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October 2014

Kona Notes - Go Dana!

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's not just the athletes, it's the hoards of supporters that help make the Ironman a big financial asset for the State of Hawaii. Let's hear it for Dana!

The early conflicts between the Kona locals and the Ironman event were resolved long ago. There are lots of reasons for that, not the least of which is a strong community relations effort on the part of the Ironman organization. But the enormous financial impact to the State's economy is a huge factor too. Pretty much everyone benefits – and not simply because the athletes stay on the island for 7-10 days and eat like horses throughout. Like this group demonstrating along Palani Road, at the beginning of the bike ride, the athletesoften bring entire teams of supporters with them: moms, dads, uncles, cousins, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends. Hell, it seems sometimes like one of each. Go Dana!

Kona Notes -- Like It Was Yesterday

Monday, October 20, 2014

Standing with a photo of Julie Leach that I took 32 years ago. Seems like yesterday. 

The seawall along Alii Drive is decorated during race week with large images of former winners of the Hawaii event. It was great to see my image of Julie Leach, from the October, 1982, race, among the pics. That was my first trip to Kona; I was writing and shooting for my own publication, as well as for the debut issue of Triathlon magazine. I remember so clearly taking this shot – walking back and forth along the Highway, half-stunned to be where I was and almost breathless over the drama I was witnessing – from as close up as I wanted to be. Those early days were golden for the few of us covering the sport. If you had a press pass you could go anywhere. I did.

Kona Notes - Tour de Kona

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chalking Alii Drive before the race. Allez! Allez!

With the finish line end of Alii Drive turned into a pedestrian mall for most of race week, chalking the road to inspire or congratulate friends and family has become an important part of the Ironman spectator ritual. Which is not to say that too many folks running down that last stretch after being on the course for more than a normal workday will actually notice, but the good wishes are genuine , often touching, and add a lot to the big-event atmosphere.

Kona Notes - Dig Me?

Monday, October 20, 2014

One for two -- This young triathlete from England knew what Dig Me meant, but had no idea in the world who Scott Tinley is.

Spotted this pair of fit guys from England at Huggo's on Friday, the night before the race. The man on the left is dad, to the right is his son, who was scheduled to race the following day. (I know, they look like bloody brothers.) I couldn't resist asking if the son knew what the term "Dig Me" meant, and to my surprise he did: "Sure, it's the beach where the race starts, isn't it?" he replied.

"Exactly," I said. "You know, I'm pretty sure my partner Scott Tinley coined that phrase back in 1981. Have you heard of Scott Tinley?"

"No," he said, breaking my nostalgic, history-loving heart. "Well, he won the Ironman here twice," I said. I turned over a coaster and scribbled on the back. "You might enjoy taking a look when you get home. And good luck tomorrow."

My journalistic skills are rusty, I admit. Had I asked the kid his name I could have checked on how he did in the race. I hope well.

Kona Notes – Old Friends Are Always A Pleasant Surprise

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bill VanHorn, right, with MP

I bumped into a U.S. Triathlon Series old-timer Bill Van Horn, now 81, and who's been doibng triathlons since... well, coincidentally, 1981. I can't count the number of awards I presented to this guy over the years, but it was a lot. Good guy. Good friend. Hadn't seen him in 30 years or more. Kona is like that.

Kona Notes – Tony DeBoom and the Best T-Shirt in Town

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tony DeBoom wearing his limited edition Kona-T. Bound to be a classic Ironman shirt. 

If you stopped by the Endurance Conspiracy T-shirt tent along Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona anytime during race week, you would have met the talented silver-haired designer and former professional triathlete Tony DeBoom. TH will have lots of good things to say about Tony in the near future, but what nabbed us in Kona this year was a cool, retro-looking, limited edition Kona T, commemorating the initial three-event Ironman concept. A talented designer knows how to keep things simple, and Tony's work in this case has all the makings of a classic. Not sure if you can still get one, but you in case you want to try, here's where to look:

Kona Notes – The Real Kona Story

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Susan Shaw with Cathy Plant at the Kona Inn, on the Tuesday night after the race. 

Next time you're in Kona for the Ironman, be sure to dine at least once at the Kona Inn, right in the thick of things on the Makai (ocean) side of Alii Drive. Have the calamari sandwich, and be sure to sit in Susan Shaw's section. Susan, who is 69 years old and acts 35, has been at the Kona Inn since forever, and can tell you stories about every Ironman since the first race on the Big Island in 1981, including a wonderful first-hand account of the last two folks to finish that year: Teiichiro Tsutsumi, in 25:44:02 (yes, 25 hours) and Walt Stack, in 26:20:25. Relations between the locals and the triathletes were still getting worked out back then, but to hear Susan talk about a crew of her friends acting as human bumper rails for the staggering last-finishers is a story you just have the hear for yourself.

Kona Notes – Carfrae’s Marathon is Historic. Again.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mirinda Carfrae on her way to second marathon course record and a second straight victory at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Photo courtesy of Paul Phillips /Competitive Image

It's hard to make meaningful cross-sport performance comparisons, but I happened to notice on my phone the results of the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 11, about the time that Australia's Mirinda Carfrae was gobbling up Daniela Ryf, on the Queen K at the Ironman in Kona, on her way to a record 2:50:26 and a second straight Ironman/Kona victory.

The top three men in Chicago, all from Kenya, all ran sub-2:05 marathons: Eliud Kipchoge. 2:04:11; Sammy Kitwara, 2:04:28; Dickson Chumba, 2:04:32. The top woman in Chicago, Rita Jeptoo, also from Kenya, finished 2:24:35, more than a minute faster than Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia (2:25:37) in second, and Florence Kiplagat of Kenya (2:25:57) in third.

I had already watched the men's winner in Kona, Sebastian Keinle, from Germany, go by me just before the right turn from Kuakini Highway to Hualalai Road on his way to the finish line. Earlier in the race, Keinle had run the roughly 9-mile Alii Drive loop in around approximately 55 minutes, a little over a six-minute-per-pace. But by the end, the six-minutes miles were long gone; Keinle had slowed to the point where several age groupers, with 25 miles still to go, were able to hold his pace and savor the experience of having run with the winner of the ironman, if only for a moment or two.

Here's what I thought was interesting: Keinle's winning marathon time was 2:54:56, or 52:45 minutes slower than Kipchoge's 2:04:11 in Chicago. The fastest marathon of the day among the men in Kona, a strong 2:47:46 by Keinle's countryman Jan Frodeno, was still 45:35 off Kipchoge's pace. In contrast, Carfrae's 2:50:26 gave up just 25:21 to Jeptoo's 2:24:35. And Jeptoo is no slouch; she hasn't lost a major marathon in two years, and is the current course record holder at Boston.

Again, to be clear, one race is not statistically relevant. But in retrospect, while Keinle's race this year at Ironman was heroic – he hammered to a big lead off the bike, then crushed the first half of the marathon, challenging the rest of the field to chase him down – Carfae's performance was nothing short of historic. She is out-performing at every level. How long her reign will last is anyone's guess, but at this point in her career she is climbing rapidly toward heights scaled before her by Ironman legends and multiple Kona winners Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Paula Newby-Fraser and Natasha Badmann.