I’m in Kona this week for Ironman Hawaii even though I have no one competing in it for the first time in many years. Two of the pros I coach, Justin Daerr and Jim Vance, qualified but for personal reasons decided not to race here this year. They will both be doing Ironman Arizona in November instead. That’s good for me since I live just up the road about 15 miles. Both are training quite well and I expect they will also race well.
This is my twelfth trip to Kona for the Ironman. My first was in 1989 which was probably the greatest Ironman triathlon ever. Dave Scott and Mark Allen went shoulder to shoulder for nearly the entire day with Mark taking the lead and the win near the end of the run. I can recall standing at about the 5-mile mark on Ali’i Drive on the old course with sweat pouring out of me as Mark and Dave ran by at sub-6-minute pace. The heat and humidity were unbearable that year. That Marks’ run split is still the fastest ever in Hawaii is a testament to his physical and mental preparation.
On Thursday morning I always do a talk to a group of family physicians there for Dr. John Post’s Orthopedic Update seminar. The bottom line of my talk is that exercise is the most potent medicine these docs can prescribe for their patients. I go through classic research that shows how it prevents or reverses the symptoms of almost every lifestyle disease known to Western society. While a little out of my realm of high-level performance, it is nevertheless a lot of fun. Dr. Post always has some interesting speakers.
A couple of years ago he invited the father and son racing team Dick and Rick Hoyt to talk about their experiences not only in racing but also in dealing with the medical profession. You may know that son Rick has cerebral palsy so Dick pulls him in a raft during the swim, rides a bike with a special seat for his son, and pushes Rick in an oversized “stroller” for the marathon. They didn’t finish the race that year and I believe I saw that they have decided to forego any more Ironman racing since Dick is now in his 60s.
The last two years Dr. Post has invited Bob Scott to speak. Bob is the holder of the 75-79 age group course record at something like 13:27. If Ironman was age-graded I expect that would have won the race when he did it a couple of years ago. That’s a remarkable performance and gives me hope that I can train and race at a high level as I approach my late 60s.
About four years ago Dr. Post invited an athlete whose daughter died as a child. Her dying wish was that her dad would be allowed into the Hawaii Ironman. WTC, the owner of the race at that time, heard of it and gave him a slot. It was a heart-tugging story which the TV coverage featured that year. Even with the death-hardened doctors in attendance, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place when he told his story and how he and his wife worked with the physicians right up until the end.
The Kona trip is a chance for my son, Dirk, and me to represent TrainingPeaks and TrainingBible Coaching by meeting with people in the industry who we talk or trade emails with throughout the year while also making new acquaintances. And this year we’ll wrap it up by spending next week in Kauai with our wives and Dirk’s daughter. It’s a great way to end the season. So I may be away from my computer for a few days. But then again I may change my mind after seeing something that sparks my interest.