Kona High above the Lava
Written by: Devashish Paul
Added: Mon Oct 15 2012
Racing is certainly an important part of the sport, but along the lines of smelling the roses along the way there is much more that all of us, both pros and age groupers can gain from the sport. The camaraderie, experiences, the people and the places are some of the greatest parts about being an athlete. Long after we are retired from racing the various splits, race results, podiums, or personal bests are likely to all disappear into a big blur just like revenue numbers, market share and growing brands may also disappear into a haze when we look back at our lives in the business world. Instead, what we will remember are the people, the places and the amazing experiences. Sometimes, they may indeed happen in racing but more often than not they will happen outside of racing.
Dan Empfield and Herbert Krabel have provided me with the opportunity to contribute to Slowtwitch.com on the topic of triathlon lifestyle. Cool workouts, training around work, jobs, kids, epic workouts, cool places to travel to for triathlon and triathlon related adventures are some of the areas we’ll try to cover more actively. Stuff that most age groupers live and breathe. So what better first subject to cover than one of the hardest rides in Hawaii, in the words of none other than Chris Lieto. Dan Empfield, decided that he wanted to round up a group of athletes to go from sea level to 5100 feet above sea level in one shot on Wednesday before Ironman Hawaii. Needless to say, the ride would be populated entirely by non athletes or should I say, by athletes not participating in Saturday’s Ironman World Championship event. Given its severity the likelihood of athletes competing in Saturday showing up to ride was almost zero.
Like most athletes, our view of Kona is down at the lava field level. Norman Stadler winning Kona from the front, or Mirinda Carfrae gliding gracefully over the lava putting down yearly 2:52 run splits. Just this weekend, we had Pete Jacobs mixing it up with the top bikers, something that had eluded him in previous tries, while Leanda Cave stepping to the top while converting herself to an athlete with no weaknesses, closing the deal on the run.
Some of the athletes were well equipped with 34x32 gearing (yes on tri bikes), while others had the gearing that shear off the knee caps, but provide bragging rights that might last a lifetime. Those that made it up on 39x25 ended up having the moral high ground. The crew on 34x32, pushed the outer limit on what barely works on a road or tri bike, but they truly had a huge advantage. While the lava fields are all about power to coefficient of drag, Kaloko is all about power to weight ratio. If this climb was part of the Hawaii ironman, a diminutive pro like Romaine Guillaume at all of 5’6” and 135 lbs might indeed come off the bike at or ahead of the likes of Marino Vanhoenacker. The little guy was still able to come off the bike with some massive bike engines on Oct 13th, notably Faris Al Sultan, Pete Jacobs and Fredrick Van Lierde!
Between 50-60 minutes later the group all summited, reveling in a challenge that was completed. From way up top, through the trees there are several spots that you can see the Kona race course, but it is literally like you are viewing it from an airplane. Kaloko is one of many climbs in the near vicinity of the town of Kailua Kona. During the race, we barely do 2% of the entire climb in going up Palani to the QueenK. There is always discussion about big draft packs on the QueenK and as you would expect, with athletes who are fans of this race, we wondered what WTC could do if they just took the race up Palani up to the Hawaii Belt road at 2000 feet above sea level and then connected down from Waimea to the QueenK (or something along those lines). Getting off the grid let our imaginations run wild on “what it can be”. But none of us expect WTC to change anything. There is too much legacy and history in the current course. But for just a morning in an October in Kona, Empfield did what he often does best, which is getting triathletes exploring their limits, be it with equipment innovation like wetsuits or tri bikes, or getting us to push our training limits.
Following race day, a new Kaloko Mountain triathlon was explored. Swim 1 mile in Kailua Bay, ride 5100 feet to the summit of Kaloko going straight up Palani to Kaloko and back down and ending with T2 back at the Pier for a run on Alii Drive. This could be a fun training day for spectators and friends supporting real athletes getting you guys off the grid. Like Savageman or the Alpe D’Huez tri, we expect that in future years athletes with show up well geared, especially the masters guys whose knee caps are already somewhat questionable from a lifetime of run mileage.
In October of 2012 Dev Paul was on a business in Seoul, Korea and while he has been there 4 times over the last 6 years, this was the first time he made it to the Olympic stadium there - and he put it to good use. 11.13.12
The Top of the Rock of Gibraltar is at about 1000 feet of elevation and running the 2.75 miles from sea level is quite a challenge. Devashish Paul chatted with local resident and slowtwitcher Chris Walker about the Rock and more. 12.04.12
Few triathlon events are developed to take advantage of natural topology; they seem to tend more so to fit standard distances and attract larger fields, but there are indeed exceptions. 1.16.13
A triathlon does not need to be something you register for, pay for and get finisher gear. Just like a run or a bike ride, a triathlon can be self-generated as was this Mauna Kea Triathlon. 1.22.13
The annual Kona Slowtwitch gathering at the Cytomax / Muscle Miilk house powered by blueseventy was a huge success and over 330 people showed up and had a good time. 10.12.12
Now in its 15th year, the Kona Underpants Run is bigger than ever. The idea was to make fun of insensitive Euros who paraded around Kona streets and offended locals by wearing Speedos. Crazy, eh? 10.11.12