So you’re going to Kona! Maybe you’re racing, or maybe you’re cheering on an athlete. Perhaps you’re scouting out the course for next year (because, yep, you are definitely gonna qualify), or maybe … you’re literally just going for vacation.
What a concept, right? I realize that some triathletes might find this hard to believe, but there’s more to the Island of Hawaii than IRONMAN. There’s a whole island to explore — and it’s big. (Get it?)
Still, I know, I know — you’re a triathlete at heart. And that’s great, because your training has undoubtedly prepared you for a kickass trip to the Big Island.
If you listened to the recent Ear Splitz podcast episode (and if you haven’t, you probably should rectify that sitch), you know that coach Jess Smith with Hard Coeur Coaching offered some solid advice on preparing to race in the hot and humid conditions of Kona, and she broke it down into three categories: training, nutrition, and hydration. She also offered some great ideas for once you’re sweating it up in Hawaii, like shoving ice into your sports bra … although, be warned that shave ice is not the ice you want for this. It is delicious to eat! But it is a sticky mess when it’s all up in your boobs.
Check out the Coeur Sports Podcast on your next long ride or run
I couldn’t help but notice that the categories she mentioned pertained to preparing for what Hawai’i has to offer outside of the World Championship, too ... with a few tweaks, of course.
First up, activities you’ve trained for. You’re already swimming, biking, and running, and although nobody’s going to give you a medal for it, you can enjoy these activities perfectly well as a tourist. I promise. Here are a few ideas — and some tips.
Snorkeling: The Kona side of the island is best side for snorkeling, especially in spots like Kahalu’u Beach Park, Kealakekua Bay, or Two Step. Watch for sea turtles, dolphins, and the Humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa fish, which is different than any fish you’ll see in the continental U.S. because it has a much longer name and is impossible to pronounce on the first attempt.
Surfing: Hawaii is the home of surfing, so if you’ve never tried it before … well, this might be the best place to do it or it might also be a terrible, terrible idea. The fact is, being a good swimmer and having reasonable balance is not a guarantee that you will be able to catch a wave, hang 10, or do anything other than starfish repeatedly. (Although, even if that’s all you do, you’re learning a cool surfing term, brah.) But hey, if you’ve got the desire and your ego is as well-exercised as the rest of your body, go for it! It’s totally fun!
Biking: Possibly the most bang you can get for your buck on a bike is to ride it down a volcano. Well, unless the bang you’re looking for involves absolutely destroying your legs, in which case, be my guest and ride up — I’ll meet you at the top. It’s a really, really good idea to make sure the bike you’re renting has better-than-standard brakes. Trust me, now is not the time to try to save a buck by borrowing some kid’s 10-speed. (I’d also urge you avoid the temptation to save a little cash when it comes to getting your fix of grocery store poke, which is surprisingly affordable to begin with, but I think we all know that, unlike those day-old bagels that are a total bargain when you find them for half price, raw tuna is better on the fresher side.)
With biking, you might find it easier to join a tour than to try to rent a bike and transport it yourself, and in this case, here’s a little advice. Casual bike tours are not a race. You will not earn a podium spot for beating the rest of the group. You will earn some dirty looks and the lifelong scorn of the little girl you cut off in order to make it to the next checkpoint 30 seconds faster, though, and I guess only you know what’s really important to you, so don’t let me tell you how to live your life.
Hiking: If you can run after swimming and biking, you can definitely handle a little hike back to a waterfall. But, keep in mind that there are no aid stations out there — and with 8 out of 13 climate zones represented on the Big Island alone, you need to keep in mind that not every hike is going to be a pleasantly tropical experience. Also, as well trained as you might be for tough and extreme conditions, let me make one thing clear: you cannot train for lava. The eruption seems to have fully stopped at this point, and you’re unlikely to run into any active flows right now, but, you know … it’s worth noting.
Now, just as no athlete is race ready without a nutrition and hydration plan, you’re not ready for your trip without knowing a little about the local food and drink situation.
Hydration: Three words: Kona Brewing Co. — because they make more than Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, and charming commercials.
And two other words: Kona coffee, straight from the source! And, okay, one more: POG — don’t knock it ‘til you try it … with or without a little prosecco mixed in. And I suppose it would be a shame to leave the island without sipping on a Mai Tai or Blue Hawaii or something with a big hunk of fruit and tiny little umbrella sticking out of it. Yeah, hydration — not gonna be a problem.
Nutrition: Hawaii loves SPAM — and hey, maybe you love SPAM, too! But if you’ve never tried it, keep in mind that although it’s packaged, processed, and has a shelf life similar to that of your gels and blocks, it is not meant to be consumed like gels and blocks. No, no, no. You can try it as SPAM musubi or with eggs in a hot Hawaiian breakfast, if you want. Just … it’s really meant to be cooked. Or ignored.
And you definitely can’t leave without eating your weight in pineapple. The ones you’ll find on the island sweeter and probably cheaper than any you’ll pick up on the mainland — and in most grocery stores and farmer’s markets, it’s the same price whole or cut up, so if you don’t know you’re doing, leave it to the pros so you can start noshing immediately.
Other than that, the best thing you can do is try to let any Type A tendencies take a bit of a break, embrace the aloha spirit, catch a few sunsets — and take note of what else you want to do when you come back next year, of course!
About the Author
Kristen is a busy (and very funny) woman. She's a writer, a certified triathlon coach, a pet lover and she runs Fit Bottomed Girls which is a site dedicated to empowering women to live a healthy lifestyle.