|The crew has returned from Kona and beginning the process of re-acclimating to normal office/family schedules and sleep patterns.
We have 1000+ photos and video clips to sift through but we’ll try to get a sampling of those posted as soon as we can.
To say that Kona 2012 was a great experience is an understatement; we had the pleasure of meeting a number of really great people, meet several of the athletes competing in the race, play our music, hang out with our friends on the Ironman crew, and experience the magic that is the Ironman World Championship in Kona.
Race day itself was an endurance event for us almost as much as it was for the athletes (albeit at a significantly slower pace), starting at 6:30am when the canon signaled the start of the race, until just before midnight when 77-year-old Harriet Anderson whipped the crowed into a frenzy on Ali’i Drive as she crossed the finish line with just seconds to spare before the cutoff and was the last finisher of the night to hear those famous words uttered by the man himself, Mike Reilly – “Harriet Anderson, YOU are an Ironman!”
That final hour before the midnight cutoff is truly one of the most magical and inspiring moments in triathlon, made even more so as this year’s World Champions, Pete Jacobs and Leanda Cave, along with World Champion Mirinda Carfrae and other pros who finished several hours earlier, come back to the finish line after a grueling day of racing to place medals around the necks of those finishing nearly 17 hours after starting their race day.
Whether you’re watching Robert “Fireman Rob” Verhelst come down the finish chute wearing his full firefighter gear, watching older competitors finishing their first (or 60th) Ironman, or watching the “almost” finisher just miss the cutoff at midnight, you are witnessing something that you can’t see in any other sport.
To say that we’re exhausted is also an understatement; I can only compare Kona (for those of us not actually competing in the race) as a combination of the most grueling tradeshow schedule that I’ve endured layered with a major international sporting event and sprinkled with a subtle does of “spring break for adults.”
Body clock issues aside, it seemed as though we started our days early in the morning with a swim on the course out to the Coffees of Hawaii boat or a run along Ali’i Drive and ended it at a sponsor party or hanging out with friends and the Ironman crew until the wee hours of the night (or next morning…).
The Ironman World Championship itself is a grueling test of endurance for the athletes and after spending a week in the Kona heat and humidity I have an even greater respect for everyone who has stepped up to that starting line in Kailua Bay.
Kona for the non-athletes is not for the faint of heart either, as was put so eloquently in a text message that was waiting on my phone as we stepped off the plane, “Buckle up bi#$%es, you’re in Kona now!”
Buckle up we did, and a week later we come away from Kona with a keen insight into triathlon’s biggest event, with many new friends, and with an extra dose of inspiration to come home and become better athletes, better musicians, and better people.
We had the honor of playing an acoustic show on Tuesday night in the Ironman Village that began as the Parade of Nations filtered into the Village and ended after the sun set at our backs. Our stage was about five feet from the ocean and you couldn’t help but constantly turn around and stare at the sun setting to the West.
The Ironman MC even piped our PA into the system that fed the entire Expo area so thousands of people in the expo were…”treated”…to the sounds of Ironband that evening as they perused sponsor tents, got autographs from various pros, and ran into friends new and old. A big thanks to the Ironman team for having us play – we had a ball!
The following day we were invited to a happy hour at the Clif Bar house with pro Linsey Corbin from Montana who, along with her husband, managed to get a few cases of beer from Big Sky Brewery over to the Big Island to accompany the grilled goodies from the resident cook at the Clif Bar house. Yum!
And while the beer made it to Kona in time for the party, Clif Bar’s own Chris Swanner, otherwise known as the percussion section of Hëctør, a band made up of Clif Bar employees, did not. At least not until the following day, so Ironband’s own Scott and Justin had to sit in on bongos as the band played an acoustic performance on the oceanside deck of the Clif Bar house as the sun set over the Pacific.
This little impromptu musical convergence paid dividends since we invited Chris, Eric, and Tom of Hëctør, to our show the following day at Humpy’s Big Island Alehouse.
Thursday morning was also the morning of the infamous “Underpants Run” – the 15th anniversary of the event, no less. The Underpants Run began as a protest of the European Athletes who so freely walked around town in Speedos and other garments that were designed to be “race-only” garments.
More than 1000 people showed up in all forms of underwear and costumes to “run” a 2K course around downtown Kailua-Kona. Ironband joined in and, donning their hand-made, custom Ironband skivvies, took part in one of the funniest things that I’ve ever seen. From the “pledge” that we all took prior to the start where we promised never to wear Speedos around town to the mid-race “calisthenics” performed in front of hundreds of spectators – this event was a riot and I can see why it’s one of the most popular events during race week in Kona.
Later that night the Clif Bar boys obliged our musical request and joined us for combined sets from Ironband and Hëctør at Humpy’s on their upper floor – once again, a stage with a view of the ocean. How can you beat that? Thanks to the gang at Humpy’s for having us and taking such good care of us!
We also spent time stopping by the Wattie Ink gatherings all week – big thanks to Sean “Wattie” Watkins and the crew from Wattie, along with TYR and Fuel Belt, for the hospitality. A big congratulations also to Sean and Heather Jackson on their engagement while they were in Kona this year – you guys Rock the W!
The Welcome Dinner and Banquet of Champions were massive events with a giant stage, bands, hula dancers, fire dancers, inspiring videos and athlete stories and more – the logistics behind those events that feed thousands must be incredible. As always, event MC Mike Reilly kept the crowd entertained.
The awards banquet on Sunday was followed with post-parties, after-parties, and after-after parties and a big thanks again to the crew at Clif Bar for hosting us at the fabled Clif Bar after party.
That event itself required incredible endurance since it didn’t start until nearly 2:00 in the morning, but it was a real treat to see all of the athletes who had worked so hard to get to Kona relax, let their hair down, hit the dance floor as Hëctør rocked, and celebrate their accomplishments alongside everyone else.
After having been a part of the photographic machine all week where thousands of people were shooting hundreds of thousands of photos (myself included…thank my mom for my photographic leanings) it struck me shortly after the party started that hardly anyone was taking pictures. As a first-timer in Kona I was just accustomed to taking pictures all week and, as Jon Blais once said, “stay out past dark… face your fears and live your dreams…take it all in….and by all means, whatever you do…get it on film.”
But after snapping a few pics of the party, of the band, with Mike Reilly, the Corbins, and Mirinda Carfrae, the realization dawned upon me that this was their time away from the media and the cameras. As such I put the camera away out of respect for those athletes who worked so hard to get here who just wanted to let loose and celebrate as equals without the fear of photographic evidence winding up on the social media circuit.
Now that’s not to say that there wasn’t some entertaining dancing going; there was, but alas I have no photographic evidence so if you want to experience it yourself – start planning your trip to Kona for 2013!
Since the after-party didn’t wind down until the sun was coming up I’m sure that Monday was a rough day in Kona for some. It certainly was for us as we had to pack, return our rental bikes that had served us so well all week, clean up the house, and board the first of two very long and painful flights before we would touch down in Kansas City.
And so as a well-deserved off-season begins for this year’s Kona athletes, so too does the Ironband crew embark on an “off-season” from over-indulgence of food, frozen drinks, and endless miles of riding and walking in the Kona sun.
Congrats again to everyone who competed in this year’s event. Thanks to my Iron-band-mates (and their mates) for joining me on this adventure and to our support crew who flew many miles from Florida, Albuquerque, and beyond to be there with us in Kona.
Thanks again to the Ironman staff (Ashlie, Kelsey, Kendra et al) for having us in the Ironman Village, the carnies (Glenn, Bryan, Tommy, Jessica, Jami, James, Kyle, Nick, et al) for keeping the entertainment factor at an 11, to Clif Bar (Chris, Tom, Eric, Dylan, Kenny, Rachel et al), Wattie Ink (Sean, Heather), TYR, Fuel Belt, Slowtwitch, Cytosport/Musle Milk, the Human Interest Group (Franko), Newton Shoes, and anyone else who we met in Kona who I’ve forgotten for their hospitality over the course of the week.
See you next time!