In early October 2015, my travels took me to the Big Island of Hawaii for the annual Ironman Sports Medicine Conference I chair each year. This is my favorite week of the year because it combines great medical education lectures with a wonderful venue for exercise. The meeting brings together some of the world’s leading experts in sports medicine and exercise science, to discuss the latest developments in the field. Half days of lecture are combined with a half day of organized workouts, including swim, run and triathlon clinics (run by none other than Ironman legend Mark Allen). A highlight of the meeting is the drawing for a slot to compete in the following years Ironman Triathlon World Championships. Following the 5 day meeting, most of the 200 plus attendees stay on to volunteer in the Ironman medical tent and care for these great athletes on race day. The conference helps prepare the doctors to work in the med tent and provide state of the art care for injured or ill Ironman competitors.
This year’s meeting was outstanding, with topics ranging from musculoskeletal issues to cardiac problems to the risks and benefits of exercise. Each year we ask an Ironman Legend to give a lecture at the conference and in the past we have had many of the great champions who have competed in Kona. This year’s “Ironman Legends” speaker was Bill Bell, who is a member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame and competed in Ironman races well into his 80’s. Not surprisingly, Bill is still going strong at 94 and gave an inspirational talk in which he credited his dedication to exercise for his good health and much of his success in life.
This year’s Ironman World Championship race was equally exciting and the men’s race was won by Jan Frodeno (from Germany), while the women’s winner was Daniela Ryf (from Switzerland). The medical tent was busy like always with a wide range of competitors suffering mostly from dehydration and exhaustion. Thankfully, no one was seriously ill or injured and the race and the medical tent came off without a serious issue. My favorite part of the race is watching the amateurs finish from about 10 PM until the course closes at midnight. It is amazing to watch the reaction of these great competitors as they cross the Ironman finish line and realize their dream to finish this iconic race.
Of course, while in Kona I made sure to get my walking in every day, along with some great swimming. There is no place better for open water swimming than Kailua Bay during Ironman week. The water temperature is perfect at around 80 degrees and the clear visibility provides a great view of the beautiful fish and coral while you swim. Swimming during Ironman week also provides a chance to swim right alongside many of the Ironman competitors and in the morning there is even a boat that provides a free espresso to any swimmer who stops and asks. How often can you stop for coffee while you swim?
So thanks for reading my blog and I hope it finds you happy and fit. Keep spreading the word on the power of walking to improve your health and well-being!
Keep walking my friends!
Feature photo credit: Walking in Kona with Drs Aaron Baggish (left) and Paul Auerbach (right)