5 Tips for Kona First-Timers
8 October 2019
By: Rachel Brenke; Ironman, All-World Athlete, Cancer Survivor
Kona week is the Super Bowl week for triathlon. Thousands descend on the big island. Young. Old. Novice. Pro. Qualified. Invited. All will face the same course, elements and run across the same finish line. The Ironman World Championships is the pinnacle of hard work for many. In 2018, I had the honor to be specially invited by Ironman as a 40 Year of Dreams Ambassador. With a history of cancer survivorship, raising five children and enduring years of deployments as my veteran husband fought for our country - my story allowed me to enjoy the most “super bowl” moment that many dream of. I read as many articles, listened to as many podcasts and talked to as many people as I could about the race. But absolutely nothing prepared me for the challenges I would face and gifts I would receive. Here, I’m sharing my top five of tips to make the most out of the Kona experience.
First - Don’t isolate yourself! be sure to check the schedule and highlight all of the surrounding events you want to attend. Traffic and parking around the Ironman headquarters area can be difficult so you must forward plan or you’ll end up missing some of the festivities.
Second - Stop and look around. You’re going to be surrounded by triathlon royalty. You can end up meeting and talking with some of the people who have made huge impacts on our sport. Even if you’re not into “celebrity” spotting, discussing Ironman from the early days and gathering their tops to conquering Kona is well worth the time. In fact, if you dip into any of the restaurants next to the expo you’re bound to find many floating around and greeting others. So don’t be shy!
Third - Get out of Kona! Sounds like a funny tip right after telling you to check out the festivities and attendees but the island is amazing. It does take a while to drive the whole island so it is best to do post-race if you have time on your schedule. This is also a great way to give back and give a “mahalo” to the island and community who is supporting you during this super bowl moment of your athletic life.
Fourth- Get in the water! Big island water really does feel so magical. I recommend swimming open water as much as you can up to, during (haha) and after the race. Waikoloa has some great snorkel locations, as well as the iconic Digme beach. Even if you’re not a swimmer - the water experiences are amazing. If you’re truly daring the night-time manta Ray snorkeling is family must-have.
Fifth- Stick around for the midnight finish. No other race on the circuit bring such authentic local traditions than Kona and the midnight finish helps to cap it all off. No matter how tired you are- it’s a must! I hear many athletes who are so tired by the end they just go back to their lodging and then see all the amazing photos of what they missed. The magic hour for any Ironman race is amazing but for Kona it really is beyond anything you’ll experience anywhere else.
If you’re just sitting in Kona right now reading this - I highly encourage you to CHANGE YOUR PLANS. Incorporate as many of these tips as you can. I’m writing this a year after being there and my heart longs to go back, do all this and more. Aloha!
Find Rachel on Instagram for more!