Ooof. I’m tired, my body aches and is covered in dried sweat, I’m itchy in too many places and have multiple welts from bug bites. Also, I’m fairly sure my credit card is smoking from the workout it’s gotten the last couple of days. All in all, a successful first few days, but tomorrow starts the true test: when I start acting like I live here, and working remotely. Vacation is over!
I spent half of Wednesday traveling, and was picked up by Eric and Julie. They gave me the lowdown on the events for the weekend, and we made plans to have dinner that night. In the afternoon, I set about unpacking and making my condo livable, which included a trip up to the KTA for essentials, coffee creamer and a six-pack of Longboard Lager included. A quick swim in the afternoon helped bring down my body temperature, and I’m going to try and make that a habit while I can. I missed the first night’s sunset but we did go up to Bianelli’s for some stellar pizza. I can’t go back there too often, or I’ll need to buy some new clothes. It’s good to know they offer slices-to-go, however! Had my first, “omigoddes, there’s a cockroach IN my house!” experience, and we declared a detente when I couldn’t smack him and he crawled into the grooves of the wood vaulted ceiling. I went to bed fairly early because my body was (and still is) on Pacific time, but slept poorly due to the new surroundings, a very firm mattress and general body discomfort.
Thursday morning I was up bright and early, before the sun, which should be the norm for a while. I was able to locate the cockroach and scoop him outside before he died in the house. Plans had changed a bit, but I was on the road by about 7:30 to go pick up my car, which went smoothly. If you have the opportunity to ship your car to the Big Island, and you are on the West Coast, use Hawaii Car Transport. They ship into Kawaihae, which is maybe an hour north of Kona, and they only charge $1075 from Oakland, which is cheaper than Matson. There is a ship sailing weekly on Wednesdays, and the pick up was very smooth. Customer Service was terrific, and there’s a gas station fairly close to fill that tank back up, which needs to be at 1/4 full or less when you drop it off. I piddled around for the rest of the morning, got in a brief swim in the afternoon and hit the KTA with coupons, and the BOH there with a deposit. Again, great customer service at both places. You WILL pay more for food/beverage here due to the high cost of transport, so expect it. I picked up some dinner at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (much bigger selection than on the mainland, including burgers/fries, breakfast and musubi options), and started eating it while sitting on a lava wall at the top of my street, watching the sun set. Another early night to bed, and yes, I sweated and woke up frequently.
Friday was the day I planned to get stuff accomplished, and I mostly did. Throughout the day I did laundry, a couple of hours of work email, checked FB numerous times, and started my credit card workout at Walmart, Target and Sports Authority. I needed to pick up such essentials as shorts (which I haven’t owned in more years that I can remember), shortie pajamas (long pants aren’t cutting it), slippahs (aka flip-flops), and additional swimsuits. I did wander downtown in the morning to check out the activity and had to continually check to make sure I wasn’t openly drooling at all the very fit athletes training in the area. This occurred on Saturday too, I’m ashamed to admit. I did manage to pick up a cute Ironman visor in Ironman Village, which I was very grateful for the next day. There was actually rain in the late afternoon/evening, which I thoroughly enjoyed, as I’m from drought-stricken California and I sorely miss the rain. It also brought the temps down, which was a relief as it’s been in the high-80s this week.
So, Saturday. Epic, amazing, incredible, exhausting, inspiring. Any of those words would do to describe the experience of volunteering at an Aid Station. I got there with Eric and Devin about 11:30; the aid station was one sponsored by Devin’s school so the volunteers were parents, kids and others associated with the school. They’ve been doing this for years, I believe, and they have it down. I felt a bit guilty for arriving when we did and immediately sitting down with a plate lunch, but I was ever so grateful that I had when I finally left 6 hours later. Those volunteers work HARD. I spent most of the time from about 12:30 to 5:30 standing in the middle of the road, among the caution cones, holding out cups of water, calling out “water, water”, squatting to pick up fresh cups and repeating. It’s a very specific stance, since you want the athletes to be able to grab the cup off the flat of your palm on their way past, and not spill it. We had cups of ice, Perform (a fitness drink), cola, red bull, water and chicken broth, half bananas, orange slices, gel or “Gu”. We were on both sides of the lane since we were stationed right at the turnaround point, so we’d have the athletes come up one side and pass us again on the other. It didn’t always work like that, as in the early hour they might head back to the side where they originally got their treat, but when we got to the point where there were athletes in both directions, it all worked out. The athletes themselves were completely amazing. You could tell the pros in the beginning, and those who have done a lot of these: they kept a steady stride, called out for what they needed, signaled if they acknowledged your call and were going to take your offering, and SO MANY took the breath to say “thank you.” That’s the part that surprised and humbled me. These people have already swam 2.6 ocean miles, ridden a bike 112 miles and run a little over 5 miles by the time they got to us. And they still had the presence of mind to spare a precious breath to say thank you. There were a lovely couple of tourists standing near me, for most of about 4 hours, who took lots of photos with camera and iPod, and they frequently stepped in between athletes and picked up the cups that were dropped on the ground. They weren’t volunteers, I’m fairly sure they weren’t American, and they just stepped up to help when they noticed it was needed. The energy of the volunteers was sustained pretty high, we cheered the athletes as they came by, they were announced on a speaker, there was music from the radio station playing through that speaker, we were constantly reminded to hydrate, and we were there for them. Personally, I didn’t want to stop because I was so inspired. I saw professionals, amateurs, amputees, many nationalities, fit bodies, not so fit bodies, runners, walkers, smiles, grim determination and sheer, unrelenting focus. At 5:30 p.m. I finally called it quits because my friends had left earlier for another engagement and I wanted to walk the mile home before the sun set. I slogged my way home with my booty of a dirty Kokua Crew t-shirt and plastic Ironman bag filled with 5 oranges and two large bottles of water, my hair slung back in a hasty pony tail because my cute top-buns had fallen out fairly early, and a smile in my heart. I was definitely in bed early after a hasty shower.
Today, I started my island life, which meant a bit of lounging with coffee in the morning followed by errands. Up to the Kings Shops in Waikaloa for some proper slippahs with orthopedic support from The Walking Company (computer-assisted fitting!), membership at Costco plus a gel-foam mattress pad, a new desk, chair and reading lamp from Target (those got put together tonight with a lot of sweating and some swearing), and a run to Wal-mart for some hair do-dads to keep my hair out of my face. Oh, and a stop at Safeway for some proper salads and such, since my kitchen gear won’t get here for about a week. Right now, my desk is all set up with my work stuff, ready for tomorrow morning, and I’ve been typing this out on my lanai, with a Kona Brewing Company Big Wave Golden Ale keeping me company.
Unfortunately, 5:30 a.m. will come way too soon, so I’m going to log off and go hose down.before crawling onto my (hopefully) soft mattress pad and sleeping the sleep of the just. Welcome to Kona!
Aid Station 5 at the Kailua Kona Ironman 2014