My Town: Life As A Triathlete Living And Training In Kona

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  • Published Oct 2, 2010
  • Updated Sep 1, 2015 at 1:15 PM UTC
Kona takes on a different identity during Ironman World Championship Week.

Third-year pro Bree Wee’s home on the Big Island will be transformed next week as triathletes from all over the world swarm Kona (or “K-town”) to gear up for the Ironman World Championship. Before the race, she shared with an insider’s look at her town.

Written by: Bethany Leach Mavis

Wee will race in this year's Ironman World Championship event.

What’s the local triathlon scene like? Our local tri scene is pretty small in the sense we don’t really have a lot of organized tri groups and not really that many triathletes compared to other towns. However our local “active scene” is huge! Most everyone has a bike, run shoes or some swim goggles (most just don’t do all three). This island is full of surfers and paddlers too, so lots to do all over. Plenty of swim squads, like Kona Aquatics; a lot of group rides, like HCC Saturday and Bike Works South Loop to name a couple; and Big Island Running organizes some good run days for groups. Everyone pretty much gets along no matter if you are just a swimmer, cyclist or runner.

What are your favorite local races? Lavaman, Hawaii 70.3, Sea To Stars bike race, King’s Swim (1.2 mile) race, the Peaman 10 mile run, Kona Half Marathon, Kukio Challenge and, of course, Ironman Hawaii.

What are your favorite places to swim? Kailua Bay, Kealakekua, Hapuna—and a couple secret spots where we swim like the Hawaiians did back in the day (naked), but I won’t tell you where those are.

Favorite places to bike? I love the South Loop (head south out of Kona to Captain Cook)—it’s gorgeous. Climbing Kiluea and Mauna Kea are cool too—totally bittersweet rides. Kaloko Hill (except going down), and of course the ride to Hawi are favorites.

Kona takes on a different identity during Ironman World Championship Week.

Favorite places to run? Beach Loop, Mana Road (in Waimea, a 45-minute drive north of Kona) and Ali’i Drive. Running in town never gets old because you always see familiar faces and favorite shops to keep you going.

What’s the best tri/bike shop? Bike Works for sure.

What’s the best place to eat? Da Poke Shack, hands down “nō ka ʻoi” [the best]!!

Best place for coffee? I don’t drink it, but the Kunitakes are a family friend so I’ll say their coffee farm because I love the family.

If I’m only there one day/night, what do I have to do or see? I’d say go jump off a cliff, swim through a coral cave, check out the ocean and all that’s in it, then sit on a hammock for a little bit with some fresh coconut water, then go watch a sunset at Kua Bay (with of course some fish n’ rice), hurry up and get in your truck and drive up Mauna Kea to see the most amazing starry sky you will ever see! It’s the highest peak from the ocean floor in the world so you literally see everything, and that observatory is top notch. It’s awesome. If you aren’t into stars go to Volcano and see the lava (at night) in the day its not as awesome. Then wake up super early, grab a sunrise in Hilo (if you’re lucky score some surf too or a little run on that side) then go get some fresh breakfast before hopping on your plane.

What word or phrase will make me sound like a local? (And what will make me stand out as a tourist?) I am cracking up because this is hilarious as so much makes people stick out over here. Not just a word or a phrase sticks out; it’s like a whole vocabulary that we have with each other—everything is simplified. Like if you were going to ask a friend to the beach, it’s something like, “Eh we go beach, like go, hit me up.” And they would respond, “Shoots, after I pau work.” Personally, I think what makes you seem more local is when you actually care and listen when you converse. If you ask someone, “How are you?” don’t be in a rush hoping they say “fine” then you get on your way. We have this saying in Hawaii that everyone “talks story” because we actually really mean “How are you?” and we really want to know what’s up, how’s life going. We don’t do the one-word answer with people we love over here. And sticking out, I suppose when you speak in a hurry or call Hilo “high-lo” when it’s pronounced “hee-low.”

And how does Kona change during Ironman week?

Town goes from relaxed to busy. It’s as if you can feel the nerves all the athletes have lingering in the air. Of course it gets exciting too, as our quiet days become pretty active. All of a sudden it’s as if a town where you know every face becomes a place where you are lost in a crowd.

Learn more about Bree Wee on her blog,

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