First Class in Coach
Fortunately the rest of my packing up and shipping out went without issue. Though I was not looking forward to 14 hours of travel time, I was looking forward to finally getting out to the big island and starting my race countdown. My doubts and nervousness still lingered and I’d hoped a little island magic might cure that. Turns out the flight to Hawaii ended up being one of the better parts of my trip. We flew first from Detroit to Phoenix and then boarded a plane for Kona. The entire plane was full of athletes and their families headed to the island with one purpose in mind. This is where I first began to feel the excitement that surrounds the race. Never mind the lack of food, limited drink service, cramped seating, I was sitting amongst some of the best triathletes in the world and we all had something in common, we were heading out to compete in our dream race. Filling out my row was another athlete in my age group heading out to his first Hawaii IM with his wife and family. Behind me was another lottery winner who’d never even done an IM. Beside her was a long time Kona vet, and beside him, Karen Smyers, a former world champion and first class athlete. The entire flight conversations flowed about the race to come and races past. Those who had raced Kona before offered advice to those who hadn’t, things to expect and things to watch out for. Karen Smyers was so humble and gracious with anyone who came up to talk to her, even giving me several key tips that I’d use on race day, that she definitely gained a fan in me on that flight. But she would not be alone in her demeanor, as that was one of the things that impressed me most about all the athletes competing in Hawaii. Fast athletes, age grouper and professional alike, know they are fast. They don’t need to wear it on their sleeves, they let their races speak for them. In street clothes they are kind, helpful and often completely forthcoming with advice or kind words. Certainly any kind of pretension would be silly surrounded by so many other talented and capable athletes, but I got the impression that these athletes were genuine and humble no matter their location. When we finally landed in Kona and got off the plane, the excitement from the plane grew exponentially and the race suddenly became more of a reality.