Sunday | December 10, 2017
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Pain before the gain: Local athletes up early to bite into Turkey Day Tri

KAILUA-KONA — Kona, known for its runners, swimmers and bikers, can’t even seem to do holiday’s right. With most sane people still sleeping in their beds dreaming of the feast that lies ahead, many residents of the west side of the Big Island were already up and preparing themselves for a little pain before the gain.

Kona has two such options every year for athletes to get a little early Thanksgiving workout in, the Wobble Gobble Fun Run and Walk hosted by Big Island Running Company and the (Tri)ptophan Turkey Day Tri hosted by Kiser Motorcycles.

Both are free events, but offer two slightly different experiences.

The Wobble Gobble, now in its 13th year, drew around 250 athletes Thursday morning.

The race is designed for everyone, young and old, small and big, in shape and out of shape. Those who show up at the start line at the Walua Road trailhead have a choice to compete in a leisurely one-mile walk, a moderate 3.5 mile sprint, or a little more grueling 6.4 mile run.

“We did not have as many people as we did last year, which was kind of a record year for us, but we had a lot of kids and it was a good event,” said race director Melissa Braswell. “It is a fun way to spend time with family, while getting out and being active.”

The Turkey Day Tri, which celebrated its 10th anniversary, is capped at 100 racers every year and usually fills out in less than 20 minutes.

Athletes show up at Kailua Pier ready to compete in a triathlon sprint style race which includes a one-third mile swim, 15-mile bike ride and two-mile run.

It is a great beginner race for those looking for their first triathlon experience. Medals are awarded in similar style to the Ironman races, but the event has a more fun, friendly feel to it.

BioAstin, a sponsor of the event, usually receives 10 free spots in the race for their ambassadors. However, this year, the Big Island company decided to embrace what this event truly is about.

“This year we wanted to give the slots to newbies,” said Edgar “Eddie O” Ombac. “So, we started asking around the community, looking for those who wanted to compete in their first triathlon.”

The slots did not take long to fill up. The first to hop aboard was police officer Matt Ka’aihui.

“He was on duty and needed help signing up,” Eddie O said. “He is the one who got me thinking of the idea and inspired me to help out the newbies. He was really gung ho about competing and we helped him out.”

Ka’aihui was surprised that he got in and was honored that BioAstin wanted to sponsor his entry.

“The event popped up on my Facebook because one of my friends was interested in doing it,” Ka’aihui said. “Usually I paddle OC6 and OC1. This was something different to do, something to help me train. This is a great event.”

Another “newbie” who joined the race on Thursday was Seychelle Francis, the daughter of Ironman World Championship finisher Casey Francis.

“I call Casey my Ironman brother. In 2015 we finished within a minute of each other in the Ironman World Championship,” Eddie O said. “His daughter was interested in competing and it was her first time and Casey did back flips when I told him she was in.”

While the Turkey Day Tri takes itself series enough to give out medals, the event does what it can to make everyone feel safe. Open ocean swimming is often looked upon by beginners as the most stressful part of the triathlon.

However, the Turkey Day Tri allows fins and even body boards for those who want to compete but also want to stay safe and have fun. One of these such swimmers in Eddie O’s finance Francie Romano.

“She likes to cycle and run but doesn’t really swim, she probably doggie paddles at best,” Eddie O said. “Swimming can be a little intimidating for a lot of people. When I told her she could use fins or a body board, she said she would do it.”

While the Turkey Day Tri is all about fun and family, there was a somber undertone to the event this year as friends and fellow triathletes remembered and honored James Sakai.

The 61-year old Sakai, who lost his life in a tragic accident while riding his bike on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, was set to wear No. 85 on Thursday. Sakai’s number was printed out with his name on it by event director Kym Kiser, who delivered an emotional tribute to the athlete before the start of the race. Sakai’s training partner, Mog Mather, then wore the number while competing in the Turkey Day Tri to honor his friend.

“James has been around for so long and everybody knew him,” Kiser said in last Friday’s Runnin’ with Rani column. “Even if they didn’t know him well they knew his face because he’s just been a fixture in the Kona community for many, many years now. And every time I saw him, he was always smiling.”


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