Kona 2022 – The Spirit of Aloha

If you donʻt have aloha, you’re not alive.

– “The Duke” Kahanamoku

Aloha is a deeply held spiritual belief best understood through Native Hawaiian culture. Beyond a greeting, aloha can describe a deep love and respect for people and places, or act as a reminder of how to behave appropriately in the world, or “with aloha.” Duke Kahanamoku is still regarded today as one of the greatest aquatic sportsman of all time. The Duke was a native Hawaiian who participated in five Olympic games. He captured the hearts and respect of many generations across the globe with his humbleness, kindness, and gifted athletic abilities. He taught us all the meaning of brotherhood and love.

Watch or read “The Waterman” and you’ll be inspired!

Thirteen family members supported me on this trip.

Becca – I raced St. George earlier in the year without her and my race experience was just not the same. To be honest, I probably would not be in the sport at this level of involvement if it wasn’t for her. She’s incredibly passionate about the triathlon, inspires me daily to be the best athlete and person I can be, motivates me to train hard (so I don’t get chicked again), and knows my exact needs race week. Thanks for all your support and love, Boo!

Uncle Harold, Auntie Judy, & Lisa – My Hilo family welcomed me and Becca into their home the first three nights, took us out to dinner, gave us many gifts, let us use their car for an entire week, took us to the volcano, and made us an insane amount of food. We did not leave Hilo starving, that’s for sure! You were a highlight of our trip and we can’t thank you enough.

Uncle Lee and Auntie Alva – Lee has the calm, collective, and respectful personality I desire; he gave me many car rides, helped cooked some delicious Hawaiian meals, and always made himself available whenever needed. Alva’s fun-natured, bubbly, and easygoing personality brought me a lot of joy on this trip; she brought some delicious Hawaiian food and treats from Oahu and filled an entire bag up with chalk for their amazing sidewalk artwork display on race day.

Mom and Dad – It’s always great to have you at my races. You’ve always been there for me at my biggest athletic endeavors (or dog/house sitting while we are away!). Also, thank you for doing my stinky laundry every day! 🙂

Derek, Anne, Emma, Luke, & Clare – Thank you for your support. Derek has been to all my big races and has always been an influencer in my triathlon journey (he introduced me to this sport). Emma, Luke and Clare – I’m glad you finally got to witness the race first-hand and loved seeing your smiles and loud cheers on the race course (and providing me Mariners score updates!). Anne – thank you for the rides to and from the airport!

I could not have done this race without my family’s support. I was pampered and treated like a king the entire time. Airfare, car rentals, food, and accommodations were absurdly expensive in Kona, but my family made this trip affordable. Moreover, I would not have enjoyed this trip without their presence. To me, this trip was way more than just the race. It was about family, and we collectively shared a very strong spirit of Aloha.

Race Week –

Becca and I flew into Hilo on Thursday, 10 days before the Ironman. It was nice to spend some easygoing days on the other side of the island, acclimate to the tropical climate, and away from all the craziness. Becca and I rode our bikes to the volcano, ate delicious Hawaiian food, swam in the ocean and nearby pool, explored Hilo, got shave ice, and went coqui frog hunting with Harold. I’ll miss the loud coqui frog noises at night.

Goofin’ around in Hilo!

We left for Kona early Sunday morning to make the Ho’ala Ironman practice swim event. Becca and I had great swims and it was good way to kick off race week.

My family members trickled into town the next couple days and we checked into our weeklong Airbnb on Monday. We were slightly up the hill from Ali’i Drive and the views of the ocean and sunset were breathtaking. Becca led some sunset Yoga sessions.

We ate out only once. My family had homemade meals planned for the entire week. Poke dishes, Hawaiian food, Grandma’s stew, pasta, and chicken were all delicious!

The Kona Underpants Run is always a main highlight of race week. Thanks Dad for being fully clothed and stealing my spot in the family pic.

Becca and I rode up to Hawi mid week and got to experience the infamous trade winds. No pictures were taken on this ride because we were holding onto our bars for dear life!

Each one of my family members did some form of physical activity everyday. My cousin, Emma, is training for the New York City Marathon and even got a 19 mile run in!

Race week in Kona is always special because it allows me time to always gawk and say hello to my triathlon pros and influencers. I fist bumped Ditlev at the practice swim, chatted with Dave Scott, Bree Wee taught me the correct way to shaka, I saw Talbot, Lionel and the Norwegian hype train at the pool, and got advice from Crowie.

I spoke with my coach and his wife (Alicia Kaye) Tuesday and we discussed some race strategy, expectations, and received some specific tips from Alicia who’s raced in Kona professionally a few times.

Thursday, we went down to Ali’i to watch the women’s pro race. It was so cool to finally spectate this event and see the pros while I wasn’t suffering myself.

Friday, I relaxed for most of the day. The most stressful part was watching the Mariners play in their first playoff game since I was in high school. They won so I was in good spirits the rest of the day. My mom went with me to stand in the long line to check in my bike and gear bags.

Race Day:

I was pretty calm the days leading into the race but definitely nervous and anxious to get the day started. This was my fourth time racing on the island and had a good understanding of the course’s demands and brutally hot, tough racing conditions.

Most of my family left the house around 4:30 AM to get a good parking spot and begin the work of art. They have this down to a science now. Some of these will surely make the NBC broadcast!

After pumping up my bike tires and loading all my nutrition on my bike, Becca and I hung out in the King K hotel lobby until the race start approached.

I was the first age group wave starting at 6:40 AM, immediately following the mens professional field. The sounds of the drums and helicopter above always sends chills through my body. It’s always an honor to toe the line at this prestigious event.

I lined up wide, above six rows back in the swim… and got pummeled when the gun sounded. Kona is always a very hectic swim start and this year was no different. Typically I can get away from all the craziness at other races, but there are many quality swimmers at this event.

I got my goggles ripped off, I was inadvertently kicked in the face, and felt very claustrophobic to start with very little space to maneuver. This thrashing and contact didn’t ease up until about 20 minutes in when I finally was able to relax, settle into a good rhythm, and find some good feet to draft. I missed swimming with the ladies this year, where I feel like they seem to be a lot less aggressive, mindful, and courteous in large swim packs.

I got out of the water in 1:00:41, a personal best on the course. After the initial chaos I felt like I swam very steady and smooth, and exited the Kailua pier feeling fresh and ready to take on the day.

Onto the bike, I immediately began feeling incredibly thirsty. I drank quite a bit of salt water from the swim which I believe was the main culprit of why I felt dehydrated. I went through my first aero bottle of water in the first 20 minutes of the ride. I carried only one other bottle with me, which was heavily concentrated with my race nutrition. One thing I made sure to do was slow down at each station to ensure I was capped off on fluids, cool myself off, and grab any nutrition needed along the way. Due to a lack of volunteers, both the bike and run stations were spaced out farther than usual (roughly every 15-20 miles on the bike and 1.5-2 miles on the run).

Kuakini Bike Turnaround:

Another shot:

Onto the Queen K, I saw my boss and his family cheering at Hualalai. I even managed a high-five! Seeing so many friends and familiar faces along the course definitely gave me a pick-me-up.

I took the bike fairly conservatively to Hawi and really focused on staying hydrated and sticking to my nutrition plan. I’m not the strongest cyclist so I was passed quite a bit, some guys riding fairly and others coming by in huge draft packs. While I did have the itch to hop onto one of the trains, at the end of the day, I like looking at myself in the mirror knowing I competed fairly.

I stuck to my Ironman Canada power numbers for the most part, constantly reminding myself I cannot be a superhero on this course and ride above my abilities. I feel like rode smart and to the best of my abilities. I got off the bike in 5:13:34 in good spirits. I felt pretty hot and cooked, but not as bad of shape to previous years where I couldn’t even fathom running.

Just before entering transition I got a Mariners score update from Derek and his family. M’s were down 8-1. Oh dear.

I decided to do a complete change in T2, putting on arm coolers, a running singlet, and shorts.

Running on Ali’i is always special. There’s so many spectators cheering loudly. It’s easy to feed off their energy and go out too quickly. I started out with a very conservative approach on the marathon sticking to 7:30 miles to start. If at any moment this pace felt too hard, I backed off.

Stay patient, Becca reminded me.

Cresting the hill up Palani, I saw Becca’s friend Carolyn cheering for me. I smiled and waved. I received many comments from spectators on how happy I looked out on the course. Inside, I was struggling and hurting but tried to give as many high-fives and “enjoyed” myself as much as possible.

Becca went all out in her spectating duties.

Another Mariners update from Becca – TIED 9-9!

First part of the run on the Queen K:

The second half of the marathon has always been a huge struggle for me. Aid stations seemed so far apart and I walked through every one of them. I was extremely dehydrated as I was chugging water at each station, pouring ice, Coke, Gatorade and anything somewhat cold over my body. Although I did have a small collapsible bottle on me, in hindsight, I wish I brought a large handheld so I had easier access to water throughout the run.

Final Mariners Update – They won 10-9 and were moving on to the Divisional Series!!!

This marathon never felt easy and I just could not get the legs to turnover to increase my pace. I felt like I was stuck at around an eight-minute pace the entire day, which included many aid station walk breaks. I had the goal of feeling good in the Energy Lab this year, and I just don’t know if that’s even possible. I threw up once around mile 17, felt better, and kept slogging along. Except at aid stations, I never threw in the towel and walked.

Exiting the Energy Lab with 10k left to go, I tried picking up the pace once more. The way back always seem to be so mentally challenging with very little crowd support until you get closer to town. It also didn’t help that one of the aid stations was completely out of water and ice. I went approximately three miles without any fluids. At this point, I was just staring at the white line on the road, trying to run in a straight line.

I saw Becca once more nearing the right-hand turn down Palani for some final words of encouragement. She was enthusiastically cheering for me and gave me words of encouragement up the final little climb on the Queen K. I was struggling quite bad and was just trying to hold it together.

I got a surge of energy as I ran down Palani, knowing the misery would soon be over. I ran along the side of Ali’i giving out as many high-fives and smiled.

I could feel the energy and enthusiasm from the crowd. It always seems like a huge party running down the finishing straight. I tried to soak it all in.

My Mom handed me a lei right before entering the finishing chute.

I finished the marathon in 3:36 with a final cumulative time of 10:00:24. I gave it my all as I fell into the arms of two volunteers as they carried me to medical. I was dizzy, exhausted, and a little confused… but it felt good to finally lay down and be out of the sun.

I quickly rebounded as I met up with my good friend, Colin Cook, who had an outstanding performance. Colin has always been someone I look up to (literally and figuratively) as he’s become one of the best amateurs in the nation. We started the sport together in 2009 and have been going HAM ever since! Congrats on another Kona finish my friend.

Exiting the athlete area, I found my family waiting and they were all so proud of me. Although still in rough shape, it’s moments like these that make these race experiences so special. They spent the entire day out on the course cheering, supporting, and I saw them all over the place. You guys are the best!

The look of “I NEVER want to do this again.”

The race itself was fun, but more importantly this trip brought out the spirit of Aloha and reminded me we all should embrace and incorporate Aloha into our own lives. The spirit of Aloha runs strong in my family and they made this Hawaii experience one I’ll cherish and remember for the rest of my life.

Mahalo and Aloha to all for the read!

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Categories: Race Report, Races


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One Comment on “Kona 2022 – The Spirit of Aloha”

  1. October 23, 2022 at 12:48 pm #

    So awesome buddy. It’s so cool that you got to spend such quality time with friends and family. Soo close to sub10! Well done. Mahalo Ohana!

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