Sometimes it's good to look back on amazing moments in our sport - I wrote this Starting Lines (the first article that appears in Triathlete Magazine each month) about the Honu Triathlon, in Kona, Hawaii.
ON THE EVENING BEFORE THE HONU HALF IRONMAN IN HAWAII—ON ONE OF THE TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES IN THE WORLD—WE COULD CLEARLY SEE THE COURSE BUOYS IN THE OCEAN, SET UP A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE RACE, FOR TRAINING. As the sun was setting, my wildly adventurous friend Terra looked at me and said “Let’s go,” as she pointed to the buoys with a suggestive look in her eye. It only took a moment, but in that moment of decision, I thought about those things we triathletes think about when getting ready for a race. Those sometimes nagging things, like, ‘Did I get enough sleep last night,’ and ‘What should I eat tomorrow before the race,’ and, ‘If swim out to that second buoy tonight, will I get too tired for my race tomorrow morning, and will it hurt my time?’
Then something hit me like a frozen water bottle, and I thought to myself, "I’m in Hawaii. The sun is setting. My friend wants to swim out to the second buoy and back. The water is warm." I put my digital camera on the beach, and getting back in the water, we started to swim. With the sun glimmering on the horizon we swam to the second buoy slowly, then back to shore at light speed, our pace inspired by the increasing darkness and mystery of the ocean.
On that swim, I thought about what we might lose, to gain an extra minute or two. The Honu Half Ironman is perhaps the most tri-historic, lava-scenic and therefore enjoyable Ironman qualifier in the world. And any qualifier could see Ironman slots allocated to people just a few seconds faster, and this is a twist worth mentioning, but this time, I was not racing this race for a slot, and across our sport, for the most part, the question will always be a valid one. How much have we all given up, in the name of a few seconds or minutes?
I may be a big supporter of focus, and I may even be a self diagnosed tri-compulsive, but before I die, it’s more likely that I’ll say “I wish I spent more time with the important people in my life, swimming into a sunset and back,” rather than, “I wish I spent more time stressing out about my finish time.”
The next morning, I did the “twice over” scan of my bike, checking to make sure that everything was tight and functional, and I have to admit that my potentially “lost” minute from the evening’s swim crossed my mind. Then I thought, about the fact that this magnificent sport of triathlon is here to create healthy relief—not more tension—in our lives. It was now 6:04 a.m. and we could hear the announcers welcoming the athletes into the transition area. With my bike and race gear, I headed down to the transition area. Just before the start, on the shore with the sun rising, I smiled, realizing that I was again on my way out to those big orange inflatables, this time with close to 1,000 other people from all over the world. In that moment I committed that anytime I have the chance to do something adventurous—outside my normal pre-race or training regime—I’ll just say, “Alright, let’s go.” And I’ll leave the stress on the shore.