Our road to Kona, and by that I’m referencing the Ironman World Championship on the Big Island of Hawaii, began on a Sunday afternoon in April when a friend of my husband’s called to wish him congratulations. Months previous, on a whim, my husband had added his name to the lottery for the Hawaii Ironman. As you might know, each year there are about 1800 athletes that compete in this race. While most of them must qualify by achieving excellent times at other races, 200 spots are reserved for the so-called ‘ common man’. This was dictated early on by the leaders of the race who believed that access to the race should not be available strictly to the elite athletes. This year, some seven thousand people added their names to the lottery and the 200 lucky winners were scrolled at the end of the 70.3 World Championships. My husband’s friend had watched the coverage and saw Tom’s name on the list.
Taken by complete surprise, my husband, Tom, deliberated for quite some time before accepting his spot. Without any idea that he’d be selected, he hadn’t planned on completing an Ironman this year. Given the demands of his job and his desire to be a fully present husband, we both knew this commitment would take a toll on our lifestyle. After accepting his spot, the work began. Tom chose LifeSport, a coaching outfit out of Canada and the official coach of the Ironman race in Hawaii. Each week Paul, Tom’s coach, logged workouts and each week Tom dutifully completed the workouts. The schedule was punishing at times and there were full days that he seemed to be out on his bike or off for a long run. But our kids, ages nearly 10 and nearly 13, are old enough to understand and respect Tom’s commitment and I was behind him all the way.
Not wanting this effort to be a purely selfish endeavor, Tom sought a way to add meaning to the hours of training. The Janus Charity Challenge allowed Tom to connect purpose to his passion by raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Association. As most readers know, Tom’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago and the whole family was behind Tom in raising money to train and support caregivers of people with the disease. What Tom didn’t expect was the outpouring of support and encouragement he received. There were personal emails speaking about Tom’s wonderful mother and was a tribute this was. And there were festivities. Unbeknownst to Tom, a Bayada Team coordinated a "Go Tom Go" party in conjunction with a raffle of Phillies tickets to raise more money. This added a whole new level of meaning to the race for all of us.
And now, all these months later, we’re here! Kona, a town seemingly built around the west coast of the Big Island, is packed chock full of triathletes from all over the world. They walk, run and bike through the town at all hours of the day in preparation of the big day. The men, long-legged and lean, run with the graceful lope of the gazelle. And the women, about 27% of the field is women this year, are just as lean and powerful. Here are people unafraid to show off their bodies but not in the self-conscious way of the fashionably beautiful. No, the athletes are strong and healthy and they wear their broad shoulders, flat stomachs, and bulging calf muscles like so many badges of honor. Here, they seem to say, is the body that helped me achieve this moment.
But I neglected to describe the island! There is something primordial about Hawaii from the chunky black volcanic rocks outside my window to the breathtaking flora lining every road, every walkway. Palm trees vault the skies and flowers in brilliant fuschias, canary yellows, deep purples burst forth as though they can’t contain themselves. The water is, of course, a staggering blue in a shade so rich that I only see it in the skies of my native Pennsylvania.
This morning, I swam the Ironman swim course. Okay, I swam a fraction of the course. But imagine my surprise as I was swimming along to see coral blooming beneath me teeming with fish and sea urchins. Right here, beneath my nose. Amazing. After a wonderful meal at Lava Java, my new favorite restaurant, we are resting before out next adventure. Mahalo for reading, more tomorrow.