We arrived in Kona finally. The adventure started Monday night when we flew from San Diego to Phoenix. There we met up with my parents and flew with them direct from Phoenix to Kona. There were no direct flights out of San Diego, and I was very hesitant in dealing with changing planes without handling my bike myself. I had an experience at the Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon in 2007 where my race gear was lost. I had trained for that race for 6 months, and I didn’t get my gear until two weeks after the race. My options this year were to fly out of San Diego and connect in LA or San Francisco, drive up to LA to fly direct, or fly direct out of Phoenix. Since my parents were coming out on the same day, it was great to be able to fly with them.

The flight was very interesting because there were so many racers on the flight. Many of the people that weren’t racing knew about the race going on and were planning on working or watching the race. The flight was full, and there were only two small children, and the flight was full of skinny people. Very unusual indeed. The buzz of excitement amongst the athletes was obvious. I didn’t see anyone I knew there. The athletes I talked to were all from east of the Mississippi, so they talked about races that I am not very familiar with. We sat next to a coach that was coming out to speak at the coach’s corner.

One thing that I am slowly starting to grasp is the value of age group, as many of the athletes were discussing their age group. In the last few years I have raced age group, clydesdale, military, collegiate, and elite. When all these divisions are available to me I have to choose one to race in. I like racing military division, but many of the military competitors are in other divisions which makes the military division less desirable. It is interesting, but some people have explained that they can’t race against the young fast guys in the military division, and others have told me that it’s not fair to race military when I can win my age group. I used to like racing clydesdale division, but started feeling the division was underappreciated. I’ve had races where I destroyed that division (winning by 15 minutes) and would have placed in my age group, but was given a lesser award. Also, I’ve seen really good races fail to recognized the clydesdale division by giving their awards after last, and almost as an afterthought. Over the years I have seen a lot of races that awarded top 3 overall and top 3 masters (40+) before giving age group awards. When I turned 40 I was actually a little excited about establishing myself as a top masters triathlete, but have yet to race where masters are recognized. I liked racing collegiate and elite, although I don’t really represent those groups well, because they are provided a first wave start which I feel is a better race experience. On this flight to Kona I have noticed some of the pride people have in their age group. I like to race to see how I do against the overall field, but the age group is the standard in triathlon. I still think there might be too much focus on the age group, possibly because I still have good overall finishes, but if you look at the top 1% of any race you’ll see it includes a number of age groups.

The flight was long, and it is hard on the body to sit for hours. I had never been to Kona, and was surprised to see that the airport was surrounded by black lava rock. I really would have liked to get a swim or a ride in, but by the time we picked up groceries and checked into our resort there wasn’t any time. I was determined to get my bike put together so that I could ride it on Wednesday. The bike was completely assembled except for the seat when I realized that I had left the seat at home on the workbench. Fortunately my son was flying in on Wednesday, so he packed it to bring to me. I’ll just have to wait a few hours longer than I had planned.

The trip is already going quickly! The plan today is to go to race check in, swim on the course (while Molly demos an Argon 18 bike), and then go for a ride after my seat gets here.