My apologies in advance, as this post will likely wax nostalgic and sappy. At this point you have probably read quite a few posts from Hawaii (recounting everyone’s amazing performances!), but after receiving an email a few days ago from a friend, I’m so glad I waited to get this “out the door.”
When Hillary first extended the idea of coming to the Big Island this fall, I quickly wrote it off. A one day turnaround after two weeks in Italy? Crazy! But then days passed and I couldn’t seem to shake the idea. It simmered and then slowly bubbled until I couldn’t ignore it any longer and I booked a flight. Sitting at home now, slowly catching up on lost sleep and even more slowly getting my own training back on track, I can’t believe I ever thought of saying “no”.
Last year I stood on the sidelines with Mark and took everything in from afar. The energy, the spectacle, the blood, sweat and tears. I had yet to participate in my first Ironman and still considered myself to be relatively new to triathlon, having done my first 70.3 just the year prior. I don’t think I really understood the significance of it all. 365 days later and my experience in Kona could not have been more different. From the minute I landed and jumped into the SMASHFEST mobile and then straight to the expo, I was in the thick of it. Post-Ironman the race also had a greater weight to it, an understanding of what it really means to put in the work and race at that level.
I had the wonderful experience of spending a few days with Hillary and Michele, the heart and soul behind SMASH, earlier this summer in Lake Placid. And I may sound like a broken record, but I could not be luckier and more fortunate to be a part of what they have built. Being in Kona felt like being part of a family, one that I am so incredibly proud and grateful to be a member of. It was amazing to see how much buzz and excitement there was for all the new designs and apparel throughout every day at the expo. And then to watch some strong, fast ladies whizzing by on race day was icing on the cake. I can’t wait to see what is up their sleeve for next year.
Part of the weight I felt on race day was from the anniversary that the World Championships signified. The anniversary of that horrible phone call letting me know of Marisela’s passing. I have written here about Kelly’s quest to honor Mari’s memory through the lava fields of Kona and I was so happy to have the chance to watch her carry out this dream. I happened to be there as she started the run, coming down to make the first turn onto Alii Drive. She was smiling wide, as per usual, and as I ran a few steps with her I tried my best to keep it together on the outside, while my heart was breaking on the inside. I didn’t get to see Kelly, or the many who had traveled to support her, much but I hope she knows how much I thought of her, and of Mari, while on the island.
When I started this post I titled it “Island Magic” but then faltered at how to continue. It seemed a harder task than I had thought to put into words a summary of everything that I had taken away from this experience. Until yesterday.
After an “early” morning ride chasing Laurel up a few circuits of hills, I was driving to swim practice lacking a bit of motivation, when my phone flashed with an email from a friend of a friend. Livia had been in Kona with her husband Kevin, a triathlete himself, as the first stop on their honeymoon. Although Kevin has become an avid athlete in recent years, Livia has been playing the ever important sherpa role, up until now.
watching kona was so inspirational. i have such endless admiration and respect for what Ironmen do (that includes both of you guys). the incredible sacrifice and mental muscle it takes to do that is so amazing. i saw this woman there who did the ironman and had 5 children. all boys. and they all looked up to her in a way that i have seldomly seen children do- they listened to everything she said, held the door for her, carried her bag for her- all teenage boys, just melting around their mother- it was incredible…so ladies, i have decided to do my first triathlon. first i am going to do a half marathon because i hate running. then i will be doing my first tri. i really want to be that woman with the 5 kids who look up to her and respect her the way those boys did.
anyway- just a little moment of reflection i had at Kona.