While in Kona for the Ironman World Championships, or swim championships for me, I kept my eyes and ears out for what a training camp on the big island would be like. As part of my coaching service, I plan on offering the chance for my athletes and others to join me in some intensive one on one training in great training environments. After my trip to Hawai’i, there is a new option on the palette!
First, transport is quite easy as there are lots of direct flights from LA or SF, which means most people are one stop away from being there. I travelled from London via SF and it was easy, if not long, and the most painful part was paying United $200 to ship my bike each way!
Second, the swimming is just plain amazing! There is a great pool in Kona and others around the island to get in the hard intervals and drill sessions. The pool in Kona is right in the middle of the town and has around 16 lanes (25yds). Pool swimming is ok, but the real gem here is the ocean. I swam in the ocean on every day but one while I was there, and I loved each and every swim. It was a bit challenging at first being so far away from the shore, but as the days went on, I loved it more and more. Where else can you swim with dolphins, turtles and occasionally tiger sharks, along with a million colorful fish? The water was a mixture of calm and crashing, which was excellent training for the chaos of a swim start and good prep for a rough water race.
Third, cycling: The roads on the island are for the most part good, smooth and there is plenty of vertical to explore. For the real lunatic, there is a road from Waikoloa Beach Resort up to the top of Mauna Kea which is a 13800ft ascent! Just riding part way to top of the saddle road is a 6700ft ascent, which would be a normally super hard climb. On the west side of the island there is little vegetation and miles of lava fields, which provide a unrelenting hot and windy environment. On the east side, it is wet and tropical which gives great variation for riding. One thing to note is that the island is much bigger than it seems on the map and in comparison with Maui or Oahu, which means a bit more logistical planning for cycling excursions.
Fourth, running: Running is good, but I did not get to really sample it due to my fractured leg. There are plenty of hot dry roads to train on (the Natural Energy Lab comes to mind 🙂 ). The Lava fields are for the most part too rough to really run on, but south of Kona, there are likely many more trails (due to the vegetation and hills). I didn’t see a track, but am sure there are some located with the local high schools.
Fifth, eating: The food in Kona is quite varied and even though it is very much a tourist town (Wednesday’s are cruise ship days), there are some really good places to eat. Thai is available at many places as is traditional italian, burger joints and steak & seafood restaurants. There are also quite a few more distinct local places that serve more organic and/or healthy options (Lava Java). The local Starbucks opens at 5am, which is incredible and makes it easy to get that pre training espresso in the blood.
And lastly, holiday fun: What can I say, this place is one of the very best places to go on holiday, so there are loads of tourist and sporting fun to be had. From snorkeling with manta rays to kayaking and stand up paddle boarding among many water borne fun activities. There is hiking on the volcano, and many great hikes to exclusive beaches and waterfalls.
All in all, Hawai’i is one of the best training holiday locations and I will plan a camp there.