|The Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway, Hawaii|
Come October, in Kona, more than any other race throughout the vast Ironman collection, the emotional lives of the racers, in good seasons and most especially in bad ones, are on display. There’s Julie Moss and “the spectacle” which put Ironman on the map in 1982. How about Paula Newby Fraser, the “Queen of Kona” who in 1995 suffered a melt down on Hualalai Road muttering “I’m going to die.” She showed that no matter how many wins you have in your sachel, and Paula has the most, repeating here is one tough act. Although as they say in the Sound of Music
, “When the Lord closes a door he opens a window some place,” the smile of Karen Smyers who was ferociously gaining on Paula that day and ultimately passed her, still illuminates the streets of downtown Kailua-Kona and the hearts of those fortunate enough to witness the day.
The pros we’ve come to know wear their hearts on their sleeves where after a day in the heat and the lava fields, they know there will be nowhere to hide their success, failure or emotions. Kona is simply the best. In so many ways. Last night we had the first meeting of the Transition team, people I haven’t seen in 51 weeks, and the attitude among all was “get it right. For the athletes.” These are unpaid volunteers, many of whom have paid their own way, airfare, hotel, the works, to simply help. Many of them are also Ironman finishers themselves, who got so much from their race, and it's
volunteers, that it's their best way to show their gratitude. They understand that despite multiple changes over the years, race course is alive. Leads are always in doubt. But should the stars align in your favor and you are the first to "cross that (finish) line", treasures are yours that cannot be bought. Your name is in the same sentence with Dave and Mark and Scott and Paula. You’re on Bob Babbitt and Mike Reilly’s speed dial for life. Should you choose to do so, you reap a lifetime of spoils.
Welcome to the Big Island.