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my ironman experience: dream big (pt. 3)

We hopped in our Ford Focus, in my mind it was a convertible, yellow Jeep like the first time we visited the island, when I was working, and headed toward Queen K. Highway, although our GPS referred to it as “Hawaii Belt Road”. I can still hear “Charles’” British pronunciation in my head. After the race, we switched to “Lee” in honor of all the Australians who participated in the race. Our GPS is cool and so are the Aussies.

It was dark out, we couldn’t see, the City of Hawaii is serious about keeping the ambient light as low as possible. I’m sure you already know what’s happening on Mauna Kea. The street lights are yellow and driving took more getting used to than I remembered. Uh oh. It was four years ago. Eek! My night vision is waning. But as dark as it was, we could see enough to recognize that we were on our beloved Big Island! Lucky us.

Ironman takes place in Kailua-Kona. Unfortunately, because our plans came together really quickly, about 40 days out, everything affordable was booked up. I had to look on the outskirts. I found a place 20 miles south of Kailua-Kona in Captain Cook called The Sugar Shack. The closer we got to The Sugar Shack, the darker and darker it got; I’m talking pitch black. And the driveway into the shack was astounding. One wrong move and our vacation would have been ruined. I wish I had taken a picture. Later, our hosts showed us another, less daunting entrance. If you’re ever on the Big Island, drive up the mountain and check out the driveways on some of those houses!

We were up bright and early the next morning. You’ve got to get up early because days are short in paradise. Sunrise was about 6:10 am and sunset was around 6:10 pm. We were the first to arrive at The Coffee Shack which is just how we like it. Yes, the Hawaiians are big on calling things shacks. We got the best seat in the house. Everyone that walked in after us was somewhat disappointed in their own seats. I saw how they were checking us out.

We could see down to Kealakekua Bay, and with the help of binoculars, my husband was scanning the waters looking for spinner dolphins. (He’s obsessed but please don’t tell him I told you.) I was looking for Ironmen! I’m a real dork when it comes to Ironman finishers. It’s respect, envy, idolization–it’s weird. I wonder how I’ll feel about myself when I become one. Will it be enough? Will that be the answer? I already know the answer to that question but it’ll still be cool to be an Ironman. Eventually, an Ironman walked in, as I said before, I can spot them a mile away. My husband was like, “Are you sure? Him?” My response, “Trust me.” I was seriously excited over seeing this guy and asked my husband to sneak a picture. I later saw that guy with his finishers medal. I was proud of him but a little less impressed. Hey, I’m just being honest. But still very proud and happy for him!

I had to be at King Kamehameha Hotel for volunteer packet pick up at 9:30 am. Just thinking about it transports me back to my original giddiness. We paid for breakfast. $30?! That’s it. I’m cooking at home! I blew a kiss to my Ironman, just jivin’, and we hit the road, totally jamming to 93.9, Native FM! I always drive when we’re on vacation. I enjoy it and he doesn’t love it, so it works out great. We laughed and smiled all the way back down but north, to Kailua-Kona.

I tried to park at the hotel but it was action central. O-M-G! It was triathlon, Ironman heaven! There were banners, bikes, swimmers, people, ballons, contortionists. No, no contortionists but there could have been. I was so excited. It was like Cirque du Soleil. Even John was excited! We were surrounded by all things Ironman! I tried to remain calm. Breathe. I was here. This idea that started as a whim had grown into me being here. Just a few months earlier, I decided that I’d compete in an Ironman by my 50th birthday and I never had the thought of seeing it beforehand. We should dream bigger. We should allow ourselves every outrageous thought. Why not? Someone might say, “Yes! Why not?!” Ironman and ACL are on the same weekend, I almost didn’t bother asking my husband to miss it but I did and he responded, enthusiastically, “Yes! Why not?!” Oh, boy! Why not, indeed.

Thanks for stopping by. Please come back for…Body Marking training!


(Photo 1: You've got to eat a lot rice while in Hawaii. It's required.)

(Photo 2: Breakfast was pricey but we went back. The view was beautiful!)

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Comment by Kinaya Ulbrich on November 4, 2010 at 7:37pm
Ah, Bill. Sorry, friend. My first entry is called "the OTHER road to kona"! I was a volunteer, Bill. I'm FAR from being able to participate in that race. I will do my FIRST 70.3 this April in Galveston. I don't know of any way to get there, for me, except the lottery or being really famous or rich. Bill, think positively. Qualifying is a long shot for me but I might get picked by the lottery. You might too! Sincerely, Kinaya
Comment by Bill on November 4, 2010 at 7:09pm
It's great that you got to go to KONA! Now can you tell me how you did that? You mentioned that it was just a few months ago you had an idea. Then you were able to go. I also have that dream but i'll never qualify. Did you happen across another path to Kona besides the Lottery or qualifying?


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