Hilo’s first triathlon starts on right footing


The course is Olympic-sized, measuring a quarter of the length of the Ironman World Championship. That’s not too intimidating, race director Joe Wedemann said, nor is it a fun run.

The field is set at 270, not too small and not too high, according to Wedemann.

In his eyes, everything about Sunday’s inaugural Hilo Triathlon is shaping up as “just about right.”

The 1.5-kilometer swim starts and ends at James Kealoha Beach Park. The 40K bike portion of the event goes as far north as Pepeekeo, while runners will go east toward King’s Landing on their 10K route.

Along the way, participants may just soak up Mayor Billy Kenoi’s initial vision.

“He wanted to change the image of Hilo,” said Wedemann, who was happy to take the baton roughly nine months ago when Kenoi asked him to serve as director. “He wanted to create an opportunity for the youth of Hilo to participate and to serve the community.”

As a result, East Hawaii finally has a triathlon to call its own.

“It’s long overdue,” Wedemann said. “We have multiple events on the island, but Hilo hasn’t seen anything like this.”

And in some senses, neither have battle-hardened triathletes — and that’s not even taking into account the possibility of rain.

“Some who have swam at the Kona Ironman aren’t going to be used to the rough water,” said Wedemann, who was happy to tuck the event comfortably in between Ironman 70.3 (May 31) on the Kohala Coast and the Ironman World Championship (Oct. 11) in Kailua-Kona.

He calls this a “guinea pig” running.

While the course could increase in the future — Wedemann thinks a half-Ironman is a possibility in East Hawaii someday and he envisions a keiki event next year— he said Sunday’s event is “serious” enough to entice participants such as Hilo’s Chris Gregory and Mikey Brown and Keauhou’s Rani Henderson.

Competing in a similar distance at Lavaman Waikoloa in March, Gregory finished seventh (2 hours, 3 minutes, 41 seconds), Henderson (2:13:10) placed 21st and Brown (2:14:10) was 28th.