Aborigine Didgeridoo and Hawaiian Conch Shell. The haunting sound they produce ushered in the Opening Ceremonies of the 70.3 World's and Kona World's Championships respectively. Although 7000 ocean miles apart by way of the ancient Polynesians and later in the 1700's retraced by Captain James Cook, they share cultural background.
The Sunshine Coastal town of Mooloolaba, just 1 hr north of Brisbane, is perfect for triathlons. Within one block you have access to hotels, restaurant & shop promenades adjacent to warm clear ocean water yet in "their" autumn, cool to wet-suit legal. All beaches and accompany "transistion" parking lots are easily accessable. The swim-out to run out represented a circuitous labyrinth. I asked a young Aussie lass to help me trace the map. When my finger finished the map she cried "Bob's your uncle!" Finding out this is an Aussie expression meaning "you got it" or "you did it!" It's rooted in old politics where "Bob" got the job. She said America doesn't have a problem with nepotism in politics. She was sooo young.
The course was beautiful starting in the picturesque bay to the country-side ride into the bush. You did have to remember to stay left (when passing, say "on your right") on roundabouts and to take aide station water in your left hand. They added a unique out-and-back steep climb for the World's competition. It felt like climbing the three switchbacks of OSM all in a row. Many riders unclipped half way to summit by foot. All SB folks made it with the help of an Aussie Cowboy waving his hat and yelling "You can make it, mate!"
The run was along the coastline leading to a very long red carpet ending with a leaping high five with Mark Allen. What a thrill! We all did well; Jane & George Esahak-Gage, Cindy Abrami, Brittany Braden, Zack Parris and Elke Peirtsegaele (who would be joining me in a few short weeks to the Big Island Dance).
KONA: Coach Fred Maggiore said, "Sandy, you will be competing with the best athletes in the world, but no worries!" I was exposed to a similar group in Mooloolaba when Ironman announced the 200,000 athletes that competed in the 90 worldwide 70.3 IMs rendered down to 2,000 age group winners to field this year's 70.3 World's Championship. This caused me many twitchy moments of pre-race nerves. However, that same feeling in Kona was frightening. It seemed like everyone was lightweight-neon-Olympic racing spikes and I was a pair of brown shoes.
Spouse Helen and daughter Kelsey were in awe of the big show and the level of energy in the air. I was advised, while trying to remain unfrazzled, to tap-in and share the ubiquitous excitement.
Mike Takeuchi's article (http://endorphinrelease.com/) chronicles the race day of both Elke and I very well. My thanks to Mike! I wanted to add my thanks to the Hawaiian surf board Volunteer that beamed his "keep going" spirit with his killer smiles. I wish I could meet him. His face stayed with me while I was collecting more smiles every mile.
When my Di2 shorted out about mile 30, the"fixie" bike, the wind, heat and Havi was calling up the demon voices in my ear. I looked back on the image of his surfboard and his frequent thumbs-up! The run was a welcome change and immediately connected with the crowd and volunteers. Coming back from the Energy Lab turn-around, it got dark and lonely. I needed to dig deeper and watch the horizon for every mile lights of the upcoming aide stations. Finally the big glow and the last turns to the Banyan tree and the rushing roar of the crowd. I was flying inside and out. The look on my finish line face captured exactly how I felt. Seeing Helen and Kelsey and David Gonzales at the finish line peaked (maybe overdosed?) my endorphins or whatever that is!
Switzerland's Daniela Ryf set the new course record of 8:46:46 on the women side. The German men, repeating last year, came in one, two and three: Jan Frodeno 8:06, Sebastian Kienle 8:10 and Patrick Lange 8:11.
However, the defining moment of the day was not the overall winners or age group podium placers. It was Jennifer Tait from Oxford England. She gain the loudest and brightest cheers and the most media coverage as she past the finish line moments before the midnight cut-off. She embodies the Hawaiian term Kupa'a, meaning to have strength to stand firm and believe in yourself!
Helen asked if I would do it again. I said "NO WAY!" She said "I bet you'll think you could do better next time, but for now, I'll support you on shorter distances!"