Blog: Harry Wiltshire arrives in Kona for the “big dance” – and finds it a bizarre experience

British pro says the town is a zoo full of people in compression wear, and wonders if he’ll like it more when the race is over…


Qualifying for Kona by racing Ironman events on back-to-back weekends and different continents wasn’t my plan at the start of the season.

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Breaking my back crashing in Nice wasn’t part of the plan either; thankfully it is done now. Sweden was fast, Japan was survival and I’m in Hawaii hoping that my body works out what is going on in time for Saturday.

Kona is a bizarre experience. Almost 2,000 age group athletes and their entourage, plus 100 pros, along with the movers and shakers from any brand that has money to throw at the sport, all descend on a row of tacky tourist shops to watch a procession of runners and cyclists snake their way through an industrial estate and along a 65-mile stretch of tarmac as it melts in the sweltering heat.

The town is a zoo, coffee sippers watch the animals perform, trying to catch a snap of a creature in action or if they’re very brave move in for a selfie. Everyone is looking at everyone else, sizing them up, trying to establish how many watts they might push, what their marathon pace will be and why on earth they aren’t wearing more compression gear.

People keep referring to the race as the “big dance”. Mostly very loud American people who have hugely important job titles that basically mean they sell advertising space in hard-up print media magazines. The pros are either running around giving interviews and doing photo shoots or feeling sorry for themselves because they’re not (I fall into the second category).

On the one hand it is paradise, I’ve swum with a pod of dolphins, watched the turtles clamber onto the beach for a mid morning snooze and seen the most incredible sunset. On the other it’s hell; forcing a body that’s telling me it didn’t want to get out of bed three months ago to do just one more session, just one more race. 

Triathlete in bike training on Kona race week

Yesterday I was overtaken by a chap in his late fifties, I heard him on my shoulder for five minutes gulping in oxygen and grunting with the effort, as he slobbered past me he sat up from his aero position, pumped his fist and then u-turned in the road.

I’ll be hiding out of the sun and keeping away from the crazy “thing” that is Kona in race week. It’s going to be a long, hot, hard day and I hope I like Kona more when it’s over.

(Main image: AJ Schroetlin)

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Are you out in Kona right now? What do you make of it? Let us know in the comments!