Monday, October 22, 2012

Ironman Hawaii: Spectator & Athlete Recommendations


It's been a little over a week since crossing the finish line in Kona and I'm in Santa Barbara, trying to milk the fading remnants of vacation... I had the good fortune of being able to spend nearly two weeks in Kona leading up to the world championships, a period where I was able to assimilate with IM culture and really get to know this slice of the island. Since recovery has the perk of a little free time (at least what I can find outside of my 8-6) I put together my personal top-highlights for competitors and spectators to the Hawaii Ironman.


Basik: Basik is a small, health-joint that serves Acai-based (ah-sah-EE) smoothies and bowls. It is located behind Hugo's by the Sea on the second floor of what looks like a beach shack. Open from 7am - 4pm, pricey – a small bowl will run you $8.50 and a large $12.50, but absolutely worth it. My personal favorites are the Puna bowl (strawberries, bananas, blueberries), and Bansai bowl (pb-based)

Lava Java: The infamous beach-side restaurant on Ali'i frequented (on race week) by many pros and IM legends. Open breakfast through dinner, typically with live, local music on the patio. On race week, there is a special "Ironman menu" with options for the health and calorie-conscious. Coach Coady and I spent the better half of one of our days here, managing to eat both lunch and dinner in the same sitting!

Royal Kona Resort: A popular hotel for athletes during the IM, rooms are supposedly outdated and extremely over-priced so I prefer it for the occasional meal or cocktail. The ocean-bar is perfect sighting for the .7m swim buoy. A great location for friends and family to congregate and watch your swim-rehearsals.

Sac-N-Save (supermarket): There are many so-called "ABC" supermarkets in Kona town that while convenient, miss the mark in terms of selection and pricing. A short-walk up Palani you'll find a variety of supermarkets including Sac-N-Save (best value).


Waikoloa Village:  Resort town located off the Queen K, on the Ironman bike route ~40min from Kona town. The village is much more relaxed and luxurious than Kona-proper, and during race week surprisingly more affordable. My parents stayed at the Hilton (pictured below), I have also heard rave reviews for the Mauna Lani.

The view from my folks' room at the Hilton, Waikoloa.

Kona Town: The heart of the Ironman, where the action happens. The most popular hotels are the King K and Royal Kona resort. The King K is the host hotel, just yards from the transition zone and start and finish lines. Looks a bit like a Motel 6 from the outside, and IMHO the convenience does not warrant the cost. The Royal Kona is a much nicer looking hotel, maybe a 1/2 mile from transition but across the street from my favorite hot-spots like Basik and Lava Java. It is sea-side, and ocean-view rooms have terrific views of the swim course.

Ali'i Dr: Where the sponsors stay. Ali'i hosts the first 10 miles of the marathon, it's a residential street dotted with beach side mansions which are overtaken by industry-leaders such as Cervelo, Specialized, Zoot, Saucony etc. These sponsors open up their doors and liberally hand out schwag and throw parties leading up to race day. For athletes/spectators, Ali'i is a spectator-friendly option that will give you more luxurious acomodations than Kona-town without breaking the bank. Downside is you'll be anywhere between 1.5 and 5 miles from Kona town. Car or scooter rental is advised (I stayed on mile 4 of the run course and spent two week running or biking into town, and occasionally hitchhiking or catching the local trolley). Use VRBO to look for houses/condos on Ali'i. For those who prefer hotels, the Sheraton is far but a good option.

Gui's choice for 2013: I will likely spend the beginning and tail end of my trip in Waikaloa (either the Hilton or Mauna Lani bungalows) and rent a Condo in Kona town for the two days leading up to Ironman + night of the event. For the first timer, I would recommend a location on Ali'i since it's close enough to the action to feel part of it, but far enough to have a little refuge. It's also convenient enough that I wouldn't recommend moving closer to town for race day.


Welcome Banquet & Pre-Race Meeting: A grand production put on by our friends at the WTC. Easy to look over if you're not staying at the host hotel but worth the trip into town. The pre-race meeting was quite informative - i.e. I learned that all Kayak's and the turn-around boat have spare goggles, and that aid stations on the bike route have basic repair tools should you run into any issues.


Bike Check-in: Mandatory for athletes, recommended for spectators. The bike check-in is host of the annual "bike and helmet count." Watch dozens of media members document every nook and cranny of your getup. Even then AGers feel like pros.

Midnight Finish: It doesn't get any better than the finish line at Kona. Mike Reilly + co. really fire up the crowd cheering on that final finisher, usually with meer seconds to midnight. Put off sleep and stick around for this. You won't regret it.

Awards Banquet: Worth the trip even if you're not getting a umeke bowl. Another great production by the WTC and perfect opportunity to reflect on your tremendous accomplishment.


Kukio Blue Water 1.2 mile OWS race: Kukio is an exclusive, gated community 14 miles North of Kona town. Twice a year, they open their gates for charity by putting on a bike/run/paddle race the week before Hanu, and a 1.2M OWS the Saturday before IM World Championships. Kukio is an absolutely incredible community, and the OWS race couldn't have been better organized with a live DJ, full post-race buffet and awards ceremony. Rumor has it that Chris Lieto usually brings his family to compete in both events.

Underpants run: An excuse for the 1800 athletes competing in IM to strip and show off their bodies (and raise money for charity at the same time). I participated this year, but may stay off the legs and stick to watching from now on!

Coffees of Hawaii boat: Typically for the ~4 days leading up to race day from 7-10am. The boat is located roughly 400meters from shore, and athlete and families alike should visit for free coffee, cookies, and swag from sponsors like Blue Seventy.

Massage (from the best): Race week brings the pros and their entourage, typically an onslaught of PT's, massage therapists etc. While they're in town, take advantage by scheduling a session with some of the best hands in the business. Twitter is the best resource for getting to know who's on the island and their availability.

"Parties": More of your celery, ranch-dip and protein shake type of gathering but a party nonetheless. You'll see these advertised on Ali'i, as well as Twitter, FB, and the occasional promoter. Slowtwitch throws a popular gathering, and K-Swiss is rumored to have the best post-race party in town (but you'll need a connection). Here's a clip from the Rudy Project party which was hosted at the Palace in Kona-town and featured live music by Paula Fuga and Mike Love!

From IM KONA 2012

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