When I qualified for Kona at Ironman Florida in 2009, I never knew how lucky I was. I did know that if I didn’t take that Kona slot that I would lose my honorary triathlete badge, so I signed up for the 2010 World Championship Ironman. At that time people would ask me if I was excited about going to Kona and my response was always, “Not really.” I lived in Florida, so how different could Hawaii be?!? How very wrong I was. There is nothing like Kona, especially being there the week of the Ironman.
We stayed at the King K host hotel. We were smack dab in the middle of the action. A triathlete’s paradise, there were tons of vendors giving away lots of gear. Alii Drive, which is part of the run course, had tables up and down the street with even more free stuff. Even on the swim course there were freebies. It was pretty cool swimming out to the Coffee boat to get a cup of coffee and a chance to win BlueSeventy goggles. I’ll never forget that wonderful Lava Java coffee! I was always one of the first people in line early in the morning to get my delicious cup of java. While my husband and I would sip on our coffee on the front porch of Lava Java, we’d marvel at all of the super fit triathletes running very fast down the street.
The Triathlon Kona Camp was a blast and so informative. The last day of camp was the very same day that I married my training partner and best friend, Mike. A lot of my new camp friends were there during the ceremony. An awesome day!
There was always something going on, like the Parade of Nations, a kid’s mini triathlon (Pro’s children racing each other,) the Underwear Run (fun and crazy,) and lots of parties, like the Slowtwitch Party (a mansion on the water,) and the PowerBar breakfast (my daughter and I had our backpacks busting at the seams with PowerBar gear and nutrition freebies.)
So, every year at this time, I am reading all that I can on what’s going on that magical week in Kona, my heart aching to be there. When I saw the Tri Sirena booth at Augusta 70.3 this year, I fell in love with one of their amazing shirts. The shirt said, "I left my 'heart' in Kona". Wow, how true that is! I hope to go back to Kona again soon. Once you go to the World Championship Ironman in Kona, whether you are competing or not, you never are the same again.
Written by: Stephanie Liles
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