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Mini Me. Here is a birthday present from Margy and Katie. I hadn’t gotten a chance to put this into my blog yet but as I wind it down, I thought I better take the opportunity.

People ask how I feel after an Ironman. Strangely, after rising at 3:00 a.m., swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 and running 26.2 miles, I can’t sleep. Margy was fast asleep and I sat thinking. I felt really hot. Maybe my metabolism gets turned up high and I was just too hot to sleep. After falling asleep around 1:00 a.m., I was awake again by 5:00 a.m. and thirsty. It’s always that way.

Yes, my legs hurt like thunder. Going down stairs is the toughest. Even so, it helps to get up and move so we went to breakfast at a local place with great cinnamon rolls and a view of the ocean. It was a nice walk and I felt much better.

My sunburn hurt even more than my legs. As much as I had tried to cover myself before heading out and even letting volunteers slather me after swimming and biking, I got fried.

Margy hung out by the pool and got a lot of Aussie triathlon gossip. I stayed inside and rested, dedicated to soaking up air conditioning. I had enough heat for a long while.

We honored tradition and had a pizza on Sunday afternoon. So far as I recall, I have not run a marathon without enjoying a pizza within 24 hours.

Ironman has a nice awards banquet after each race and this one is the Big Kahuna of Ironman awards banquets. We did not have time to stay for the whole thing, but I decided to wander down and see if they reeled off any interesting statistics. Margy stayed back in the room because we decided not to pay the confiscatory price to get her in only to suffer the bad food and interminable awards. I wandered around for a few minutes waiting for the ceremony to start, then decided to leave. It was starting to get dark and Ironman was not happening there for me.

I cut through the hotel grounds and walked over to Kailua Bay for one last look. I stood on the steps and watched the gentle waves lap up on the sand. It was fully dark and a few tourists played on the small sand beach. It was hard to even imagine that only the day before, this little beach hosted the start of one of the most grueling athletic events in the world. I wandered beyond the steps and onto the pier. There was no hint that Ironman had been there less than 24 hours before but I walked to about where I thought my bike had been racked and looked the short distance over the bay to where the finish line ramp had stood. The distinctive little church just beyond where the finish line had been was lit with an orange streetlight glow. Cars crawled along Ali’i Drive, once again turned over to local traffic. I heard laughing and music from the two open air seafood restaurants looking over the bay.

My day in Kona had come and gone, leaving scarcely a trace. Even here, even at the very epicenter of triathlon, the world had returned to normal.

I started back toward the hotel in the dark. It was time to head home. Then something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. It was a man swimming at a steady distance pace out along the course and into the dark ocean.

We drove out onto the Queen K. Just a mile or so north of town, it was entirely still and black. I couldn’t believe that I had run there in the very same darkness. Even in a car, it seemed like a long, long way from Kona to the 20 mile mark near the Energy Lab drive.

Our flight left Kona at 8:50 p.m. for LAX. The airport had been overwhelmed with bike boxes and airlines had baggage tractors and trailers lined up in a special area dedicated only to hauling bikes to planes.

A woman sat in the window seat beside Margy and me. We needed to get up to let her in. I warned her that I had one more up and down left in me for the day, so she had best use it wisely. She was a doctor from the medical tent. She laughed and said that she understood.

After a short layover in Los Angeles, we flew to Minneapolis and the dry brown autumnal landscape below. It felt like we had missed the colors of fall.

As we moved through the airport on our way to baggage claim, I turned to Margy and commented, “People here look normal. It’s weird.” She laughed.

As I approached baggage claim, I saw a guy who totally had The Look. He carried an Ironman backpack like they had given away in Kona. He wore compression socks and flip flops. This might be my last chance to trade a quip with a fellow Kona traveler. When he sat to remove his compression socks and put on neon running shoes, I approached him.

“You would have looked totally normal in compression socks in Kona. Not so much here,” I said.

“They really help when I travel,” he said. “I use them because I can get off the plane and go work out.”

I must have looked shocked. Then I looked more closely at his bag. It said “Ironman Wisconsin.”

“Were you just in Kona?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Yeah, about a month ago I ran Wisconsin. I keep trying but I just can’t seem to qualify.”

I wished him luck and headed toward the baggage carousel, remembering that I was wearing a Bowdoin sweatshirt and hat. I guess that even to the initiated, I had not retained The Look even for 24 hours.

We drove home and I reflected on just how intense the scene had been in Kona. The society completely swallows you and it is a world entirely unto itself, immersed in watts and splits and aero bars and 70.3s. And now here I was back in the sunny cool of a mid-fall Minnesota afternoon. I wasn’t sad to leave Kona but I hadn’t taken off my athlete wristband yet, either. When I cut the wristband off, it is a ceremonial good bye to the recently run race and the society surrounding it.

We turned left onto Boulder Pointe Road and drove up to our house. My eyes welled up with tears one more time. Leis were strung in our ash tree and over the neck of a sculpture in our garden. Posters of me were stuck on our garage congratulating me. The authors remained anonymous but I was deeply, deeply touched.

Aloha from Eden Prairie. Mahalo.

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