We never thought this day would come, but it’s HERE.
That’s right, the 2022 Hawaii Ironman World Championships. Hawaii, how ya been?
For those racing (and those of us fans watching around the world) there’s no bigger day in racing. With it finally (FINALLY!) back in Kona, we can get back to all the chaos that the Big Island brings. Yep; 5:30 minute pace pre-race runs along Alii, a packed expo, Da Poke Shack… all the fun stuff.
But it all REALLY begins Thursday, Oct. 6, and Saturday, Oct. 8th right in Kailua Bay, with the boom of the cannon that starts the race. The swim at the Hawaii Ironman is a special thing indeed. The water is warm and clear but for many, a non-wetsuit swim in high-salinity waters that could have some swell, and cold water upwellings, is something they've not experienced... yet.
With that in mind, we chat with one of the fastest pro swimmers in triathlon; Haley Chura. If you’re looking to see who dashes out of Kailua Bay up the steps and into T2 in the lead on race day, look no further. A veteran of this race, Chura knows the ins and outs of this race. Here she passes along five key tips specific to the Hawaii Ironman, but with elements that can be applied to most non-wetsuit swims. If you’re racing in Kona in a few weeks, this is a must-read.
1. Line Up Right (er, left!)
Race day puts swimmers right in Kailua Bay on a starting line that stretches from the pier on the right to floating barriers and a flotilla of boats on the left. With the course markers set on the right (for the clockwise out-and-back route), you’ll want to consider that most swim “traffic” will drift right.
“If you’re nervous about getting beat up in the swim, or just want a clean line out from the start, consider starting further to the left side of the start line,” Chura says. “It may be a longer line, but you definitely get cleaner water.
2. Enjoy the Marine Life... to a Limit
Some may love letting the time of the 2.4-mile swim pass by looking at all the ocean life; butterfly fish, humuhumunukunukuapua'a fish (the Hawaii state fish...look it up), urchins, bait balls, and the rare dolphin pod frolicking below (as best as an urchin can frolic, anyway). But there are others (like Chura) who can (depending on the swell) experience sea sickness... even in the swim. Her advice?
"Don’t look around too much," she says. "Some like me get seasick easily. Look around the days before, but on race day focus on the buoys. That’ll help with seasickness. It’s hard in Kona because, yeah, there are all those fish and turtles! But if you're susceptible to seasickness, focus on the buoys."
It's probably a good general tip for as well; get all your sightseeing done before the race. But during the race, focus on the job at hand; knocking out an awesome swim.
3. Watch for Saltwater Chafing.
Being so close to the equator, there's a higher salinity to the ocean water, giving you an added bit of flotation. That's the good news about saltwater.
The rest is kinda meh. Saltwater is sticky. Kinda dirty. And a total problem for your body. As soon as you dry out of the water, it evaporates, leaving the salt on your skin. Salt can cause friction abrasion. Even in the water, enough friction between your swimsuit or swimskin can cause rubs that can be annoyingly painful during the race, and after when it's healing into a scab.
"I put anti-chafing cream around my neck and underarms because, with saltwater and wetsuits and swimskins, you can get bad chafing," she says. " And make sure it's something water-soluble, so it doesn’t ruin your swimskin. I actually use chamois cream and—for me—it works."
Once dashing up the steps of Dig Me Beach, you'll see a line of hoses with freshwater pouring down. Take the extra five seconds to stop briefly, grab a hose, and rinse that saltwater off your face, back, legs and torso.
"It’s worth rinsing off there, to reduce your chance of chafing," she says. "Even just rinsing your face off you will do wonders."
4. Swimskin Practice Makes Perfect
"Whether it's in a pool before you leave for the island, or out a few days before the race, get into your swimskin and give it a test swim," Chura says. "There are a lot of little nuances that make a swimskin differ from a wetsuit swim. Test it in a five-minute shakeout so you know how it feels, and practice taking it off. Consider how your zipper is located and operates."
"With the QR swimskin (and some others) when the zipper is in a down position, it's locked closed; a tug to the suit won't pull it open. When the zipper tab is in an "up" position, it can be easily unzipped. Be sure to practice how that quick release on the zipper tab works," she says. "Make sure your zipper is pointed down, and you won't have to worry about your suit coming open during the race."
5.Enjoy the Day
"Before the swim start, you swim out a little way to the start line, and wait for the gun to go," she says. "While you're there, take a moment, and look back at all the people getting ready to cheer. It’s a really cool view—a really special one that not everyone gets to experience—to see the banyan tree. Take that moment, and remember this is where it all starts, but it's also where you're going to finish in 17 hours (or less!). That little thing grounds the day for me. Appreciate the moment; it's so much of what's special about Hawaii and that Hawaii Ironman swim."
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