as they came out of the water.

Saturday, October 8, at 6:30AM the race begins at Kailua-Kona pier.

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