By Micah Lewter
Lavaman Keauhou organizers wanted to make a change this year.
Traditionally, the triathlon was held at the end of August, sort of the final tuneup for the Ironman World Championships.
But this year, the race was moved to the Sunday before Thanksgiving, which is this Sunday.
So what has been the result?
Registration did not end until Friday, but by Tuesday, there had already been about 500 racers registered for the event. In 2011, there were about 240 athletes.
Race director Gerry Rott said the decision to move the race came after discussions with athletes.
“(They said) August too hot; school getting back in,” Rott said. “Then also from the point of view of the hotel. We can use the week before the holiday. It helps to bring in more people off island stay in a longer time.”
The proximity of the national holiday also brought a greater number of traveling racers. In 2011, there were only 43 off-island athletes. So far this year, there are 170. And those off-island athletes can stay on island longer since the holiday is upcoming.
But there are more changes in effect for Sunday’s 0.9-mile swim, 26.6-mile bicycle ride and 6.2-mile run that starts at 7:30 a.m. at Keauhou Sheraton.
This year, there will be prize money available, and not just for the professionals.
“We have prize money for the top three women and top three men,” Rott said. “You don’t have to be pro to win. An age-grouper can win the money.
“The prizes are $1,000 for first, $750 for second and $500 third.”
Rott warned that parking will be a challenge Sunday. She suggested people to park either at the Keauhou Shopping Center or at Kona Gardens across from the former Outrigger. There will be shuttles running from 5:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Sunday’s race will feature five professional athletes, including defending champion Tim Marr. He claimed the title a year ago with a time of 1 hour, 58 minutes, 20 seconds. The Oahu athlete finished third in April’s Lavaman Waikoloa.
Kailua-Kona’s Luis De La Torre is also registered to participate on Sunday. Iowa’s Robert Duncan and Australia’s Ben Hammond are the other two professional men registered at press time.
Australia’s Brooke Langereis is the only professional woman triathlete registered for Sunday’s event.