Friday, 23 September 2011

Ironman Hawaii Bike Course

In my first ten days here in Hawaii I've rode the course three times - here's my Garmin file from my last ride (the start and finish are a little skewed from the actual course, as I'm starting and finishing 3K from the actual start/finish):

The athlete's guide for the Ironman World Championship contains the following paragraph below the description of the bike course:

Legendary Winds and Heat
From Ali'i Drive to the airport, a sea breeze blows from the ocean across the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway approximately 10-12 mph.  During the evening, this wind reverses and blows from the mountains.  From the airport area to Hawi, you will be biking into the legendary Ho'omumuku headwinds that are most noticeable on this portion of the bike course north of the airport.  These winds blow 5-35 mph, and in extreme conditions can gust up to 60 mph.  After the Hawi turnaround, you will usually have these winds at your back to Kawaihae and side winds again along Highway 19.  While air temperatures may register in the high 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit, temperatures along this section of the course may exceed 100 Fahrenheit due to the reflected heat from the lava and asphalt.
While there is always wind, it seems to come from a different direction each ride.  Head winds are frustrating, but manageable...tailwinds are super fun...cross-winds are brutal as they make you feel like you're going to get tossed right off the road.  In the Hawaiian religion, Madame Pele is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes.  Hawaiians believe she lives in the craters of the Big Island's Kilauea Volcano, and according to Fodor's Hawaii travel guide, the most common offerings made to Madame Pele are flower leis and bottles of gin (!?).  When Team Imrie visits Volcano National Park I'll be sure to leave an offering in the hopes that the cross winds are subtle, and the tail winds substantial on October 8th.
Don't mess with this fiery chiquita.
KM 0-30
The first 15K takes you on a loop around Kailua town, including a short and steep climb up Makala street (shortly after leaving T1), then a steep downhill on Palani with a hard left at the bottom, followed by a gradual climb up the Kuakini highway, turning around and repeating it all (minus the Makala part - you don't get to descend that one until the ride is almost over!).  The next 15K takes you out on the Queen K highway, past the airport to Kekaha Kai State Park with a few gentle rollers but nothing tough.  
Tried to drop this dude all morning, with no success.
KM 30-60
Shortly after the Kekaha Kai State Park, the donkey warnings come out in full force - warning!  Don't get unseated by an ass during your Ironman ride!  No donkey sightings so far on training rides despite a lot of dawn riding, but have seen some goats grazing in that area.
Milestones I look for along this section are the donkey sign first, then the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery shortly afterwards, followed by the strip of resorts in the Waikoloa Village area.  This section rolls as well, but is a bit more 'lumpy' that the airport section earlier.

KM 60-90
Here the real fun begins.  Everyone talks about the climb to Hawi, but the last few kilometers along the Queen K before turning left onto highway 270 have a bit of climbing with some bite.  Especially if you're climbing straight into the 'legendary Ho'omumuku headwinds' Ironman warns you about...
The end of the Queen K...until the return trip begins in a couple hours.
The turn onto 270 is a welcome sight as it's a nice little downhill into Kawaihae before starting the climb up to Hawi.  Coming through Kawaihae we pass the Hawaiian Cement Corporation's two large storage basins right at the port of Kawaihae...these are visible from about the 40K point onwards, giving you a sense of where you're headed while finishing off the Queen K.
Pushing the bike too hard makes your legs feel like they came from these tanks.
From Kawaihae itself at 70K it's around 27K up to the turnaround at Havi - the last 10K of this section represents consistent climbing.  Most of the 70K-87K section is rolling with more climbing than descending.

KM 90-120
The climb finishes up to Hawi, and we turn around ready to charge back to town.  Hawi itself is an unremarkable town, so we're not missing much by turning around on its outskirts and racing for home.
The first 10K of the descent are lightning-quick, it's mostly a straight shot down, and the winds haven't been bad here (head or tail wind, no cross) in the three times I've done the climb.  Look to your right on the way down by the Upolu Airport road to catch a glimpse of the Hawi wind farm:
There's way more than these two, but shooting photos whilst riding is a tough ask!
When the road veers left after the Mahukona Beach turn off, cross winds become a major factor if Madame Pele is peeved at the racers.  Keep pedaling as the downward force on the pedals helps steady the bike - luckily on race day there will be no transport trucks on the road to shoot by you and dirty the air!

KM 120-150
Shortly after 120K we're back in Kawaihae - usually I stop for snacks both on the way up and on the way down, but not on race day - will have to go Snickers-free for that ride...
One of the tougher climbs on the course comes right out of Kawaihae - it's decently long, steep in parts, and comes later in the ride so the legs are bitten a bit.  Once we turn right back onto the Queen K, hopefully if Pele was blowing in our faces on the way out, we'll get a nice tailwind through this section.  There's a long, straight, flat section near the resort turn-offs, which can be super fun and super fast with a kicking tailwind...we need to save our legs earlier in the ride so we're able to push the required watts along here.

KM 150-180
Homestretch...right around 150K there's the only Hawaii state-approved 'Scenic Point' (as it's actually marked so tourists know to pull over and take photos).  Here I am representing the Morning Glory Cycling Club, with just under an hour left back to town:
From the Scenic Point back to town is fun - steady rollers and the potential for headwinds, but if the power has been under control up to this point, this last section can be the difference between a good and an average bike split.

Once we hit the 'hot corner' and see this sign, it's one right-hand turn and a quick downhill on Palani before the marathon starts:
This song came on while running this morning...was tough after Louisville to wait for the body to recover, now that it's been over three weeks, I feel I've waited long enough and I'm ready to rip it for the next ten days before resting up for race day...

1 comment:

  1. ali'i drive! woop!

    one week and you will have company!!!