It should come as no surprise how Thursday started off in Kona. We swam ½ mile out to the coffee bar for coffee and cookies. While swimming back, I swam directly over a huge turtle about 20 feet below me and stop to watch how he gracefully moved through the water. I can learn from him.
Another highlight of the morning was the traditional underpants run…sorry, I did not bring my camera. I am not sure how it started, but the underpants run has become a tradition on Thursday morning for many years. My guess is that it was thrown in to relieve some of the tension and anxiety starting to build among the athletes. The one observation I can make is that triathlon suits are far more revealing than regular underwear for both men and women.
Later in the morning, I had the opportunity to get 10 minutes of coaching in an endless pool with Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen, the 2009 master swimmer of the year (for the fifth time) and current holder of 47 master swim records. She told me to keep my arms wider (like the turtle.)
Our friends, Alicia and Gary Kessler arrived from Atlanta to complete our support team. Gary is a regular in the Triple-By-Pass Ride in Colorado each summer. Gary and I went for a 4 mile run to keep things moving.
The rest of the day was spent thinking about Saturday. I have been focusing so much on being physically ready and with just two days to go, there is nothing more I can do to improve my ability. Mentally, I spent time thinking about what I needed to do on race day. How fast should I go out on the bike? What should my game plan be for the run? How much should I eat and drink during the bike and run? What should I pack in my goody bag that I pick up halfway through the bike and halfway through the run? Emotionally, I am fighting to stay calm and not let every little sore, pain or ailment frighten me. I am also working hard to fight the gravity of what I am planning to do on Saturday. The “what’s the guy from right field doing here” syndrome. And spiritually, I am trying to connect with what they say in the Hawaiian culture…to capture strength from the land and the sea.
The final event for the day was the pre-race banquet for the 2,000 athletes and 3,000 family members. Our friend Scott Rigsby joined us for dinner. Scott complete the Ironman in Kona in 2007 to become the first double leg amputee to finish the event using a traditional bike and running on prosthetics. Scott has become a great inspiration to many, but my favorite thing that I have watched Scott do is talk with children who have lost just one leg.
During the banquet, Lew Hollander was honored as the oldest competitor. At 80 years old, he is trying to complete his 21st Ironman. Lew gave a simple answer when asked why he does it. He believes he will live 20 more years after his last Ironman and he likes pushing that date back every year. He was my shining example today of what most of us are doing in Kona.
Staying forever young.