Back out in Kona for the 7th time but the first time not racing. I’d always thought I’d enjoy being here and not racing but perhaps I’d envisaged that as being the support crew for someone in the race. As we approached this evening (the night before the race) I get stronger and stronger feelings of disappointment at not being here. However, today I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, this evening has been a pleasure and I’m sure tomorrow there will be a sweet spot about 10 mins either side of the start when I’ll be over the moon not racing.
It’s proved the most frustrating year since I’ve started Triathlon. I’ve been the most motivated since the last time I tried to qualify but a bad race at South Africa was followed by a mechanical at UK which in turn was followed by putting my back out the week after. This put an end to any hopes of qualifying at Copenhagen (I didn’t race) and qualifying for next year at Wales (I only did the swim). Though not formally diagnosed as a prolapsed disc the help I’ve had from Helen strongly suggests it’s the case and it’s proving very frustrating. In fact, the spell of not running is now closing in on longer than post FHL tendon repair.
This injury has certainly helped deal with being here and not racing as there’s a chance I couldn’t have raced even if I’d qualified. Friends and family have been so kind and thoughtful explaining my not racing, when asked, that I was injured. The implication being I would be racing if I wasn’t which isn’t strictly true. You know who you are and I appreciate the thoughtfulness.
The last time I was here was 2011 and it’s interesting to note some changes.
- The coffee boat is now Starbucks. I don’t know it is but it feels like selling out for profit.
- Fewer freebies! This may be that I’m not racing so don’t feel like blagging. Most companies seem to be now producing quite stylish Kona gear and selling it.
- More companies are starting to “game” the Kona count (where they produce a count of what products athletes use). There’s a clear distinction between products athletes are likely to buy here and use verses those that are not. The latter (e.g. shoes) are not really discounted. The former are massively discounted – classic is Rudy project (who in the past have offered free helmets) – this year were selling helmets for next to nothing, all sunglasses were 50% off and Exterra had their swim skin at $75 rather than $400. I hope that any commentary to the count points out this sort of stuff as it rather makes the count meaningless when it comes to these items. My money is on they won’t
- There are so many more athletes. Back in 2005 I remember them saying the pier was full and there was only 1500 athletes, now there are 2500 and they’re still saying it is. I’m guessing it’s like a suitcase – you can always fit a little more in.
- The underpants run is completely mainstream. It may even have a bigger participation than the main event. Back in 2005 it felt like it took a little guts, a little being different to compete when there were less than 100 people running around. It’s a spectacle, a great one but it’s quite different from it’s roots.
- The opening banquet has got worse. A $Billion company can surely employ someone that knows how to put this together and can keep it on time. They have the raw ingredients of an awesome show. They just need to half the time it takes, have it flow (rather than it being a random collection of stuff) and stop assuming that ex pro athletes are automatically good at presenting a show. Getting laughs at the expense of the oldest ever athlete in the race was embarrassing and close to cruel in my book. Given the recent push for getting equal number of Pro women in the race I do hope that the majority of the audience saw straight through the video on how great women are in Ironman and the two women inducted in to the hall of fame (an americanism whereby people that have already had congratulations for their achievements get a second lot many years later for no apparent reason). WTC – just announce equal numbers going forward and stop assuming we’re all stupid.
Despite all that I want to come back. They can make it as corporate as they like but Kona will still be awesome. I feel awfully torn between not wanting to support this corporate monster and wanting to come back. The latter is winning at the moment but it pains me to imagine how good this could be with motives other than maximising profit for individuals that already have more money than they can realistically spend in a lifetime.
Yes, it’s lit a fire under my belly. I’m looking forward to giving my friends the biggest cheers I can muster.