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Runnin’ with Rani: A big day for Big Island competitors

Updated: 
October 13, 2017 - 12:05am

The Ironman World Championships held annually in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii has long been considered to be triathlon’s “holy grail,” renown as one of the most iconic single-day sporting events around the globe.

Over the past four decades, this legendary race has provided the world a front row seat to some of the most awe-inspiring stories of courage, determination, and perseverance known to sport. From personal sacrifices to triumphant breakthroughs, to the raw emotion and pure inspiration displayed out on the racecourse — each unveiled a unique story to be told, and tomorrow will be no different.

In addition, Saturday’s main event has already made history well before the race start. The race boasts a record number of 2,460 participants and also a record 66 countries will be represented among an international field of professional and age group athletes.

Saturday’s action will begin at 6:35 a.m. for an epic 140.6-mile journey amidst a spectacular sunrise and a booming cannon over beautiful Kailua Bay. Four wave-starts will separate the male and female professional and age group fields as they embark on a valiant 2.4-mile swim in the pristine waters along Kona’s coastline.

Athletes will then transition onto their bikes for what has notoriously become known as a hellacious hot and windy 112-mile ride through ancient and barren lava fields along the famed Queen Kaahumanu Highway. Upon reaching the turnaround in Hawi and returning to Kona, competitors are then faced with a punishing 26.2-mile run that culminates on Alii Drive surrounded by an energized gathering of international media and ecstatic fans.

And among the sea of competitors lining up for Saturday’s Ironman World Championships, 29 athletes representing the Big Island will finally get their chance at fulfilling a hard-earned dream.

This week I caught up to our Big Island competitors who generously shared some final thoughts before their “big day.”

1. Agnes Prehn, 52, 1st Kona Ironman

What will you be thinking about the night before the race?

I’ll be thinking about all of my friends who have helped me get to this point, and just enjoy and try not to get nervous, but it can happen.

Have you thought about pre-race dinner plans?

I’ll probably have a good dinner, some eggs, some meat, and that’s about it.

2. Ivy McGowan, 50, 2nd Kona Ironman (17-IM’s Overall)

What has motivated you to get through some of your tougher training sessions?

I love what I do. I want to stay fit as turning 50 is a big number and that has motivated me to keep training. All I wanted for my 50th birthday in April was to do the World Championships, so I got what I wanted.

3. Jim McGowan, 66, 2nd Kona Ironman (9-IM’s Overall)

Your wife, Ivy, has a lot of Ironman finishes on her resume. How do you stack up?

This will be my ninth Ironman but my second Kona. She has a lot more (finishes) and while it may be close, she’ll probably finish ahead of me.

How cool is it to be racing with your wife?

This is all about a dream come true. Ivy and I are finally doing Kona together. It’s the coolest thing ever.

4. Kelsie Wehren, 33, 1st Kona Ironman

What do you think will be your favorite race day food item?

Pizza.

Do you have a pre-race ritual that works for you?

We usually watch some kind of Disney movie the night before - something kid oriented for this Iron mom in-training here. And so that’s what I’ll think about and what will stick with me out on the course. My kids, husband, family - it’s really a team effort as it’s been a great privilege for me to be able to do it this year.

5. Billy Rickards, 45, 3rd Kona Ironman (in a row)

Being a veteran in the sport, what aspect of the race is most enjoyable for you?

Definitely the finish. Just the energy of making the turn here (on Alii Drive) and hearing Mike Reilly and seeing the bright lights is the most awesome part of the day for sure.

Who will be the first person you’d like to hug after the finish line?

The first person I’d like to hug would probably be my wife, but good chances are it’s going to be my catcher. (laughs)

6. Guillermo Jaramillo, 64, 1st Kona Ironman

What will be in your special needs bags in Hawi and OTEC?

I really don’t think that I’ll have special needs bags.

Do you have a particular race week diet that you follow?

Just normal meals. I normally eat very healthily so I’m going to stick with that.

7. David Pratt, 56, 1st Kona Ironman (6-IM’s Overall)

What will be your go-to meal on the morning of the race?

A cup of oatmeal, with a cup of berries and a banana all cut up, and a Diet Coke. I don’t drink coffee so the Diet Coke is my caffeine.

If you could meet anyone in the sport of triathlon, who would it be?

There’s really no one I really want to meet because all the famous people, I really don’t care about. But it’s the people like Kevin and Becky (Prater), like Keish (Doi) and Guillermo (Jaramillo), those are the people who are important to me. Because they are doing it because they want to do it, not because they are going to make money from it or become famous from it, but just because they want to. So those are the kinds of people I want to meet.

8. Kevin Prater, 45, 3rd Kona Ironman

What will you be thinking about the night before the race?

Why can’t I sleep - that’s pretty much it for me every time.

Have you thought about what you and Becky will eat the night before the race?

Wait, who’s cooking? (laughs) In the past, Becky and I’ve done chicken and pasta — something not heavy.

9. Becky Prater, 46, 1st Kona Ironman

What has motivated you to get through some of your tougher training sessions?

Every training has always been an increase by 10-percent. So each time for me is a goal. Each time becomes further than what I’ve done before so that’s been motivating.

10. Patrick Ganley, 52, 2nd Kona Ironman (in a row)

Who will be the first person you’d like to hug after the finish line?

Whoever can hold me up!

Being that this is your second time around, what aspect of the race is most enjoyable for you?

The run. It just feels so good to be done with that bike!

11. Steffen Brocks, 49, 12th Kona Ironman (64-IM’s Overall)

If you could meet anyone in the sport of triathlon, who would it be?

I’d probably like to have a good conversation with Mark Allen.

Who do you predict will win this year’s Ironman race?

Jan Frodeno. The sentimental favorite would probably be Lionel Sanders. It would be awesome to see him win but I think Jan will do it.

12. Mary Stupi, 55, 2nd Kona Ironman

How does it feel to be racing with your husband, Steffen?

I don’t ever see him, but he picks up all of my stuff and puts everything away at the end of the race.

13. Tobias Fort, 44, 1st Kona Ironman

What will be your go-to meal on the morning of the race?

Oatmeal, eggs, avocado, and brown rice.

What has motivated you to get through some of your tougher training sessions?

I lost my mom to ALS, the Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I basically saw someone deteriorate right in front of my eyes so I don’t take anything for granted anymore.

14. Lydia Blackburn, 33, 1st Kona Ironman

What will be your motivation to a strong finish on race day?

Probably thinking about the people who have supported me especially my husband, my kids, and the rest of my family and friends.

15. Erik Basden, 47, 2nd Kona Ironman

What will be in your special needs bags in Hawi and OTEC?

A lot of ginger and amino acids. Food-wise, I’m still working on what will be the magic combo that works for me.

Who will be the first person you’d like to hug after the finish line?

Of course it will be my daughter, Jaiden.

16. Andrew Cross, 36, 1st Kona Ironman (11-IM’s Overall)

Do you have a pre-race ritual that works for you?

Not really. Other than trying not to be nervous — nope, not really. I just wake up, eat breakfast and drink some coffee and I’m ready to go.

Being an Ironman veteran, what aspect of the race is most enjoyable for you?

The finish line on Alii Drive!

17. Jose Graca, 42, 6th Kona Ironman (17-IM’s Overall)

What will be your pre-race Ironman meal?

Sweet potatoes from KTA is what I really love – the purple ones. I mash it up and make it like a smoothie. Last year I drank three of them before the race. Oh and coffee!

Having done many Ironman races, what are you looking forward to the most?

Beating my Kona 9:33 time (9 hours and 33 minutes) from last year!

18. Keish Doi, 50, 12th Kona Ironman (61-IM’s Overall)

Who do you predict will win this year’s Ironman race?

ME!

After all of the Ironman races that you have done, what has become your favorite race day food item?

The Powerbar Gels are my favorite. The Latte (flavor), the one with a double-shot of caffeine.

19. Crystal Hirst, 31, 1st Kona Ironman (2-IM’s Overall)

What will you be thinking about the night before the race?

I’ll be thinking of all of the times that we’ve come to watch the race, how amazing it was to be at the finish line and wishing that I was on the other side of the fence. And now I’m going to be in it.

If you could meet anyone in the sport of triathlon, who would it be?

Probably Mark Allen. I really like his philosophy and I’ve read a lot about what he says about racing - not only his training plans but also his nutrition and just his mindset in general so I think it would be very interesting to talk to him.

20. Laurentiu Grigore, 39, 1st Kona Ironman (2-IM’s Overall)

What has motivated you to get through some of your tougher training sessions?

Just being here on the Big Island and wanting to do this race so badly. Also being around these pro athletes and all of the energy you get when you see them. So that’s been my motivation.

What aspect of racing is most enjoyable for you?

The bike is most enjoyable but I would say that they are all enjoyable at the end of the day once you cross that finish line and look back at what you just accomplished. I know I’ll have good moments and not so good moments but when I finish, that will be the best!

Other Big Island Athletes:

Bill Davis

Alwyn Dayoan

Lotus Golden

Brent Hanson

Brent Hawley

Mark Ravaglia

Gregory Safko

William Luke Stedman

Jonathan Tay

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