Today was supposed to get me acquainted with the swim course and part of the bike course. I was incredibly impressed with Hapuna Beach. Really beautiful, the water was warm and crystal clear, and the sea was calm. It was so amazing that I even got to see a turtle swimming along the sea floor while I was out putting in a solid 2000m. Could have been more. I was in the water for about 35 minutes total.
After getting out of the water, I jumped in the car to get up the road a bit so that I could put in a 38 mile effort from Kawaihae to the bike turn around at Hawi. This was supposed to be an L2 effort, but my adrenaline was flowing knowing that I was riding the Kona bike course.
From everything I had heard about the Kona bike course, I came in very afraid. People made it sound like a suffer fest full of hills, and a giant climb into Hawi. I am really glad to have done the pre-ride, because those specific fears were completely unfounded.
Short of the 7 mile run into Hawi, the road was no worse than Hwy 202 back home. There were undulations for sure, but based on all of the local riding I had done in prep for this, none of the course I rode today put me into any difficulty.
I will say that the wind is real, and it’s spectacular. We have wind back in Seattle, but this was something else. It was waiting for me as I turned up the hill to Hawi, and it made me not want to be on the bike for that part of the ride. Since I am riding my deep rim wheels, I was fighting the bike the whole way up. It was slow, it was tortuous, and it was challenging to keep my heart rate under control, especially since this was not supposed to be a hard ride.
All told, it took me 1 hour to get over the 18 miles to Hawi. That was not the confidence inspiring ride I was looking for out of today. I lost a ton of time on that climb, because I know I was moving quickly through the undulations. Good data to have for the race on Saturday, especially since I will be pushing much harder.
Coming back was a different story. I made the distance in 45 minutes. The tail wind coming down from Hawi was nice, but I was surprised when the wind shifted direction. That made handling a bit more challenging. It also made me want to push that much harder to get up the hill and back before the wind shifts. I turned around in Hawi at 10:05. In theory, I should be up there :30 earlier on Sat, and down before the wind changes directions.
The one feeling I couldn’t shake on the ride was the massive smile on my face. If there was a wikipedia entry for shit eating grin, I would be tempted to edit it and put a picture of myself from the ride. To be on the Kona bike course, with all of its history, and having watched Ironman races on NBC since 2000 (and owning the DVDs of all races back to 1991), it was absolutely amazing to be on the bike course, to see the bleached coral rock messages on the side of the road, and to marvel in wonderment at how lucky I am to be here.