Kailua-Kona firefighter performs like a pro


By MICAH LEWTER

Stephens Media

Andrew Penny looked like a seasoned professional in his first full Ironman, and Andrea Bess met her goal despite a frustrating penalty.

The two triathletes took the top two spots among Big Island triathletes in Saturday’s Ironman World Championship.

Penny, a Kailua-Kona firefighter by way of New Zealand, took home the best overall time among Big Island residents, finishing Saturday’s race in 10 hours, 20 minutes, 17 seconds.

Waimea’s Andrea Bess, also the top Big Island woman triathlete, completed her goal by finishing in 10:58:34. She set a prerace goal to finish in less than 11 hours, and she did so despite an 8-minute penalty on the bike ride.

Penny raced like a pro, even though his only previous triathlons were one Lavaman and two Hawaii 70.3 Ironman events. All three events were half-Ironman races at most.

Saturday, he raced the full 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run competitively for the first time.

“As all the pros say, you start with a full tank,” Penny said. “How you handle that tank during the swim and during the bike will determine how much you have for the run.”

Penny said he focused on having a “solid swim” to set the tone. During the run, he hydrated constantly, often stopping at the aid stations to take ice, water, bananas, sodas, whatever the volunteers suggested.

“I felt good running, but I made myself stop at the aid stations,” he said. “You can run through them, but it will cost you.”

Penny could afford to coast a bit, because he distanced himself from the Big Island pack. After Bess, Kailua-Kona’s Korey Pulluaim boasted the best local finish with a time of 11:55:40, more than 90 minutes behind Penny.

While Penny was rolling along, Bess was battling her own frustration after a passing penalty on the bike ride.

Normally, when passing on the bicycle portion of the race, racers have 20 seconds to complete the pass. Bess tried to pass eight bikers in Hawi to avoid a potential pileup in the typically fierce winds.

Bess assumed she had extra time to complete the octuplet pass, but the race marshal saw differently.

“I made the pass, and the marshal was there, and she brought out the red flag and sent me to the penalty tent,” Bess said.

Bess spent 8 minutes in the tent, watching other peddlers peddle past.

“Normally, it’s 4 minutes in the penalty tent, but when you cuss and ask why, you are going to get extra time,” Bess said.

But as Bess saw the other bikers pass her, she made a mental note and set a new goal.

”Everybody that passed me, I passed them,” Bess said. “That gives you more desire when you’re sitting there. I knew I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Bess bested her time from the 2010 Ironman, shaving nearly 50 minutes off her time of 11:48:44.

Even with the penalty, she managed to make three goals: finishing in less than 11 hours, crossing the finish line before sunset (just barely, because sunset was officially at 6:02 p.m.) and running the marathon in less than 4 hours. Her marathon time was 3:50:04.

“I’m so, so happy,” Bess said. “I couldn’t be any happier.”

Bess and Penny both mentioned the weather. Both struggled against the Kohala winds, which never seemed to produce usable tailwinds.

Even the uncharacteristically vog-free Kona day added some difficulty to the marathon portion of the race.

“Usually you have the really nice, voggy weather,” Bess said. “Today was blue and sunny. I walked for a little bit on the run.”

Bess completed her third Ironman world championship, but Big Island residents might not get used to seeing Penny’s name in the field.

When asked about his future plans, he laughed and said, “Let’s rest from this one and let the pain stop, first.”

But Penny was happy to be a part of the Ironman event.

“Coming down the chute and crossing the finish line, there’s no word to describe it,” he said. “It’s a surreal feeling. You see the YouTube videos and the NBC production of the race, but to be a part of it is wonderful.”

Twenty-five Big Island residents started the race. By late Saturday, 10 had finished.

 

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