Monday, November 19, 2012

Kona Spectator Report!

So this has taken a while to put this together, but it was a really wonderful long weekend in Hawaii.

We flew into Kona on Wednesday. That's a lot later than most, but we can only be away from our students for so long. I was determined to get the most out of my time on the island!

After we landed, George's parents and I found the house that our friend Laura booked the year before. We said hello to our friend Scott Rigbsy who was staying across the street, and we headed out to explore. George's parents picked Anne up for the airport and we all had a wonderful dinner at Huggos overlooking the water.

This place has purple sweet potatoes on their menu. What else could I need in a restaurant?

By the time we made it to bed, we were exhausted.

Thursday was all about getting George ready for the big dance. We woke early and George and I saw that Chrissie Wellington was headed to the practice swim from Twitter. So we hopped in the car and went to meet her. So cool. We went for a beautiful and fun practice swim. That water was just stunning! Then we went back and got the whole family and walked in to get George registered...

I would share pictures of registration, but apparently I am not invited!

So we waited for him to come back, and then took some lovely family photos at the giant flowery M-dot.

Then, we all headed to the Kona Brewing Company to have some great food, and look at all of George's numbers and swag! Starting to get real!

Then, we enjoyed the craziness around the expo, and drove George down the Queen K so he could ride up to Hawi. Anne and I went shopping in a delightful store before Hawi and ate dragon fruit! I love this stuff. We ate a ton of it when I was in Vietnam on Semester-at-Sea in college, but have not really gotten my hands on it since then. Plus, it looks really really pretty!

That evening, George, Anne, and I went to the athletes banquet. They ran out of chairs, so we sat on the ground, but it was fun to see all of the videos. The banquet was long, and we had to leave eventually to go get George's parents, but they did have people who threw these awesome fire batons around. That wins me over!

Friday was my day to go play! George was all about relaxing and staying out of the craziness, so Anne and I started the day off right with macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup at Lava Java and Kona coffee. That place lives up to the hype! Yum!

Then Anne, and I headed out to our paddle boarding lessons! We had SO much fun! We went about 3 miles AND we learned how to do back flips off of those thing. I might go pro.

We finished the lessons and bought some delightful hawaiian dresses. So necessary.

Then, headed back to the house to hang with George. He was very very chill.

That night, Anne and I went snorkeling in the dark with manta rays. Might be one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. They were like 15 foot giant ocean angels! I love them.

This is not my picture--I stole it from the internets :-)

Race morning! The reason we came (other than paddle boarding and manta rays of course!).

We parked and started getting George through all of the check in business.

George sends me a text that he needs a paperclip. So I went on a mission to find one. Morning of an Ironman, you don't ask WHY your athlete needs to combine papers neatly, you just find the paperclip (I think it wasn't for papers actually). While begging for paperclips at 5 am, I see a map of the roads that will be shut down until 1am, and realize that is where we parked. So, I frantically called George's dad Buddy. I brought him the map, and he said, "no problem," dissapeared, and saved the day. He figured out where to part the car so we wouldn't be trapped.

In the meantime, we got sunscreen on George and gave him lots of good luck hugs!  I could tell he was really nervous.

So I decided to be a little goofy to lighten the mood! It took a while to break through--

And finally, a smile! And I feel ok to leave him to go through the race.

After we dropped George, we all settled in, and got ready to watch the start. The start in Hawaii is truly unlike anything else I have ever seen.

We moved our way onto the bike course and waited. Waited past the "hopeful goal time." Waited past the "more likely" goal time. Waited past the "bad swim goal time." And waited. And waited. And waited. This is when I started to freak out some. There are no pictures of me going to the medical tent--or asking if I could go out and look for George on the kayak. Or talking to the family tent and having them tell me, "we have kayaks, boat, scuba divers out there. We have never lost a swimmer, and your husband is doing going to be the first." It all sounds kind of funny now, but at the time it was ANYTHING but funny.

This is where I will direct you to George's race report. I can't tell you how poorly the swim went for him, because they wouldn't let me go out there and swim/paddle board/kayak to go find him (I tried). 

Needless to say, it wasn't good.

Then he had a great bike--but we never saw him. I still don't know how this happened, except that I was in a panic. But, I did have some great friends (Laura and Erik) texting me as soon as he appeared on the tracker. That was so wonderful. I was so happy to just see his times come up and know he was safely trucking away and killing it on the bike course.

We all went out for a breakfast, Anne and I went exploring, and then we all met up at Lava Java to cheer for the runners (along with MANY other people! Check out this tunnel of people cheering!).

As soon as George went by, I hopped on my bike and started following him. He chatted with me a little bit, and I would ride ahead and then catch him again. He started to look stronger and stronger. 

I darted around and we met back up on the Queen K. He started having stomach problems and was falling apart. I don't know if I have mentioned that it was hot on the lava fields. Really hot. It was tough to be on my bike and watch him struggle so much. I just wanted to take some of the pain off of his hands. That's not how it works though. Instead, I just encouraged, I read him facebook posts, tweets, emails, and texts. I tried to give him all of the love that people were sending him.

Then he had to run the 4 miles in the energy lab. You can't follow them on bikes down there. You just have to let them go--that was tough. I had to just wait on the corner for him to come back--and that was where it was the hardest. 

When he finally came back out, he was not running like he normally runs at all. It didn't even look like running for him--but his face looked different. He had a new resolve, and I knew it was going to get better.

I talked him through getting more from the aid stations. I knew he was READY to come back to life, we just had to get him there. Ever aid station, he took on as much as he could, and then I would ride next to him and continue to give him encouragement from me  and from friends that were sending messages to me. 

His entire body started to change, and he was able to start moving again. He picked it up, and was not really talking to me, but he was running again. It was incredible to watch him come back out of the awful place he had been. I knew he was going to be fine.

He told me to go ahead so I could see the finish, so I pedaled up about a mile, but I just couldn't leave him yet, so I waited and cheered for him one more time. I am glad I did. I missed the finish, but I saw him at 25, I sent a message to Anne and his parents to get ready, and they really saw him finish. 

I locked the bike, and went to wait for him to come out. I knew where he had been mentally, so I wasn't sure what I was going to see when I finally got him out of the athlete area. He was a shell of George, but I was so proud of him I could hardly stand it.

We brought George back to the house, and cleaned up.

We got George some food, and then we headed back to the finish line. Even really exhausted (as George was), the midnight finish is amazing. This one was particularly spectacular. The people crossing the finish line at this point are stories of overcoming the odds.

In the end, I couldn't be any prouder of George.

The day after the race, we got on up, had some breakfast, and went exploring. We had a flight that evening, but we wanted to soak in as much of Kona as possible before we had to leave. George's parents gave George finisher gear presents, which was a blast.

This kind of scenery is just the usual in Kona. It is amazing we came home!

That afternoon, I had booked a boat ride on this crazy navy SEAL boat. We went looking for some whales, and ended up seeing some dolphins. They did some wild maneuvering and Anne almost lost her breakfast :-) But, all was well, and it was beautiful. 

One last dinner, and we had to pack up and say goodbye to this amazing island. I truly hope that we spend time here again. Thanks to everyone who made it possible--my incredible husband, my loving in-laws, my adventurous friend Anne, and of course, my always supportive adopted big sister Laura.


  1. FUN!
    I will get there some day!
    Congratulations to the finisher!

  2. Sounds like you had a crazy fun time there! :)

  3. I definitely think spectating for a spouse's IM is almost more difficult than racing one yourself...all the worry and concern and ups and downs and not knowing. Congrats to you for making it through!!

    1. I agree. Kacie is a good supporter, though!

  4. Awesome! Looks like an amazing time. Fall is one of my favorite times in Hawaii, it's less crowded and usually crappy here (in Portland) so I'm happy to see sun!

  5. Hey Kacie! I'm friends with Colleen, and we were just talking about you doing RAAM. I'm also your newest blog follower! :) It looks like you had a ridiculously good time in Kona. I hope you have a terrific week!

    Matt Smith