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Thoughts On “Chasing Kona”

I just finished reading a self published book and I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, there were a few typos and layout mistakes, but the author did a very nice job of telling his story. His name is Rob Cummins and his book is called Chasing Kona. From the title, you know most of the story. What you don’t realize until you dig into the pages is that Cummins’ Kona is a familiar metaphor. It is the Holy Grail, the golden city, the fountain of youth. It is that object of desire that only exists for those who are prepared to know it. Of course, the event itself really does exist (unless it is canceled due to a pesky viral pandemic). But the Kona that Rob is chasing is much more than the annual event.

By the way, Kona is what triathletes call the IRONMAN World Championship held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. It is perhaps the most coveted triathlon for those athletes, professional and amateur, who are good enough to qualify for it.

Cummins begins his story as a very unhealthy person. Smoking, drinking and sitting in front of the television are his athletic achievements during his teens and early twenties. Although watching the famous father son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt compete in the IRONMAN World Championship on television did not immediately start him on his athletic quest for greatness, it did plant the seed. Rob tells his story of how that seed sprouts and matures into a fully developed athlete capable of accomplishing the seemingly impossible. As hard as quitting the cigarette habit was, that appears to have been the easy part. Evolving into a Kona qualifier; that was the part that required the most willpower and discipline. That was what demanded a true lifestyle change.

I’ve said many times in these blogs and on the videos that triathlon has the power to transform lives. Rob mentions this several times throughout the book and goes into depth when he explains that the journey is the transformer; not the finish line nor the award ceremony. I’ve read better authors but, the emotional and mental roller coaster rides of his journey are detailed quite well given that we can not be there with him; we can only read his words. Many of us watch great athletes and we dream about being like them even if we don’t intend to actually be like them. All we see is the result of their journeys. The struggle to attain athletic greatness is often hidden in the minutia of the undocumented parts of their lives. However, the dream of racing at Kona is so strong for many of us that we push through years of hard work to get there and Rob’s story invites the reader many times to believe that achieving such a goal is possible, even attainable, for the ordinary person. It all comes down to choosing which sacrifices to make.

Many triathlon stories are about people overcoming great odds to become champions of their own lives. Rudy Garcia-Tolson and Roderick Sewell were the first above knee amputees to finish an IRONMAN and the IRONMAN World Championship respectively. Sue Reynolds went from morbidly obese to Triathlon Worlds Sprint competitor in her 60s. Turia Pitt was badly burned in a range fire and rebounded to compete at Kona.

It is easy for the reader to interpret these stories as inspirational but not identifiable. Reading these stories, including Chasing Kona, I found myself saying things like

Yeah but, I’m not like them

Yeah but, they have a job that allows them to train so much

  1. Yeah but, they must have more money than I

Like Rob Cummins, I too am chasing Kona. I have my reasons and I have my motivations. However, I don’t completely identify with Rob as an athlete. At least not from his book I don’t. On the other hand, If I actually met him, maybe I would feel like I were talking to myself; who knows? What I’m trying to say is that Rob’s circumstances may be different from mine and yours, but there is a valuable lesson in the pages of Chasing Kona. If you want something bad enough, you will figure out how to get it. Rob surrounded himself with the right people and the right circumstances. He even implies that his first marriage ended, in part, due to his single minded focus on athletic greatness.

Yeah but, he’s currently married to a very supportive ultra runner

  1. Yeah but, he has the right body type for this

Someone reading my own triathlon story might also dwell on the differences and come up with their own list of excuses as to why they could never do a triathlon. In a way, I’ve been very lucky to have had such a supportive family and community. Some of that “luck” was made possible by my intention and actions. Before moving to North Carolina, I sought out the local triathlon club. I joined the YMCA where many triathletes trained. I sold a big, beautiful motorcycle to afford a time trial bike.

If you want to be something you are not or have something you don’t have, then something has to change. That is a universal law. In physics, they call it inertia. Wayne Dyer called it “The Power of Intention.” My desire to be a Kona qualifier pushes me closer to my goal. Every “Yeah but” pushes me in the opposite direction.

Chasing Kona is another example of how we can overcome adversity to achieve what we want; not necessarily racing in the IRONMAN World Championship, but success in business, success in sports, success in anything. We simply have to get out of our own way and begin taking actions down the road toward our goal(s).

  1. -Yeah but, those authors have the personality to achieve these great things.

And maybe they do. And maybe I can change. And Maybe I need to begin by removing “Yeah but” from my vocabulary.

Until next time…

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