Going to Kona? Some tips for the planning stage.

Are you one of the  Ironman athletes who earned yourself a spot on the starting line at Kona this year? 

CONGRATULATIONS!

Everyone who trains and competes in an Ironman impresses me and those who qualify for Hawaii I am especially excited for. I am not an Ironman triathlete so I haven’t physically trained for an Ironman and I don’t know about mentally preparing for the race or what it’s like to race the distance. However, I am an Ironman wife experiencing the Road to Kona first hand – Ironman is very much a family affair!

Maybe you are like me – an excited Ironman supporter heading to Kona?

I was one of the loudest “Woo Hoos” in the roll down ceremony in Melbourne this year, cheering for my husband who qualified for his third time. I am super excited!

YES I am excited even though it’s not the first time. YES I am being selfish in my excitement that I am thinking about a Hawaiian holiday BUT I was also cheering with pride. I was cheering because I saw first hand the training, the dedication, the juggling and the determination my husband goes through to get to the start line. I see the race pan out in front of me and see the pain he has to push through to achieve his goal. Although it isn’t easy, it’s also very special.

So its eight weeks to race day, and even less before we all pack our bags and head to the heat and island life. So how is the planning going?

Now that we are close enough to count down the weeks, and the competitors are in serious training mode, I thought I would post weekly about what else needs to be planned in order to get the competitor, family and friends to the starting line of the Ironman World Championships  – because it’s not all about the training!!

My tips will be most useful for first time visitors or a good reminder to those returning like us.

By now I hope you have booked the flights and accommodation, and if you haven’t you better get moving! (see at the bottom of this post for some accommodation links)

Next on the agenda for us is Inter-Island Flights and and figuring out what mode of transport we will need to get around.

konafromplane2010

INTER-ISLAND FLIGHTS

We left the inter-island flights to this week as we were undecided on where we would go after and I can tell you that the Monday flights out of The Big Island are getting scarce and there are none in the morning – so get booking if you haven’t already!

Give yourself plenty of time between your international arrival and the flight to The Big Island if you are not stopping over in Oahu. Although you don’t have far to go to the check-in you do have to get through US customs. Two years ago, not only did we miss our flight thanks to a very confusing self-service check-in with no one helping but then at the other end we had to wait around for our bike which had to catch the flight after us!  Not a great start to our journey.

Many flights back to Australia leave early in the morning from Oahu so likely you will need to spend one night in Honolulu. Give yourself enough time to visit the big shopping complexes like Alamoana Centre as there is no big store shopping on The Big Island.

Post-race Monday is the most popular day for departures from the island so, as mentioned above, flights are booking out so don’t leave it too long to secure.

If you can get a window seat do it –  it is quite a magical sight coming in to land on an airstrip amongst lava fields by a sparkling blue ocean.

walkingaroundkona2010

ISLAND TRANSPORT

Do you hire a car, moped, bikes for the family or walk everywhere? Really depends on where your accommodation is and how long you are staying. Our first visit (with young kids) we hired a car and although useful at times felt it was a big expense that wasn’t utilised enough. Our second visit (without kids) was a shorter visit and we stayed at the King Kam so we survived walking everywhere.

Here are my thoughts on the different options and some tips for planning:

Staying near the race hub and only over race week? You may not need a car. All race related activities are walking distance and on race day you don’t leave town. The Honu Express Keauhou Trolley bus travels along Ali’i Drive and stops at shops and beaches in the local area or you can grab a taxis to pop up to the supermarket. If you book a couple of tours out of town they will organise transport.

Staying out of Kona town, have small kids or keen to get out on the Queen K and visit Hawi or the other side of the island – you may want a car. However, this is a big expense so think it through, Maybe you hire for just part of your stay. Insurance and taxes make it a hefty daily rate.

If you are without kids, or just an adult wants an easy ride around, a moped could be the answer but costs are up there with a small car rate. I have heard they book out fast. Check in with this company if it interests you.

Hiring bicycles for the non-competitors in the family could be a good option (especially if you have kids at the age they can ride safely on the streets). Here are two companies that hire bikes (again need to think ahead and book now) – Bike Works and Kona Bike Rentals. Be aware however, riding on Ali’i drive is on the road with everyone else. Another idea for kids is to buy a cheap bike from Walmart and give it away at the end of your stay!

A great suggestion by parents I know is if your kids are at the age that they ride skateboards, scooters or roller blades/skates then bring them along so they are happier when walking from A to B.

If you are bringing prams bring a small one as some parts of the town have very small pathways and lots of people! Baby carrier or back pack a good addition to your baggage if you have a baby.

No matter what you decide, be prepared to walk a lot! Competitors will need to consider this as the worst thing before race day is to tire the legs, so you may have to think through what makes sense in regards to distances you travel each day. There are plenty of the latest and greatest sports shoes to buy in town at the Ironman Expo and my favourite local sports store The Big Island Running Company  but don’t forget to take summer walking shoes and comfortable no heel or low heel shoes for dinners out too!

Next step in Kona planning for the family is  where to go to put our feet up post-race, check my post on some of  the best resorts on the Big Island.

Looking for accommodation near the race hub in Kailua-Kona? Here are few links to get your started:

 www.vrbo.com

www.homeaway.com.au

www.tritravel.com.au

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