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CBD Cycles - 09/10/2012
It's an often stated cliche, but how time flies.

Ten Kona's down and a week out from No 11 and maybe the last......maybe.

1987 does not seem that long ago when I won a raffle .... a slot to the Hawaiian Ironman. Prior to then you could actually write to the organisers and let them know you were fit, could swim, bike and run and that the course, heat, wind and the American accent did not worry you in the least. You were guaranteed a place to compete in one of the new emerging endurance events the world calendar offered to weirdo's with the label of "fitness freak". Plus our exchange rate ensured that you would return with lots of spoils in the bike bag.

That was the easy part. When I arrived at Kona in 1987 I felt the heat on the airport runway and looked out to sea at how far 3.8 km actually was, the early signs of overwhelming fear started rising from my Dunlop volleys to my John Holmes moustache.

Of course on arrival my fear ..read terror....was realistic. My longest swim was about 3 km in a pool and I assumed that wetsuits were allowed.....well they were at the Frankston half in early 1987. My longest ride was 140 km or thereabouts and the only leg which was not daunting was the run as I had 4 marathons done and dusted.

Twenty five years have elapsed and things have changed.

Back then Scott Bars were the new revolution in handlebars, clip-on pedals have only just arrived and mows were everywhere.

Dave Scott was the Man, Mark Allen would have his time on the podium and Scott Tinley was, well Scott Tinley, the athlete who was the philosopher to Scott and Allens, the warriors. Tinley was all about keeping it simple, competitive, but simple. I suspect he would be bemused by Kona nowadays. All three were remarkable athletes and role models for a new emerging sporting sensation.

1987...Erin Baker wins the female race and Dave Scott the men's. A young guy from Geelong comes third by the name of Greg Stewart and becomes the first non American male to place in the race. Stewie blows them away with his blistering run....third place was remarkable for a guy who could not swim.

1989....I'm shoulder to shoulder with Scott and Allen when they raced side by side for the entire race and Allen made that break with 1mile to go to win his first Kona after numerous attempts. We were should to shoulder, albeit briefly, I was heading the other way with 19 miles to go. !!! I recall clapping both in awe of their ability to hurt so badly to win.

1994......Greg Welch does it in emphatic style to win at Kona but the thing I remember more is his use of that word ....awesome....more that 50 times during his victory speech. I assumed that he had had at least 50 frothies by that stage of the night as well. It was also the year that Dave Scott made a comeback at 40 to place second and closing fast on Welch to post an emphatic statement from an old guy.

2012.....a lot has changed in twenty five years.

The all you can eat buffets have long gone. So has the Hilton, Cowman, Bills Bike Shop and the Indonesian restaurant. I now ride a $6k Cervello rather than the second hand Reynolds steel frame with a leather seat which cost me $240.

In 1987 there would be 20 doing the early morning swim 10 days out, now there are hundreds and the circus arrives much earlier. It's big business.

One thing that has not changed is the bronzed, cut buffed bodies who parade so proudly leading up to registration but who don't end up with the wristband. The brash demeanour dissipates somewhat without the identifying piece of wrist plastic. It's the quite ones who have been tagged to indicate their hard earned credentials.

Now they even have a cafe de la mer....a barge 1500 metres on the swim course for a quick short black during swim training.

And can you believe it .....Fluro is back. Now I can recycle all that gear that's still in the wardrobe from the 80's.

One thing that has been a constant over 25 years is the Germans. Training hard, no good mornings or gidays...just business. It's never appeared to be temper with a bit of fun for them.

To date for me it's been a couple of swims in the warm water, no turtles or dolphins yet, and a few rides, one to Kawaihae, about 112 km one week out. I figure that the climb to Hawaii can wait till next Saturday. The roads have undergone a remarkable transformation over 25 years but I get the feeling that more of the locals may be over the invasion of bikers on their roads now. Detected a bit of aggro out there this morning.

Let's see how the lead up shapes up over the next 5 days.

It's all still a hoot being part of this fantastic event.

Kona One Last Time - David McCormack