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LIVING, TRAINING AND RACING IN HAWAII
written by: Peter Jensen
posted: 4/16/03


Living:

It sounds too good to be true, and I hardly believe it myself. I have been doing some work for a client in Honolulu, Hawaii since January this year. It allowed me to escape the winter in Boston this year and gave me the opportunity to train in the warm winters of Hawaii. Basically winter here is low 80s, and they talk about cold fronts at night, in the mid to high 60s....

So January I packed away all my cold winter training gear and got on a plane to Hawaii. The day I arrived here, I left from 0 degrees in Boston and arrived to 80 degrees here in Honolulu. Probably most triathletes think about Hawaii, in one sense, their goal of reaching the Ironman in Kona, on the Big Island. This story is not about that, rather more of what it's like to live, train and race on the island of Oahu, on Waikiki beach.

Training:

Hawaii truly is a paradise, it's now spring here, and the sun rises before 7 and sets about 7pm ( they don't use daylight savings time here). There are mountains for hill training and open road for long rides. And since I live very close to Kapiolani Park and Diamond head, much of my running training is on the Honolulu Marathon route.

On Wednesdays I join a bikegroup from the "Island Triathlon and Bike" store. It's a group of about 7-12 per ride, and we ride past various volcanic craters and along the south shore of Oahu. They set a pretty decent pace, train paceline riding and sprints. The racing season in Hawaii starts in February with road races and end in December with the JAL Honolulu Marathon.

Racing:

Race 1. Mokuleia Time Trial - 12m Bike. February
My first race here in Hawaii was the Mokuleia Time Trial, on the North Shore of Hawaii. This was my first pure Bike Time Trial, and first experience registering for a local Hawaii race. It was the first bike race of the season, and the organizers were overwhelmed with the amount of people. One line to deal with everyone, and the start was delayed. Ok, I'll pre-register next time.

When I got my number, 65, I realized it being a time trial there would be a while for my start to come up. Anyways I warmed up. It was kind of weird not coming out of the water and into a transition area, but instead have a guy hold up while you got ready to go. Off I went, pretty straight flat road, cruising along at a good 24 mph. This is going great, I thought. The turnaround at 6 miles was fine, and then I turned, right into the wind. Going back not quite the same speed, but good enough to average 22.4 mph for the 12 miles.

Race 2. Tantalus Time Trial - 4.5m Bike. March
Behind were I work there is a mountain called Tantalus, and windy road goes to the top, with a elevation gain of 1200 feet in about 4.5 miles. It has a ton of switchbacks and has some amazing views of Honolulu below. I rode it a few times on my lunch break before the race. I guess there is like a barrier which only a handful of people break every year, and it's completing the race in 20 minutes or less.

Well, this time, I arrived at the start, better organized (having pre-registered) I avoided any lines. Only to find that I was rider 90 something, and with 1 minute between riders, and all ghost riders (missing numbers), there would be at least 1.5 hours before I started.

My time finally came around, and I hammered up with all I had. There is a point at about 2 miles, where it's so steep that you just can't keep going. But I got through and went to the top in about 25.52, which up until then was my fastest time to the top. That was about 6 minutes behind the fastest guy to the top, but this is a killer climb, unlike anything close to Boston.

Race 3. Norman Tamahana 15 K Road Race. March
Pre-registration only, and this time packet pickup the day before only. Great no lines to pick up, and the next morning just show up for the race (5 mins from my apartment). The race is on the Honolulu Marathon course and the real fast roadracers were out in force. It actually rained when we started about 6 in the morning. But it soon cleared up and I was holding a decent pace. The race goes past the house where MTV filmed “Real World Hawaii”, and into a beautiful neighborhood called Kahala. This actually where I had been logging my long runs this winter so I was just pushing a little bit harder, and finished the race in 1.07.39, which is a 7.16 pace per mile. Better than expected so early in the year, but I guess the long slow miles really does work. The weather out here is perfect for running in the morning and evenings, avoiding the mid-day sun.

Race 4. Lanikai Triathlon (sprint). April
Well finally time to put it all together. The packet pickup was a mess, 45 mins to get my number, but it's all Hawaiian time, so after a few months I am getting used to that now. What worried me more was that the race was on the windy side of Oahu, and we had been getting hit with the tradewinds for a while few days. Couple this with the race packet instructions of "wetsuits not allowed", the swim would be interesting. Not to mention being blown around on the bike.

The swim was along the beach, 500 meters to a buoy, and then straight into the beach and run back to transition. The waves were big, but not unmanageable, and they kind of were going in the right direction. Good swim for me, and time to hit the bike. Got on the bike, and we had a tailwind going out, and I was catching a lot of people early. I kept saying "on your left", but the bike course was crowded. You never really found any space. It took us onto the Marine Corps base in Kaneohe, where we were safe from automobile traffic, but not the jam of all the bikes fighting into the headwind. There were USAT officials monitoring for drafting, but seriously, just too many bikes since it wasn't a wave start.

At the turnaround on the base we got some tailwind again, and hitting 40mph plus downhill in the aerobars was a great feeling, until the gusts were coming from the side again. Guess I haven't spent enough time in the aerobars this season.

Back into a fast transition and out for the last 5k, I felt great, and kept picking off guys in front. Looking at my time, I knew this race was good for me, and cruised into the finishing area. I was very satisfied with my time just under 1 hr 9 minutes, as I feel my training out here has been paying off.

So if my dream of reaching Ironman in Kona don't necessarily realize, I really appreciate this opportunity to be living out here, training on this beautiful island, racing local races and having fun. I know Boston had a tough winter this year, and I am glad I escaped it this time.

Aloha from Honolulu,
Peter Jensen – April 2003