There is no better time than the holiday season to pause and remind ourselves just how fortunate we are to live in this unequivocal paradise we call home. A time with so many opportunities to express our thanks and gratitude to those who add meaning to our lives, with a focus on what really matters — love, friendships, family and health.
It is also a perfect time to celebrate community members who give so much of their time and energy toward making fun races happen and ask for so little in return. This is what makes living here so special.
Last week’s Thanksgiving events epitomized what our athletic community does best — find an excuse to get together, have some fun, and burn a few calories before the daylong holiday feast.
Big Island Running Company and Kiser Motorcycles did not disappoint as they served up savory treats for all — satisfying even the most delicate palate with some wholesome action and mouthwatering competition.
Crisp clear skies with surreal hues of pink and orange highlighted Mauna Loa’s sunrise — welcoming early risers for Big Island Running Company’s ninth annual Wobble Gobble runs held along Walua Road’s jogging path.
Three hundred runners and walkers could not resist the temptation of Jason and Melissa Braswell’s Thanksgiving feast, as they perfected a tasty 6.4-mile entree, 3.5-mile appetizer and 1-mile dessert.
“Whether one family member coaxes everyone else out, or it has become an annual tradition that the whole family gets excited for, we love seeing everyone out there,” race organizer Melissa Braswell said.
As the races began, Garrett Prinslow, Thunder Frost and Jon Jokiel darted out and separated themselves early on the challenging and hilly 6.4-mile course, leaving John Ferdico, Ben Halpern and my 7-month-old son Cole in the chase pack.
Having the first 3.2 miles of the race winding uphill of scenic Walua Road, the race for first overall became an exciting match between former collegiate cross-country runner and current Kealakehe High School cross-country standout Prinslow and Frost.
With the finish line surrounded by cheering spectators in sight, Prinslow gave one last surge to win in an outstanding time of 38 minutes and 28 seconds. Right on his heels was Frost, in an amazing time of 38:34. Jokiel followed in third a few minutes back in 41:54.
In fourth overall and first for the female division were my son Cole and I as we baby-jogged our way in at 44:17. Current BIIF cross-country champion Kristiana Van Pernis followed in second with a solid time of 50:41, and Shannon Hill wrapped up the women’s top three in 52:45.
In the 3.5-mile course, Kailua-Kona’s Brooke Myers charged out to a solo lead and on a mission to take down her own course record of 24:13 set just last year. In doing so, Myers found herself being pushed by her only competition — the ticking clock.
With one final surge, Myers crossed the finish line in first overall and with a new course record of 23:26. Since 2007, Myers has held an iron grip on the 3.5-mile course record, seeing her times drop from 25:50, to 24:13 in 2012 and now 23:26. At this rate, it will be exciting to see what she’ll do next year.
Second overall and first for the men was Christopher “Atlas” Smith in a fantastic time of 24:37. Leonard Torricer followed closely for second place at 24:44, and Eric Tallon in third with 26:20.
Following Myers in the women’s race was Sienna Levine in 27:54, and Kerry Davenport in third with a solid time of 28:03.
In the 1-mile race, Lawrence Barrett sprinted his way on the out and back course in a stellar time of 5:59. Silas Wiley followed in second place at 6:35, and rounding out the men’s top three was Timmy Catanzaro in 6:58.
Kristina Hamilton raced hard to win the women’s division in 8:07. Fourteen seconds back was Tayvhe-Lei in 8:21 and Skyler Hudson in third at 8:46.
Meanwhile at Kailua Pier, Kiser Motorcycle’s husband and wife team, Kris and Kym, were stirring up a different kind of holiday treat — one with an added boost of tryptophan — to present their annual (Tri)tophan Triathlon.
This event began six years ago with eight people from Kiser’s company gathering for bragging rights at the short sprint distance. Since then, it has turned into a first-class event with personalized race bibs, professional finish line photography, and handmade finishers’ medals.
With a field limit capped to only 100 athletes, it’s no wonder this race filled up in less than two days, attracting an array of competitors from beginners, families and several elite athletes.
“I love seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces that come down to this free, no stress, very light and fun atmosphere,” event organizer Kym Kiser said. “The part that is so special is seeing family and friends getting together enjoying a healthy lifestyle, and enjoying this beautiful island together.”
Much to everyone’s delight, perfect race conditions greeted 93 eager athletes as they gathered for the mass beach start to dive into the 1/3-mile swim, 16-mile bike, and swift 2-mile run on Alii Drive.
As expected, swimming teen sensation Leahi Camacho was first to exit the smooth waters of Kailua Bay, clocking an impressive 6:29 split to hit the swim-to-bike transition first. Following Camacho was a strong chase pack made up of Jim Winegarner, Thomas Vonach, James Resor, Jennifer Nottage,and Keoni Smith.
The 16-mile out and back bike course on Queen Kaahumanu Highway witnessed a changing of the guards as defending champion Vonach pulled ahead to reach the bike-to-run transition first — ahead of hard chasing Michael DeCarli and Chris Prater.
Not far behind the lead men were the top women: Jeni Winegarner, Rebecca McKee and Jennifer Nottage.
Out on the run course, Vonach unleashed his speed to defend his title once again in 58 minutes and 26 seconds. DeCarli, who had an impressive racing season this year, finished second in 1:00:21. And rounding out the men’s podium was Waverider Triathlon Club’s Prater in a great time of 1:02:20.
It came down to a closer finish for the top two women, as 27 seconds separated first and second place. Winegarner, who set a new age group course record in the competitive women’s 55-59 division at this year’s Ironman World Championship, sprinted hard to hit the finish tape first in 1:04:48. McKee followed close behind in 1:05:15, with Nottage a few minutes back at 1:07:16.
There was much to be thankful for on this gracious holiday where most gathered with family and loved ones for large feasts. But for those who went without, both Braswell and Kiser chose the Hawaii Food Bank as their goodwill charity, collecting tons of nonperishable canned goods from the community.
In other news, a huge cheer goes out to Big Island athletes Jason Nixon, Laurie Beers and Dene Sturm for finishing one of the most grueling endurance events in the world: the Ultraman World Championships. The three-day event featured a 6.2-mile swim from Kailua Bay to Keauhou, 261.4-mile bike around the island, followed by a double marathon. Congratulations — crossing the finish line makes you all winners in my book.