If you recall, last week we were taking a walk down memory lane. Well, actually, we were walking down Underpants Run Lane and were about to make a right turn onto the Queen K and head to the little down of Kailua-Kona. You see, we were talking about what Kona means to us. We started by discussing how the decibel level of the call for gender equality in the Ironman Hawaii Pro ranks was increasing and how we hoped it would be impossible to ignore. We surmised that some people might think the only way to get the point across to WTC (the owners of the Ironman Brand) would be to boycott or harm Ironman Hawaii (aka "Kona"). That, of course, is where we would have to draw the line. We went on to say that there were two reasons we couldn’t intentionally do anything to harm Kona.
One reason is that the race is incredibly special to us and to many, many other people. We’ll get to the second reason and continue our imaginary tour of the course in a moment. First, let’s detour for a second and say congratulations to Katie Hursey!
Katie is one of our sponsored athletes and this is her second year racing as a professional. She’s an Olympic Distance speed merchant and over the weekend she participated in the ITU World Championships. For those of you who aren’t overly familiar with the ITU format, it is draft legal, it is incredibly fast and the World Championships are the most important race unless it is an Olympic year. Only the best of the best get to race “Worlds” and it is everyone’s “A” race.
On Saturday, we took a break in the Coeur Office and logged onto the live stream of the event. Katie came out of the water in very good shape and joined the front group on the bike. A chase pack developed and for the entire bike leg, it was peloton versus peloton. Katie’s group worked well together and from time to time, she would rotate to the front and put in big pulls. During those brief moments, we’d all jump up, high five and yell that “Katie is winning Worlds!”
Kebby watching ITU Worlds in the Coeur Office
One huge difference between Ironman racing and ITU is the speed of the transitions. Katie had a slowish transition and lost a few seconds coming off the bike. Even so, she put in a fantastic run and we all cheered like crazy as she finished in the top ten in the world!
We know 2016 is a long ways away, so we won’t use the “O” word but we will say that it would be pretty darn cool to see Coeur in Rio. Anyway, congratulations Katie! What a fantastic performance.
Ok…back to Kona. At the end of our last blog, we were driving down the Queen Kaahumanu (aka..the Queen K) and reminiscing about all the champions who had biked that highway. Let’s stay on the Queen K and head into town. Not long after you turn on the highway from the airport, you notice two buildings with Solar Panels. Ahhh…it’s the Natural Energy Lab.
Lot's of Triathlete Energy Expended Here
The Energy Lab is the turn-around for the marathon and it is jam packed with race history. The Athletes get a good look at their competition and many races have been made (or broken) in the Energy Lab. Through the shimmering heat waves, you can almost see the silhouettes of Dave Scott and Mark Allen as they run through there shoulder to shoulder during the Iron War.
And there’s the outline of Heather Fuhr who was one of triathlon’s most natural runners on her way to the win in 1997. There’s Paula. Again, again and again. She came through the Energy Lab on her way to victory in this race eight times. Yes..eight.
The harder you look, the further back in time you can see. Wait for it. Wait. There. I think that is actually Bob Babbitt. Tan, fit and sporting a beard!
In a race filled with historic locations, you’d be hard pressed to find any more iconic than the lab. It’s at a critical stage of the race, the solar panels at the front make for an imposing entrance and so many races have been decided here. However, there is at least one spot that does trump the Energy Lab and our walk down memory lane will go there next.
If you turn right out of the Energy Lab, you’ll make your way into town. Turn onto a street called Palani and you’ll eventually see the King Kamehameha or the King Kam as it is known. The King Kam is the host hotel and it is the hub for race activity. Athletes register here and it is the site of the pre-race press conference.
The King Kam is a bee hive of activity during race week
To us, one of the coolest things that happens outside of the King Kam is the bike count. Journalists and industry insiders line the entrance to transition during the bike check in. They count bike brands on the way in and the company with the highest number of entrants has bragging rights for the year. The reason we love this is because it just shows how big a deal everything is in Kona. The athletes parade past the journalists on their way to check their steeds and they truly get the rock star treatment.
But the King Kam isn’t the reason we turned onto Palani. It’s not even Digme beach where the swim starts. Even though Digme is incredibly cool.
Rather, the reason we turned onto Palani is because at the end, you make a left and you’re in a street that has to be the most historic in the entire sport.
It seems that the greatest sporting events have the most iconic points. The Masters in Golf has Amen Corner and the Eisenhower Tree. Wimbledon has the Royal Box and Centre Court. Kona has The Queen K, The Energy Lab and our next destination.
Coming Up, Part III. The quarter mile that will last a lifetime.