King’s Swim Kailua-Kona Pier-July 4th 2019
The 25th annual King’s Swim was held on July 4th this year (2019) as it has been for the last 25 years. This particular swim race starts at the Kona Pier and ends at the adjacent Kamakahonu Beach, also know as King Kam Beach or Kids’ Beach. Kamakahonu Beach is a very small beach where locals and visitors alike snorkel, launch kayaks and sup’s as well as sunbathe in the heart of Kailua Kona. You can find Kamakahonu Beach just north of the Kailua pier and in front of the King Kamehameha (Marriott Courtyard) hotel right on Alii Drive.
This year several of us and our spouses decided to avoid the long drive to Kona in the early AM of race day and stay at the King Kamehameha Hotel the night before. This turned out to be a fun change and allowed Susan, Noe and I to warm up on Wednesday afternoon on the course and scope out the start and finish sections where we were able to asses the water conditions including the current , swell direction etc. for some possible clues to the actual race conditions the following morning. We also enjoyed a great pre-race dinner together and post race breakfast at Splasher’s over looking the race course.
Both Susan and Noe were in a great position to win the top spots on the local Triple Crown open water swim race series with this race being the last in the “crown” and deciding the winners. They are both super casual about their abilities but their results against competitors of all ages, men and women alike is impressive! They are super tough to keep up with in practice as well.
The warm up revealed my goggles leaked and my backups were in not much better condition so thank you Rachel for letting me use your tinted pair of “Friendly Swede” goggles at the last minute. I thought I was going to have to “scratch” the race as no one else had a good spare pair of goggles either except Rachel as Bike Works was closed the night before. Note to self-you can’t have too many pairs of spare goggles-buy 5 more pairs asap.
Once I had managed the goggle “debacle” I entered the water 10 minutes before start time to try and determine the water conditions, swell direction and get my heart rate up. Sure enough, like last year, there was a strong south swell causing murky water conditions and a head high wave to crash into the back of the Kona Inn and beyond. I knew to aim for the right side of the course as the swell direction would tend to drag you toward shore as you cleared the pier. Thankfully a large catamaran was positioned where the turn around buoy should be and it was confirmed as the only turn around “buoy” after the pre-race meeting. I’m not the best “navigator” in these swims as I tend not to site as much as I should so the larger the target the better and in this case you couldn’t miss a 50’, red and white catamaran.
I spotted my entire swim group as we gathered for the pre-race meeting wishing them all well and found Rachel and Marcail heading in to start in deeper water. Marcail and I started together at the Hapuna Rough Water swim the month before and the horn blew before either of us made it to the start line. I told her to follow me to the front so we didn’t get left again and we found with few swimmers in front of us as other swimmers back paddled to let us pass them. Starting at the front guarantees someone is going to swim over you but it also guarantees you are not starting behind a bunch of slower swimmers which are not easy to pass.
Watch the video Lissette took from the pier at the race start, it gives you a good idea of the bubbles created at first in one of these races and the mass of swimmers moving through the water like a school of fish-exciting to say the least!! After the start I lost sight of Marcail and Rachel but did catch a draft on a male swimmer that wound up finishing 3rd in our age division. I passed him at the turn around boat but I must have navigated too far to sea and he passed me back before the finish.
Our age group winner was the same guy as last year. He comes to vacation and swim this race yearly evidently and coincidentally is the 2018 Master Open Water 1-mile National Champion. Last year I told him kiddingly that it wasn’t a fair challenge for him to finish 5 minuets ahead of the rest of us.
The race was super fun, Coach Dave has us all more than trained up to complete these events at full power but you never know how your time may wind up after zig zagging down the course. Finally, Noe and Susan finished 1st and 3rd in the Triple Crown-congrats to them both as they both train exceptionally hard including dry land work outs and open water swims weekly on top of our pool training sessions with Coach Dave-dedicated swimmers for sure. I’m lucky to be around such humble ladies with great energy and swimming skill!! Maybe one day their speed will rub off on me 🙂