Triathlon Across the USA: State #13–Hawaii

Kailua (Honolulu), Hawaii; April 21, 2013 – BOCA Hawaii Lanikai Sprint Triathlon

The Hawaii triathlon was the perfect opportunity to introduce my aunt, a resident of the island of Oahu, to triathlon.  It also led to several firsts in the “Triathlon Across the USA” adventure.

Planning the Hawaii Triathlon

Joy and I are fortunate to have a close relationship with my aunt Nelda, who lives 10 minutes by walking from Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii. For the past several years, we have visited her during the heart of the Minnesota winter.  In turn, we welcome her to our home during the summer.

Planning an April trip to Hawaii for the BOCA Hawaii triathlon seemed almost a waste. After all, why make the long flight to visit Hawaii at a time when the weather in Minnesota is typically spring-like. April in Minnesota generally means spring flowers in bloom and trees beginning to bud and sprout green after the winter.

As it turned out, the 2013 winter in Minnesota was longer than usual.  It snowed on and off at home throughout our time in Hawaii.

Before the Race

Joy and I, along with my Trek SpeedConcept triathlon bike, arrived in Hawaii a little more than a week before the triathlon. After re-assembling the bike, I took a short ride to make sure that I had put it together properly.  I had planned to get in some serious biking before race day.  However, this didn’t happen.

Why? Biking in Honolulu was challenging and even dangerous. Traffic is congested and there are many distracted tourists driving on streets with which they are not familiar. In addition, there are few designated bike lanes on the city streets and roads.

By January 2018, this condition had improved due to the more than 1,000 rental bicycles that are part of the Biki ride sharing program. Bicycles are available at more than 100 rental locations throughout the main tourist areas of Honolulu.

12th Annual BOCA Hawaii Lanikai Triathlon

The BOCA Hawaii Lanikai Triathlon, managed by the multi-sport training and racing company BOCA Hawaii, started and ended in Kailua Beach Park on the eastern side of the island of Oahu.

Distances for the individual legs of the USAT-sanctioned race were:

  • Swim: 0.3 mile (550 yd or 500 m)
  • Bike: 10.7 mile (17.1 km)
  • Run: 3.6 mile (5.7 km)

This race had the distinction of including part of the bike course on Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH).  For reference, MCBH was formerly known as Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay and originally called Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay. (Source:


The over 350 competitors ran or walked into Kailua Bay together with the sounding of the air horn that signaled the start of the triathlon. The 500 meter (550 yard) swim in the calm, clear, and comfortably warm waters of Kailua Bay took me a little over 11 minutes. Given the water temperature, swimmers could not use a wetsuit according to USA Triathlon rules.

Note: According to USA Triathlon rules competitors are not allowed to wear wetsuits if the water temperature is 84 degrees Fahrenheit or above.

Swim start at BOCA Hawaii Lanikai Sprint Triathlon
The open water swim in Kailua Bay (with Mokulua Island in the background) was my first triathlon involving a swim in the Pacific Ocean. The darker section of the water near the center of the picture (between kayaks) is created by the swimmers.  I am in there somewhere.


The bike leg took us from the transition area in Kailua Beach Park onto city streets parallel to the Bay. We eventually entered MCBH.

The course was flat except for one nasty hill that ended with a turnaround in a neighborhood of base housing. To put things in perspective, the hill leading to the turnaround was the kind that causes you to wonder if you are going to fall over from going so slowly even though you are in the lowest possible gear and giving it your all.

We all know that whatever goes up must come down. This day, coming down meant extreme attention (and braking) to avoid ending up in Kailua Bay while navigating the near right angle turn near the base of the hill.

Bike turnaround on Marine Corp Base Hawaii
The swim took place in Kailua Bay between land (left) and the small, flat island near the center of the picture. The bike turnaround occurred on Marine Corps Base Hawaii (upper section of the picture). The run took place in the Lanikai neighborhood in the lower section of the picture. This view is from Pillbox hiking trail.

This was the first race applying a strategy on the bike of using a gear that allowed me to maintain a cadence (pedal revolution) of 90 rpm. The one exception was on the aforementioned hill. This approach seemed to work as hoped. While I was not always biking as fast as I could have, the higher cadence saved my legs for run.


Transition occurs between the individual legs of a triathlon and typically involves a change of gear and shoes. The time to complete the two transitions (from swim to bike, called T1, and from bike to run, called T2) is included in the overall time for completing the triathlon. Time spent in transition is just as important as time spent in each of the legs. For more about this, see How to Minimize Transition Time.

The video clip shows how to use multitasking to minimize time spent in transition.

VIDEO: Connecting the race number belt while running out of the transition area is one way to minimize transition time.

Triathlon Tip: Reduce your transition time by completing certain tasks together.  I connect my race number belt while running out of transition.  If the triathlon involves a wetsuit, I wear the race number under the wetsuit from the beginning of the race.


Most of the 3.6 mile run was on the hilly streets of the Lanikai neighborhood.

The run course of the BOCA Hawaii Lanikai Sprint Triathlon took us through the Lanikai neighborhood (with Mokulua and Moko iki Islands in the background).
The run course of the BOCA Hawaii Lanikai Sprint Triathlon took us through the Lanikai neighborhood. Mokulua and Moko Iki Islands are visible in the background.

The last six-tenths of a mile was on the beach, on sand packed by water from the waves which had washed ashore. Finishing the run required running a few yards through soft, deep sand. While I try to sprint to the finish line, the sand made this difficult.


There was no award for me this time. I finished fourth of seven in my age group. I was not even close to the guy who finished third. While I was ‘in the hunt’ after the swim and bike legs, the three guys in my age group who finished ahead of me were much stronger runners.

My aunt and me in her condo overlooking the Ala Wai canal near Waikiki
Thanking my aunt Nelda for giving Joy and me a place to stay while in Hawaii and for making the early morning trek across the island to cheer me on during the race.

Race Firsts

  • Part of the race course was on a USA military base (Marine Corps Base Hawaii), a first.
  • This was my first triathlon with the swim in the Pacific Ocean.
  • First triathlon outside the continental USA

Let Us Know About Your Races in Hawaii?

I know some of you have raced in Kona-Kailua on the Big Island. Others may have done different races like the one I did on Oahu.

What did you think about your Hawaiian races? Tell us in the Comments below.

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