Thursday, October 06, 2005

Kona Arrival

I finally got on the plane after wrapping up work in La Jolla and arrived in Kona - late, tired, and ready for bed. We landed and parked near the end of the runway and we were escorted off the plane to exit around (and not through) the terminal as the TSA personnel boarded the plane and held several passengers. This is the new world we live in.

Something I’ve learned in Kona -- it’s best to go get your car immediately after you land and then come back for your bags. Otherwise you’ll be waiting in line at the car rental company for an hour with the honeymooners.

I always kiss the ground when I land here. Somehow the island has a way of lifting away a year's worth of stress the moment I arrive. After renting a red jeep and putting my bike box in the back seat. I showed up at my condo, and what to my triathlete eyes did appear, but two strange little kids with jelly smeared faces so near. Apparently my real estate agent did not tell me "everything" about my studio. It was connected to another family's unit – closely. Whoops. These kids opened my door when I arrived, and albeit super-cute, the little one stayed up all night crying and the doors to their part of the studio/apartment were paper thin.

My hat goes off to triathletes around the world with newborns. Lesson: Always book your condo or hotel early for Kona, and always know exactly where you are staying. This trip I’ll be staying in two locations: the two-weeks-out-place and the one-week-out-place.

After teary-eyed laughter with my rental agent about the experience, she put me in a condo above Lava Java -- the triathlete favorite post swim, pre-bike "hang-out." Lava Java, perhaps made most famous by one of our sports superstars, Jurgen Zack. He is known to frequent Lava Java. In fact, tonight, when I went to get my decaf-non-fat-latte, Jurgen Zack was in front of me in line - ordering a sorbet smoothie.

I swam yesterday morning before moving condos and the surf was massive. It was actually difficult to get in and out of the water at the pier. This morning the surf was even higher. With 5 to 6 foot swells, thoughts of swimming in a tsunami crossed my mind.

I tried to relax in the rough water, and not pull any muscles. I know I’m going into this Ironman in the worst shape of my racing career because of the work grind, but I also know that it’s very important when the water is rough to stay very loose in the swim.

Other pointers for swimming in rough seas in Kona:

-don’t draft behind someone who burped before the swim.

-stay 100% relaxed and feel the water move you.

–move with the water, not against it.

-don’t panic, you’re a triathlete, and a strong swimmer, if you get caught in a rip-tide, swim parallel to the shore, or the cross direction to the one the tide is pulling you in.

-swim with other people. A wonderful highlight from the swim: the massive pod of dolphins that made their “clickish” sounds and appear around the fourth and fifth buoy. The clicks and whistles under water were comforting in a slightly unsettling way. Fins coming up in the water about 10 feet from you may always cause a bit of a stomach drop, but dolphins had me at Flipper.

I brought my bike to B&L Bike and Sport to be re-cabled it and they tuned it perfectly. Rode today. Wanted to make sure my legs worked after all the time in the desk chair. Kept noticing there were camera crews following me and setting up until I passed – "What do they want?" I wondered.Then I noticed Normann Stadler was biking behind me, and passed me. He was being filmed on his training ride for a German news show. We were about 30 miles out of Kona. It's late at night now, but my legs can still feel the headwind going out, and the headwind coming back to town.

I reached back to grab a water bottle as Normann passed me. When I glanced back around he was already light years ahead – moving straight through the wind as if it was not there. I felt a headwind; it looked like Normann was riding a tail wind. Welcome to Lavawind, and to the old German cycling legend. Bike fast, die on the run. This year that legend may be rewritten again…