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Community Triathlon

The Kona Files Part 1: “Hole In The Head”

In 1978, a group of like-minded friends and former-colleagues from the armed forces had a breakfast discussion. The question posed was: Who would be considered the fittest athlete? Was it the cyclist, open-water swimmer, or marathoner?

So, they set up a race that comprised a medley of the longest endurance races at that time in Honolulu, Hawaii. The plan: Begin with a 3.8km swim in the sea, follow that up with a 180km ride, and finish this trio of events with a full marathon (42.2km). Whoever completes it would be called an “IRONMAN”.

Isn’t it interesting how large challenges grow from crazy little ideas?

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On that fateful morning, 15 participants took the plunge, literally, into the sea of the unknown, an ocean of emotions, doubts, fears, and their personal goals. Only 12 completed, and the following year “IRONMAN” attracted more brave souls, with their single-minded sense and sensibilities. Each “finisher” received a “stickman sculpture” made of wrought iron, and the “head” was a “nut”. That symbolized that to have completed such a race, one had to possess a “hole in the head”.

Today, most IRONMAN-distance triathlons consistently attract up to 2,000 entrants. It has cult-like appeal, as marathons do to aspiring long-distance runners.

On 8 October 2022, I will be lining up beside 2,000 participants at Kailua-Bay Pier in Kona, Hawaii to complete my second attempt at this race. My first foray was in 2013, and it was a richly fulfilling experience that I swore to repeat.

As one of my IRONMAN inspirations, the 8-time Ironman world champion Paula Newby-Fraser once said of this iconic race: “It is a training day with 2,000 of my friends and it will be fully-catered!” These are lovely and poignant words from the “Queen of Kona”, whom I first saw race in a segment on “The ABC Wide World of Sports”.

Over the next seven months, I hope to share my personal and collaborative journey in working towards this Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). I am fortunate to have support from a team of like-minded people who are experts in their own field. We will share our combined journey into performance sports, and, perhaps, how this can be an analogy for our profession and lives.

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As an amateur athlete with an enduring passion for endurance multi-sports, I have graduated across four age-group categories (from M35-39 to M55-59). I have been fortunate to be able to continue with this “hole in my head” pursuit of personal excellence for about 20 years. I started as a newbie, attended clinics on the three sports, joined the triathlon community, and built up my fitness alongside my tacit experiences and wisdom. I will share my journey – insights and lessons learnt – with you.

I have completed 23 IRONMAN triathlons, completed the Boston Marathon thrice (2014,2016, 2018), and qualified/completed five world championships in triathlons. I will be doing the IRONMAN world championships in October 2022, and the IRONMAN 70.3 world championships 2023. In my early-20’s, I ranked top-3 on a national level as a competitive amateur bodybuilder (1990-1993).

You can ask me questions on Instagram and on LinkedIn.