|Lucy Charles Barclay
On February 18, 1978, 15 people came to Waikiki to take on the IRONMAN challenge. Prior to racing, each received three sheets of paper with a few rules and a course description. The last page read: "Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!"
In 1981, the race moved from the tranquil shores of Waikiki to the barren lava fields of Kona on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Along the Kona Coast, black lava rock dominates the panorama, and athletes battle the "ho’omumuku" crosswinds of 45 mph, 95-degree temperatures and a scorching sun.
Without a doubt, the mass swim start is the most emotionally charged start in the sport, thanks to TV helicopters, enthusiastic spectators and the sun rising over Mt. Hualalai. Currents can be a factor, so a few pre-race practice swims in the bay are advised. Water temperature in Kailua Bay is typically around 79 F.
As cyclists make their way north along the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway, from Kailua-Kona to the turnaround in Hawi, they can be exposed to intense trade winds that buffet much of the exposed western and northern coast of the Big Island. The winds vary in intensity from steady to heavy blasts that can blow cyclists across the road. For this reason, disc wheels are not permitted. Winds may subside during the gradual climb to Hawi but pick up again as athletes make their way to T2. CAUTION: The Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway is under construction. Use caution and awareness of traffic transitions, message boards, barricades, steel plates and delineators along the highway. Remember to always ride single file.
After exiting T2, runners will wind through town before taking on Ali’i Drive, where spectators will pack the roads. Athletes will then retrace their steps, climb up Palani Road to the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway to make their way to the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority (NELHA). Unless cloud cover or nightfall spares you, anticipate high heat and humidity on the run course.