View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lavaman Triathlon

 View from the Ridge

Co 9:24-27 Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest. GNB

I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet. Old Persian Proverb.

 We were treated to an unexpected event this weekend when the 13th annual Lavaman Triathlon was held here at the Waikoloa Beach Resort. We thought there were an unusual number of bicyclists on the road this past week and apparently most of them were in the final training stages for this half triathlon consisting of a 1.5 mile swim, 24.4 mile bike ride and a 6.4 mile run.

So this Sunday morning we left the condo at 6:45 a.m. and walked about a mile to the beach where just under 1100 participants were assembled for a 7:30 plunge into the blue Hawaiian waters off the Kohala Coast. About 2,000 spectators watched as five waves of swimmers took off at two minute intervals around the rectangular course set up in the Anaeho’omalu Bay. There were 127 volunteers just for the swimming portion, over 300 total.

This was an event that some of the elite athletes were using to qualify for the Iron Man Triathlon held on this same island in October. Most were using it for experience and others were there for the fun and exercise.

While waiting for the start of the swimming portion I was “people watching” and happened to see a man in a wheel chair, wearing a wet suit, and having the familiar participant numbers on both arms. His number was 1001. Curiosity finally got the best of me and I approached his group and asked if I could take his picture. I told him I did a little writing and wondered what his story was.

His name is Dan, and he is from New York. About 10 years ago he was in college and fell over a banister 23 feet to a concrete floor below, suffering severe head and brain injuries resulting in paralysis from the waist down. He stated it was a miracle that he could even talk today, let alone do the things he is able to do. Yet here he was, waiting for the start of a mile and a half swim, without the use of his legs. His friends were waiting to carry him to the water. Later I took a picture of him as he powered his racing wheel chair down the road for his long trek to Kona and back. Only then did the question arise as to how he was going to do the running portion. Still don’t know! But this I do know; if he only does the two parts he is able to do, he has done more than most of us will do all year. This is a young man who will not let adversity stand in his way of accomplishment, what ever it be.

In my photographs posted with this article is also a picture of a young lady on the ground. She and another girl collided just 200 yards into the bike portion of the race. Her race was over and they were waiting for the paramedics to arrive. Months of sacrifice and training were wiped out in split seconds, breaking the hearts of both riders. I don’t know who was at fault but the other rider was in tears, if for no other reason than realizing the shared dreams broken for both participants. The second rider was finally encouraged to continue on and she did, but lost precious time because of the incident.

Not 30 yards past this accident, I took a picture of a rider fixing a flat tire on his bike. This was one of the elite riders, one of the first out of the water, and his day was now ruined less than a quarter of a mile into the bike portion of the race. How in the world do you get a flat that quick into the race?

Then there is the picture I missed. I was walking down the road that exits the resort and happened to turn around just as a group of women were riding by. One of them was riding a regular mountain bike with high comfortable handle bars, a wide supportive seat, a basket with her drinks and food mounted on the front, and a grin a mile wide as if she was off on a Sunday ride rather than a grueling triathlon. She was going to have fun this day and, hopefully, finish. I bet she did.

There were a lot of other riders just like her, both men and women, who were doing this for the experience, some for the first time, all hoping to finish, all hoping to better their best time, all enjoying the event. I saw gray-haired grandmothers competing, and looking like this was not their first race and probably not their last. Most participants were the picture perfect athletic bodies, lean and hard. Yet I saw a surprising number that were obviously using this training to hopefully obtain those lean and hard bodies and had a ways to go; some a long ways. But to their credit, they were taking the road less traveled and making the sacrifices necessary to reach whatever goals they have set.

I have realized several things today. One, there is no excuse for not getting into shape. If a guy without use of his legs can swim one and a half miles, surely I can get my fanny down the road for three or four miles of walking, either on the golf course or on the county road. Two, anybody can set some goals. I have friends back in La Grande who are just waiting for me to return so they can whomp me on the golf course. I am already spotting them 10 years in age. I can’t afford to spot them an out-of-shape 20 lbs. So I have to start losing weight and work on getting stronger. I have moped around long enough following this surgery and wondering what the future holds for me. I figure cancer will have a tougher time of it in a healthier body than the one I have now.


  1. Great Dad, I love your attitude! I have all kinds of fun tri training books and what not for you. We'll have you competing in Kona by your 80th!

  2. Thanks, Andy. I think I will stay with getting in shape. The swimming part of triathlons would probably do me in.

  3. Very nice post! I liked reading about it from a spectators point of view. I raced Lavaman with Team In Training (aka TNT)to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We were all the purple jersey's if you were curious. I'm actually friends with the girl who crashed, the one who continued the race. Would you mind emailing me the picture(s) of the crash? I'm sure she'd love to see it from a different perspective.


    Brandon Yee