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by BJ Christenson

The time has come once again for my annual report about all things Kona and the Ironman World Championship.  This will be my 8th race here at the world championships and things are really starting to become quite familiar.  As my final preparations are taking place here on the island I thought I would share some things this year about some of the things that happen during the week leading up to the big race.

There is a lot going on here in Hawaii and the town continues to grow as more and more athletes arrive for the big show.  One event that was started just last year and has already become a great event is the Hoala Ironman Practice swim.  This swim is open to everyone so if you have ever dreamed of swimming the Iconic Kona Ironman swim course this is your chance and you don’t have to qualify to do it.  In fact they even have a division for those of you who wish to swim it with fins.

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The Ironman in Hawaii has the most amazing swim course of any race on the planet.  Swimming here is like swimming in a gigantic aquarium where you will see all sorts of sea life, and the clarity is absolutely incredible.  For the practice swim they give you the full ironman swim start experience.  Everyone is huddled together waiting anxiously for the race begin.  Treading water in a mass start swim is a bit of a difficult task.  You have to constantly kick while trying to maintain your personal space.  This might be one of the hardest parts of the whole swim.  Moments before they fire the gun the mob begins to creep forward as it naturally does but the difference here is that there is not a row of surfboards to block it like there will be this coming Saturday.

Once the race begins it is a free for all, and the battle begins. The once clear ocean is now white from frantic arms and legs kicking and pulling trying to pull the body forward.   The first priority in any ironman swim but particularly here is to protect your face for the first 500 meters.  To do this you try and keep one arm extended in front with each stroke to block any wild kicks or strokes.  During this swim however I took a nice shot to the eye that compressed my goggle deep into my socket.  This rattled my cage a bit but you just have to deal with the chaos.  Finally after the scrum had thinned out I could really start to feel my rhythm.  I was really feeling my form and began to feel like the pied piper as I made my way around the course.  The unique finish about this swim is that you exit the water on the opposite side of the Kona Pier like they did years ago in former Ironman competitions.   It is a fitting tribute to races past and an excellent way to kick start the race week festivities.

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So if you want the Kona swim experience and just happen to be on the Island the Saturday before the race then give this event a go and you will be happy that you did.

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