This morning at the Dig Me Beach Kailua-Kona Pier we caught up with some amazing athletes and Ironman affiliates who were catching up, practicing their swims, and checking out each others' 8-packs.
We talked to Eric Vervloet, the Sports Marketing Director for K-Swiss and the man who brought his brand to the Ironman. Eric has been busy setting up the "K-Swiss Village," where the triathletes can come check out and try out the new products. Eric was effusive about the quality of the athlete-tested K-Swiss Ironman line. "If we put an M-dot on it, you can race in it," he affirmed.
K-Swiss is representing 16 athletes that are here in Kona for the race, including Terrenzo Bozzone, the Lieto brothers, Belinda Granger, and Gina Ferguson. "The energy here is incredible," Eric said, "If you don't fall in love with the Ironman when you're here, you should do something else."
We also caught up with John Marshall, an old college friend of mine who I've been able to reconnect with through triathlon. This will be John's second race on the island, for a total of 8 Ironmans. He started out by running marathons, decided to try his hand at triathlons, and has been hooked ever since. He qualified in '06 in Brazil and hasn't looked back. "I had a great first race here," he said, "It was all the heat, humidity, and wind that I wanted."
John has three kids, ages 6, 5, and 3, who are just as excited to be visiting Kona as their dad is. "The three-year-old wants me to play Ironman videos for her two or three times a week," John laughs. "She says, 'Poppy, Ironman!'" We'll keep out eyes out for the littlest Marshall at the Hawaii Ironman 2027.
We met Adrienne Saeger, a first-timer who owns her own yoga studio in Chicago. She's been racing marathons since 2001, and ran her first triathlon two seasons ago. Like a lot of newbies, she credits her start in triathlon to a "crazy friend" who told her, "Wouldn't it be wild if we qualified for Kona someday?"
Now, Adrienne loves cycling more than running. She can't wait for Saturday, but she's admits being nervous for the swim portion. "I try to stand with the other girls so I don't get kicked as hard," she laughed.
Adrienne keeps her own blog chronicling her adventures with yoga and triathlon. You can check it out here. Good luck, Adrienne!
We also met Mitch West, another Hawaii first-timer who qualified only 10 weeks ago. Mitch said he was immediately struck by the unique energy on the island, a mood that is both laid-back and high-energy. "It's a whole other level of competition here," he said. "Triathletes are different--you have everybody cheering for each other."
Mitch, like Adrienne, is nervous about his first Hawaii experience. He biked on the Queen K and decided that, "You can have people tell you about the wind, sun, and heat, but when you feel it for yourself, it's a whole other thing. But, to be honest, the harsh conditions are what this race is known for. If Saturday was a cool, calm day, you'd be sort of disappointed."