Ironman Kona: Earning the Big Island

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OK, I get it, you’re in Kona.

Most of my internet right now is full of people’s pictures from the Big Island and tweets about panic training for the BIG race this weekend and Instagrams of the big sunsets. Your internet may not be that — Steve’s certainly isn’t — but, understandably, mine is. And I am not begrudging everyone their fun. Hawaii, as a place, is definitely fun. And, who doesn’t love watching a world championship.

But, (and, yes, there is a but) is it really as blessedly amazingly magical as we let the entire sport tell us? Is it really the only thing worthwhile in triathlon? Or, have you bought into the myth just a little bit?

Ironman may not be my thing. I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to do another before I decide. I’d like to qualify for Kona at some point, just so I can see what it’s like — kind of how I had to watch a bunch of “Girls” to make sure I was right that I didn’t like it, back before hating Lena Dunham had gotten passe and vaguely sexist. I may not ever be able to qualify, though. I need to get at least 45 minutes faster and not hurt; possibly, the woman’s amateur field needs to get less insanely competitive (and some people need to go ahead and upgrade out of the amateur field); and, still, Kona may always be out of reach. It is one of the most competitive amateur events out there, so I totally respect that. I do.

Except, or, I could just buy a lottery spot or a corporate spot or be given a celebrity spot or raise a bunch of money to get a spot. Or, I could just go and hang out.

When I was on the high school cross-country team, I was hurt at one point and had to sit out the meets. Instead, I got to just hang out, take splits, do the pre-race pep talk. I was part of the team, without having to actually be in the pain of running as part of the team. It was (in a lot of ways) so much better than actually racing. But, it wasn’t really the same. And, I wouldn’t have been on the inside at all if I hadn’t put out the pain before and earned the right to be there. The payoff just isn’t there if you don’t deserve it.

Of course, you can go to Hawaii whenever you want. You can do whatever you want. But, it seems like there are a lot more people hanging out this year. A lot more people coming up with reasons they need to be there, that they deserve to be part of the scene. I get that. If someone offered me a trip, I’d have taken it. I also eat brownies for dinner sometimes. It won’t be the same, though. It’ll be like sitting on the outside and trying to bask in the refracted joy.

You’ll say it was magical. It was amazing. You’ll say all that dessert you ate was filling. I hope it is.

 

Visiting Kauai: Hiking, Biking, and Vacation-ing

OK, we’re back. Our flight landed at 6:30 a.m. this morning next to what’s left of the crashed plane that’s still on the SFO runway. Yes, it turns out a red-eye flight going from West to East does mean I slept for three hours in a plane seat — I didn’t quite do that math well before we took off.

The Super Big Vacation Week of Weddings started last Friday with a six-hour drive to Tahoe that was mostly us sitting in a non-moving car outside Vacaville for a few hours. Then, I got crazy sunburned, which led to dehydration right before Wedding #1 — a dangerous condition going into festivities. We got home from Tahoe at 4:30 p.m. Sunday and left at 11 a.m. Monday morning for Hawaii for Wedding #2.

I really just wanted to swim, finish my 1,000-page book, and see a waterfall. Kauai, though, is too active for that. Well, except the waterfall.

We hiked for five hours to a crazy hidden waterfall, which is pretty much five hours more than I’ve ever hiked, since the only thing I can tell that separates hiking from walking is how much supplies you bring with you. It was pretty. It was also evident that I am not so good at “hiking” when people barefoot and wearing only bikinis passed us. (I wore actual shorts and tanktop over my swimsuit on the trail.)

Yes, we swam in the waterfall pool.
Yes, we swam in the waterfall pool.
Rainbows, and rainforest, and stuff.
Rainbows, and rainforest, and stuff.

It was also hot and muddy. You’d think that if something was hot and sunny, it wouldn’t also be wet and muddy. Hah. You’ve never been to Kauai. The night before our hike we were at Pre-Wedding Dinner #3 or something and every adult there was planning on hiking this trail or had hiked it or regularly hiked it the multiple times a year they summered on the island. This led me to think it couldn’t be that challenging, since there were some, um, elderly individuals in the crowd. Clearly, it would be easy. Hah. You’ve never been to Kauai.

Almost back to the beach we started at.
Almost back to the beach we started at.

For some reason, this made me decide I needed a bigger adventure. Perhaps it was the rush I felt having succeeded at walking — I mean hiking. On 4th of July I got it into my head to rent a mountain bike and bike across the Powerline Trail, which runs from the middle of the island-ish (you can’t really get to the actual middle without a machete and/or a Jeep Wrangler or donkey) back to where we were staying. Rachel had suggested running it, but I’m trying to rest my foot since it’s been hurting again ANNOYINGLY.

A Google search will tell you that people are mixed on whether it is a super awesome hike/bike trail OR it is completely impassable and terrible. These are very different opinions, but again I figured it had to be somewhat do-able, probably the people who couldn’t do it just weren’t in shape enough.

Hah. You’ve never been to Kauai.

It was impassable.

This was quite a bit cleaner, after I'd gone through a stream a few tiems.
This was quite a bit cleaner, after I’d gone through a stream a few times.

A guy at the start of the trail told me he’d just come from the other way and I shouldn’t do it. I didn’t believe him. I started out. It was a few inches deep in slippery mud the whole way — the kind where you can’t get traction. The mud built up on the wheels, so the wheels were covered in a couple inches, and it built up in giant clumps where the wheels spun through the frame, making them stop spinning, so that you were just kind of dragging the bike along. Most of the trail was also rutted with giant holes and puddles. The ride went like this: slip, slide, bike really hard to make it about 50m, skid out, stop and pull giant clumps of mud out of the derailleur and cranks and wheel until it’ll spin again, push the bike out of whatever puddle/mudpit I had gotten mired in, pull the mud that has now built up during pushing it, get out, ride about 50m sliding all over the place.

About six or seven minutes in, I was trying to ride through a narrow patch of slippery mud, but it had eroded and the only patch of actual trail was giving way into this big puddle. I couldn’t maintain traction and slid down the slope, falling into this thick, deep puddle of mud and water that smelled like wild boar shit. I tried to put my foot down to push myself up, but it just sunk. There was no bottom to the boar shit puddle.

And, for some reason, I went on. I thought, well, that guy made it the whole way. After 30′, I stopped to check how far I’d gotten on my phone’s GPS. I figured if I had made it a couple miles, then I’d be able to do the whole 13-mile trail; it would just take awhile. I had made it just less than a mile in half-an-hour.

I turned around and took another half-an-hour to get back to the start.

By Friday, I had 65 mosquito bites and one crazy bite that spread in a giant rash across my side. I stopped sleeping because of the bites. I also spent over three hours trying to drive across the island in the heat. This was not very pleasant when everything itches and my spastic fit in my car as I sat in traffic might have freaked out some people. There was some discussion about whether or not there are ticks with Lyme disease in Kauai, since it looked sort of like a tick bite. It is still unclear. But, since I haven’t had exhaustion, joint aches, or a fever (more than would be expected given the situation), I don’t think I have Lyme disease?

After all that, it was time for the vacation part of vacation. We went to the wedding. We went to the beach. We walked to these kind of crazy tidal pools near our condo.

That's Steve way over there.
That’s Steve way over there.

We did another “hike,” since I’m basically a professional now. On that hike, we visited a swamp and a canyon.

It turns out it's hard to define a swamp. But, you know it when you see it.
It turns out it’s hard to define a swamp. But, you know it when you see it.
My anti-mosquito outfit.
My anti-mosquito outfit.
Ooh. Aah.
Ooh. Aah.

We went to some more beaches. I’m on page 720 in my book. I did no working out — but also not as much eating as I had intended, so I don’t know if that counts as going full-on in my break. Now, it’s back to work tomorrow (I mean, really, sort of today). And, then, back to being a serious athlete. Maybe.

OH, and I almost forget — so there’s no good transition, I can see why transitions are hard for Whoopi on The View — my favorite thing I learned from Hawaii. If you don’t know how to swim, don’t use the rescue device, just don’t go in the water:

Pearls of wisdom at Polihale.
Pearls of wisdom at Polihale.

Reasons to go to Hawaii

We’re headed to Kauai for a wedding (yes, we did just get back from a wedding; we basically have a wedding every weekend from now until October because people are very stressed that the music is about to end and they don’t want to be left with a shitty chair) and since we’re going all the way to Hawaii we’re staying for a week. Here’s why it’s going to be great:

– For a change, I don’t actually have any work to do over vacation.
– I’ve already gotten sunburned, so I should be good to go.
– I can wear all the clothes and new swimsuit that just don’t really fit in in San Francisco.
– I’m going to get a headstart on my swim training…sort of.
– BART is on strike, meaning getting to work in San Francisco this week is going to be a shitshow, but I won’t be there.
– We’re already five hours into our travel, so Kauai better be worth it.

Don’t expect a lot of pictures. I tend to do things rather than take pictures of things. I will, though, be more touch-and-go on the internets this week, so updates will be sparser. See you at the end of the week. Sort of.

Any suggestions for things to do on Kauai? Let me know. I get very anxious on vacations that I’m missing some super awesome thing I should be doing instead. It is very stressful.