Top 6 Tips for Spectating the Ironman World Championships in Kona
October 12, 2018
So, your significant other, brother, sister, parent or 3rd cousin twice removed has qualified for Kona and, of course, you have decided to make the huge “sacrifice” to travel to Hawaii and support them on race day. Being in one of the most beautiful places on the planet there will be plenty to keep you busy in the days leading up to the race, which is good because, speaking from experience – it is best to stay out of your respective athletes way before since tapering and pre-race jitters can make some, never me, a bit on the testy side. This article is not for that, google “things to do in Kona” and you’re good. This article is for how to have the best spectator race day possible, which is no easy feat. It is a loooong day and it will be hot and sunny, and hot. Did I mention it is hot there? These are my top 6 tips for nailing your spectator race day.
1. Prepare like you are racing. As mentioned it is going to be a long day – just like the Athlete Which You Are Watching (AWYAW). The night before the AWYAW will be prepping all their nutrition, you should be doing the same. Make sure you bring plenty of snacks and drinks to keep you fueled throughout the day. Also when the AWYAW gets up at an ungodly hour to eat – get up as well and have a good breakfast that will keep you topped up for a few hours.
2. Think about where you want to watch the swim start. The Kona swim start is one of the coolest things you will see in all of sports. Thousands of triathletes thrashing in water with multiple helicopters buzzing by, music blaring and Mike Reily commentating is epic! So you want to make sure have a primo spot. Couple options, one, get to the break wall by Digme beach super early, like 4am early. This area fills up fast and is right at transition so this where all the action happens. Two, head down to the park behind the Kona Inn. This is way less busy so you can sleep in a bit but still has an amazing vantage of the swim start. You can also get a really good perspective of all the swimmers and good view of the entire race course.
3. Hot corner then breakfast at Hugo’s. If you stay to watch the AG woman’s swim start from the Kona Inn then you will have just enough time to make it to the hot corner (Palani and Kuakini) to see to top pros come screaming by. This is also a pretty good spot to hang out and wait for the AWYAW. After this there will be about 4+hrs of downtime to enjoy until the AWYAW come back into town so now is a great time for some well-deserved second breakfast. Everyone will be lined up to get in to Lava Java but the best breakfast in town is Hugo’s about 1km south from the swim start. Amazing view, great food and little to no line up.
4. Take a coffee break. So the AWYAW has crushed the bike and is now spending some quality time running an out and back section on Alii Drive. In between cheers check out the San Francisco Bay Coffee Bar right in the middle of town on Alii Drive. Air conditioning, Wi-Fi and fresh made juice. Enough said.
5. Head out to Palani Hill and Queen K to watch the first pro’s finish. Once you get to the top of Palani the spectators begin thin out. Take a left on the Queen K and walk a bit further and you will be practically by yourself. This is a great spot for a number of reasons, firstly it’s at the top of a hill so you will be have a telescopic view of the eventual winner as they head into town. Secondly, because it is at the top of a hill and there is still a few kms left to the finish you will be able to see the full level of suffering and focus on the eventual winners face before the adrenaline and the cheering crowds of the finish shoot guise their pain. Yes, this is a bit twisted to want to watch people suffer, but if you are a triathlete, you get off on that stuff. Thirdly, for the triathlon geek, this is a very famous hill in triathlon history since this is the spot Mark Allen pulled away from Dave Scott in the epic 1989 race Iron War.
6. Finish line at midnight. This is a no brainer. You will be tired but just go anyway, it’s worth it!