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Last night I attended the welcome banquet and athlete meeting. I skipped the banquet in favor of a nice meal with Margy. The banquet food is always, um, banquet food.

I made it there in time for the entertainment. It was a bunch of guys with bare chests playing with fire. I would have been more impressed but that seems like what pretty much everyone else here is doing, too.

Mike Reilly, the man who announces the race, served as emcee. Mike likes statistics. Here are a few that I thought were interesting:

Of the 1,850 participants, 1,000 will be running their first Ironman Kona. Ken Glah is participating in his 29th Ironman Kona. That’s the most ever.

525 of the 1,850 participants are over 50, 48 are over 70 and six are over 80.

The U.S. has the most participants: 820. Next is Australia with 243.

5,000 volunteers work to put on this race and, in my unassailably correct opinion, are some of the very nicest people in the history of the world.

Ironman.com will stream the event live all day. We start at 7:00 a.m. local time, noon in the Midwest and 1:00 p.m. Eastern. If you follow this link: http://ironman.com/events/ironman/worldchampionship?show=tracker&race=worldchampionship&year=2012#axzz297pxGoQ1

it will let you track me. My bib # is 489. They told us at the banquet that there are eight timing mats on the bike and ten on the run, so you should be able to track either my triumph or demise in excruciating detail.

After my swim this morning in Kailua Bay, I had one final 20 minute bike ride before my training for Kona was complete. I suited up in a jersey given away by a bike company I don’t know much about signed by their sponsored triathletes who I did not recognize and who did not wear nametags. The jersey is great, though, and it was free. I am no marketing genius, but I think that I could offer them some help if they asked.

Walking through the lobby, I heard someone call out my name. It was Ray Britt, a college football teammate from when we played together at Grinnell. Ray has become Ironman’s official unofficial statistician. He has become a real expert and was a Kona finisher multiple times. He couldn’t have been nicer or more encouraging. He said how glad he was that I had finally made it to Kona. I confessed to crying in registration. I said that I felt so grateful that Kona has a place for guys like me who keep trying and finally make it.

In talking me through the course, Ray told me about one of his races here just a few weeks after his dad had died. Ray said that his dad had followed Ray all over the world as Ray competed in Ironmans and was a huge supporter. Ray described a particularly desolate, windy part of the course. He said that when he rode the course that year, he was thinking a lot about his dad. Somehow, he came to feel that if spirits ever reach into this world, they would do it in a windy spot. It was as if the physical force of the wind connected him with the ethereal spirit of his dad.

He shrugged, as if to say that he was not all that sure about spirits. Then he said, “I don’t really think it’s something that you think about. It’s something that you feel.”

It took me a minute for this to soak in.

“You know that when I came to Grinnell, I was from Harlan, Iowa,” I said. “My dad was a small town banker. He thought that Harlan was the greatest place in the world, Harlan and a lake in Manitoba where he fished. Late in his life, though, he came to love Hawaii. That happened only a few years before he died but this place really became very powerfully associated with him. He’s been in my thoughts a lot.”

We shook hands, he took a few pictures of me and my bike, then I headed off for my ride. I rode up Palani Drive and onto the Queen K Highway. The wind blew and the sun beat down. I rode north of town along the rocky fields under a cloudless sky.

My dad was, apparently, an unlucky man from the start. He never felt that way at all. In fact, he said all the time how lucky he felt, how lucky we all were. I think that my dad said it enough that it came true. He was a lucky man and now here I was riding in a desolate, windy spot in Hawaii in the slipstream of the good luck he had created for me.

Thinking back on that ride, I didn’t conjure up a picture of my dad or any specific memories. He just felt near.

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One Comment

    • lisamyers509487118
    • Posted October 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Best of luck to you tomorrow, Scott! It’s nice reading your experiences leading up to the big event…can’t wait to hear more.

    Lisa Myers

    612 928 3969 Office

    612 817 2726 Mobile


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