Kona 2003…Inspiring as Always

Just back from Kona where every year I come away awed by the difficulty of the event, and inspired by the wide range of humanity that arrives to do battle with this extraordinary, and unique event.

Funny that it is as a spectator that I came to better appreciate just how difficult the conditions are for this race. Of course, in my 6 participations in Hawaii I had opportunity to experience the onslaught of elements that Kona dishes out to its IM aspirants, but standing out at Kawaihaie, miles 35 & 80 of the bike, sun beating down on you, winds benign this year but horrid other years, lava strewn as far as you can see, one really wonders how it is that this event became triathlon’s mecca….the proverbial moth drawn to a flame I suppose.

Most Inspiring Athlete 2003 There are almost as many inspiring stories as there are competitors, and every year the bar seems to go higher with examples of raw and potent human courage.

Dick Hoyt and his son Ricky completing the event with a raft, bike tandem, and wheel-chair. Amputees emerging from the water and calmly attaching an artificial leg to begin the bike. Marc Herremans; 6th place in 2001, paralyzed from the waist down 3 months later, at the starting line with wheelchair racked in T1-T2, and wearing #6.

This year’s athlete that caused me to pause and wonder if I could be so strong was the fellow who raced with one arm only.

Sure, the swim would be kind of challenging, but with 2hr20′ to finish and beautiful, clear, and buoyant water, the swim looks manageable.

But the bike!! Riding 112 miles, climbing hills, grabbing water bottles, shifting gears, sitting throughout in the same position, trying to keep from being blown off by the winds….a pretty scary and daunting challenge that still has me wondering how I would manage such a feat.

Factor in a supporting cast of thousands who likewise inspire; the champions, the athletes sprinting down Alii Drive to break 10 hours, 11 hours, 12 hours, etc., the event’s original winner heading out for the run some 25 years later and many hours later in the day, the runners and their parade of glowsticks moving silently through the dark lava fields, the septagenarians crossing the finish line at 11:30pm, and one cannot come away from this event anything but profoundly moved.

Thanks to all the folks I saw do battle in Hawaii’s 25th Anniversary edition. Their example has me as pysched as ever to get out the door in pursuit of new goals, and I will draw from their strength.

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