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What Ironman Hawaii Means to us...but First this Public Service Rant

Posted: Aug 29 2014

To Arms my friends!

It seems that things in the Women’s Triathlon and Cycling World have been a bit…how shall we say it? Interesting. We’ve seen some dramatic changes in the pay structure for Ironman Races, Female cyclists made a statement with an exciting showing at La Course by Le Tour de France where they held a one day race on the Champs-Elysees and the call for gender equality among the Professionals in Kona is becoming (we hope) impossible to ignore.

These things are important and for better or for worse, we have an opinion on all of them. Of course, you know what they say. “Opinions are like Belly Buttons. Everyone has one but do they really matter?”

Also, that’s not what this blog is about but in short, we’ll say…Pay for Pros: Increase it. Women’s Cycling: We want more of it. And the number of Women Pros in Kona. Are you kidding me? Of course it should be equal.

Now that is the “What” of the conversation and we’d be glad to discuss the “How” and the “Why” later.

Ok..darn it. We’ll digress and talk about the “Why” at least for the issues related to women’s cycling and the number of female professional triathletes in Kona. But I promise to keep it short. Other than the obvious reason of “It’s the right thing to do!”, there are the economic considerations. Did you know that women control 80% of the household dollars in the United States? Or that in 47 of the 50 largest metro areas, single, childless women in their 20’s make more money than their male counterparts? Or that, according to Forbes, women control over 20 Trillion Dollars in global annual consumer spending. That folks is not a typo. 20 freakin trillion dollars. That is more than the markets of China and India combined! They are also coming into endurance sports in record numbers.

Don't make these people angry.  You wouldn't like them when they're angry...

 

So, what would the smart money do? Well, we think it would go out of its way to not alienate this constituency. And by “smart money”, we, of course, mean the owners of endurance sports events. Kinda makes sense. Right?

Oh, and speaking of increasing pay for Professional Triathletes, Coeur has submitted a guest blog to Triathlon Business International on “how” we might do that. If/when it gets published, we’ll make sure to share it.

Ok..back to the regularly scheduled programing.

What Ironman Hawaii Means to Us

Let’s talk a bit about Kona and why it is so special to us. Now, there’s been a fair amount of public discourse about the way WTC (the owner of the Ironman Brand) is running its business. To a large degree, many of the arrows have probably been warranted. Our fear is that this maelstrom of criticism may take some of the luster off of Ironman Hawaii aka Kona.

Some may say…”Great! That’s what we need to do to get their attention.” Unfortunately, I guess that is where we may have to draw the line. There are two primary reasons that we cannot bring ourselves to do anything to harm Kona. First, to us (and many others we’re sure) Kona is almost indescribably special. It has a way of getting in your system and it’s pretty much impossible to get out. We’ve had the privilege of going to Ironman Hawaii in some capacity every year for the past several. A few of us (like Hailey and Kebby) have finished Kona multiple times, many of us have been sherpas and we’re all fans.

The first thing you notice when you arrive is that the island is hard. There’s a lot of black, sometimes sharp lava, the heat waves roll up from the road and the humidity can be stifling.  It’s definitely not the Hawaii that you see in postcards. But then, you realize that this is right. It has to be this way. You wouldn’t want the Championship of one of the hardest single day endurance events in the world to be a cakewalk. Triathletes are incredibly tough and their most iconic race has to meet certain expectations.

As soon as you exit the plane, you start to flash back to replays of Ironman past. Whether you know it or not, the historic tour begins almost immediately. Rumor has it that Paul Huddle and company used to make a bet about how long it would take to see men in bikini underwear. The Europeans wore them frequently and Huddle and team dutifully mocked them. At first, the sightings began when they got to town. Then they started seeing them on the way from the airport into town. The final straw was when they got off the plane and saw a pair of the notorious “banana hammocks” right there in the actual airport! We are of the belief that it was then and there that they decided to do a “protest march” and thus the Underpants Run was born.

A man in a skimpy bathing suit here.....

 

Led to the beginning of one of Triathlon's greatest traditions.

 

Long Live the Queen

Ok, moving on. When you pull out of the airport, you turn immediately onto the Queen K. Oh the stories that highway could tell. The Queen K has can simultaneously fill racers with awe and fear. The road has nice wide shoulders that can bring a smile to a bikers face but it also allows them to see just how incredibly far they have to ride during the the bike leg of an Ironman. On a clear day, you can almost see the end of the island where athletes make the turn to come home. And trust us…it is a looong way. The road snakes along the coast and through the black lava fields.

Kona can be hard.  And Triathlete's can be too

You can see signs made from the white rocks from years past. Sometimes it will just be a name and sometimes there’s a note of encouragement. We hope that the athletes were able to see their names. Especially when they were on the way back into town, caked in salt after doing battle with the heat and wind for over a hundred miles. Maybe the glimpse of white rocks carefully shaped by loved ones gave them the energy to keep going when times invariably got tough.

Messages from the past

 

Of course, the Queen K also has some good stories. Because this was where once and for all “Stormin Norman” Stadler squashed the theory that you couldn’t win Kona on the bike. In our mind, we can still see him almost flying home. He turned on the jets after the turn around in Hawi and put on a performance for the ages. Perfectly aero, in complete sync with his machine burning his way into the record books. Do you see him?

Maybe it’s the heat getting to us but in our minds eye, we can also see other champions leaving their mark on the Queen. There’s Paula. Focused and serious coming in off the bike. Chrissie during her first win. Setting a blistering pace on a bike with clip on aero bars. Smiling all the way into town.

Speaking of town, let’s make right out of the airport and head there now.

Coming up. Part II – Let's see Alii.