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Vol. 11, No. 5
October/November 2008

  >>   My Own Private Ironman
  >>   The Moon and the Turtle

My Own Private Ironman 

story and photos by Sergio Goes

The NBC helicopter hovers above the start line, muffling the announcements blaring from a stack of speakers. Fifteen minutes! I shove my way through the crowd of thousands lining the waterfront, cursing myself for being late. Morning light pierces the clouds on the horizon; the placid Kona sunrise is oblivious to the chaos. Ten minutes! My heart pounds. The announcer babbles, and the churning helicopters above echo the butterflies flapping in my stomach. I finally reach the sliver of sand by the Kailua-Kona pier. I want to be at the front of the starting line, and as I dive into the water and start swimming, Iím enveloped by the liquid silence. Iím at home. Five minutes! A few more strokes and I feel rested, relaxed. Iíve done my homework. Iím floating shoulder to shoulder with legends of the sport like Mark Allen and Dave Scott. I take a good look around and suck it all in: the crowds of spectators, the massive banners, the helicopters, the 1,500 swim caps bobbing around. I canít help but smile. What am I doing here? Itís 1990, and Iím about to start racing in the Ironman Triathlon!

Seventeen years later my triathlon days are far behind me, part of a different life. Even some of my close friends have no idea that I ranóand finishedóthis race twice. I donít brag about it. Unless, of course, the opportunity arises. Itís an ace up my sleeve, a guaranteed party pleaser. The reaction is always the same: ďWho, you? No way! How? Ö Why?Ē In a way Iím still searching for those answers. What possessed me to dedicate years of my life suffering inexplicable pain in the form of a race? A 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and, yes, a marathon.

Here I am again, October 2007: the same crowd of thousands, the same helicopters hovering, the same butterflies in my stomach. Twenty minutes! Iím late. I feel those old sensations. Muscle memory, perhaps. But this time, Iím not running the race; Iím photographing it.

I must make it down to the water before the swim start, and here I am again rushing, cursing myself for being late. I run down the hallway in full scuba gear, to the delight of the onlookers. I must have underwater shots of the swimmers. As soon as I dive in, Iím enveloped by the liquid silence. The only sound is the bubbles coming out of my regulator. Iím home.