Ironman World Championship spectator tips!

Tomorrow IS the day!!
For 7-17 hours, triathletes and fans will be glued to the internet all day long (or watching live on the big island) to watch 1500+ age group and professional endurance triathletes race for 140.6 miles on the biggest stage of endurance sports. 

The waves, heat and wind will all be conquered as one female and male professional athlete become the Ironman World Champion and many athletes will follow to become Ironman World Championship finishers.

The Ironman World Championship medals are very hard to earn but when one is around your neck, you know the commitment, refusal to give up and hard work was all worth it.

Without a doubt, tomorrow is the Superbowl, Olympics, Wimbledon, Formula One, Final Four, World Series of the sport of triathlon.
Tomorrow is the  2014 Ironman World Championship!!!

Tomorrow is the day when fitness enthusiasts turn into athletes. The though of training for a 5K or sprint triathlon will quickly become an afterthought. By Sunday, our society will likely have gained hundreds of new soon-to-be athletes with a race on their schedule and a training plan to start by Monday. 

Tomorrow is the day when athletes dream just a bit bigger. Watching the best athletes in the sport of triathlons is inspiring and hearing stories of athletes who prove that anything is possible kinda makes us all question our silly little excuses and doubts. 

Tomorrow is the day when so many of us will sit at the edge of our seat, glued to the computer (or TV) to marvel over fit, trained, well-fueled bodies in motion (of all ages and sizes) and be in awe as to how amazing the human body (and mind) can be when called into action. 

Tomorrow is the day when 1500+ age group and professional athletes make a dream turn into a reality and for all of us watching from home (or on the island), it's so incredible that a one-day sporting event can change lifestyles.... and can even change lives. 

What's your athletic dream?
Is it a World Championship event or conquering a new distance with your body?
Never limit yourself as to what your body can do and don't be afraid of the work that it may take to reach your goals.

The big island of Kona is a magical place during IM week. There's a lot of triathlon history on that special island. 

Karel and I are already counting down the days until the 2015 Ironman World Championship. A day that was once a dream, is now a reality.

Karel and I realize that we have an incredible opportunity to race together in Kona next year but we want you to be part of it. 

Because as a 3x Ironman World Championship finisher, I can tell you that nothing compares to IM Kona. 

It is truly a magical place that should be on everyone's bucket list regardless if you race or not.

And with this being Karel's first IM World Championship, my 10th Ironman and our first World Championship together, we would LOVE to have you enjoy the island with us!
(there is never an easy Ironman but the Kona IM really tests your limits so all cheers are welcomed!)

If you think it is inspiring, exciting and motivating to watch the Ironman World Championship on TV/computer, just imagine the experience if you were there in person!
Swimming with dolphins, hanging out with the professionals, running on the famous Ali'i drive.....

If you are thinking about spectating or volunteering at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, here are a few of my tips.


1) Book your hotel/condo/house as soon as possible. Yes, even 1 year out as the key spots fill-up quickly. Check VRBO.com.
(our condo is booked, we are staying at Kona Plaza)

2) If you are a spectator and wanting to be involved in all things Kona week, I personally recommend to stay as close as possible to the race venue. Here is a map of Kona condo's along Ali'i drive (the first out/back section of the run course). What's close? Within 2 miles will allow you to easily get to town by foot but 6 miles or less is still considered "close" by car (although expect some on and off traffic on Ali'i drive all week). There are houses for rent which may be a more practical option for you and your family/friends rather than being close to the venue.

3) There is something to do for the entire family and there is no way you will get bored in Kona during IM week. I recommend to stay no less than 5 days (although I can honestly say that 5 days is not enough time to get your full IM Kona experience). I recommend arriving no later than Wednesday and leaving no earlier than Sunday. Remember, the race is on a Saturday!

4) Don't forget to bring your cap and goggles. Spectators can swim at "dig me beach" anytime as it is a public swim location (and the start of the IM). You can swim to the coffee boat, use your GoPro to take pictures of the fishies in the clear blue water and you may even get lucky and see some sea turtles and dolphins!

5) There are events all week during Kona week for everyone! The schedule on Ironman.com does not change much year after year so you can expect the same events such as the Kona Underpants run, Parade of Nations, IronKids Dip n' Dash, PATH 5K and 10K, Ho'ala 2.4 mile swim, race expo, pro briefing and welcome banquet/banquet of champions. 

6) If you have a favorite triathlon brand, it is likely at the expo. You do not want to miss the expo as well as the many opportunities to interact with the pros and major triathlon companies. Get ready for free swag and many opportunities to buy new gear (of course, a lot of it will come with a logo that you have been to the IM World Championship!)

7) Parking can be tight on race week and the roads are closed all day on race day. Depending on where you stay, expect to walk a lot on race day. To help you get around (ex. farmers market, grocery, race venue) you can also rent a bike (way ahead of time as they go fast!) or buy an inexpensive bike at Wal-mart or in/outside of town and then give the bike to a local kid (or person in need of a bike) before you leave the island. Mopeds are also popular.

8) A rental car is highly encouraged if you plan to do some sightseeing around the island. If you plan to stay only in town, you can take a taxi from the airport (it's about a 20-25 minute ride to town).

9) Book your flight somewhere between 6-3 months out for the best rates (~$600-$1500 per ticket is a rough estimate depending on where you are traveling from). Also, if traveling over a few time zones, expect hoping from plane to plane. Kona is 6 hours earlier than EST.

10) Do not feel pressure to bring your own bike. Although you can expect lots of triathletes riding out on the Queen K hwy (which is where most of the 112 mile bike course takes place), you will be able to stay extremely active by running, walking and swimming. You may end up getting fitter in Kona because well, everyone is moving all the time! And even if you don't like open water swimming, you will absolutely love swimming in the Kona crystal blue"fish tank".
Bring your run/walking shoes. There are many "aid stations" set up on Ali'i drive from sport nutrition companies so you will have no shortage of fuel/hydration. Bring you camera as you will likely see a pro or two running next to you or across the street!
If you want to take a visit to (or run in) the natural energy lab (which is miles 16-20 of the marathon run, special needs is placed in the energy lab around mile 17-18), it is around 6 miles away from town.
(When Karel brought his bike in 2011 to watch me race, he never rode on the Queen K to train. Instead he headed up the mountain and said the roads were extremely challenging and steep...but a lot of fun to descend!)

11) If you want to get really involved, volunteer. Check the website to find out what volunteer options are available and without a doubt you will love giving up a few hours of your time in Kona to be part of this amazing event. 

12) Spectating is exhausting! Don't over-exhaust yourself on race day. Here are my recommendations as to what you may enjoy the most:
*Swim start is exciting but you have to get there early to get a spot close enough to see anything. If you are staying at the King K hotel or another close hotel (ex. Kona Ali or Kona Plaza) you may be able to see the swim start from afar.
*Watch the pros getting on to their bikes or head to Palani drive, anywhere around the "hot corner" to watch your favorite age groupers twice on the beginning section of the bike course.
*With a lot of time to "waste" in Kona, head back to your room (if you are close) and watch the LIVE coverage which will give you behind the scenes of everything going on (if you have internet access). You can also get a bite to eat downtown or go for a swim. Plan for at least 4 hours to relax and stay out of the sun so you do not exhaust yourself.
*Ali'i drive is packed with spectators for the run and you have at least 6 miles in town that you can place yourself for the run (and see athletes twice)
*Many condo's are on the water edge, on the run course so this is a great option if you have kids/family members that may not be able to stay in town all day but want to watch some of the athletes run by.
*Keep in mind that the male pro's will be on the run course by noontime so you may want to catch the pros before your favorite age groupers come a few hours later.
*Spectators are not allowed past a certain point on the Queen K Hwy for the run so once you see your fav triathlete go by in town (and out on the Queen K for the last 1/2 of the run), try to get a spot to watch the pros finish along Ali'i drive. Great places to watch (if you can't get directly on the finish line chute) would be Kuakini Hwy (which is also the first out and back section of the bike in town) and Hualalai drive.
*You do not want to miss the last hour so make sure you get a little rest (and eat) before you head back to the finish line around 11pm (remember, the course will be closed so plan accordingly in the evening hours). 

13) Share this experience with others. Every triathlete knows the history behind the Ironman World Championship event and it may even be the reason why you got into your sport to prove that anything is possible. Sure, it may be the greatest spectacle for endurance sports but do you even need to convince your friends/family to travel with you to a beautiful, sunny, warm island in October?

Hope to see you there in 2015!