Runnin’ with Rani: Kiser’s Triptophan Turkey Day Tri a big hit

What started out as a fun, laid-back, sprint distance triathlon for eight employees looking for bragging rights on Thanksgiving morning has now evolved into one of Big Island’s most popular events.

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What started out as a fun, laid-back, sprint distance triathlon for eight employees looking for bragging rights on Thanksgiving morning has now evolved into one of Big Island’s most popular events.

While other races such as Lavaman Waikoloa’s Olympic Distance triathlon often reach their field limit after a month of opening registration, the hype surrounding the enrollment of those wanting to be a part of the annual Triptophan Turkey Day Triathlon rivals that of a rock concert.

Five and a half hours was all that it took to reach the maximum capacity of 100 participants registered through Facebook, and according the event organizer Kym Kiser, it shattered the old record of two days.

“I had no clue it would be so quick,” Kiser said. “Typically people know it’s coming up. So if they are not on Facebook then they try to get ahold of me. This time I gave everyone a heads up on what day and what time. We had all of the entry forms within 5 ½ hours. That was by far the fastest. I couldn’t believe it.”

What makes the event so appealing is the short distance of 1/3-mile swim, 16-mile bike, and 2-mile run – doable for just about anyone wanting to have a good time before filling their bellies with a turkey feast. Aside from that are several aspects that make Kiser’s event unique, keeping the interest of local competitors and newcomers for eight years strong.

“We limit it to 100 individuals just to keep everything under control on the pier,” she said. “It makes everything smoother and cleaner. If there are more (people) then it just gets a bit overwhelming. And for the swim, we allow boogie boards, snorkel, fins – basically anything other than a propelled motor.”

In addition, Kiser said that each year she tries to add something new, special and unexpected that is given out at the completion of the event. A few years ago she began giving each participant a finisher’s medal and bib numbers. Then over the years, those medals have grown in size, weight, and colors – gold, silver, and bronze, while the bib numbers are now personalized with participant’s names.

On Thursday, everyone received finisher’s medals and finish line photos, with overall winners honored with wooden plaques and oversized pumpkin pies – truly amazing for an event that is free for participants.

“If can, can. If no can, then no can,” Kiser said of her donation jar. “And that’s really the gist of it. Keeping it within a 100 people makes it more doable to be able to do these things, with everything that is offered. And we would not be able to do it without the volunteers. It’s just our way of giving back to the community. It gives us so much joy to see everyone’s smiling faces.”

Thursday’s 8th Annual Triptophan Turkey Day Triathlon started just like any another other local event on the Big Island – with a lot of “smack talk” happening amongst friends, training partners, and newcomers alike.

“My whole reason to do this race is for all of the smack talk,” said professional triathlete, Bree Wee. “I just like racing my training partners and it’s a super fair race for everyone. It really doesn’t matter where you come out of the swim. If you get bad luck with the lights then everyone’s going to catch you.”

As with most swimming events on the island, youth prevailed with 13-year old Silas Wiley exiting the 1/3-mile swim in first. Next up the Pier’s cement stairs was Wee, followed by a chase pack made up of Joshua Myrick, Rama Barrett, and Maile Fediuk.

While Wee shot out of transition like a bullet and well ahead of everyone else, bad luck hit as she was stopped with a red light at the Palani Road and Kuakini Hwy intersection. This allowed the chase pack a much-needed break to catch back up that included defending champion Luis De La Torre, David Wild, and Michael DeCarli.

From there, De La Torre went on autopilot mode and took over the lead for good, hitting the bike to run transition in first.

As participants headed out for the two-mile sprint on Alii Drive, all eyes focused on the smooth strides of a bright orange, neon-colored race singlet blazing back toward the Kailua Pier. Everyone knew that it was De La Torre, who claimed his second victory in a time of 57 minutes and 47 seconds.

“Sprint events are just fun,” De La Torre said. “I’m not making any slight towards any other smaller events, but it’s so well run for basically being a free race.”

De La Torre added that while having the roads open to traffic and needing to come to a complete stop at various intersections made the event much more interesting, it never shook his confidence that he would be crossing the finish line in first.

“You just have to hope you get green lights,” he said. “So my game plan was hope. And not to sound arrogant, but I knew I would win a couple of months ago. I was just absolutely convinced.”

Taking second in the men’s division was Wild in 59:11 – an improvement from his 2014 finish time by over 2 minutes. Third overall went to Wee who claimed her 4th Triptophan victory in 1:00:24.

“I like this so much better than IRONMAN, you see people the whole way,” Wee said. “In IRONMAN you’re out there by yourself so I like this so much better. It was so much fun.”

Michael DeCarli rounded out the men’s top three with his time of 1:00:59, with Winona Chen and Kristin Old taking the next two women’s spots at 1:03:57 and 1:04:59 respectively.

And in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, one athlete in particular had much to celebrate and be thankful for.

After surviving a massive stroke that nearly claimed his life four years ago, Kevin Rhinehart was overcome with emotion after crossing the finish line at his first ever triathlon.

“When I had a stroke I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t walk, and I was bound to a wheelchair,” the 57-year old said. “I could read but I couldn’t tell anybody I could read. Individual letters I couldn’t recognize. So I’ve come a long way.”

Rhinehart described the heartache he felt in thinking that his life was over. And because the stroke affected the right side of his body, doing a triathlon seemed almost impossible. That was until he met Rick Rubio, a personal trainer and triathlon coach in Kona.

“I met him two months ago when he was thinking about getting into triathlon,” Rubio said. “He saw my sign on my car about training. But when he came up to me I wasn’t sure because of his speech. Then he said he was a stroke survivor wanting to do triathlons. So we got together and this is his first triathlon. He has been working really hard and today he did great.”

Rhinehart completed his first triathlon in 1:33:48, an impressive 87th overall out of 102 participants.

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“The swim was intense, the biking was fine, but the running was hard because it is my downfall,” Rhinehart said. “Because of the stroke I still have trouble with the right side of my body. But the whole reason why I do triathlons is to give stroke survivors hope that there is life after. I thought my life was over, but I guess not.”

Everyone would agree, there certainly was much to be thankful for at Kiser’s Triptophan Turkey Day Triathlon!