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When I began this blog, I intended to write a story. As a story, I thought that it should have a beginning and end. Last week, after Katie and her boat won Head of the Charles, after something really athletic and cool happened to our daughter, I thought that my Kona story had ended. It hadn’t and now I don’t know that it ever will.

Campiello’s

We had a Halloween costume party on Friday afternoon at work.  Once again, I came as Walter Payton. This is the world’s most perfunctory costume but I never feel bad about paying homage to the greatest football player of my generation. Margy and I spoke by phone and she had made reservations for us at a nearby restaurant, Campiello’s. We agreed that I would leave the party to arrive home by 5:15 and leave from there for dinner. After driving home, I walked in the back hall and headed toward our bedroom to change. Campiello’s is less suited to Payton homage than Halloween parties. Margy said hello from the kitchen. I changed course, rounded the corner and…

“Surprise!”

My entire family, except Katie, welcomed me. I fear that I appeared concerned and confused more than happy. Ultimately, of course, I was thrilled after shedding the numbness of complete surprise.

They had come for the weekend and to watch the NBC broadcast of Kona. They were all ready to party. Someone cued the music, a luau soundtrack CD from a party store. I spotted a bird of paradise flower on the dining room table courtesy of my sister Ann and her husband, Rick. My four year-old niece, Harper, and seven year-old nephew, Davis, jumped up on an ottoman and pretended to surf to the Theme From Hawaii Five-O. My mom had made a special lei for me from decorated Purell bottles.

Bird of Paradise, Mini Me and Purell Lei

Serious self examination might be in order when your mom makes fun of your neuroses. At least no one gave me a tee shirt that said “Will Run for Purell,” though suggesting it here gives me pause.

The element missing from Kona had been what made Madison so special: Except for Margy, my family had not been able to come to Kona to soothe me before the race, cheer during the race and listen to my stories after the race. So, here they were to complete the experience and to be with me as I relived the race through the lens of the NBC broadcast. Unfortunately, Katie’s rowing season continued through the weekend to keep her in Maine but my family and my Kona trip seemed otherwise complete. I had seen Katie only the week before and that would have to do.

Craig and Me

We gathered in front of the TV to watch the cinematic NBC coverage. I found myself choking back tears a few times, not so much out of sympathy for some featured participant and her courage but out of an overwhelming sense of connection to the time and place. As the camera followed pre-race preparations and showed scenes from past races, I could now identify that place and recall what it meant to me when I was in that exact spot.

I had warned my family that the NBC cameras caught me in two places: coming out of body marking and into transition at 4:50 a.m. and as the sun was going down in the Natural Energy Lab at around 6:00 p.m. We watched patiently as the show followed prominent pros during their week of preparation for the race. When the show turned to race morning, sure enough, there I was walking side by side from body marking into transition with the defending champion, Craig Alexander. My family cheered fanatically. For just a few seconds, I shared the screen with my newfound friend, Craig. I told the story, for the umpteenth time, about asking him to let me walk a step ahead so that I could say that I led him ever so briefly on race day and my quip that if he stuck with me, he would get this sort of media attention all day long.

The first and last time in Kona that I was even with last year’s champion, Craig Alexander.

The shot of me in the Natural Energy Lab at sunset apparently hit the cutting room floor. That was OK. I did not want Craig to accuse me of hogging the spotlight.

The End

This is, I believe, the end of my blog but I don’t think that it is the end of my trip to Kona. I have come to believe that Kona is not a discrete event, not something with a beginning or an end. Instead, it is something that began as a formless aspiration, the name of an athletic contest, a place, an achievement, a qualification, a distinction, an icon. With the event past, Kona has become a deeply embedded experience without one particular meaning or specific significance. I suppose that I will think about Kona frequently, whether recalling efforts to train and qualify, time there before the race or race day. Family may mention  that they are related to a guy who ran Kona. Friends may say that they know a guy who raced the Hawaii Ironman, the one on TV. It may even be that when I am gone, I will be remembered for once having competed in the Ironman World Championship.

I hope not to fruitlessly linger on my Kona experience, to become someone who left left his best on a single day on a small island floating in the Pacific. I hope that my memories of Kona burnish with the passage of time, that they become a comfort and a satisfaction balancing in proper proportion pride and humility. More than anything, Kona will represent a a time when I felt the love and support of family and friends too numerous to count. In the end, it will be the confluence of that place and those people with whom I shared my trip to Kona who made it a dream come true forever. Mahalo and aloha.

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One Comment

  1. don’t forget to give credit to Lynn for the picture and signed frame….she also got the balloons just for the record. xo


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