Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kona on the Cheap, Even Just to Volunteer: Do It!

How to go to Hawaii and still be able to afford airfare home.

If you look closely you'll see each entrant's name on this banner. It's pretty cool.

I've been to Kailua-Kona, or simply Kona as most refer to it a number of times and learned that I don't need to break the bank. In other words, I haven't run the race in a number of years, but still volunteer each year, and can do it without a second mortgage on the house.  This way, even folks who know they'll never qualify can be an important part of the event as a bike catcher or transition tent volunteer.  Or both!  The Hawaiians call it "Share the Aloha" and, like Woody Allen says, "80% of life is just showing up."  So don't just assume it's out of reach.  Do the math, take a chance.

These two "hot chicks" just finished the Underpants Run, an essential in your Kona stay

 So where do we start?  How about the biggies, transportation, lodging and food.  The instant you decide to commit, book the flights trying to use frequent flyer miles.  I did.  An example would be as follows: I just looked at United Airlines, Dulles to Kona, and would be able to book a round trip 10/8 - 10/14 with 57,000 frequent flyer miles and $10.  But it might not be available tomorrow.  Or even this afternoon.  The lesson here is if you see flights that work, even if they're a day, maybe two off of your plans, book 'em right then.  They change all the time.  It'll work out.  Remember that the penalties for overweight luggage can be significant.  Many of us hit the Ironman store to bring IM gifts for the folks back home.  I suggest you pack a canvas collapsible bag in your suitcase so if you're reaching the weight limit, you only pay a 2nd bag fee instead of the penalty. 

The other big part of transportation is a rent-a-car.  I just checked Budget, and, unusually, they offer one car for $214.09 for my theoretical week's stay but all the rest are over $400. However, most of the time you don't need a car here.  Walk, hitch, take the Keauhou Trolley that goes up and down Alii Drive all day for $2.  Just get a copy of the schedule.  Ride/or borrow a bike.

As for a place to stay, that's usually not very hard.  I book a condo every year, about a mile from Lava Java - "where the elite meet to eat" - as they used to say.  And, at the moment, I only have one roommate, there rest will come from sources like this, Slowtwitch, VRBO, Twitter, etc. where folks are looking to split expenses.  I think we were $425 each or so for the 9 day week last year.  For some hotels that would only get you two nights.

There are a host of options for food.  If you stay in a condo with a refrigerator, you're set.  A visit to Sack N Save grocery store on Palani Road will help.  As you go in, stop at the service desk and ask for a Makai card.  It will save you plenty.  Pick up what you need for breakfast, snacks, beer, soda, whatever so that you're not paying restaurant or convenience store prices later in the week.  That said, you have to plan on a couple of meals at Splasher's located right at the IM start/finish for unparalleled people watching, or Lava Java where the company is good and the food better.  Thursday night before the race is the E Komo Mai (Welcome) Banquet.  It's fun but not inexpensive. A number of people seems to have extra tickets that they're not using and if you keep an ear out you might snag one.

Bring everything you might need with you.  Snacks, gels, sunscreen, goggles, tubes, etc. except CO2 cartridges of course.  Vern Sekafetz at Bike Works is a tremendous help with the rest.

In short, for many of you, if you think through the numbers and the benefit you get being at the finish line at midnight of the World Championship screaming to help the final finisher across the line, it's time you'll never forget.  See you on Alii Drive.

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