Rani Henderson: Peas and jellies


While high surf advisories lingered for Hawaii Island’s north- and west-facing shores going in to Sunday’s Peaman event, participants were faced with an additional hurdle that surged their prerace adrenaline rush into overdrive.

Nearly invisible and wielding powerful tentacles, Hawaiian box jellyfish decided to make their “10-day post full moon” appearance as they gathered alongside biathletes on Kaiakeakua’s shoreline to take on Peaman’s Splish-Splash and Superbowl Shuffle Biathlon.

As the translucent box-shaped blobs washed ashore, athletes embraced different strategies to combat the piercing stings while eagerly awaiting the 8:08 a.m. start time for the competitive ½-mile swim and 3.1-mile run on Alii Drive.

Some wore wetsuits to protect themselves, others used anti-jellyfish sting lotions and creams, while many were simply in plain denial of being harmed by the venomous creatures. Either way, most would agree it looked like a scene out of “Braveheart” as the pea-warriors headed into battle.

Despite the commotion, the race kicked off and quick to the front of the pack were defending women’s champion Karlyn Pipes and the top male, Tito Morales, of Los Angeles. Pipes, who has set more than 200 world records and was voted one of the “best masters swimmers of all-time” by Swimming World Magazine in 2011, had her own method of keeping the jellyfish at bay.

“I just asked Madame Pele to keep me safely away from any dangerous marine life as I am actually very allergic to jellies,” Pipes said. “I think I have good jelly Karma so far.”

Morales and Pipes swam together most of the way, carving out a substantial lead over the rest of the swimmers.

“The water felt good,” Pipes said. “A little current, but that could’ve been from chasing after my buddy (Morales) from L.A. that I was racing. He zigzagged all over the place.”

Morales exited the water first in 13:25 with Pipes right on his heels, one tick back. As the chase pack was still making its way to shore, Morales decided to end his race with just a swim leaving Pipes to tackle the 5K run as the overall leader.

On the run course, with Pipes enjoying a considerable lead over the rest of the field, the race for second place — the top male — came down to three men. Kona’s Michael DeCarli, Tony Frost and Kevin Moats were all within sight of one another at the 5K turn.

Two professional triathletes own the course records for the January biathlon event. Chris Lieto’s 2011 record of 30 minutes and 40 seconds stood as the men’s time to beat, while Bree Wee set the women’s record of 32:28 in 2007.

Pipes used a strong run to click off an average 7:13 pace per mile to claim the overall victory in an outstanding time of 35:53. Nearly a minute back in second place and first for the men’s division was Frost in a great time of 36:47. Right on his heels was DeCarli in 36:52, followed closely by Moats in 36:59 to round out the men’s top three.

“I love Peaman races,” Pipes said. “One time I heard someone say, Kona hosts the Ironman and it’s competitive for sure. But you better be prepared to bring your A-game to a Peaman because you never know who is going to show up!”

I managed to run my way into second place for the women’s division, crossing the line in 37:14. Winona Chen, who continues to see her times drop with every race, sprinted over the line in third at 37:42.

Tito Morales and Rick Rubio teamed up to take the Split Pea relay division title in 35:06. It’s amazing to think that back in 1993, the super team of Mark Noetzal (swim) and Karl Honma (run) set the Split Pea course record of 29:43. Although many have attempted to challenge their record, their combined time has stood unbeaten for 22 years.

For runners competing in the 3.1-mile course, Denver Parker topped the field with his swift time of 18:26. Snatch Monkey once again took the Rollerblade division with her time of 19:50.

Cameron Leao pushed his daughter Ava in the stroller division to a great time of 25:12, and Tito Morales topped the swim division with a blazing 13:25.

In the Pea Wee Division, it was a repeat from last year as the dynamic Eckart brother and sister team once again took top honors at the 200-yard swim and 1-mile run.

Kanaipono Eckart claimed the overall boy’s title in a speedy time of 11:09, knocking nearly a minute off of his 2013 finish time. Elijah Hall tried to keep it close, crossing the line in second at 12:04. Kanaipono’s father, Lawrence, finished third at 12:40.

Miss Lainey, who dominated the Pea Wee series last year in the female division, won 6 of the 10 titles in the biathlon series. On Sunday, Lainey started her 2014 season with yet another win, finishing first with an impressive time of 12:34. Lilo Fyrileiv finished second at 14:18, and right on her heels was Audrey Weir, who rounded out the female podium at 14:22.

Peaman and his father, Papa Pea, saw no competition in the Pea Wee Split Peas relay division crossing the Pea-finish line in 30:18. While Brittany Branson whipped through the 1-mile run course, winning in a great time of 8:52.

It turned out to be a perfect day to splish, splash and shuffle along at Peaman’s Super Bowl-themed event. Whether you were in first place or last, it didn’t matter because at the end of the day we were all just “peas and jellies.”

Coming up

The fun continues this weekend as Super Bowl Sunday kicks off with Team Mango’s Springtime Triathlon at 7 a.m. at Kailua Pier. The race will begin with a ½-mile swim consisting of two laps, followed by a hilly 15-mile, 3-lap bike course and finishing with a 6-mile run. For more information contact Carl Koomoa at 324-7252 or visit teammangoraces.org.

Also on Sunday, Dana and Jeff Strang will host the Strang Super Bowl Sunday Half Marathon and Pick Up Runs. Three distances will be offered with all races finishing at Yoga Hale in downtown Kailua-Kona. The half-marathon will begin at Kua Bay at 7 a.m., followed by a shorter 8-mile run starting at 7:55 a.m. at the Kaiminani Drive intersection, finishing off with a 6.2-mile run beginning at 8:15 a.m. at Kona Mountain Coffee on Queen Kaahumanu Highway. The event is free with $20 donations being accepted for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. For more information email Dana Strang at dana@yogahale.com.