Monday, June 23, 2008


“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” — Pamela Vaull Star

Last June I got off the couch and started riding my bike again. It had been about 8 months since I had ridden. First, Karen had hurt her back at work so we stopped riding while she recovered. Then I had kidney trouble and had to fly to Honolulu for emergency surgery. That was a year ago in April.

By June 2007 I had gained a few pounds (OK, more than a few) and was ready to get back on the bike. At that time that was all I was interested in doing. I couldn’t swim and running was too hard. My first few rides were only a few miles and I was suffering at just doing that. I would ride from the Natural Energy Lab to the Cemetery and back. Only about 14 miles but it was a rough ride back then.

(The pre-
triathlon me is pictured here. About 30 pounds heavier than I am now.)

According to my training log I was pretty slow. Barely averaging 14 miles an hour. But by October I was riding 25 to 35 miles and my average was starting to climb. It was Ironman time. Not for me. It just meant that there were lots of other cyclist on the road. Back then my only release for competition was to find another cyclist and zoom past him or her and hope they were up for a little one-on-one. Ironman competitors always seem to be game.

Of course, they all could ride circles around me, but I just wanted to race and here on the Big Island we don’t have bicycle races, only triathlons or biathlons (swimming and running). Even as late as Ironman last October I never considered doing a triathlon because I could not swim.

Ironman had inspired me to compete, but I wanted to compete on the bike, not swim and run, too. But in order to compete I knew I had to learn to swim and start doing triathlons.

So shortly after Ironman, out of the blue I proclaimed to Karen that I wanted to compete at Lavaman in 6 months. I wasn’t sure if I really would compete, but it felt good to have a goal and a sense of purpose. I made sure I told everyone I knew that I was going to compete in Lavaman just so I wouldn’t chicken out. I knew if I didn’t tell people, I wouldn’t go through with it.

The biggest hurdle I faced was learning to swim. I could snorkel and I could freestyle for as far as I could hold my breath, but I couldn’t breathe and swim at the same time. So my first goal was to learn to swim. Every day I would go down to the pier with my snorkel and mask and swim to the sixth buoy and back. It was hard. I was so out of shape. I would also practice swimming freestyle and breathing. At first I couldn’t even make it to the first buoy. Then I discovered the pool and started swimming twice a day. I solicited tips from life guards and anyone else I could find who was willing to give advice.

(The 1st, 2nd and 3rd buoys at the pier. The 1st buoy is just out of the photo on the left)

The day I finally made it to the 3rd buoy without stopping was a great day. So I set another goal, I remember telling Karen if I could swim to the 6th buoy freestyle with no snorkel and without stopping by the end of November there would be no stopping me. I could do anything. At the time that swim seemed impossible for me.

With a lot more swimming, gulping lots of water and lots of frustrations, on Nov. 30 I went for a swim at the pier and I made it to the 6th buoy without stopping. It took a long time and lots of determination to not stop along the way. My arms burned, my lungs burned and I nearly got sea sick. The sandy bottom between the 4th and 6th buoys would freak me out every time and would for months. But I made it. Goal No. 1 was attained. By New Year’s Eve I was swimming out to the half-mile buoy and by early January I had made it to the King’s Buoy (1.2 miles round trip). I was a swimmer. My times were terrible, but I didn’t care. I learned how to swim and I liked it. I'd worry about speeding up next year.

I went on to compete in Lavaman and then the Half Ironman. Along the way I also swam in a 1 mile race and a bunch of local swims and smaller tris. I still swim nearly every day and twice a day two times a week. Next month I'm swimming in the King's Swim, a 1.2 mile race and then the Hapuna Roughwater swim. Why? Because I'm a swimmer LOL ... (well, so what if my flip turns crack people up. Did Tarzan do flip turns?)

Goals. They keep us moving forward when we may feel like giving up. Now that my "tri season" is over, I'm finding it difficult to set goals that will keep me moving forward. That's one reason why I decided to do the Kona Marathon this next Sunday. Maybe this time I set too high of a goal. I'll have to wait and see. 26.2 miles is a long way. With all my leg problems — torn ACL, torn meniscus cartilage, strained muscles, etc. — I'm not sure I can do this. But it motivated me to put in more miles running last week than any other week prior to Lavaman or the half Ironman.

So my next goal is to finish a marathon. It would be nice to be able to compete, but I'll save that for next year. This year's goal is to just complete it. That's been my underlying goal all year, to complete whatever events I signed up for. Next year will be my year of competition.

I just realized something as I write this. My priorities have changed since I started triathlon. At first all I was interested in was the competition, But with the challenge of triathlon, just to complete the event is a competition all its own. But watch out next year. I'll be the baby in my age group ...


LeAnn said...

Oh wow...that's an amazing story. I thought you only had problems with flip-turns...didnt realize you just started swimming!!!!!!!!!! You're a natural. Ill be praying for you this Sunday and watch out for those people in your age-group...woohoo! I see Iroman next year for you...Go Randy!

Bruce Stewart (施樸樂) said...

All the best with your training for the marathon. I think the goals can evolve along with our training and interest in the sport, nothing is really set in stone. I'm just enjoying being able to go out there and do something and see gradual improvements. Try to focus on building a firm base (like overall fitness and health) rather than the ability just to have a good day now and then. Best to be in good shape than to go bananas and end up suffering for it.

doodlebug said...

My Hat's off to you Bro. You have the Triathlon voodoo. You are so Focused. You started with Baby Steps and now you Leap. God Bless you Randy.

Karen said...

You are not only doing great as a triathlete, you are far exceeding any expectations I had for you. It's hard at our age after being couch potatoes for so many years to get in shape, and after only 6 or 7 months of training you did HONU. I am proud of you. Not only are you doing great, you are so patient with my training and so encouraging to me. You have helped me so much on my endeavor to learn to swim, always willing to watch me, coach me and encourage me. Thank you, and keep tri-ing. You're doing great.

BreeWee said...

Whoa Randy... you are incredible... that story should be posted at Subway instead of the Jared stories! GREAT post and thank you so much for you Japan Prayers, I love you and Karen!

Kristin said...

Randy, thanks for stopping by my blog. Best of luck this weekend at the marathon! I'm sure you will have a great experience.


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