Days before the Kona race, we all went to see the practice swim and laughed our heads off at the UNDERPANTS RUN.
Day of the race, we all got up at 4AM to go with them to registration. I don’t know if we were support team, entourage or both….but we were there as a functioning unit. Communication was key - between both moms, and dad and brother/brother-in-law and phone calls to those left on the mainland to report “she’s out of the water”; “he had a great transition time”; “just saw her on the bike – she looks great”…..communication was as streamlined and tight and concise as any military unit on a mission.
Critical information only in quick, staccato format, so that as many phone calls as possible could be made as we traveled on foot, moped or car between viewing points.
If you have ever seen a dog waiting for his owner….that’s the kind of look we non-ironmen/family/friends unit must collectively have on our faces when we are standing at the top of the hill in PUAKO, by the side of the Queen K highway….waiting, waiting, straining eyes and using binoculars to try to get a glimpse of our “person”. We clap and yell for every athlete that comes by, because you hope that someone is doing the same for “person”. Then the frantic focusing and training of the camera on your loved one to get THE shot, and yet have time to let them see your face and yell encouragements as they bike or run past with the quick wave and “determined to look okay” grin.
Ohhhh, those moments are like GOLD….they bring tears to my eyes, because at that moment, you would give ANYTHING to give them just a little respite from the heat, the humidity and the wind…the constant, seemingly in both directions winds of Kona.
Triathletes always talk about the camaraderie of the sport, and I am here to confirm that it extends to the viewers too……you make “race friends” on the course; see some of the same families in different cities and everyone asks the pertinent questions about how “your person” is doing. There is a shared pride in Kona….those that qualified are “elite”, and we watchers are elevated by association.
By the time you are viewing a race in Kona, you have a specialized tool kit of knowledge that allows you to have one person checking ATLETE TRACKER while someone else drives the back route to Hawi…you know where to park off Palani, and how to collect bikes early, so that your “person”, your athlete doesn’t have to do it after the race.
And, in all of that, there is a shared sense of purpose and mutual respect, camaraderie and support among “those who watch”.Going to Kona has extended past our family now, and encompasses friends of Reg & Kebby’s and on to the ambassadors for their extreme sports athletic apparel company, COEUR SPORTS. This year my sister, Teresa, friend Noah Blake and I pack up our things and head to Kona to cheer for all the COEUR SPORTS ambassadors, and especially for the uber talented Hailey Manning.
We are yelling, screaming, cowbell ringing fans, and while we aren’t IN the race, we do feel a part of it. Not IRONMEN, but we are IRONFANS….and those are all the things that I feel, the emotions that are elicited with every email and FACEBOOK post I read from an athlete posting “I am headed to the airport; flight to Kona in 2 hours”!!