“On a normal day, the headwinds near Hawi blow steadily at 15 to 25 miles an hour. At the Ironman in 1983 the winds howled through the town at more than twice that – gusts of up to 55 mph were reported, strong enough to stop cyclist’s dead in their tracks, strong enough to blow others right off the road. Some competitors simply got off and walked, and even the strongest were afraid to let go of their handlebars to take water bottles from the aid station near the top.
“The aid station at the turnaround is one of the most exciting on the course because there's always a big crowd of spectators and media people. It's a high point, a big psych, especially after the wind on the hills. Turning to the left, grabbing a pair of water-bottles and perhaps a banana as they go, the triathletes are reasonably sure that for a few miles, at least, the wind will be behind them they fly through this part of the course, spinning their pedals furiously until they run out of gears to push, hunching low over their handlebars, hissing through the warm air in a rush of sparkling chrome and blur of bright colour, moving easily for the first time all day. But that lasts for what seems only a few precious seconds before the wind charts shifting, gusting back and forth. The cyclists are still going fast, but their knuckles are white and in their minds is the thought that if one of those big gusts catches them from the wrong angle, it's going to whip them off the island and into the ocean. The race in ‘83 was the worst in that department, too.
“Finally, at the bottom, with their hearts settled back into their chests, the cyclist take a sharp left turn it, high then climb a short steep Hill and turn right which puts them back on the highway. From there on it's a straight shot back into Kona.
“Or rather, it's a straight, long shot. The race has just begun, actually. With the exhilaration of the turnaround a distant memory, the 50 miles back into town begin to soften and stretch like taffy under the hot sun. The winds, while not as strong as they were up north, are far more frustrating, and the hills have grown bigger somehow than they were on the way out. The triathletes begin to fight not just the cumulative physical effects of the long swim in the hours of hard riding, but also the inevitable impatience to be off the damn bike period to sum, first timers mostly, or fools who have forgotten, the marathon actually starts sounding good 80 or 90 miles into the bike ride. It's a stupid thought. They regret it quickly once that part of the race starts.
“I never thought that, said [Ron] Smith, who has ridden his bike as much as 25,000 miles in a single year of training. He's a good runner with a marathon best of well under 3 hours, but it's never been his strong suit. Looking ahead to the Ironman marathon is, for him, like looking forward to jumping off a building.
“The toughest part of the ride – outside the damn wind – Is knowing that after busting your hump out there for five hours it's going to be 1:30 in the afternoon, you're on asphalt, and God Bless America if you're going to be climbing that stupid Hill and heading back out onto the lava fields again.”
“All good endurance competitors learn that patience is a precious, irreplaceable virtue. About the worst thing for a triathlete to do during the Ironman is to anticipate the end of anything, be at the swim, the bike ride, or the run, or any segment of the three. Pacing and strategy are important, but a certain psychological, is critical. Putting the miles behind you, one mile at a time, is the key. Thinking ahead makes you anxious, eager to be there instead of where you are, and you have to be where you are because there’s little you can do about it except keep pedaling or running. An anxious triathlete, impatient with the pace, thinks the hills should be easier to climb than they are, thinks the bike should weigh less than it feels like it does. Getting mad at the Ironman is never a good idea, but it happens frequently, and the nagging wind often speeds the process along. The final, critical step for a frustrated competitor is pushing too hard too soon – It's as sure a recipe for disaster as any.”