How to best prepare for spectating at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships

Are you ready for a day of spectating you won’t forget?

The Hawaii Ironman is a big day for all the competitors but it’s also a special day for all the loved ones and passionate triathlon supporters who line the roads to cheer the triathletes across the finish line.

Having experienced it for three years now, I still get excited remembering race day and I long to return to the Big Island again one day!

As at all Ironman events you need to be prepared. If you have kids with you – even more so!

Here are my supporter tips for pre-race planning, bag packing, surviving race day (even with kids) and some of our favourite spectating spots.

DAY BEFORE

Be prepared and pack your bags

Just like the competitors, it’s a good idea to have bags packed and a plan in place before race day. CLICK HERE for our supporter’s packing list.

Have your cheer gear ready!

It’s time to get patriotic and consider some fun costumes, personalised t-shirts (printed weeks before if you are organised or last-minute pop to Walmart and make your own). Also things for the kids to clap and cheer with, which will also keep them entertained. We have a list of ideas HERE.

Buy snacks to pack

Buy some food supplies and, of course, water/water bottle. There are a number of ABC shops dotted around Kona but I remember they were short on drinks by race day so stock up the day before. It can also be quite a wait at cafes and restaurants so if you have kids make sure there are snacks handy. If you are out of the Kona town area too you may not be very close to somewhere you can grab food.

Know the course and your triathletes estimated times

Take note of estimated times for each leg of the race for the triathletes you are tracking so you can get an idea of when you might see them but remember this more than any other Ironman race is one you cannot plan so timing is likely to go haywire as the day goes on – you will be watching the clock a lot!

Look at the course maps and talk through where you think you want to base yourself for the swim start and then the bike. It is too hard to run around from one spot to another, it all takes time, so discuss with your Ironman so they know where to look out for you – this is one race that seeing you on the course is really special to them!

kids supporting at Hawaii Ironman

Plan how you will keep kids happy (and not lost)

Please put your phone number on your kids! Write it on their hands and if they are old enough it is a good idea to talk through the day with them and give them safety rules – not just about staying off the course but how not to get lost or what to do if they do!

Spectating with young kids can be stressful no matter how much you organise yourself so remember to take a deep breath and go with the flow if you get overwhelmed. Your loved ones competing understand that it is a juggle and you will do your best to see them as much as you can but sometimes kids have other plans!

Get kids excited about supporting and involve them as much as you can but plan some breaks in between. Setting up base where you can watch on the run and they can keep themselves entertained in trees, with their own games, etc. keeps everyone happy. Chalk is a great form of entertainment but best to get those messages on the road the day before!

Tell family and friends how best to watch from afar

Friends and family not in Kona will want to watch it online and get updates during the day, so contact them and give them some options. Let them know it won’t be easy for you to stay in contact all the time but you will do your best. I had to learn to take a deep breath and not get caught up in updating everyone and checking in all the time. This is a special day you want to experience live yourself so just soak in the atmosphere and be in the moment! You can share photos and stories the next day.

CLICK HERE to order special race day momento race images to share on your social feeds post-race.

Set a meeting spot for post-race

The recovery area behind the pier is closed off to spectators including the beach and lawn area near the King Kam hotel, so don’t expect to meet your Ironman finishers here. Organise to meet somewhere around the King Kam hotel entrance and car park area or at a spot you all know well and can get to.

RACE DAY

Keep cool

As you would be aware if you are already in Kona – it is hot! Remember sunscreen, hats and bottled water. We also pack swimmers. If you can’t go back to your accommodation during the day, you can take a dip to cool off in Kona town or you may even get offered a dip in someone else’s pool. taking the kids to the beach is a nice break for them too.

Keep track online

The technology we have at our fingertips today makes it a lot easier to keep track of the race however a warning to everyone is that sometimes it all melts down on Hawaii Ironman race day because the world is watching and all the supporters are tracking and sharing!

You may have some frustrations with the tracker app and social media. Be patient!

Here’s the link for Ironman LIVE and the athlete tracker. Ironman also have an App for your phone and other there are other apps available but all the stats come from the same source and up to date information can be delayed!

Whatever social media you like to follow it’s all abuzz on race day! Share your race photos with us using #trisupport and #tricrewaus

Be race aware!

I have to include this one because everyone needs to be extra cautious. There are big crowds, lots of excitement and this is the race of the lifetime for the competitors. We don’t want any unnecessary mishaps – I have seen them happen in Kona!

PLEASE BE EXTRA CAUTIOUS WHEN CROSSING THE COURSE USING ALLOCATED CROSSINGS WHEN AVAILABLE OR SPOTS WITH GOOD VISIBILITY FOR ALL – AND BE PATIENT!

I watched a spectator get hit by a bike in town and it was heartbreaking. The barrier systems are not as extensive as other races and Kuakini Highway is wide with bikes coming from both directions. Be extra vigilant especially with kids, prams and big banners and flags that can catch/hit competitors as they go by.

Make new friends

Everybody is out on the course supporting someone so chat with them and hear their stories. I find this the most enjoyable part of the day (apart from the race) – you may even make some new friends who you will celebrate with post-race.

SPECTATING SPOTS IN KONA

The Ironman World Championships is not the most spectator-friendly event because once the competitors have left the town on the bike they only return for the run. Unless you can navigate the back roads in a car or have a bike yourself you won’t get out there to see them. However, once they are on the run, the stream of competitors doesn’t end and they come past you a few times depending on where you position yourself.

Swim Start

Lucky you if you have accommodation with a view! Otherwise, for more of a close-up experience, just walk down Ali’i Drive and get as close as possible. However, if you have kids, stay a bit away. We found a great spot which is the grassed area and wall by the ocean which runs just in front of the Kona Inn Restaurant and shopping area. There is little coffee shop which opens its doors early too and there is lots of area for kids to run around . You look across to the pier and see them swim right past. You then need to hotfoot it to a good spot to see them head out on the bike.

Swim exit/T1

You can’t get very close to the swim exit so best to try and grab a barrier spot when they come out of T1 or just head straight to Hot Corner (Cnr Palani Rd & Kuakini Highway) or anywhere along the highway. It can be busy so if you can give yourself some time to go around a long way by cutting up the hill from behind Ali’i Drive through to the highway it might be faster with kids. At Hot Corner you can hear the commentators and there is music , so a great atmosphere which extends along the street for a while.

Bike course

Once up on the highway you see the competitiors go out one direction and back in before they head out to he Queen K. Hang around and get cheering and good luck spotting your triathletes! Then you have a good couple of hours before they return for the run so now is the time for breakfast and planning the next spectating spot.

Run/T2

Like T1 there is not a lot of a barrier space. The run is up Palani then turn down Kuakini Highway, back down Hualalai R then onto Ali’i. They then come back the same way to go out to the Energy Lab so there are a few corners you can base yourself. We like down on Ali’i Drive, either at corner of Hualalai or along further near Huggos. There are a few good trees you can camp under. Lots of spectators go back to their accommodation on Ali’i Drive and cheer from there, then return to the finish line later.

Finish Line

It is tricky to get close but the finish chute is fairly long, and there is section before that people just line the street and create their own chute so you can high five your loved one as they pass. Not so easy to then see them cross the line but there are always professional finish line photos that will be better than yours! There are grandstands so try and set up in one of these early if you have kids. Lucky you if you have coveted VIP band to get you up close!

Make sure you return to the finish line to cheer others on all the way to midnight. This can be tricky with kids ( maybe tag team) and your Ironman may be exhausted but if there is any way you can convince them to get showered, rest briefly then get out again I promise you you won’t regret it!

This is the race of a lifetime. You may never return. The Hawaii Ironman finish line atmosphere is like a dance party. You will cheer and shout and cry and be inspired like very few races on earth!

This special race day is finally upon you. I am sure it will be filled with memories that you will cherish always. Enjoy your Hawaii Ironman experience and best of luck to your Ironman triathletes living their triathlon dream!

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