Friday, October 5, 2001
[ IRONMAN TRIATHLON ]
Glory ofThere is no feeling like it. There are no feelings like it. That's what they say. It is agony and ecstasy -- eight, 10, 12 painstaking hours' worth through sun, wind, distance and the human body's own limits. It is 2.4 miles of ocean, 112 miles on a bike and step after step after step through a marathon run the rest of the way. A race on the course and inside the mind.
finish line awaits
Surprise Ironman invitation
delays Natividad's wedding
By Kalani Simpson
"I've had the demons on both shoulders," Bill "Papa Pea" Padgett said. "One saying, 'Why don't you just lay down in the middle of the road, and somebody will pick you up?' And the other one telling me to keep going."
This is the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, and it's on the Big Island in Kona tomorrow with the swim at 7 a.m., followed by biking and running all day.
"You go through all sorts of feelings and emotions," said Kona's Jim Cotter, who at 19 is the youngest competitor for the second year in a row. "But when you get to the finish line it's like the coolest thing you've ever done."
When: Tomorrow, 7 a.m.
Where: Kailua-Kona and northwest Big Island
What: 2.4 mile swim, followed by 112-mile bike course and 26.2-mile run
How many: More than 1,500 athletes, 200,000 cups and 30,000 bike bottles (containing 100,000 gallons of fluid replacement cola, water and soup), 15,000 feet of banners, 4,000 visors, 600 bottles of sunscreen and nearly 7,000 volunteers.
Purse: $325,000, the richest in the sport of triathlon. The first male and female finisher each receive $70,000.
That's what they talk about. The feelings, the emotions that overtake them along the way. The relief, the adrenaline, the sense of victory that overwhelms them as they approach the finish line. They all talk about the finish line.
The finish line! There, there it is. The noise, the crowds, the cheers. More and more people the closer you get, thicker and thicker, louder and louder, thousands of them yelling you on, all the previous finishers sticking around to usher you in.
"It is awesome," said Leonard Peddicord. "The crowds are cheering, you see the lights on Alii Drive. It's just the greatest feeling."
Alii Drive. The promised land. The people. The noise. The end. A new cheer from the crowd with each survivor across the finish line, with each tired face that gets a boost at its call. The people cheer again. And again. They're just so excited for each new person that can do that.
There is nothing like heading down to the finish line, nothing in all the world, Padgett said, an ultimate all-time high: "It's like running into the light," he said. And the energy carries him home.
But it's a long, hard road to get there. At the end, "either you go to the massage tent, or you go to the medical tent," Padgett said.
The bike ride. The wind. Hard enough to make motorists steer sideways. Strong enough to knock cyclers over if they're not ready for it. Carol Smolsky, a 2000 competitor, was knocked unconscious in 1997, waking up in the hospital. Last year she was determined to stay on the bike, hunching low on the handlebars, holding on in a death grip that sapped her energy with each second.
"It's kind of like watching a scary movie or something," she said. "It's real intense."
It was the worst year ever for wind, but this year conditions could be similar. "The bike is kind of grueling," Peddicord said, pedaling through a desert, baking in black lava rock. "You're glad to get off it."
Last year Cotter almost had a breakdown on the bike. He almost couldn't go on. "Get me off this bike," he told the support crew. "I don't even want to be out here." But somehow, he didn't give up. And a marathon greeted him as his reward.
Padgett is in a state of "high anxiety," as the day draws near. He's past excited. Excited is too positive a word to use.
"Excited is we're getting ready to kick off and go play Notre Dame," he said. "Nervous is we've got 120 miles to go, and I'm not 24."
After completing his first Ironman in New Zealand in March, Bryant Natividad was looking forward to an easy summer.
By Nelson Daranciang
He planned to participate in his second Keauhou Kona Triathlon in May, which is half the distance of an Ironman, and the Tinman Triathlon in July, which is even shorter, then relax the rest of the year.
Natividad had even planned to get married tomorrow, the day of the 24th Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona.
Like every athlete bitten by the triathlon bug, Natividad dreamed of testing his physical and mental limits in Kona, the original Ironman and granddaddy of all triathlons. But not this year.
He did well in New Zealand but not well enough to qualify for Kona. At 32, Natividad is in the very competitive 30-34 age group.
He submitted his name for one of 200 slots awarded by lottery, but did not expect to get picked.
So it took a while for him to comprehend what happened on April 12 when his supervisor at work handed him a big plaque as a lottery winner. Ironman Triathlon officials arranged the surprise notification.
"I was shocked. I remember having the flu then so it didn't hit me till I got home and called my friends," Natividad said.
He joins more than 1,500 other triathletes from 48 countries and all 50 states participating in Kona tomorrow. Fifty-seven are from Hawaii.
The Ironman Triathlon starts with a 2.4-mile ocean swim, followed by a 112-mile bike race and finishing with a 26.2-mile run.
Accepting the slot meant postponing his wedding. So his first call was to his fiancee, who works as a flight attendant on the mainland.
"She was happy, very supportive," he said.
Natividad rescheduled his wedding to Nov. 3.
And he resumed the training schedule he followed to get ready for New Zealand.
Natividad has always been athletic.
In high school he played football for St. Louis School. He paddled across the Kaiwi channel twice for Hui Lanakila. And this is the fifth straight year he is competing in the Tinman Triathlon.
But competing in an Ironman is different.
The average triathlete spends 18 to 24 hours per week training for the Ironman, according to event officials. A typical week includes seven miles of swimming, 225 miles biking and 48 miles running.
"I think you just gotta be able to make that part of your lifestyle," which does not include TV or drinking alcohol, Natividad said.
His job as a member of the Honolulu Police Department Special Services Division fits into that lifestyle.
The SSD or Swat Team has a Monday through Friday schedule. The day usually ends at 3:45 p.m., leaving time for training in the afternoon and on weekends. The job also includes running three times a week.
"That's my running right there. All I have to worry about is the bike and swim."
Natividad also has the support of his fiancee, who has a part-time job as a personal trainer at a gym. He said he bought his fiancee a bicycle for her birthday, which she used to compete in her first triathlon earlier this year.
"She loves it, she loves the sport. She signed up for Keauhou next year. She wants to do an Ironman in two years."