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Hilo Triathlon: Rain doesn’t weigh down FBI agent’s spirit

Updated: 
July 14, 2014 - 12:05am

It rained while they were swimming.

It rained while they were biking.

It rained while they were running.

And when they were done, it rained even harder — Big Island triathletes weren’t in Kailua-Kona or the Kohala Coast anymore.

“People were saying there was going to be rain, and sure enough,” said women’s winner Rani Henderson, who lives in Keauhou. “It wouldn’t be a Hilo Triathlon without rain.”

And many, including the man who was the brainchild behind the event, wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“This is Hilo,” Mayor Billy Kenoi said after finishing 77th in 3 hours, 3 minutes, 20 seconds. “Clean, fresh, green. It keeps us beautiful.”

The wet conditions were harder on some than others.

As is his custom when he races, 44-year-old FBI agent Ed Ignacio ran the 10-kilometer course wearing tactical gear to bring attention to the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation, which is bidding to erect a monument to honor the state’s law enforcement.

But the driving rain weighed him down a little more than usual.

“The gear was about 5 to 10 pounds heavier,” he said. “It’s usually just under 40. Today, it was at least 45-50 pounds.

“It was heavy.”

But well worth it, said the Laupahoehoe native who finished 75th in 3:02:53.

“I got a lot of hive-fives, encouraging remarks, and everybody thinks it’s a cool thing,” he said. “It’s all about raising awareness for the foundation. That’s the whole purpose of this. We’re the only state without a memorial to law enforcement.”

Ignacio said he toyed with the idea of putting his gear in a bag and dragging it behind him while he swam Sunday.

“That would have been a little rough,” said Ignacio, who lives on Oahu. “The water was rough, but that’s Hilo-style and it felt safe.

“This is something that would be very cool to keep it going. I’ll be back next year. I saw a lot of first-time triathletes, and that’s the whole purpose of this.”

Ignacio said while he missed on a lottery entry to the Ironman World Championship on Oct. 11 in Kailua-Kona, he’s still hoping to earn an exempt spot.

“There is still a chance,” he said.

Watching the roads: Kenoi noted one purpose of the triathlon was to promote health, taking an if-I-can-do-it, anyone-can-do-it attitude.

He said he also had an eye on making driving safer in East Hawaii.

“The purpose was to increase driver awareness,” he said. “The westside of the island has a high level of awareness. Everybody looks out for bikers, runners and walkers.

“This side has a lot of aloha. We’re just not used to sharing the roads as much.”

First time’s a charm: While race director Joe Wedemann couldn’t control the weather, he said the triathlon went as smoothly as expected for competitors (157 people finished the race and there were 26 relay teams) and volunteers (approximately 400).

“There were learning curves, but everything went well,” he said, adding that he received positive feedback. “People are thanking me and telling me we should do it again.”

Said Henderson, a veteran triathlete: “I was really surprised and blown away at how organized everything was. From the transitions to the volunteers to the police, everything was first class all the way.”