Kona Race day

The big day on the Big Island

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5am start down to the swim, roads already thronging with people, some having slept overnight on the sea walls. Beautiful weather, cool, although the sun was yet to rise. Caught up with Simon Ward, walked with him down to the media section on the pier to watch the action. Caught a glimpse of Chrissie warming up by the pool side of the King Kam hotel. She looked as relaxed as always, grinning like a Cheshire cat to photographer Rich Cruse.

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Pier was packed with the world’s media, got a decent spot to see the gun blast and swim start, though. Phenomenal sight to watch the second wave of women pros and age-groupers go by.

Spent rest of day flitting between the race action (could just about manage 30mins at most in the heat) and the media room with its air con – and with temperatures hitting 113° on the Queen K, I had good reason to stay put.

Waited for Chrissie to come through on the bike, just 19 minutes behind the first man, which at the time was Chris Lieto. I really am running out of words to describe this woman – basically just someone having a really great day out. She could just as well have been at a kid’s sports day; getting into the spirit of the day’s activities and enjoying the crowd. But like really enjoying the crowd. This woman genuinely soaks up every shout and word of encouragement.

Could always do with at least three people to report from an Ironman – hard to position yourself to get the best shot, and follow the race at the same time. Media room is great, but you’re not out in the thick of it.

Anyway, a tad over eight hours, twenty minutes later I was in the media camp watching Craig Alexander take his second title. Incredible atmosphere. Will even go so far as to say it was awesome (I’ve heard that word a lot this week)! Crowie looked more confused than anything, incredulous at to what had just happened.

As great as seeing his achievement live was, I was waiting for Chrissie. As, I think so too were the crowd. This woman is a legend over here. Many of the locals have never touched turf in the UK but by God do they worship the Welly (also gets you good cudos when they find out you’re a fellow Brit, “oh hell yeah, land of Chrissie Wellington. Welcome to Kona”).

As the clock was ticking up, and Paula-Newby Fraser’s record time was looking good to hold steady for another year, the anticipation and excitement of the crowd (and the media) was just something else. I’m a bit of a sappy sod at the best of times, but when she crossed the line, equally as dumfounded as Crowie as to what she’d just done, the tears just flowed. Such an amazing opportunity to have seen something so momentous live, especially having never seen her race live before.

Made my way to the athletes’ area to try and grab some Brits. Catriona M grabbed me first luckily as she was sat down below eye level on a deckchair, unsure as to how she was going to get up again.

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Caught up with a few more before succumbing to the heat and heading home. Quick shower stop, and then back to the race finish until midnight to watch the final athletes heading in. I think finishing at that time is actually preferable cause the crowd is pumped, the air’s cooler and you get the two recently crowned champions waiting to greet you. Had a boogie on the sea wall watching the final few athletes come through and then headed back. May not have done the race, but boy was I beat.