Ironman Race Activity in Hawi

KNKR’s DJP was live, Saturday from 9-10:15am, from Hawi, giving details and interviewing volunteers and spectators from the Ironman Turnaround in Hawi. Race organizers were interviewed as well as volunteers and some of the students volunteering from Kohala Elementary School, 2nd and 4th graders. Great job DJP!

And our own Uncle David was there and interviewed and quoted in the newspaper today:

HAWI — North Hawaii’s early risers were sitting outside the Kohala Coffee Mill on Saturday morning sipping their coffees when a moving van pulled up across the street.

The van carried inside it everything volunteers would need to turn this stretch of Highway 270 in North Kohala into the midpoint of the 112-mile bicycle leg of the 2017 Ironman World Championship, where crowds would welcome riders for a brief moment before athletes raced back to transition into the final running leg of the competition.

Volunteers got straight to work, setting up traffic cones to divide incoming and outgoing racers and a sandwich board with a single word below the turnaround symbol: “Hawi.”

Meanwhile, another group of volunteers got busy icing down drinks and preparing small snacks such as orange segments for competitors to grab as they head out of town.

And for members of the event’s “Kokua Crew” that take on the effort of making the race run smoothly, the turnaround in Hawi is a great place to both take in the race and to socialize with friends.

Dot Seymour of Keauhou has been volunteering for the past 25 years, and at the turnaround in Hawi for the last three, saying she first got involved because her son was participating in Ironman at the time and she wanted to take the opportunity to give back to the community.

She also loves the area’s history and said it’s a great place to catch the race.

“You get to see every single biker,” she said, “even if they’re coming in packs, because they all have to go around the turn basically one at a time.”

This year was Kapaau resident Kealii Rabang’s first year volunteering at Ironman, where he was helping the 4-H Pony Club Program with distributing bananas, oranges and energy bars.

“We gotta keep these Ironmen fed, give ‘em some energy on their way home or on their way back,” he said.

The program, which is under the North Kohala Community Resource Center, teaches horsemanship and life skills for youths and will receive a donation from Ironman in return for volunteering for the day, said Renee Perez, vice president of the Kohala 4-H and Kohala Ride Wild clubs.

Not long after Kokua Crew members finished prepping the turnaround and were ready to hand off drinks and snacks, spectators started turning chairs at the cafe toward the street as others formed a horseshoe along either side of the street and behind the barricades just feet from the turnaround point.

Bruce and Donna Weir, who moved to Kona just three months ago from Illinois, made the drive to Hawi Saturday morning to cheer on the Ironman athletes. The couple said they like the people and weather in Hawi and figured they’d come up for the turnaround, saying there would be too many people at the finish line.

“I think it’s more encouraging to encourage (the athletes) along the way,” said Donna Weir as they awaited the arrival of the first competitors. “Because there are thousands of people at the finish line, but sometimes you need encouragement along the way.”

 And at 9:37 a.m., to the loud cheers and applause of the crowd, Lionel Sanders raced into Hawi and around the turn, making him the first athlete to hit the turnaround.

Following Sanders, cyclists continued to zip in and out of town, some coming in solo while others paraded into town in packs, pumping their fists or flashing shakas to the cheering crowd.

Just as soon as the athletes came in, they were back on their way out, tossing old drink bottles to the roadside with a clatter and plucking new bottles from the outstretched hands of the volunteers lining the road back to Kona.

And while some in the crowd were happy to cheer on any and all competitors, others kept a keen eye out for friends or family members in the race, staying in town just long enough to catch their loved one before heading off to another spot to catch the race.

Laura Schmatz of Germany, for example, was with friends and family cheering on her father Wolfgang Schmatz, who was here for his 10th time.

“It makes me proud,” she said in Hawi after her father made the turnaround and before she headed down to catch him again at the transition to the running leg of the race. “It’s a family thing, supporting him.”

Local athletes in the competition also had their fans in the crowd.

David Ebrahimi of Hawi came out to cheer on local triathlete and his personal friend Bill Davis.

“I drove him down to get some new shoes last week,” he said, adding with laugh, “so he better finish!”

Still others came out to the turnaround because they’d heard it was happening and decided to check it out.

“We heard about it and we were excited that it was going on,” said Aaron Wilson, who was visiting from Seattle with Sarah Saviskas. “But it wasn’t the plan and we just lucked into it.”

Saviskas said they’re staying just up the road and decided to “come and cheer everyone on.”

Wilson added they came to the turn because it was close by, but said the town is also a smaller environment in which to watch the race.

“You can connect with the riders I think a bit more and encourage them,” he said.