The week before the IRONMAN World Championship is electric in Kona. Nowadays I can really enjoy that energy.

My week leading up to the Ironman now is much different than when I raced. When I competed I was like a monk, expending the minimum amount of energy prior to race day. Now I get out as much as I can and just absorb the atmosphere and the energy of the Island in the week leading up to the event. Here are the top five things I like to do in those precious days before the gun goes off on Saturday morning.

#1-Swim in Kailua Bay

Some of the bluest ocean anywhere. Kona, HI

I rarely swim anymore. My go-to activity in the water is surfing. But when I get to Kona I am drawn like a bee to honey to go for a swim in the incredibly blue waters off Kona. They are warm. They are inviting. There’s life in them everywhere you look when you are cruising along looking down. It’s just beautiful. The side benefit is that you get to rub shoulders with a few thousand of the fittest humans on the planet as we all hang out before and afterwards on the pier and share stories.

#2-Eat Local

There’s so much incredible fresh food and catch from the ocean available in Kona. I stop at least once at the farmer’s market just across the street from the IRONMAN Expo before going back to the condo where I stay. You can get incredible tropical fruits and greens grown from the rich island soil. The pace at the farmer’s market is relaxed, which is always a nice break from the intensity going on just a few feet away on Ali’i Drive!

#3-Watch the Sunset

Sunset Kona HI

Kona is on the west side of the Island of Hawaii, so every evening offers a beautiful sunset. I’ve got more photos of sunsets from Kona on my laptop than anywhere else in the world. They are everything from stunning to mind blowing. The colors explode off the water, the sun and into the clouds that are usually gathering about that time of day. And on more than one occasion you get a green flash just as that last tiniest bit of sun dips below the horizon.


Wonders from nature.

I learned early on in my time on the Big Island that the experience is not just about the race, but that the race is really a reflection of the Island itself. It is bigger than I can wrap my mind around. It’s powerful and raw. It begs me to look outside myself to learn what is inside really inside of me. It’s wonderment and hard-hitting truth all at the same time. I always take time off the beaten path to just sit with all of its grandeur, to reflect, and most importantly to listen. The Island has something for each of us, if we take the time to reflect.


IRONMAN Parade of Nations 2017

Yes, gawk! I love to drive along Ali’i Drive and just gawk at the endless parade of people cycling and running before the race. Some are doing it right, holding back. Others are leaving their race out there in those nervous days leading into the biggest day in their racing calendar. But regardless, it’s a blast to just check it all out. It’s a scene like no other. There are endless shapes and sizes and running form and outfits. And then if that’s not enough, take a morning midweek at about 7:30am and hang out at the Kailua Pier. It’s called Dig Me Beach for a reason. It’s a parade with no start or finish, just a lot of participants from all over the world, all enjoying the final moments before Saturday’s IRONMAN World Championship!

Hope to see you there!

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About the author Mark Allen More information on the author

I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.