Sunday, October 10 2004

The conference starts at 7:30 Am, but thereıs no reason to sleep that late - Iım on West Coast time, which is three hours ahead, meaning, 7:30 = 10:30 AM. So I awake at about 4:15, at whatıs euphemistically known as ³0 - dark - thirty². I had gone to Costco on my arrival the evening before, and got $80 worth of Costco food: Quaker Oatmeal Squares, ½ & ½ , OJ, Zone bars, apples, bagels, peanuts, etc. I stuff some squares , and ponder running wear for the dark, warm, humid morning. Sleeveless top, short bike shorts seem to get the nod. Out I go at 5:30, running up AliıI Drive to the pier, back down to the end, and home again ­ 13.5 miles in under two hours. I donıt die from heat exhaustion, although that is one of the lectures at the morningıs conference. I do seem quite wet from sweat, and pour down endless cups of passion/mango juice at the morning conference. My first foray at Kona craziness seems to have gone just fine.
Actually, the night before, I had a little intro to the Kona night life. I walked down AliıI to the pier and back (less than a mile, really), and got accosted by some youths on the sea wall each time, The first stroll through, some guy wanted to tell me that heıd been in town since May. I gave him my best Bill Clinton smile, a clap on the arm as we shook hands, and told him that was a long time for here, and went on down the street. On the way back, he and his friends were long gone, replaced by a duo all of 18 trying to sell ³bud² to everyone who passed by. I told him to be patient, when he was three times as old (54), heıd be into other things. I donıt think he got it. But I wondered what it was about me that got them going? Maybe they hassle ALL the tourists who walk by? Or just the older single males; quien sabe.
This town is FILLED with Ironman action. People running, biking, swimming all up and down the coast. Today, people donıt look quite so intense, but I did see Tim DeBoom soaking his shirt while he ran FAST along the Queen K near the Energy Lab. And Cameron Browne, do rag on his head, biking along AliıI drive. At last, after five years of reading and hearing about the hallowed places (³Kona², ³AliıI², ³Palini², ³Queen K², ³Hawi²), I get to see them. Iım realizing that this trip may purge Kona from my dreams by showing me the reality. The deeper I get into my athletic career as a triathlete, the more I realize that perfecting the training process is actually the task. Time and place donıt matter; they flow from the plan and effort and execution of the training.
Even though my bike splits are usually my best relative to the field, Iıve learned how to plan for and execute ³quality time² only in the run and swim. I can easily see the direct correlation between how much time and what combination of effort of each will result in what specific result come race day. Iım not so sure about the correlation between my bike work and my outcome. I tried to make that a focus for this year, but I donıt think I was able to do anything other than ³put in the miles². The effort and the planned progress didnıt happen. Next year, that must change, or I might never reach whatever meager potential I have remaining in me.
In the afternoon, I loaded the mountain bike, computer, and snorkel gear into the van, and took off up the Queen K to find a government road advertised as ³Mountain Biking². My bike computer read ³91F² when I took off, from elevation 435ı. The road rose steadily, but fairly gradually going through a series of progressive degradations. Apparently, it is a road which accesses first some ranch homes close by the Kohala highway, and then cattle range farther up. About ½ way to the top, the gravel/dirt mix gives way to a close cropped thick grass cover over the double track. Later, what seems like genetically enhanced grass crowds the road; each blade is about two inches wide and maybe 4-6ı high. Impossible to ride without getting swashed by the overhanging forage. After this jungle comes a patch of eucalyptus, and finally a higher pasture, closed off by the chained locked gate, leading to the final house up on the Waimea road. After 5 miles out and 1200 feet up, time to turnaround. The trip down is smooooth ­ the grass slows my progress just like powder snow on the Big Burn. A cushy feeling, not very helpful to prepare me for the Maui hell of Haleakula come Xterra race day. Just as I hit the Venture Van, the gentle rain which started up half way down turns into a brief but drenching downpour.
I make my way back down the Queen K, and head for Hopuna beach near Puako, between Kawaihae and Waikoloa. (I love trying to type all these names. A Hawaiian typewriter, of course, would have only 12 letters.) The rain hasnıt made it this far out to the shore, and I walk with my fins, mask and snorkel down to the shade side of the beach, where the guide book says the snorkeling is best. Of course, for me, the snorkeling is really just an excuse to swim a bit, and maybe see a few fish. Iım in a hurry to get back to the hotel, though, as my first floor room has its own private beachside deck. From there, the surf clumps up against a lava ledge no more than 15 meters from my door ­ my own private white noise haven. And, of course, this is the Kona Coast, so the sun sets right in front of me. Tonight, it drops right into the ocean just as programmed ­ no clouds far on the horizon hiding its final descent, a few stray cumuli from Mauna Loa drifting over the drop zone, and the crowds at Huggoıs next door applauding the quality of this eveningıs light show.

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