The Ironman World Championship is a gathering of elite athletes (aka fruitcakes and goofballs) from all over the world. So to welcome the world, the town hosts the parade of athletes, complete with flags, banners, a parade marshal and a marching band. Athletes line up by country and march down Ali’i Drive to the cheers of thousands of fans. On Saturday, we all hope to be running down Ali’i Drive to one of the greatest finish lines in the running world. This year, instead of walking with the United States contingent, I walked with the Timex Jeep and passed out SWAG (Timex hats and Timex cow bells) to people in the crowd with my fellow team mates.
I had a real thrill when I heard someone screaming my name and waving at me from one of the balconies along the parade route.
It was Scott Rigsby, a two time Ironman finisher in Kona and one of the guys who is an inspiration to me. While I did not get a picture of Scott at the Parade, I have included the picture of Scott that I use in my speeches so you can appreciate why this Ironman is such an inspiration to so many.
Scott Boylan and I swam out for our coffee on Wednesday morning, went for a short run down Ali’i Drive (that never gets old) and pedaled for an hour north on the Queen K highway to test out our bikes. The strong headwinds reminded us of the challenges we have waiting for us on Saturday.
Wednesday night, Scott, Joanne, Nannette and I hosted the Timex team and guests for a sunset cocktail reception and dinner at the house we rented (800 feet up and looking west over the Pacific Ocean.) The reception was sponsored by the Timex Multisport team (Tristan – our terrific team manager paid for it.)
In addition to being treated to great views and a wonderful dinner, the evening provided time for all of us to meet the family members and support crew of our fellow team members.
Joanne and Nannette did an outstanding job catering this affair and in appreciation, the Timex team gave both ladies the commemorative Timex Kona 2012 watch.
As we get closer to race day, the intensity in Kona starts to build. In an effort to defuse some of that pressure, someone came up with the idea of having an underwear run for athletes on Thursday. Yes, all the athletes run down Ali’i Drive in their underwear, to the appreciation of cheering crowds.
Hey, I warned you earlier this week that Ironman week in Kona is a very crazy and special place. This year, Jennifer Haley-Pinto, one of my Timex teammates came up with the idea of having a team outfit for this run. Spectators lining the street really appreciated her artistic design. I did too. And you are still wondering why I love this sport.
The big change for me this year is that I have returned to Kona as a member of a team. While I believe I am a team player, the Ironman competition is very much a solo event. The rules are very strict about no outside help what so ever. So, while I train with a number of “teams,” the day of the race I am on my own. But as described in this blog, we are a unified team in getting to the start line. And on Saturday, when the cannon goes off, I will know that there are 7 other teammates on the course and 30+ family members, friends, and team mates not competing who will be standing on the sidelines, screaming, waving, and ringing Timex cow bells trying their best to telegraph all the energy and enthusiasm they can muster to encourage me to do my very best. And on Saturday, I will gladly try to absorb all the energy they can deliver.