The Big Island has a way of calling. If you’ve never been, it calls by proxy. Friends tell of their glorious struggle to make it to the finish on Alii Drive. Videos recap the history. Books detail epic races between champions that are as much a battle of wills as of bodies. The call is distant but still compelling.

If you have ever had the good fortune to actually be in Kona for the Ironman, the call to return is much, much more visceral. It is loud, constant, tangible and practically irresistible. There’s something that gets in your system that forever draws you back. You become part of the Ironman Hawaii Ohana or family and all you can do is recap your experience and count the days until you see that family again.

When you’re there on the Big Island, it is as if time accelerates and the events unfold much too quickly. Like a movie being played on fast forward. The Parade of Nations rolls by and you’re astonished by the global nature of the sport. Then before you know it, thousands are laughing and smiling during the Underpants Run. Old friends are greeted and suddenly, bikes are checked and the race begins. Then, seemingly in no time at all, it is midnight and you’re cheering in the last finishers.

Before you can properly say goodbye, it’s over and all that is left are the memories, the race reports and stories. And all you want to do is go back.

But doing recaps and telling the stories is cathartic.  They both serve as tools to let you relive your experience and pass the time until you can once again answer the siren call of the island.

So today, we’re going to finish our recap and tell a few stories of our time in Kona.

In our last post, we finished with the famed Underpants Run. Once the run was over, the atmosphere changed. The race had seemed somewhat far away before the run but now it loomed. On Friday, our athletes checked their bikes and made the walk to transition. The bike check at Kona is like no other as the athletes walk past lines of reporters and industry reps who dutifully count brands to see who wins the coveted bike count title.

After bike check, the streets clear and the town that had been so full of energy quiets. There’s a definite feeling in the air that something big is going to happen. The athletes retire to their rooms and for most everyone, all you can do is wait.

Then, a select few who aren’t racing sneak out and gather for the famous "Party Then Race" event hosted by Mr. Bob Babbitt. We were lucky enough to score an invite and we had a blast. Unfortunately, we are sworn to silence about what transpired at the event, so all we’ll say is “a good time was had by all”.

Huggos in Kona

Huggos is the site of Party Then Race ("PTR")

After the party, we went back to the house and tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep.  Even though most of us were just spectators, the excitement of what was to come kept us awake. The alarm went off early on race day and the team went to work. Each athlete has their own routine but for Hailey who was in the Coeur house, one of the “keys” is to have race day braids. Based on Hailey’s outstanding results, I’d say Andrea did a fantastic job.

Andrea and Hailey

Were the Race Day Braids the secret to Hailey's success?

After the braiding was finished we all made our way over to the start. Hailey and the other Coeur athletes went in for body marking and we found spots to spectate. It is almost impossible to describe the energy in the air prior to the start of Ironman Hawaii. Helicopters buzz overhead, cameras are held at the ready and it seems as if former champions and the who's who of triathlon are everywhere.

Broadcasters at Ironman Hawaii

Greg Welch and Michael Levato covering the race.

Spectators at Ironman Hawaii

Spectators mill around pre-race

Not long after the national anthem, the first of four cannon shots went off (one for each wave) and it was on! We had to stake out a spot on the fence outside of T-1, so we watched the swim on the big screen.  The time flew by and eventually, the pros were coming out of the water.

We caught a shot of the pro men coming out followed by the pro women and our two ladies Beth and Kim.

Andy Potts racing

Andy Potts just out of T-1

Not long after, our Ambassadors begin flying by and a few of us retreated to the house to follow the race online.  Charlotte, Teresa and Noah were staying in a house about 20 miles north of the airport and they went out to the Queen K to make sure we had representation on that part of the course. Eddie and Mark got in the car and drove along side roads to get to the turn around at Hawi.  Since our rental house was practically on the bike course, we were set with Coeur cheering squads at the beginning, middle and turn around section of the course.

Charlotte and team were affectionately known as "Coeur North" and they caught this great shot of Hailey flying by.

Hailey Manning on a bike

About 40 miles in and smiling

A couple hours later, we saw that the pros were at the airport and the "Coeur South" cheering squad took up their positions.  We saw almost all of our ambassadors coming in and it seemed that things were shaping up well. 

Beth Shutt on a bike

Beth coming in off the bike.

Kebby was keeping a running total and by the end of the bike, three of our racers (Amy, Laura, and Hailey) were in podium position.  While some overcast was forming, we knew that there was still a lot of work to be done and anything can happen on the marathon.

As with the bike, we spread out on the course to try and catch everyone at different points on the run course.  Eddie and Mark rode mountain bikes as far north as they could while the rest of us grabbed spots along the Queen K.

The podium contenders kept the pressure on and as the miles ticked by, it seemed more and more likely that they would hold on.

We took up our position on the Queen K near Palani and were lucky enough to catch our two pros (Beth and Kim) on the way out to the Energy Lab.

Beth running in Kona

Beth Shutt on the Queen K

Kim running on the Queen K

In the women’s pro field, things were starting to get incredibly interesting. Mirinda Carfrae had given up a lot of time on the swim and the bike and some doubted she could overcome the deficit. We knew she was making up minutes but we couldn’t tell where she was in the field. The question was answered when a spectator on a bike road by and shouted (seemingly to anyone who would listen) “Carfrae has made up 14 minutes and is in the lead!”

Moments later, we saw the helicopter and then she appeared. I honestly don’t think anyone in professional triathlon runs as aggressively as Carfrae. She has a beautiful forward lean and the look of a hunter. 

Professional Triathlete Running

Mirinda Carfrae on the way to the win

On occasion, we would group together and share updates.  By the late stages of the run, we were feeling good about all the Coeur girls on the course.  At one point, we had been worried about Katie Colville but to our great joy, she came running by us smiling. She yelled that she had actually been blown off of her bike near Hawi but that she had gotten back on (after support had fixed her bent front derailleur).  The crash had (sorry for the pun) derailed her shot at a podium this year but there was no way she was going to quit!

One by one, our athletes came by on the way to the finish and we cheered until we were hoarse. 

Our ladies in podium contention fought to the finish and all three earned a coveted Umeki which is the bowl given to athletes who finish in the top five.

We're so proud of the sportsmanship and effort put forth by the team.  To a person, everyone wearing Coeur lived our values on that tough day in Kona.  We saw incredible athletic performances, a fantastic first time pro finish by Beth, amazing displays of toughness by Katie, Alana, and Kim, well earned podium finishes by Amy (age group world champion), Laura, and Hailey along with enough heart and courage to last us a lifetime.

Once the last finisher was brought in by Mike Reilly, all that was left to do was celebrate!

The next morning, Coeur rented out space in a beautiful shop called Daylight Mind for a post race party that we called "Recovery on Deck".  The team was all there and we were all excited to hear stories of their race.  Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have someone there who knew all about telling and hearing stories. The historian of triathlon - Bob Babbitt stopped by and conducted interviews with three of our athletes including Hailey.

Hailey being interviewed

Hailey being interviewed by the legend Bob Babbitt

Coeur Sports Post Race Party The team could finally relax at the Coeur Recovery Party

After the party, we all went back and got ready for the awards ceremony. The awards are held on a stage that is fit for a rock concert.  It's huge and the lighting adds to the dramatic atmosphere. The ceremony started with a beautiful display of Hawaiian dance and then Mike Reilly and Bob Babbitt came to the podium.

Before bringing up the podium finishers, Bob began talking about the race and the tough conditions.  He said he'd like to highlight a few examples of courage and to our great surprise, our own Katie Colville's picture appeared on the screen! He told the story of her being blown off the bike and still finishing the race. 

Katie Colville at awards ceremony

Katie's display of heart and courage did not go unnoticed!

Then they began the awards and one by one, our athletes came to the stage to be recognized.

Amy Farrell on podium

 Amy is crowned World Champion 

And then, just like that, it was over. The next morning, people began leaving the island to go back to their (other) homes and Kona began to quiet. 

We flew home on Tuesday and now all we can do is listen to the siren call of the Big Island and count the days until we return. And of course, we can tell and listen to stories.  Thank you for reading ours.  We'd love to hear yours!