Categorized | Featured, Multi-sport, Sports

Honu 70.3 blasts off along Kohala Coast (June 2)

(Photo courtesy of Ironman)

Dawn Henry | Ironman Writer

The rust-brown and shimmering black lava fields along the Kohala Coast, shown from the vantage point of a hovering helicopter, serve as the iconic depiction of the ultimate Ironman challenge.

A chance to race on this legendary course is surely a draw for many Ironman 70.3 Hawaii competitors.

The crusty first impression of South Kohala, however, belies a sparkling gem of a vacation spot. This makes for a lucky break for the participants of the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, who will be cruising through this lunar landscape June 2, 2012.

Not only do Honu competitors get a chance to participate in a world-class event, they have the opportunity to luxuriate before, during and after at some of the premiere vacation spots in the world.

With annual rainfall averages along the coast that stop short of double digits, visitors are guaranteed sunny weather in the resorts that have transformed this northwest corner of Hawaii Island.

Combine this with some of the finest white sand you’ve ever experienced, and turquoise bays frequented by dolphins, rays and tropical fish, and it is a testament to the tenacity of triathletes that anyone shows up to the race start.

Each year, that inner drive to compete wins out over the voice in the heads of hundreds of athletes just screaming for them to put up their feet, grab a mai tai and soak in some sun.

Racers are immediately rewarded for their gumption by the stunning Hapuna Bay. The half-mile long, crescent shaped beach at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is the epitome of paradise, guaranteed to uplift the spirit and expand the soul.

On either end, crusty lava outcroppings back up to the sparkling blue of the Pacific. This combination of black lava and white sand beaches unfolds up and down the coast, offering visitors swimming, snorkeling, diving and hiking options, not to mention lazy strolls along the tidal pools.

The Honu bike course provides competitors a chance to experience the toughest section of the Ironman World Champion course, accompanied by headwinds, tailwinds, side gusts and plenty of hot, humid weather.

On any day but race day, locals and returning visitors know enough to ride just a little further than the bike course turnaround into vibrant Hawi town. Restaurants and cafes feature fresh catches, Kona coffee, shave ice and island ice cream, all the ingredients the hot and hungry cyclist needs to get through the return ride.

It’s worth continuing the tour beyond Hawi. A couple of miles down the road, in the tiny town of Kapaau, a walk through art galleries and shops is a great way to ease into the lazy island groove. The Kohala Coast is rich in Hawaiian history, and Kapaau is home to a statue of King Kamehameha I, the first king to unify the Hawaiian islands.

Explore one of the many wild sides the Big Island, by traveling through lush rain forest and windswept fields to the road’s end at Pololu Valley. A serene black sand beach and footpaths zig-zagging through an idyllic forest are just a short hike away.

Beware the riptides, waves and currents, but for travelers with plenty of energy and fluids, the trail continues up the next rise and through the guava trees for a tropical adventure.

Honu’s run course meanders over award-winning golf courses which, on every day but race day, host avid golfers from around the world. The run is challenging and ever-changing, and boasts its own steamy, out-and-back version of the Energy Lab. The finish takes place on the beautiful grounds of host hotel The Fairmont Orchid Hawaii and immediately invites a laid-back beach party celebration.

Overlooking the course is Hawaii’s highest peak, Mauna Kea, a volcanic mountain rich in Hawaiian culture and the sight of space age observatories.

Between Kohala and Mauna Kea, coastal resorts give way to cactus-strewn ranches and the nearby town of Waimea. Experience the paniolo culture of Parker Ranch and take a victory ride along scenic Old Mamalahoa Highway. Beyond lies a lush paradise of gulches and waterfalls on the way to Hilo, with the red hot lava of Kilauea to the south.

Hawaii Island provides plenty of opportunities to swim, bike, run and explore. But for many triathletes, lounging by the pool with a view of the ocean might be all the adventure they require.

Ironman interview with Lance Armstrong heading into Honu

By Kevin Mackinnon | Ironman Writer

Ironman: You must have been happy with your race in Florida. Do you feel like you’re getting things dialed in on the triathlon front?

Armstrong: It’s mostly the nutrition part that I had a lot of issues with and problems with for, basically, all of those early races. I was happy that I finally got that nailed in Haines City.

Ironman: You’ve been taking care of nutrition on the bike for years on the bike. What’s so different when it comes to triathlon?

Armstrong: It’s the equivalent of trying to eat during Tour de France time trial, which we never do. You take a bottle or two, but that’s it. You get all your nutrition in and you never eat during a TT. These races are almost that hard. For me I’m doing four hours at north of 170 to 185. The gut just doesn’t work the same, whereas a tour stage might be six hours long, but the average heart rate is very low. Sure there are parts – attacks, summit finishes – but then you’re not eating, you’re stocking up while you’re going 30 km/ hour talking to the guys. Also the position is totally different from an upright road position and a TT position. I actually raised my position for Florida because I thought I was too low and was putting too much strain on my gut. I ate less, raised my position …

Ironman: And it all seemed to work …

Armstrong: Well, we’ll see how it does here.

Ironman: 3:45. Please tell me that you’re pleased with the time.

Armstrong: Yeah. I didn’t have any expectations on time. I just wanted to have a good race and get that dialed. When I got into the race I realized that split was going to be close to two hours. And then, as I was coming around on the run, the first lap was 25 minutes, the second lap was 25 minutes and I felt good, I felt like I was in a steady state and realized I was going to do another 25, and I thought that’s pretty cool – two and 1:15, that’s a good start. I didn’t have a good swim there, but that didn’t make a difference.

Ironman: It seems strange to ask a seven-time Tour champion if he felt pressure before a race, but you were the favorite in many of our minds. Did you feel pressure going in?

Armstrong: I was probably more relaxed in Florida than I was in the other ones. Even going back to the Xterras, I was crazy nervous. Panama nervous, Galveston nervous, St. Croix nervous. I was relaxed in Haines City. I think I was just fed up with all the challenges I had had nutritionally and I just said I was going to go out and have fun and try some different stuff, so I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I knew I’d be in the race, but I didn’t know I’d be in it like that. I didn’t think I’d win, but I knew I’d be close. If I stay on top of the nutrition, I think I can be close in all these races. I think I can still improve. I can ride quicker than I did in Florida – relatively speaking because all courses are not like that, which they’re not. I think my run will continue to get better and better assuming I stay injury free (he knocks on a piece of wood), which I have been.

Ironman: Was it also a bit easier being able to get clear? I didn’t see you in St. Croix, but I did see you in Galveston, and you just looked frustrated on the bike. Did that change the dynamics at all?

Armstrong: Yes and no, because then you’re alone out there. I got an occasional time split so I knew I was in a good place and I also knew – the speedometer and the watts weren’t lying. Every time I looked down I was doing 30, so I thought if someone is riding faster than this, then hats off, they deserve it. My watts were high, my heart rate was low, I was in control. The time checks I was getting I was gaining. Galveston you have to just take and scratch from the list. That bike, as most people who were in that race will attest, it was a joke. There was too much outside activity, too many cars and wind and the cars being on that side – we’d set it up differently next time.

In St. Croix, looking back, I made some mistakes tactically. I should have just kept going when I caught those guys. I should have just ridden my race. Instead I just waited from the beast to when we got out there to the east side of the island and then went, but that’s too short. You don’t have enough time to make time and then you’re stacking your effort towards the end of the bike and that just compounds the run, and then you compound with the nutritional issue and I was just parked.

Ironman: It seems like you’re getting 70.3 stuff in order, but at the end of the month you have an Ironman. How does that change things, or does it?

Armstrong: It does. Since Florida, France has been my main focus, not Honu. I’m here to race because I live here part time, I love this island, I love the people. I still think I need to confirm that what worked in Florida could work here, so I get that out of it. But, I’ve hit it hard this week. I ran 21 on Sunday or Monday and followed that up with track work here two days later, so I’m not coming into this race rested at all. Most of my focus, since I recovered from Florida, has been on France. I’ll just have to train right through this. Plus, it’s basically a trip half the way around the world – from Kona to France, it probably doesn’t get longer than that. I’m going soon. I’d rather get there and get adjusted. I’m approaching France as if it’s the most important triathlon I’ve ever done.

Ironman: I was about to say I guess you’re looking forward to France. I’ve asked about whether or not you’re having fun a few times since you started racing in Panama, but is there a bit of trepidation as you get ready for Ironman France?

Armstrong: Curiosity. I don’t know that I’d call it trepidation. I am curious to find out what that’s like on so many levels. Going back to that nutrition thing, there is a whole list of questions that need to be figured out. Even there, just carrying the food, much less how much do you eat, what do you eat, where to you eat – where the hell do you put it? That’s nearly a five-hour ride. There’s no team car with your mussette and your snickers and your coke. I’ve got to get that dialed. Maybe nutrition is just math. Maybe it’s easier because you’re not going as hard. Maybe it’s easier because it’s not a 170-beat-effort, it’s a 158-beat-effort. It’s a little ratcheted down … but you still have to get it in, because if you get into trouble on that run, it’s ugly… I look at what happened in Galveston and St. Croix, if that happened in a full, it would be a train wreck. I can’t have that. I need to come out having had a good experience and I don’t know if that means winning, if that means top five, but I need to finish race solid.

Ironman: Here in Honu, you’re obviously riding really well, but you’re up against two of the best cyclists in the sport (Chris Lieto and Maik Twelsiek). Does that change anything in terms of your strategy?

Armstrong: I’m going to ride my race, and when I say that, I mean that starts when the gun goes off. You have to have a great swim – I can’t give up time in the swim, which I did in St. Croix and even in Florida. I need to stay on top of it and pay attention in the swim. On the bike I’ll just do my thing. I have a set wattage effort that I want to do and I’m going to do it. That’s a great preview for later in the year if I’m back here. I’m pretty confident that, if I have the day I think I can have, despite being in the middle of a full training cycle, that will be good enough to ride at the front. Lieto will be hopefully up there too – sometimes it’s nice to have some company.

Ironman: In Panama Bevan Docherty managed to get past you. Tomorrow you’ll have another short-course Olympic distance specialist to contend with in Greg Bennett. Does that change anything, or do you still just have to take care of those watts and get out there?

Armstrong: I think if I did Panama again today – although you never know how races unfold – but if I look back, I would trust my run more now than I did in February. I felt great in Florida and felt steady. I think anytime you can do nearly two hours flat and 1:15, you’re going to be close. I would love to continue to build on that. I would love to continue to ride faster. These days you can see everything that’s happening. I can see exactly how I performed on the bike in Panama and study that. Every race has continued to ratchet up by 10 watts and it’s getting to where it needs to be. And then the run times are coming down, assuming the nutrition stays right. This will be interesting here because it’s not your normal run. With the different surfaces. The grass, the cart paths, the heat, the technical nature of the run, this may actually suit a non-runner more than a pure gazelle who prefers to get out on the roads and absolutely rip. Hopefully.


Ironman 70.3 Hawaii is a Long distance triathlon consisting of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run.

The race is composed of the following distances:
* Swim – 1.2 miles
* Bike – 56 miles
* Run – 13.1 miles

Cutoff Times:

* Swim course will be CLOSED 1 hour and 15 minutes from start of race.
* Bike course will be CLOSED 5 hours and 30 minutes from start of race.
* Run course will be CLOSED 8 hours and 30 minutes from start of race.

Course Information

The swim start is 7 a.m. at Hapuna Beach State Park. Water temperature will be approximately 78 degrees F.

The bike transition is at Hapuna Beach, the bike course takes athletes out onto the famed Ironman Hawaii route. Exiting Hapuna Beach, riders will travel the Queen Kaahumanu Highway and then onto Akoni Pule Hwy. The turnaround is in the Hawi Town area. The bike finish is at The Fairmont Orchid.

The run start and the finish line are at The Fairmont Orchid.

Schedule of Events

Friday, June 1, 2012

8-9 a.m. – TYR Swim Clinic, Hapuna Beach State Park
9 a.m.-4 p.m. – Honu Race Office Opens – The Fairmont Orchid – Paniolo Hospitality Room
9 a.m.-6 p.m. – Bike Tech Service Begins – The Fairmont Orchid – Plaza III
9 a.m.-6 p.m. – Bike Works Triathlon Retail Opens – The Fairmont Orchid – Plaza II
9 a.m.-6 p.m. – Honu Souvenir Retail Opens – The Fairmont Orchid – Plaza I
9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. – Athlete Registration – The Fairmont Orchid – Salon III
9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. – Bike to Run Gear Check-In – The Fairmont Orchid – Salon III
1-5:30 p.m. – Mandatory Bike and Helmet Check-in – Hapuna Beach State Park
* Overnight security is provided in the bike compound. You have the option of covering your bike computer or removing it. Full bike covers are not permitted. You will have access to your bike at 5 a.m. on race morning.
2 p.m. – Pre-Race Pro Panel – The Fairmont Orchid – Salon I & II
3 p.m. – Mandatory Athlete Pre-Race Meeting – The Fairmont Orchid – Salon I & II

Saturday, June 2

5 a.m. – Swim to Bike Gear Check-In /Body Marking/Athlete Check-In at Hapuna Beach State Park
7 a.m. – RACE START
9 a.m.-6 p.m. – Honu Souvenir Retail – Finish Line, The Fairmont Orchid – Honu (Turtle) Pointe
2:30-4:30 p.m. – Slot Claim – Slot Distribution Booth, Finish Line/Post Race Area – The Fairmont Orchid – Honu (Turtle) Pointe
3:30 p.m. – RACE CUT-OFF – Finish Line, The Fairmont Orchid – Honu (Turtle) Pointe
4 p.m. – Awards Presentation – Finish Line, The Fairmont Orchid – Honu (Turtle) Pointe

Sunday, June 3

7:30 a.m. – Swim and Breakfast with Greg Bennett
* The swim is set to begin at 7:30 a.m. and athletes are asked to meet at the Beach Shack by 7:15 a.m. The swim will be followed by an athlete-only buffet breakfast at the Orchid Court Restaurant for a discounted, all-inclusive price of $25 per person. Space is limited to the first 30 participants.

Race History

On Jan. 8, 2004 the World Triathlon Corporation announced the addition of a new triathlon on the Big Island. The inaugural race had all the standard details: date, distance, location, qualifying slots, etc. but there was one small problem – it needed a name.

In an effort to allow Hawaii’s residents to get involved, WTC devised a plan to hold a “Name the Race” contest.

After reading more than 170 entries from across the state, a submission from Sean “Peaman” Pagett stood out. Pagett, longtime Kona community volunteer, Ironman finisher and sponsor of the free Peaman race series, submitted the winning entry of Honu Triathlon and earned a weekend getaway at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows.

Pagett explained the inspiration behind the name. “It’s multi-faceted because I love turtles, they are appropriately fitting to the Mauna Lani area, which is well-known for the Honu and their Turtle Independence Day. This turtle release program has become a treasured Big Island event. What better race mascot than the honu with its uniquely Hawaiian flair?”

The 2004 Honu Triathlon was an Olympic distance race that started at Hapuna Beach and finished at the beautiful Mauna Lani Bay Resort.

“We are extremely motivated to work with Ironman to showcase this exciting event. As the host resort, we are committed to ensuring an extraordinary experience for the athletes, spectators, guests and Big Island residents,” said Riley Saito, vice president for Mauna Lani Resort.

That year’s race provided qualifying slots to the 2004 Ironman Triathlon World Championship to Hawaii state athletes only. Now, the race is known as Ironman 70.3 Hawaii and is open to athletes from all over the world.

It is truly a world class event and the crown jewel of the Ironman 70.3 series, offering qualifying slots to both the Ironman World Championship in Kona and the Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev.

— Find out more:

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