For my 2016 Kona Countdown, I counted down my 50 Favorite Ironman Hawaii Moments. Number 36 on the countdown was 36 years after I finished my first Ironman, in 1980. Here’s my story of that day:
Always Keep Moving Forward
I went over to the 1980 Ironman on Oahu and had no idea what I was in for. This photo is of me right after I finished the 2.4 mile swim. I wore number 3, not because I was seeded, but because I sent my $25 dollar entry fee in third. My bike cost me $75 and I bought it at a police auction. Why was it so cheap? The back end up of the bike had been burned in a fire, so I covered up that end of the bike with duct tape. Since I couldn’t change a flat, I put solid rubber tires on the bike. I also had foam grips on the handlebars, a fuzzy raccoon bike seat cover, a Radio Shack radio bungee-corded to the handlebars and, of course, panniers with a tent and sleeping bag. My plan for race day was to swim 2.4, ride 56 and then camp out, ride back to Honolulu the next morning and then run the marathon. That certainly made more sense to me! But no, these knuckleheads did the whole thing in one day!
My support crew in their Fiat convertible gave me a Big Mac, fries and a Coke at mile 25 of the ride and a root beer snow cone at mile 80. Between the ride and the run they provided me with a full body 45 minute massage. They had a rule in the early days of Ironman that you had to stop and get weighed multiple times throughout the race. If you lost 5% of your body weight, you’d be pulled from the race. As I left T2 to begin the marathon, they weighed me. Four miles later, after I’d been walking and shuffling and chowing down on Hawaiian Sweet Bread and Gatorade, they weighed me again. As I stood there on the scale, the person with the walkie-talkie told the person on the other end of the line my weight. I could hear the voice on the other end as clear as day: “Can you give me that again? He has gained four pounds? You can’t GAIN weight doing this!”
I could…and I did.
As I came to the finish in Kapiolani Park, I thought there would be a band there to greet all 95 of us finishers. Or maybe cheerleaders. Instead, I spotted a chalk line in the street and above us was a light bulb suspended on a wire. “Hey you,” came a voice out of the darkness, “are you in the race?”
“Yes I am,” I responded proudly.
His next two words were perfect “You’re done!”
No band, no cheerleaders…. no nothing. Just one of my fellow competitors doing one arm push-ups in the park.
But as I walked away from that experience, I knew this thing called the Ironman had changed me forever. I had finished something in one day that I didn’t think I could. From that day on, I drew on that Ironman finish whenever anything in my life seemed overwhelming.
The Ironman, just like life, is littered with highs and lows. The key to success in both, I discovered that day 36 years ago, is to simply stay positive, keep smiling and always keep moving forward.
No matter what.