Kona Must Do’s by Khem

By Khem Suthiwan

In less than a month, thousands of athletes and IRON-fans will be making their yearly pilgrimage to the IRONMAN World Championship. But there is more to Kona than what happens on race day. So whether this is your first or in my case, 10th trip to the Big Island, here are a few of my Big Island insider tips while you’re soaking in all the Aloha…


Sun Dried Specialties. Everyone raves about Hawaiian poke bowls. Any Kona veteran will tell you about Da Poke Shack on Ali’I Drive. Well, that’s not where the kama’aina (locals) go for their poke. There’s a place a little off the beaten path that will require you to hail an Uber if you don’t have a rental car (Yes, Uber is now on the Big Island! Hooray!). Sun Dried Specialties is located about 10 miles south of Kona Village. In addition to poke, they serve up a variety of Hawaiian-style meats for your non-poke eating friends.

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. I’m not a big fan on chain restaurants, but this one has always been a favorite. Chicken Katsu, Kalua Pork, and a breakfast favorite Loco Moco, L&L is far from lacking in flavor and a much needed break from all the touristy eats along Ali’I Drive. With two locations near Kona Village (Lanihau Center on Palani Rd and another in the Keauhou Shopping Center) and even two locations in Colorado (Colorado Springs and Aurora), you can start training your Hawaiian palate now before heading to the Big Island!

Queen K Tesoro . Sometimes gas station food is just downright good. This is no exception. I found this place after going on a witch hunt for some good spam musubi and a kama’aina led me to this sanctuary of yummy goodness. I fully admit with no shame that I stop here on my way to the airport every trip without fail. Head around to the back of the cash wrap and you’ll find spam musubi rolls of varying sizes, chicken katsu, and other to-go friendly Hawaiian foods.

Ali’I Drive is littered with souvenir shops, ABC stores, you name it. Kona Village used to be a major cruise port stop with ships coming to dock from all over the world. Then 9/11 happened. Most ships come to port on Wednesdays and primarily from the US Mainland, so that’s a good day to get away from the hustle and bustle of Ali’I Drive. If you’re looking for a way to stretch your hard-earned dollars even further, get off the beaten path (if you can) and buy your souvenirs elsewhere. Longs Drugs is my go-to place. Yep, the drug store that is now owned and operated by CVS Pharmacy. From Kona coffee to chocolate covered macadamia nuts, magnets, and everything else you can imagine, go to Longs Drugs. It’s the same stuff you’ll find at the ABC Stores on Ali’I Drive. There are two locations conveniently located near Kona Village. You can head there right after you eat lunch at L&L!

Mamalahoa Hot Tubs and Massage. This little piece of heaven I discovered after racing the Lavaman Triathlon back in 2011. About a 20 minute drive south of Kona Village, this place is well worth stealing your friend’s rental car for a few hours. Each massage includes a 30-minute soak in their six-foot teak wood hot tubs that sit in thatch covered tiki huts. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the middle of a rainforest jungle in a matter of seconds. With only two private therapy rooms (one single and one couples massage), sessions are by appointment only.

Manta Ray Night Dive/Snorkel. If there is one thing you need to do before leaving the Big Island, THIS is it. The Manta Ray Night Dive is the reason I got SCUBA certified. If you’re not SCUBA certified, no worries! Many dive shops offer snorkel options in conjunction with their dive excursions, which is great when there are both divers and snorkelers in a group. I would highly recommend Jack’s Diving Locker. This is the dive shop I finished up my open water certification after completing the classroom and pool training in Colorado. Jack’s has five boats in their fleet, professional staff of highly experienced guides, and offer free transportation from their main shop at the Coconut Grove Marketplace in Kona Village to their boat dock in Honokohau Harbor. Not to mention, the go-to dive shop for Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist and vocalist of the Grateful Dead, with over 300 dives with Jack’s.


Photo by Khem Suthiwan

Paradise Helicopters. Pele has been acting up since May, and what a better time to witness her miracle than by helicopter. A few weeks after she started up I was lucky enough to snag a helicopter ride over the affected area. Definitely the way to go is the “doors-off” tour, where you’re clipped in a 4-point harness and have complete unobstructive views of the land below mid-flight. One of the few companies that do this is Paradise Helicopters out of Hilo. If you have a free day it is well worth the drive over to the other side of the island, but you’ll need to be flexible as weather conditions can always cause potential delays and cancellations. Advanced reservations are required.

There are probably a dozen more items I could add to this list to include Waipio Valley, Mauna Kea Observatory, South Point, and many more. If you’re looking for more suggestions, feel free to reach out to me via e-mail at khem@303colorado.com.

Khem Suthiwan is a staff content editor/media correspondent with 303 Endurance Network, a triathlete, triathlon coach with Mile High Multisport, IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Athlete, member of the Palmares Racing Cycling Team, avid skier, SCUBA diver, finisher of the 2015 IRONMAN World Championship, and a Colorado resident since January 2001.

Behind the Lens at IRONMAN Boulder

By Khem Suthiwan

As a four-time IRONMAN finisher, I’ve really enjoyed being on the other side of the proverbial “fence.” Not only does it give you a way to experience the race without all the training, but the change in perspective gives you a true appreciation of all the moving parts that makes race day happen.

Being behind the lens and capturing so many special moments, you realize there are stories with each grimace, smile, sigh, and hug. One by one as they crossed the finish line, I couldn’t help think about how they’ve been through hell and back…and not just on race day. But every day since the submit button on the registration form was pushed. Because of this I feel some level of responsibility in capturing as many moments as I can, and because of this I thought it would be a good idea to put these thoughts to paper (well, the internet in this case) and share with you all some things I’ve learned and experienced as an amateur race photographer. So here are a few considerations, including some that I’ve shared with the athletes I coach, for the next time you race, spectate, or volunteer at an event.

This guy clearly didn’t get the memo regarding finish line smiles
See! This guy knows how to smile!

Smile. Especially if a camera is pointed at you. You’ll soon forget about all the pain, even if it’s for a quick moment. Otherwise, you’ll have this not so pleasant look in all your race photos and someone will probably hijack it and incorporate it in a meme, or ship you some Metamucil for Christmas. You don’t want that, do you?

Finish Line Catchers. If you’re waiting for your person at the finish line, give them a few moments alone in the spotlight to celebrate their accomplishment before rushing in to hug them. They’ve earned it. Plus, your backside will be forever etched in your friend’s finish line photo, ruining a perfect moment they spent the last 6-8 months training for. Don’t be a dream killer. There were a few times I just gave up and couldn’t take any photos because there were so many people congregating with an athlete. More is not always better in this situation. A volunteer actually heard an athlete tell their friend who was hugging her while jumping up and down, “I’m going to throw up on you if you don’t get off me.” So there’s that potential biological hazard to worry about too.

Sprinting to the Finish Line. Athletes, before you get to the finish line, look in front and behind you. Allow the person in front to have their 5 seconds of fame. Don’t go sprinting to the finish (which means you had way too much gas left in the tank, but that’s a different discussion). You’ll end up ruining finish line photos of two people. Your fellow athlete and YOURS! In this case, photo-bombing is not cool, so don’t do it. Unless you’re okay with being THAT guy…or in my case, that girl from Japan who sprinted past me in the finish line chute in Kona only to hear Mike Reilly call my name first, and then hers as an afterthought because she couldn’t wait. She will be forever known as THAT girl. Choose wisely folks.

This guy, partied a little too much at the finish line. Last call was 2 hours ago. Nice photo bomb buddy.  #FacePalm (pictured here – Meredith Botnick)

Celebrate and Get Out of the Way! If there’s another athlete finishing behind you, be courteous and do your end-zone touchdown dance and clear out. The person behind you should also have the opportunity to celebrate their finish…WITHOUT you in their picture. A set of triplets crossed the finish line at IRONMAN Boulder and spent what seemed like an eternity dancing around the finish line arch. A friend of mine along with several other athletes, were completely robbed of their finish line moment because of these three guys. She was only planning on racing one IRONMAN, so there’s no redo. Thanks guys, thanks a lot.

Distractions. There is nothing more fun at a race than seeing so many friends out racing and spectating. However, there is a time and place for catching up. Working media at a race is an entirely different beast. Not only are we tracking our own friends, but we are also keeping tabs on professional and notable athletes. Time is of essence and we are constantly looking at our watches and athlete trackers. Figuring out where to be and what part of the course. Sometimes we have a short window to use the restroom or grab a quick bite. If we seem distracted and not paying attention to you, it’s not because we don’t care. We have a job to do and don’t want to miss out on capturing special race moments. At IRONMAN Boulder, each Colorado-based athlete had a 303 sticker on their race bib (we hope to continue this tradition). Our mission was to take as many photos of these athletes along with many others. Being ready to point and shoot while two people are chattering in each ear takes sensory overload to a different level.

This is what happens when you leave the Garmin alone. An awesome finish line photo! (pictured here – Justin Maples)

Look Up and Leave the Garmin ALONE! No one on Strava is going to care that your Garmin went over by 20 seconds. Your official finish time will be based on your timing chip, not your GPS tracking device. And if you are wearing a cap or visor, look up. We can’t see your pretty/handsome face if you are looking down at the ground. There’s nothing there but red carpet, concrete, and puddles of puke from the last person whose friend wouldn’t stop jumping up and down and hugging him. Eyes up folks!

Even with all these tips, sometimes the best photos are those capturing the human spirit. You might think you look awful, but someone else might be inspired by that image. Try to look beyond the ratty hair, salt stained clothing, and sunburnt limbs. Because behind that crusty and rough exterior is an awesome story of how that person woke up one day and decided they were going to be an IRONMAN.

You have one shot at an epic finish line photo. Aaron Pendergraft obviously has a lot of practice perfecting this valuable skill. Way to go Aaron!!!

Khem Suthiwan is a 4-time IRONMAN finisher (Canada, Lake Tahoe, Arizona, and Kona), triathlon coach with Mile High Multisport, IRONMAN Foundation Ambassador Athlete, and staff content editor/media correspondent with 303 Endurance Network. In addition to triathlon, she also races for the Palmares Racing cycling team in road and cyclocross. She’s an avid skier, SCUBA dives, and as a Colorado resident since January 2001 – enjoys all things Colorado. On December 31, 2017, she reached Everest Base Camp (elev. 17,600′, 5,380m) after trekking for 8 days in Nepal. If she’s not racing, you can find her out on the course supporting her friends.

303 Media Group Announces New Leadership Through Acquisition by 303 Endurance Network

Dana Willett handing the “keys to the kingdom” to 303 Endurance Network’s Bill Plock

New Leadership at 303 Media Group

April 18th, 2018
Colorado’s 303 media group continues to grow, as long time contributor and business development manager, Bill Plock, today took the leadership role of 303Cycling and 303Triathlon. Bill recently formed the 303 Endurance Network and will add in 303Cycling and 303Triathlon with a vision of expanding the 303 brand to help build and connect even larger endurance communities.

“Our mission has always been, and will always be, about enriching the lives of people who participate in endurance sports. For now, that focus will still be on cycling and multi-sport where there are so many opportunities to grow. I want to make a slight, but possibly very impactful change, and that is to focus on the lifestyle of those passions and also to always remember that the camaraderie and community we play and work in, is what really matters. Everyone is the news, and in Colorado, one of the key endurance markets nationally, our local news is national news,” says Bill Plock.

303Cycling was started in 2007 by Kris Thompson and David Kutcipal. In 2012 Dana Willett joined the leadership team, launching 303Triathlon and eventually taking over both sites as majority partner and Editor in Chief in 2014. Today the network sees over 300,000 annual visitors. Dana will continue in the role of associate editor and key advisor.

The majority of the existing 303 team will remain in place, with Jen Findley, Khem Suthiwan and Cheri Felix all contributing and helping bring the endurance community the best local news, event coverage, education and entertainment possible.

“We have some additional key staff members, ambassadors and partners lined up to help us expand our current offerings and grow our network, so stay tuned for those announcements soon,” says Bill. “I’m beyond excited, and I love Colorado and this lifestyle and I think there is so much opportunity to reach more people and give them a fun and informative experience every single day!”

For more information, please email Bill Plock (Bill@303Colorado.com), or visit the 303 web sites, 303cycling.com and 303Triathlon.com, and visit 303 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Mile High Endurance Podcast: Run Your Fat Off

Another great book from Dr. Jason Karp. Hear key insights on how to get the fat off and keep it off with the book “Run Your Fat Off”. We also talk about the definition of metabolic efficiency, injury prevention and more. Hosts Rich Soares and Khem Suthiwan. Listen to the podcast.