Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Hawaii ironman course - a quick run through

So in under 2days, the class of 2012 will be tackling the most revered race on the Ironman circuit, the Hawaii Ironman World Championships on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Going to give you an appreciation of what the course is like.
The swim course

The Swim
1lap course course which goes out 1.6km the far turn it is 100yards across, then back to the pier.

Now for the fun stuff.

Standing on the pier in the days leading up, looking out to the far can see it! It just vanishes off into the distance along the coast. One word to describe it, its BIG, oh and non wetsuit just to add to the fun.

The swim starts next to the pier. Its a wide start, extending from the pier diagonally across to the shore.

At its busiest point near the pier, the competition on the front row when the gun sounds can be ferocious. The best from every race in the world are there, and they all want to win. For those not as keen, you can be back and or across for a more gentle start if there is a such a spot.

Pic i took rec'eing the course
79degrees, ahhhhhh. the water is crystal clear and you can see fish and coral for most of the swim.

At the far turn, it gets deep, beautiful blue deep water.

Swim wise, expecting to predict your swim time, well good luck! Depending on the current your swim time can blow out by 7-10mins, so don't get the yips if you get a surprise when you exit the water and look at the clock.

There is probably about a cool 12million dollars worth of bike sitting on the pier awaiting their riders arrival. Its military precision. Like an Ironman escorted to your chair, helpers everywhere applying sunscreen, helping where they can.

The Pier TI

The difference though is the urgency compared to other Ironman (refer back to best athletes in the world)
You run out, your bike is racked in a BOX, so the wheel sits in a box to hold it up, something different at Hawaii, and out you go!

The Bike
1 lap , and in the first 100m a hill, left onto Kuakini and then you do a bit of a town circuit. Riders head out in the opposite direction along Kuakini Hwy up a 3-4% hill for a few kilometers, then back down, up the wall of noise at Palani, which is fairly steep, then left onto the Ka'ahamanu Hwy and out you go to Hawi and back.

Climb up Palani
Now for the fun stuff.

When you come out of T1, there is a wall of noise, you do a town circuit and then head up the first climb along Kaukini Hwy. Its a climb, but your feet aren't toughing the pedals! You turn around and fly back down the hill.

There is a right hand turn into Palani, which is a sharp climb, but you have spectators on either side, its like a wall of noise. Just before you run onto the Queen K, the German Hannes travel cheer squad with their horns rev you up, yelling MORE POWER in their viking helmets! Then its on.

The first section along the Queen K is fast, usually wind behind and relatively flat. So super fast. its still a bit sheltered and with you full of gas its hard to hold back

The next section around Waikaloa is where the wind can turn. There are rollers and the course becomes more lumpy. To add to to that is the radiant heat coming off the lava on both sides of the road. So heat is your main issue on the bike...oh and wind, but this year looks like its going to be ok.

The wind - Hawaii is unusual, as you can get about 4wind changes on the way out and back. it can gust pretty bad on the heavy day. So if you don't like the wind, wait a while and it will change! : )

Ok, at the end of the Queen k, there is a turn to the left at Kawaihae. you turn off the hwy and down a hill, which is quite abrupt, you may not notice this, but you will on the way back ; )
The long road
Past a refinery, then right and the start of the 17mile step climb to Hawi.
The wind can change again here, usually its a headwind. There are cuttings , so if it blows, you can go quiet when going thru the cutting, then suddenly the wind is on full tap when you  hit the next gully.

A little prior to Hawi, it can go all green with pastures, although it was parched and dry when i did it last year, unlike 2001.
Here's a funny story. In 01, i was climbing along this section, and it started to rain. it was blue sky, i thought, what the heck! What was happening was the rain was coming from the middle of the island from the clouds that rise around the volcanoes. Literally 10's and 10's of miles away. Big wind that year!

Turn at Hawi, which is a quaint little town known for its waterfalls and coffee, and then back again.

On the way back if it blows, it can be a war of attrition. So have something well in the tank at Hawi.

The Run
Firstly it will head out along Kuakini Hwy, and divert back onto Ali'i Drive. It heads in the opposite direction to the other turn at the Energy lab out for a few of miles along Ali'i to the Kahalu'u Beach Park. Turns around and heads back to town.
A turn to the right and up Palani (steep hill) and then left onto the Queen K. You hear out about 8kms to the turn into the Energy Lab. Its a 4km run on a slight down hill dogleg to the right and then the turn at the far end of the course. From there you head back onto the Queen K, down Palani, along Kuakini and down the finish along Ali'i drive.

Now for the fun stuff.

It can be tough to find your rhythm early. you may have been grinding hard into the wind, so sand up straight son and go!
Nice part of the course
The run along Ali'i is good, you can see the ocean and it isn't too hot. Lots of spectators especially in the town section and as you go last lava java, (nice coffee)
Hit the first check at the turn and then back through town.
Hitting the right hand turn at Palani is tough, the hill is solid and unrelenting.

Then you get onto the Queen K, this section, once you clear the town is a tough one. 8k out to the lab turn. Its hot, it quiet, hardly any spectators. This is where the pros make their move. Generally it is more up then downhill too.

If you can hold tough, once you get to the energy lab section, its a gentle downhill, then flat, and turn around. Of course the run back up to the HWY can be tough especially if you are struggling.

Once back on the Queen K, its a slog back to the last couple of kms along the Queen K.

The finish is not too far away, but still far enough. This is where you see runners start to surge a touch. When you get to the Palani descent, its on from there, you can tend to go and know you will get to the line.

Pic of Crowie i took in 09', just prior to entering Ali'i Drive
Running parallel to Ali'i, you run for a km or so along Kuakini, then make the turn into Ali;i around the block.

This part is awesome, and you feel like you are running on air.
make the most of it, soak it up, accept the adoration. its awesome.
Then you finish the Hawaii Ironman World Championships

That's the course, so jealous not to be there this year, wishing all the competitors the best have an awesome day!


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