The IRONMAN World Championship centers on the dedication and courage exhibited by participants who demonstrate the IRONMAN mantra that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.® On October 12th, over 2,000 athletes will embark on a 140.6-mile journey that presents the ultimate test of body, mind and spirit to earn the title of IRONMAN.
The 2019 Wait List is now closed – All slots from the wait list have been filled. Thank you for interest in the race. We hope to see you at the starting line for the 2020 race. Race date is April 5th, 2020 and registration will open up in May, 2019.
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!
RELAXATION 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.
ADVENTURE 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
In this story from the Telegraph, Tim Don’s story of recovery from being hit on the bike just days before last year’s IRONMAN World Championship is detailed, including the five holes drilled into his head for his halo device.
Read about Tim Don’s life-threatening crash in Kona HERE
From the Telegraph
Tim Don: how the fastest ever Ironman shook off a broken neck to keep on running
In October 2017, Tim Don was cycling in Kailua-Kona on the island of Hawaii, one of the southernmost islands in the secluded American state. The British athlete was putting the finishing touches on months of training ahead of the biggest race of his career: the Ironman World Championship.
But Don, a three-time Olympic triathlete, didn’t get to take part in that race in Hawaii. Three days before the big day, while cycling along a designated lane, he was t-boned by a car turning into a petrol station. Thirty minutes later Don woke up on his way to hospital with a broken neck. It was a day before his daughter’s birthday; he feared he might never compete again.
But there’s definitely something setting athletes apart – particularly those of extreme sports or extreme distances. While most would take as long as possible to recover, Don had itchy feet within days. Despite the pain, and against doctors’ advice, he was back on the exercise bike within three weeks. “The screws kept coming loose”, he explains. “They had to keep screwing them back into my skull. One came loose so many times it was making a big indentation. They were worried they’d puncture the skull.” And then, the understatement of the century: “It’s pretty intense”.
Just four months on, Don is training for the Boston Marathon in April, with the ultimate goal of realising his dream in Hawai’i this year…
I’m struggling to know what to share with you. There is so much. So much. Joy. Triumph. Sadness. Perseverance. Grit. Guts. Tenacity. The list is super long!
The results of the Ironman World Championships are not measured by a clock, or a place on a podium or by a Garmin. They are measured by smiles, tears and hugs. By racing and watching this race, we make huge deposits in the experience bank of our souls that serve us later in life.
It’s hard to share an epic event like this without using a cliche. I need to remember that to “narrow your focus broadens your appeal” and as one of the eyes and ears of 303triathlon, my “job” is to share with you and try to find relativity in this ocean of stories. Imagine you are on the pier and 2,400 boats appear on the horizon intending to land. Each one from a different place, maybe a different continent, maybe even from a country you didn’t know existed. Each boat carries stories and dreams and some are captained alone but most come with a crew. But they all have one goal. To finish.
Being in Kona for race week is like being on a captive island of history and tradition drawing these boats in like a compass faces north. The triathlon world focuses here for the week. Even if the Ironman distance is not your race of choice, the challenge of the sport clearly radiates here. Experts and those in the industry greet all of these boats, and in our case meeting legends like Bob Babbitt and Mike Reilly to share the history and meaning of this race just make the landing that much richer.
I encourage you to listen to those interviews to gain a true perspective on what happens here and what HAS happened here. What I have learned, and continue to learn each time I am here, is that to know the history, and to respect the race is essential to understand its epic nature.
With the focus on Colorado and our saturation of this race with 54 athletes toeing the line we have a lot share—and a lot to be thankful for. It feels like family. With all those boats landing and people scurrying everywhere, to latch on to a familiar smile, to know just a few stories is like finding a life preserver in rough unknown waters.
We at 303 see ourselves as a bridge to you. A place where you can see what happens when your friends and loved ones landed here with 2,346 other athletes. Yes some came here to win it all, and our local pro, Andy Potts, was the first American across the line. We in Colorado have a lot to be proud of.
The other 53 athletes persevered. We tried to share moments of each of their journeys and for any we may have missed, it wasn’t for lack of trying. And you made Colorado proud and it was such an honor to share your journey with our readers and subscribers a few thousand miles away. Even with technology of instant connectivity, it’s the intangible flow of like-minded energy and a love of this sport and a love of every journey we encountered, that hopefully rushed at the speed of light into your hearts. We hope you felt what we did, and sharing that and feeling such a wonderful community in Colorado at the “Super Bowl” of triathlon is what makes being at this race epic.
Be proud 303 Nation. We have the most amazing triathlon community in the world.
For anyone who has raced, volunteered, or spectated at the IRONMAN World Championship, you know that being there is quite the experience. From the Kona Underpants Run and Dig Me swim out to the coffee boat, there are a handful of Kona traditions.
One of the long-standing traditions is the Parade of Nations.
Much like the one from the Olympics, athletes from all over the world band together in solidarity representing their countries. Some show organized efforts with clever t-shirts and themed costumes. Year after year, the countries with large and proud turnouts include Great Britain, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand.
So the question is, why did the United States with 751 athletes (largest of all countries) only had 40 show up to the Parade of Nations this year? Did 711 athletes think it was “too cool for school” to be part of this iconic Kona tradition?
The “Heart of Ironman,” Bob Babbitt talks about Ironman racing from its inception – day one when he ate hamburgers and fries and prepared for it to be a 2 day event–he didn’t know it was supposed to be a one day event. He paid $25 to race on his bike with a raccoon skin seat cover and Hawaiian sweet bread stuffed in his pocket. He shared some great stories in a way only Bob can do. Have a listen and see how this history fueled his passion that later paved the way to his greatest passion, that of heading the Challenged Athlete Foundation. You will feel inspired listening to this. He has lived it, and loved it, and given his heart to this sport.
I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to travel with 303Triathlon to the 2016 IRONMAN World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i. While it was a “working trip,” that work was about reporting on the event experience. In order to do that, I had to participate in as much as I could!
There was a lot packed into my week there, so I’ll share the highlights, observations, and some general thoughts on the experience.
I treasured the opportunity to swim in Kailua Bay. This is the starting point of an event that tests even the best of athletes. In addition to it being a beautiful swim, to know that the legends of the past, present, and future swim here is inspiring.
The athletes that get here put in a tremendous amount of work to do so. The commitment to do what it takes to be in the IRONMAN World Championships can be applied to any aspect of your life.
It is truly an international event, and great to see where everyone is from in the Parade of Nations. 64 countries were represented this year, including a female from Iran. Walking around the streets of Kona you hear many different languages.
There is a lot of tradition in this event. It’s an opportunity to learn about Hawaiian culture in addition to racing. And eat some new foods. The way tradition and ritual is built into the event makes it more than just another championship race.
There are educational opportunities in addition to social activities. (It’s possible to do too much, but if you choose events and rest times carefully, you can make it work!)
Our 303 team got invited to the Thank God I’m Not Racing party hosted by Bob Babbitt.
Dana, Coach Nicole, and Michelle at the Thank God I’m Not Racing Party with our medals!
There are different levels of athletes racing here. I’m sure there were a few exceptions, but it seemed everyone was thankful and appreciative that they had the opportunity to race on the big island.
Volunteers are critical for this event. Thousands of them! They didn’t seem to mind getting up at 3am or standing out in the heat for long periods of time. Without volunteers there couldn’t be an event.
The energy of the finish line is incredible. People stay and cheer for hours, all the way until the final finisher crosses the line.
My final thoughts: Work hard for what you want, play hard, and be sure to enjoy the opportunities that come your way.
60 Seconds in Kona! Today D3 athlete Brian Lambert hits the hot Hawaiian pavement for one last workout… Check out the video!
303’s Nicole Odell took an in-depth look at the Stryd running power meter, participating in a practice run Tuesday morning and then sitting in on a panel conference yesterday – check out her story on this revolutionary new device that is changing how athletes run, around the world.
303’s Khem Suthiwan continues to add Celebrity Selfies to her star-studded Facebook album – take a look!
Cobb Cycling held an event just for women, addressing the fine line between aggressive position and comfort… Cobb says you can have it all. 303’s Nicole Odell reports.
The Pro Panel opened with a “State of Ironman” address by Andrew Messick, who told us this year brings the largest field of women for Kona at 30%. This press event brought together pro athletes Daniela Ryf, Mirinda Carfrae, Julia Gajer, Heather Jackson, Melissa Hauschildt, Kaisa Lehtonen, Sebastian Kienle, Brent McMahon, Tim O’Donell, Andy Potts, and Tim Van Berkel. Check out the Facebook Live videos – lots of fun banter among the men: “I’ve missed him (Sebastian Kienle) all year. I’ve had to pay for my own dinners…” – Jan Frodeno. #bromance#IRONMAN