Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Conquering Kona: Memories of a first-time island love affair

(Photo courtesy of Ironman)


Last year’s Kona Inspired winners share memories and advice for first-timers.

Entries for this year’s Kona Inspired contest are pouring in. As the competition close draws near, Ironman asked the 2012 winners to share the moments that have stuck with them six months after racing in the Ironman World Championship.

From swimming with sea turtles to hobnobbing with pros to overcoming pain, a first-timer’s experience can never be replicated.

What moments will you never forget?

“Standing with my fellow Kona Inspired athletes in the cool water before the start. We rallied together so we could wish each other a great race, but it ended up being the perfect photo opportunity, both in real life and etched forever in my memory.” – Mike Thompson

“I was fortunate enough to have my bike racked next to Julie Moss. We chatted briefly and then as I was heading to the water I bumped into Chrissie Wellington, whom I had met the day before at a book signing. She remembered me (my scars are great for that) and gave me a hug and reminded me to stay hydrated and keep my head cool. Words of encouragement from two legends assured me it was divine intervention for me to be in Kona.” – Shay Eskew

“The run along Alii Drive carrying my Hope flag with the names of the many children afflicted with brain cancer written across the front.” – Beth Ann Telford

“Swimming with sea turtles in Kailua Bay during early morning practice swims with my fiance, Shane.” – Heather Wajer

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

“Being the kind of father and husband I wanted to be and still training properly. I flew all four kids under six to Kona to be part of the memory. I don’t regret it. My entire family had sacrificed for me to be in Kona and I felt they all should be there to celebrate.” – Shay Eskew

“Eight weeks before Kona, I was in a car accident and broke multiple fingers in my left hand. The first thing I asked the doctor when he came to see me was ‘how soon before I can swim? I have this really important, really long race in October.’ I had my fiberglass brace molded to the shape of my aero bars so that I could ride my stationary trainer and not loose any cycling fitness. Once in Kona, I did the entire race with individual metal braces secured to my (still healing) broken fingers. Boy, did crossing that finish line feel good. – Annee Deering

“It can be intimidating seeing all of the amazingly fit triathletes the week before the race. Second guessing and doubt start to creep in. I dealt with it by spending a lot of time relaxing far away from all the intense energy back at my condo. – Heather Wajer

What’s your best piece of advice for Kona newbies?

“Be competitive and go fast, but don’t forget to look all around you during each part of the day. The more you smile, the faster you will go. And take your time crossing that line: There are few moments like it.” – Mike Thompson

“Become an expert at listening to your body, when it says ‘yes’ and when it says ‘no.’” – Annee Deering

“Most of us have families, jobs and other commitments. You might not be able to train as much as the pros, but if you focus on quality workouts, you can get ready in much less time per week. Make sure every workout has a specific purpose and goal, don’t go out without a plan. Use heart rate, cadence, power and other data for feedback on the quality of your workouts.” – Heather Wajer

“Have a training plan and trust your training. During race day, when doubts start to creep in, you can think of everything you’ve gone through and use it to pull you through the difficult periods.” – Beth Ann Telford

“As a burn survivor, it’s hard to stay hydrated. The burn scars damaged my sweat glands on a third of my body, making thermoregulation difficult and causing uncontrollable sweating. Calculate your sweat rate in extreme humidity and train your gut to absorb the needed hydration. It took active training for me to get where I could take in two litres per hour without feeling bloated.” – Shay Eskew

To enter Kona Inspired, submit a 90-second video showing how you represent the Ironman mantra “Anything Is Possible.”

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