This was my second time at the Hawaii 70.3 on Kona (better known as the Honu Half). I had such a great time at this race last year that I was definitely not going to miss out on the same experience this year. This is one of those 'destination, must-do' races that is for sure.
We arrived on Kona the week before and settled in at our wonderful home stay family- Linda and Bill Greentree's place. We have stayed with them quite a few times now and they are just two of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. It doesn't take us long to get into the swing of Kona-life- this is my 13th visit to the island and I almost feel like a local- almost :) On the thursday afternoon we made the journey out to the beautiful Fairmont Orchid resort where the race is held. It is a wonderful resort and the perfect finish for a race.
Race day was on saturday morning which is great as then you get to relax and enjoy all that the resort has to offer on saturday night and laze around the pool on sunday.
The start of the race is a few miles up the road at Harpuna beach. We all caught the shuttle bus up to the start and I must admit there were a lot of worried faces on board (including mine) as our bus was being blown all over the Queen K by the wind and it was only 5.30 in the morning!! One thing was certain- it was going to be a windy ride....but hey it is Kona and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Race start was at 7am so as we all made our way down to the beach you could see the flags being blown sideways and plastic chairs were being blown from one end of the transition to the other. I tried to focus solely on the swim and kept saying to myself 'deal with the wind once you are on the bike'. The swim was one giant loop and it was a mass start of 1300 athletes. I was actually quite surprised how calm and civilised the start was but I am sure it was a frenzy for some. The swim was extremely choppy and I really struggled with the waves and the current- mmmm I think a few more open-water swims are in order. This was my first race in three months so I knew I was going to be a little rusty.
I exited the swim having absolutely no idea if I had swum well or where the other pro women were. Usually I know exactly whose feet I am on and where I am but today I was all over the shop. I made my way up to transition and it is a really steep climb up to the bikes. I knew once I was on my bike I could start taking charge of the race. I was happy to see local girl Bree Wee still in transition. Bree is a great swimmer and I really wanted to be as close to her out the water as possible.
I took off on my bike and made the decision there and then to go as hard as I could go for as long as I could and worry about the run later. I had done a huge block of run training before I got here so I knew my run was not going to falter. But I really wanted to see where my time trialling was at. It had been a while since I had been down on my bars for that long.
I was pleasantly surprised with how good I felt on the bike and I think the windy conditions worked to my advantage. I came in to T2 with a solid lead and then worked my into the run.
I knew after last year that this was not a run to push too hard too early. It is possibly the hardest 1/2 IM run course that I have ever done. Most of it is on the golfing greens and if you are not trying to run over the grass, you are making your way up and over the winding golf paths- some sections remind me of an F1 driving circuit complete with chicanes. It is almost impossible to get into any sort of a rhythm and the heat and humidity is intense (although I do remember it being a lot worse last year).....my sunburn later on would prove me wrong here. There is one out and back section on a fire road and it is the only time you get to run on the same terrain for an extended period of time. The problem with that is that you still have 2 miles of running left to go on the golf course after this section. Fortunately I had kept a good, solid pace throughout most of the run and had a substantial lead so I was able to relax a bit once I hit this last section for home.
It was a great feeling crossing the finish tape for 1st place for the second year running. The finish line is amazing- right on the ocean at the Fairmont and loads of spectators around to cheer you on. It is just such a fabulous atmosphere. Even though I did not improve on my overall time from last year, I did improve my run time by just on 4 minutes which is a very satisfying feeling. It is not a fast run course by any stretch of the imagination but I was very happy with the improvement.
I was also really happy to see local IM gal Bree Wee have a really strong day to finish right behind me in 2nd place. She was definitely keeping me honest out there on the run.
I am now back in town and back into it again. I really do love training here outside of IM time- you have the entire island to yourself and the local athletes are just so friendly and so much fun to train with. It is such a wonderful little island and the riding is amazing once you get off the beaten track, or in this case, the Queen K. Best of all....there is no lining up at Lava Java :)