For our 2020 Kona Countdown, we asked you to share some of your favorite Kona Moments. We’re counting down 50 days to what should have been the 2020 Ironman World Championship in Kona on October 10, 2020.
Want to share one of your favorite Kona Moments? Do so here: KONA COUNTDOWN SUBMISSIONS
From Arnaud Selukov:
“After eight Kona’s in a row, in 2019 I finally made it happen to have my three sons (aged 25, 25, and 10) there with me at the same time. Being able to have a coffee with them, showing them my own personal Ground Zero and the place that has been shaping my life and who I am today, was just a dream. Let alone having them lined up on Palani and Hot Corner cheering me to the finish was beyond my wildest expectations. I didn’t have a great race that day, but I had the best day of my life and I’d sign up for it again anytime.”
From Zo Mendoz…who captured this striking moment at the Ironman World Championship finish line among some Ironman legends. I guess if you are going to collapse at the finish line, it’s pretty sweet to do it when you are first across the line and get help from a pair of six-time world champions.
Jan Frodeno with Dave Scott and Mark Allen.
From Rob Perry
Ironman Communications Director (1991-1997)
“We all were part of a golden age of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona. My best memory is jogging/walking the last half of the marathon with Darryl Haley in 1995. Mark Beal and I were working in the Ironman Communications room when a call came in that Darryl was not doing well as he reached the entrance to the Natural Energy Lab. I had a real affinity for Darryl, having connected with him through the Ironman Lottery story contest we ran at the time. There was no way in hell I was going to not see him cross the finish line. I asked Mark to take care of things at the communications center, and I hitched a ride on the back of a motorcycle to go cheer on Darryl.
By the time I got to NELH, Darryl had chugged down some Gatorade and was on the move. He asked me to help keep pace for him. He and I had a heavy-duty conversation that night about life and conquering demons and persevering…in essence, I went to support him, and he’s the one who ended up giving me the life lesson.
Thinking back on this, I’m struck by two thoughts: 1) I probably would get someone disqualified these days if I jumped into the road and did the last half of an Ironman marathon in tandem… only in Kona! 2) It was good to be 25 years old and too naïve to realize how ‘unprofessional’ it was to abandon my communications post to spend three hours on the course with Darryl. Mark had my back, though, and all’s well that ends well.
Darryl was a trailblazer… He broke the mold of what an Ironman athlete looked like and brought countless people into Ironman events who otherwise wouldn’t have looked in the mirror and dreamed they could do the race.”
In 2013, Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward got to hear those four words that triathletes love to hear from Mike Reilly.
Here’s Hines at our Endurance LIVE Awards recalling his unforgettable day in Kona and what it was like to hear those words and cross the finish line…
Today’s Kona Moment is from Dr. Ryan Hickman. It features her journey to the Ironman World Championship that started when she was 9 years old, and the impact of Coach Bernard Lyles and his Tri-Masters Program that helps Black children from Chicago get into the sport of triathlon.
From Dr Ryan Hickman:
“I joined the Tri-Masters organization when I was 9 years old. Some family friends told me about their coach, Bernard Lyles, having a triathlon training program. I was already a swimmer and could ride a bike and run, so I was interested, and within a few weeks, my mom took me to meet Coach Bernard and join the program. I was in Coach Bernard’s Tri-Masters program every summer, and when I was old enough to work, Bernard gave me one of my first jobs lifeguarding and helping teach the younger kids how to swim.
I decided probably around 7th grade that I wanted to go into sports medicine. It combined my love of sports with helping people. During my high school years, I experienced injuries and overuse issues, and that furthered my desire to want to become a sports medicine physician so I could help athletes like myself. I was an exercise science major with concentrations in athletic training and pre-med.
I would say joining Tri-Masters definitely gave me opportunities and experiences I would not have had otherwise. I not only learned the sport of triathlon, but was coached to excel in it, which gave me additional opportunities in my young life. We were taught the importance of hard work, dedication, perseverance, commitment, leadership, and teamwork. As kids in the Tri-Masters program, we trained with each other and pushed each other to be our best. Additionally, we were taught that no matter your background, you can excel at anything you put your mind to, and that we had a place in spaces where people who looked like us were not the norm.
Today, I am a fellowship-trained sports medicine physician. I am board certified in family medicine with a CAQ (certificate of added qualification) in primary care sports medicine. Only 4% of physicians in the US are Black, and only 2% are Black women. I’m in a space where very few people look like me, but this has been the story of my journey into and through medicine. Unfortunately, many people have been discouraging and negative along my journey in getting here, but failure was not an option. Perhaps the values and qualities instilled in me during my time in Tri-Masters and doing triathlons contributed to my will to continue, persevere, and reach the goal no matter what obstacles I faced.
I have watched the Ironman World Championships since I was a child. Getting to Kona as a medical provider has been one of my goals since my medical residency (2009-2012). I finally made it there in 2017, and it was an epic!
Ironman week in Kona is a vibe that can’t easily be replicated. And it happened that Coach Bernard had come that year as well, so that was awesome. I came for the annual Ironman Sports Medicine Conference and was able to volunteer in the medical tent as well as the finisher’s shoot at the end of the night that year. I went again in 2019 and that time had the opportunity to be on the medical van team out on the course. Every time I go now, it makes me want to start training again to actually do the Ironman, only time will tell on that one, anything is possible.”
To learn more about Coach Bernard Lyles and his Tri-Masters program, check out this interview:
Today we honor the late, great Mike Plant (September 25, 1948 – May 5, 2019) who had an immeasurable impact on the Ironman World Championship, and on me, as a journalist, photographer, publisher, and race announcer.
Here’s an excerpt from my 30 Years of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship coffee table book that Mike wrote about the October 1982 Ironman:
Iron Heart by Mike Plant:
During the marathon, young Julie Leach was leading, but wrestling with her inner demons. She could hear the helicopter overhead. She had just passed defending champion Kathleen McCartney going in opposite directions less than a mile from the turnaround and felt her lead slipping away.
“I thought she’d catch me at 18, 19, 20 miles,” says Leach. “But I told myself if it wasn’t until 24 miles, I was going to go for it.” She did and ended up with a four-minute cushion at the end. But it was never easy.
“It was miserable,” Leach says. “You count every mile and every aid station. You think ‘When is this going to end?’” she admits. “Four hours of running. Can you believe that? Six hours of biking and four hours of running. That’s stupid. Insane. Ironhead.”
But her green eyes were sparkling and her strong, angled face was grinning. What she meant was Iron Heart and there was one of those beating in the chests of all 776 finishers. You don’t get to be an Ironman without one.
Read more on Mike Plant here: Remembering Mike Plant.
Outkicked By A 14-Year-Old
The year is 1981 and I’m out on the marathon course racing with my blue Bone Phones on, the predecessor of both the Walkman and the iPod. Listening to music throughout 138.2 miles of hell? Yes please!
As we headed toward the finish line, a young man named Rob Englehardt, who I had met earlier in the week and become friendly with, caught me and we trotted along the Queen K Highway together.
Robin would go on to play football at Stanford. “It was a lot more fun to knock the crap out of someone than to sit on a bike seat for seven hours,” he confessed to me years later.
Later in life he would become a movie producer, but in 1981 he was a 14 year old kid racing the Ironman before the rule was changed that you have to be 18 to race Kona.
Hence the issue I was dealing with. I was between a rock and a hard spot. If I out-sprinted Rob, I basically just ran away from a 14 year old. If he out-sprinted me, I just lost to a 14 year old. That’s what we call a lose-lose situation
As I was having this discussion with myself, Rob noticed that the finish was about 200 yards away and simply shifted into that teenager gear that most of us simply don’t have anymore.
Our final times? Robin Englehardt: 13:54:53 Bob Babbitt: 13:54:54.
That is correct. I was outkicked by a 14 year old.
So I’ve got that going for me…which is nice!
LISTEN as Robin and I reminisce about our 1981 race…
Here’s our full interview: Robin Englehardt on Babbittville Radio
David Bailey and Carlos Moleda:
For three years, from 1998-2000, former Navy SEAL Carlos Moleda and motocross legend David Bailey went head-to-head in Kona in the handcycle division. Moleda had been paralyzed when he was shot in the back during a mission in Panama. Bailey was a legend in the sport of motocross and at the top of his game before he had been paralyzed during a training session.
For the first two years, Moleda had his way with Bailey. But heading into the 2000 race, Bailey looked fitter than he had ever been before. He knew that he had to put in ridiculous mileage in the pool, in his handcycle, and in his racing chair if he wanted to finally take down Moleda.
The two were on a collision course and it played out that way on race day. Moleda went by Bailey going up Palani early in the handcycle ride. Bailey caught him on the way back to town, but flatted with about six miles to go in the ride and Moleda got away.
Early in the marathon, Bailey was losing ground. But then all of those training sessions started to pay dividends and he caught and passed Moleda as they came out of the Natural Energy Lab.
When Bailey came across the line for the win, he waited for Moleda. When Moleda arrived, the two embraced and I could see Bailey whisper something to Moleda.
As we headed away from the finish, I asked Moleda what Bailey had said to him.
“He told me ‘Thank You,’” said Moleda.
“What?” I said in surprise.
“That’s what I said!” Moleda continued. “He said ‘thank you for pushing me to a level I never would have reached on my own.’”
The three year battle between the two of them was special because the word disability and the wheelchairs disappeared. What we had on race day was two amazing athletes who wanted nothing more than to kick the others guy’s ass.
How awesome is that?
Michelle Vesterby and the power of her motto: Keep Smiling….
Perfect for some Monday Motivation
Tom Warren, the 1979 Race, and the Growth of Ironman
The sports bible throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s –before ESPN– was Sports Illustrated. When SI showcased the 1979 Ironman with an eight-page feature on the event and San Diego-based tavern owner –and Ironman champion Tom Warren– more people than ever before were introduced to this crazy new event. That article led to the event growing from 15 starters and 12 finishers in 1979, to 108 starters and 95 finishers in 1980. Plus, Tom Warren became the first triathlete to appear on the Johnny Carson Show. When Johnny asked Tom what he received for his win, he handed Johnny the hole-in-the-head trophy that Commander John Collins soldered together. “Hey Tom,” laughed Johnny as he turned the trophy upside down, “There’s a screw missing!”
The audience roared and the Ironman was on its way.
Check out Part 1 here.
Check out Part 2 here.
Check out Part 3 here.
Check out Part 5 here.
Check out some of our Kona Countdowns from the last five years here.