Thursday, October 6, 2011

Getting Settled in Kona - Sunday and Monday

Kona, Hawaii is a special place.  We are in a place that provides a constant reminder of the power and beauty of nature.  We are also in a place that attracts some incredible individuals from all over the world for one big week every year.  I always find a great combination of peace and excitement on this magnificent Island.

On Sunday, we started the day with a swim in Kona Bay and a run down Ali’I Drive.  The coffee bar in the middle of Kona Bay was not set up yet, but the conversion of Ali’i Drive to the greatest ¼ mile run in the world was starting to take shape.  We spent most of the day exploring the Kilauea Volcano and marveling at the power of nature.  In 1926, an explosion sent 8 ton rocks (the weight of a school bus) over ½ mile in the air.  While the top of the two highest volcanoes on the Big Island are about 14,000 feet above sea level, they are close to 56,000 feet above their base at the ocean floor.  That is a lot of Lava.

Nannette and Mike in volcano
Sunday night, Chef Leatherbury prepared Opah (a local fish) on the grill with a medley of fresh vegetables as we tried to embrace the Hawaiian culture.

Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess
Kona started filling up with more athletes on Monday as the tempo started to pick up.  Still no coffee bar in Kona Bay, but plenty of swimmers at 7:30 AM.  After a mile swim and a 7 mile run down Ali’i Drive, we drove north and stopped about 12 miles from Hawi to ride our bikes.  Hawi is the turn-around point for the bike course and known for strong winds coming down the volcano, peak heat, and the largest climb on the course.  We rode the 12 miles to Hawi and back to test out the natural challenges and Pele, the Hawaiian Mythological Goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes gave us a demonstration of her real powers.

Fox, Mike, Lew Hollander, Michael, and Bishop
Monday night we attended the Iron Gents dinner.  This is a dinner for the athletes 60 and over.  I was the youngster in the group.  There were four guys in the 80 to 84 year old age group talking about their competitive strategies for Saturday.   One lady , Harriett Anderson, 76,  is competing in her 20th Ironman World Championship in Kona and her 40th Ironman overall.  Lew Hollander, last year’s winner in the 80+ category was the master of ceremonies.  At 81, he is ready to go for the 22nd time.  That is just a sampling of the inspiration I got from my elders.  Fox (my 70 year old mentor) and Kelly Ferrel joined us at the dinner.
I am starting to remember and appreciate the special spirit created by this World Championship.  The beauty and serenity of this place is in complete contrast with the intensity of 1,800 athletes attracted here to chase a life dream.  It is amazing to see what happens when you get a large group of people together who all have three common traits – a specific goal or dream, self-discipline, and a zest to live life to its fullest.   

Mentors for a new physically disabled swimmer
Come back tomorrow for another update.   And please help Getting2Tri help train athletes with physical disabilities.  Their camps change people’s lives by inspiring participants to regain their confidence through sports.  In turn, this confidence develops hopes, dreams, new physical skills, camaraderie and a greater sense of optimism about the future.  They help people with physical disabilities find their Kona.

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