HONOLULU — An Ironman coach has said he plans to bring about 35 athletes to compete in the Big Island race despite the Kilauea lava eruptions that continue to disrupt the island.
Twenty-two-time Ironman finisher Raul Torres of Honolulu called the eruptions beautiful, yet terrifying, as he remains primed to have his athletes compete Saturday in the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii on the Kohala Coast, the Star-Advertiser reported .
Ironman spokesman Dan Berglund said the race will continue as scheduled.
The half-Ironman course involves a 1.2-mile (1.9-kilometer) swim at Hapuna Beach State Park, followed by a 56-mile (90-kilometer) bike loop up the Kohala coastline to Hawi and back, capped by a 13.1-mile (21-kilometer) run on Fairmont Orchid resort grounds. About 1,600 athletes are registered.
Berglund said that while there had been recent reports of air pollution concerns in the town of Kailua-Kona, air quality along the Kohala Coast has been considered OK.
“As of now, event preparation continues, and we are looking forward to a great race with clear blue skies,” Berglund said. “We are aware and have been continuously monitoring the volcano activity on the east side of the island of Hawaii and subsequent potential impacts to the west side of the island.”
Race organizers informed athletes on Facebook a week ago that the areas impacted by the volcanic activity were on the east side of Hawaii island, and limited to lower Puna, while the race is on the west side.
The danger of breathing volcanic smog has remained high on the east side of the island. Wind conditions for Wednesday were forecast to result in widespread volcano air pollution, called vog. But the west-side air has been clearing up.
“We provide access to the (air quality) website, making sure people can make their own decisions,” said Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau.
Birch said the race course heads north from the Mauna Lani Resort area, and should be traveling away from potential air quality hazards. However, he said there were no air quality monitors north of Kona, and that it would be helpful if there were.
“It’s a day-by-day situation,” he said. “The volcano is like that as well. We don’t have a long forecast of what the tradewinds might do, and we don’t know where the vog might end up going. Who knows how long the ash plumes will continue as well?”
Last week, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reassured travelers that the air quality for the majority of the Hawaiian Islands is fine.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com