How to prepare for Kona Ironman – from flight to first food shop


Kona we’ve landed!

Hi Folks,

So we are finally here and settling in nicely to island life. I guess that this is easy for me to say when my task here is to train for fun (thanks coach!), support the athletes that seek my support, sort the food and be all-around positive “I’m here if you need me” person. But mostly I am here to support my awesome boyfriend Garron in his final block of training and preparation for Ironman World Championships 2016. To say that I am proud of him is an understatement. I have been absolutely honoured to be a part of his ‘team’ and journey the past months.

Meanwhile for Garron it is hard work and even harder training; and he is very much focused on preparation of the mind and body for race day. But hey we are in Kona!! And the countdown to race day continues….

Preparation for an event such as ironman is about far more than just training. You must prepare your mind as well as your body for the challenge that is ironman world championships. It’s all about eating, sleeping, resting, training, mental focus and management of your energy 24/7. 

I know that everyone is time crunched these days to read blogs, so I will endeavour to keep my posts and updates as brief, yet informative as possible. Warning this is looking like a long one! I have been keeping the group informed of our daily nutrition-training-life antics so please do pop over and join in the banter. This is the link here to Andrea Cullen triathlon and endurance athlete nutrition and training group:

PS: I have posted a photo of a turtle for a reason, they are a very sacred and spiritual animal for these islands. If you are intrigued to read more about the turtles message, then please click here.

So here are a few tips and personal insights that should assist you on your journey to race start:

If you wish to skip to my videos scroll down to the bottom; the videos don’t cover everything and are more nutrition specific, but will help you out should you lack time for reading. Simply play them through as you prepare for work, are on a lunch break, are training on the IDT etc.

Think ahead


I am a big believer in being proactive. Consider the following questions as you formulate your plans: where are your health weak areas, especially in relation to travel and stress? How does travel and jet-lag and long-haul flight affect you? Do you have food and nutrition special needs that may need planning, ordering, or shipping ahead of time? Are you due a blood test review?

What strategies must you put in place to preempt these scenarios. I know my athletes very well so I usually have a good idea about the little things that are worth their while doing. For example bringing herbs to support the immune system, or specific products to help a vulnerable digestive system, nasal sprays or nose balm for sensitive sinuses on the flight, extra magnesium for anticipated cramping related to the flight and so on.

I also suggest that you start to look ahead to your Kona experience and write down or meditate on what you wish to achieve; personally, professionally and spiritually.

This is your journey, and opening the door to invite in what you seek by doing a bit of ‘day-dreaming’ is always a good plan in my books. Plus it gives you a focus; your mind starts to work on what you project. I spent time think ahead about how my day will look while here in Kona, how I will feel, my training, the personal growth I wish to achieve, goals for my work, etc. Although I am not racing, I still wrote a plan for my stay here.

Book accommodation that  is well stocked with cooking utensils. For example a food grater, blender, storage containers, and a coffee maker can be helpful as well as the usual pots, pans etc. Also you will be doing a lot of washing so make sure that your apartment comes equipped with a washing machine!

Spend time packing

Yes really! Write a list of what you need before you start packing to prevent overwhelm. I do this over a coffee somewhere out of the house and start writing in all the various categories: training, racing, relaxation, nutrition, equipment, and for me study and reading, etc. You can buy some items here, some you most certainly don’t want to forget, and others you can have shipped here; for example we placed an order with i-herb for nutrition (and some shampoos and miscellaneous items) to arrive shortly after we do.

You need very few clothes here; its hot and relaxed so worry about all the other stuff first. And its hot; you go to new levels of wearing half nothing training here.

Think of every scenario before packing and run it through in your mind. You don’t want to forget something essential like your chargers, equipment essentials, or contact lenses. 

You will need a high factor SPF for training that is waterproof and comfortable on your skin when sweating. 

Also plan what nutrition you may need for your journey; airport food is not always ideal. I travel with health bars, nuts or dried fruit, and occasionally an apple (customs are not a fan of this – make sure that you eat it on the plane). 

Given I am the health care person 🙂 I always travel with a small medicine kit of aromatherapy oils, stomach emergency items (antibiotics, imodium, motilium, probiotics, buscopan), anti-histamines and anti-histamine cream, pain-relief, blister plasters, etc. I do always try to avoid the use of medication, but sometimes my aromatherapy oils aren’t sufficient to deal with the issue at hand; hence the plan B items. You don’t need to specifically do this for Hawaii; it’s just something that I always do when travelling and more often than not has been called into action on trips. Who knows you may need my assistance; so if you are battling please do contact me. I have medical, pharmacy and nutrition training so all come in handy in health emergencies. Don’t let a dodgy tummy or persistent cramps or injury niggles ruin your race; deal with them now while you have the time.

My aromatherapy oil set; these have already come into action. They are feeling a bit lost out of their normal storage box; but sadly I couldn’t bring my whole collection. 


These will probably be the most frequently used oils by athletes staying here: Young Living Oils Thieves (immune-fixes-everything oil!), Young Living oils Peppermint oil, Young Living oils roll-on Deep Relief (for pooped muscles), Vibrant Blue oils Lymph Flow (injury and recovery) and Young Living Oils Panaway (my go-to personally for sore and tired ligaments and tendons). I had to use the lymph and grapefruit oil last night after an ice foot bath as for unknown reasons my feet were decidedly unhappy and swollen; more salt needed I would guess. 


Anticipate the impact of the long-journey on your body

We got to spend 11 hours on this baby; the nicest part of our 37 hours long journey

I work very closely with my athletes to provide support to them for all aspects of their training and life. A few things we may develop strategies for in relation to travel include the following:

  • Supporting the immune system
  • Addressing dry eyes, nose, and throat
  • Poor food quality, special food needs, and long lay-overs
  • Stomach issues; long travel hours and time zone hopping can lead to constipation and other tummy symptoms
  • Dehydration, electrolyte loss, bloating, fluid retention, cramps and issues related to air conditioning
  • Sore, stiff body! Schedule a massage for the other side.
  • Jet lag
  • Travel has a serious impact on the body and many athletes already have marginally suppressed immune systems (lower white blood cell and differential counts; nothing to worry about but does leave you slightly more at risk); in my experience it may be worth taking one more additional day off when you arrive to allow your body to recoup from the journey and before you start into your next training block. It may prevent the sniffles and feeling sub-par and allow your body that one day to adjust to the heat and humidity. Discuss this with your coach and have a think about previous experiences; did you suffer the travel poorly before?


Its worth it for this!

Hawaii ships sailing off into the sunset after a rainy evening sky cleared to make way for a fabulous sunset

Get your food and nutrition sorted

Here is suggested list to get you started and I discuss what we did this week as an example in my videos below. Remember that the more basic you keep your items the less chance there is of added unwanted ingredients or processed food choices. 

Also plan ahead with a list, and stick to a theme. i.e. we decided to use salad bowls as our theme for lunches and dinners and so shopped accordingly. Its hot here so cooking things like vegetables, stir-fries or roasted vegetables tend to make for a very hot kitchen. We are having fun find multiple ways to use the same veggies so cold salad bowls were transformed to cold roasted vegetable bowls to prevent boredom!

  • Hydration – best option is water, a water filter jug for your accommodation and some flavouring such as lemons, limes, or coconut water (can use to flavour your water); sparkling water is not as popular here but a good option also. Avoid sugary teas, sodas, or artificially sweetened products.
    You may need to add additional electrolytes to your beverages for your first days here AND on heavier training days. Watch out for fluid retention as this is often low electrolytes.


If I could create smell in a blog I would let you smell this divine coffee which I currently have brewing.

  • Proteins – focus on quality and not quantity: organic and cage-free eggs, organic dairy, cheese and yogurt (definitely worth buying organic and antibiotic and hormone free. Avoid processed options or ones with unexpected ingredients such as natamycin, carrageenan, sugar, etc.),  grass-fed red meats (I stick with beef when in the USA), antibiotic-free organic poultry, wild salmon or sockeye salmon, Alaskan salmon or wild caught white fish (not dyed, not farmed), canned fish (if choosing salmon opt for red/ Alaskan/ wild), canned or dried beans and lentils. If buying vegan products, then avoid GM and read the labels thoroughly to avoid over-processed options.We bought meat, fish and chicken in bulk and when home bagged in portions and froze for later use.


  • Your preferred carbohydrates – organic whole-grains such as basmati, wild or brown rice, and quinoa multi task well and should last you through your stay. Root veggies are another excellent choice. Choose large unflavoured oats for porridge instead of instant oats. Dried fruits and banana also count as a carbohydrate source and are helpful to meet your fueling needs. A few other convenience carbs such as rice cakes, oat cakes, soba noodles etc might be worth considering.


  • Smoothie ingredients – it is a good idea to get in more of your nutrition in liquid form to meet your increased hydration needs. Ingredients such as Greek or organic natural yogurt, coconut milk (in the can and full fat; a great source of healthy fats), organic milk, dairy free alternatives (avoid those with added sugars or thickeners), whey or other protein powders, whole raw eggs, nut butters, seeds, fruits, banana, dried fruit, oats, small amounts of greens, or even avocado all work well.

Athlete tip: Garron has been putting his peeled bananas and washed strawberries in the freezer to keep them from going off in the heat and to create fantastic cold whipped smoothies. What a great idea # idea envy that I didn’t come up with this first!!

  • Frozen foods – keep your brain in gear and you can find yourself some good buys for meat, fish, poultry, etc. We found that fresh berries were a better price than frozen which was unexpected.


  • Vegetables and fruits – in Hawaii some are pricey and others more affordable. Not all fruits and vegetables need be organic; i.e. you peel a pineapple, banana and an avocado so why spend extra on the organic version. Many items are packed in bulk so try to stick to the theme of your list. Yes you may be eating the same thing for a while so make sure that you have a spectrum of colour in the choices that you make. High water content fruits such as melon and pineapple are very helpful to assist you meeting your hydration needs. I also feel that slightly higher fruit intake is OK for your stay here (when you may restrict it at home).

I might have got caught out thinking that melons were cheaper than apples; they were until I was charged the dollar price as dollars per pound at the til!

These varieties are commonly available here
  • Dried fruit, nuts, and seeds – READ the label and avoid added sugars and fats; some dried fruits come dusted with flour! Macademia nuts are local here and taste amazing; yes also highly beneficial for you.
  • Nut butters such as organic peanut, almond, hazelnut or cashew; avoid added fats and sweetening. Choose one with added salt.
  • Oils and fats – one or several of extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or grass-fed butter should suffice.
  • Salad dressing basics – extra virgin olive oil or other cold pressed oil, Balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey.
  • Salt, pepper, herbs, and spices – what essentials do you need? For example ginger and turmeric are incredibly helpful. You may wish to add cinnamon or herbs to this list. You should get away with only a few basics.
  • Lemons and limes – super helpful for cooking and flavouring water.
  • Canned food essentials – all of the following prove handy: coconut milk, beans and lentils, fish.

Food need not be complex; here is tonight’s veg to accompany steak and quinoa:

You may also want to consider the following:

  • Cheap weighing scales for body weight monitoring
  • Sports nutrition products and water bottles – available locally; we also did an i-herb order as the shipping from the USA to Hawaii was free and it meant we could stick to familiar and WADA safe brands.
  • Electrolytes – the bike stores here carry a great range; especially Bikeworks (74-5583 Luhia St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740) .
  • Water filters?

Where to shop?

There are many supermarkets in the locality: Walmart, Safeway, Target, KTA Super Stores, Island Naturals Market & Deli, and Sack N Save Kona. We chose to do our shop at Safeway (we have a Safeway card; I suggest that you do the same to reap some savings) and on the evening of our arrival bought a few necessities in Walmart.

There are several local farmers markets in the area and I plan on picking up some fruit and vegetables from these in an attempt to support local business.


If you would like assistance while here on the island then please do contact me as it will be a pleasure to help.

We found so far Safeway to be good value, Walmart for some basics, and a venture into KTA Superstores revealed mostly higher prices but some quality meat options. Be mindful that some quoted prices in the stores are specials for store card holders and many fruits and vegetables are priced by weight! 

I also had to laugh at how I still made some pricier than intended buys; I got so caught up in finding the healthiest brand that I failed to notice the price whammy. I know and appreciate that many of you will be on a budget here; but it is what it is. So don’t skimp on food quality when you have invested so much in the journey to get here.

Assist the acclimation process


It is hot here; hot and humid, and this makes it challenging for the body to exercise at high intensities and for long durations of time. Many athletes travelling here are simply not used to these conditions and it takes a little time for the body to adapt. Don’t take it for granted that you will be OK; you will need to be more intuitive than ever with your fluid, electrolyte, and food needs.

A lot has been written about this so I wont go into excess detail, only to give a few high-light comments; we also discussed this on the Facebook group. If you wish to explore this in greater detail please do contact me; it is certainly worth researching this better and working with an expert. Too many arrive here little prepared for what the climate throws at them. You cannot out race the hand that the big island deals 🙂

This is how my morning run felt like
This is how my morning run felt like.
  • Your body takes a while to adjust to the heat; you will see alterations to your heart rate numbers, more extreme cardiac drift, shifts in VO2, altered fueling needs, and increased requirements for fluids and notably electrolytes. This is all to do with alterations in your cardiovascular system working to keep the body cool.
  • You will be hot, very! Humid weather conditions are the most challenging type of hot weather for the body to cool itself in. It is not sweat that cools you but the evaporation of sweat.


  • Get to know your specific electrolyte and hydration needs; they will vary greatly to more familiar ambient temperatures. This is imperative as significant dehydration poses a great stress on the cardiovascular system and worse still hyponatraemia from fluid overload / electrolyte deficiencies can have serious consequences.
  • Watch out for fluid retention and swelling in the legs and feet; increased incidence of cramps, headaches, digestive issues when running, dizziness, and the obvious increased thirst; you may be low on electrolytes (or dehydrated)
  • There are many electrolyte options available and we all have unique needs. Find what works for you with your nutritional therapist or coach. Sweat analysis is the best way to do this.
I love these chewable saltstick fastchews. I also use Nuun in my water bottle. So using this approach I can tailor to my needs on the day.

Simply drinking more water is not recommended; and your needs change as you acclimate. Sorry to say it’s not something as simple as a spread sheet hydration calculation; as ever your body is DYNAMIC.

  • Add more salt to foods; preferably sea salt; hydrate pre-race with electrolytes in your water.
  • Monitor your body weight relative to your training sessions, and foods and beverages consumed.
  • Expect that pace will be impacted somewhat and be patient while your body adjusts. The adjustment is a stress on your system. A stress on top of travel, new environments and so on; you don’t want to get sick.
  • If you fail to pay attention to perceived effort in a training session you may find yourself training in anaerobic and not aerobic zones. This has consequences in that you are now creating more lactate, altering cell pH, oxidising a greater proportion of blood glucose relative to fats, and you will fatigue faster. Given that your heart rate zones on your watch may be slightly off as a result of the heat it is crucial that you listen to your body, breathing, and perceived effort. You may just need to slow down or get into the shade.
  • Digestive function may be more challenged in hot and humid conditions – in other words foods get stuck and you feel sick; your delivery of nutrition to the blood stream and consequently your hard-working muscles is delayed, or worse still food makes a reappearance! So you must practice your fueling strategy ahead of race day and get familiar with how your chosen products digest in a more challenged system.
  • Some athletes may note changes to their pulse and morning heart rates; some report dizziness; again don’t push it.

We all want to avoid the morning heat and set the clock early to get out and enjoy a cooler training experience. Don’t forget however that you will be racing your marathon in less enjoyable conditions 🙂 so once acclimated it is in your favour to train a few sessions in the hot sun. It’s the only way you can truly be prepared. A word of caution however, this is very intense on the body so be proactive with your hydration, fuelling, and sunscreen and make sure that you recover well.

This is a great article on preparation for race day: How to Properly Hydrate Before Race Day

Here is an article from Runners connect explaining 5 ways heat affects running performance

And this is an interesting article about cardia drift. It does plug Torq somewhat but I do actually like and personally use this brand (the Torq snaq bars specifically on race day): The Cardiac Drift Phenomenon 

The race build up

This is where it all is happening in triathlon right now; and to watch the pro’s and top age groupers training here is an absolute honour. The Starters pro list has been released and day by day more pile into the island; let the frenzy begin!



I’ve been privileged to swim in Kailua harbour the past few days; its been a bit lumpy but today was clearer and I could see so many colourful fish! 

Enjoy this precious island

Kona is a very special place; soak it all up and in doing so you may just open the door to your heart and soul.



Here are a series of videos taking you through how we stocked up our food here in Kona, along with suggested tips. I wish you the very best of fun in your race prep and that your experience here will be all and more than you dreamed of; Kona is an island that teaches us something. So stay in tune to feel her messages.

If I can be of any assistance please do contact me. I am here to work, advise, support and provide any healing work that you may be nudged to seek.


PS my office view 🙂


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