It should almost come as a warning when you have a competitor with a nickname such as “Monster Mike.”
And that’s because when Kona’s Michael DeCarli shows up to any race, everyone knows that he is a force to be reckoned with. He is a dominating powerhouse, especially when it comes down to the bike and run, and his performance at Sunday’s Team Mango Springtime Triathlon was no different.
The 26th edition of Team Mango race showcased a half-mile swim in a murky and choppy Kailua Bay, followed by a 15-mile hilly bike course along Hualalai Road and Kuakini Highway, and then finished off with a pulverizing 6-mile hilly run.
As athletes warily eyed the orange swim buoy that struggled to maintain its anchored position as huge swells crashed over the seawall, only DeCarli seemed unfazed. In fact, the somewhat devilish grin on his determined face seemed to say the harder the conditions, the better.
Even race director, Carl “Gecko” Koomoa, thought the conditions were tough enough that he decided a last minute change was needed to what should have been a mass running beach swim start. Instead, he had athletes line up at the first white swim buoy, treading water, to avoid getting pummeled by the incoming surges.
And once the race began, with arms and legs furiously thrashing and splashing about, DeCarli never once got caught up in the mayhem. He kept to his own pace and plans.
“I just go out and do what I do, keep calm, keep the mind good and just do my own thing,” said the 42-year-old Kailua-Kona resident. “I always just let everyone do their thing because in the end, I know I’ll put everything out there so whatever happens, happens.”
Kona Aquatics swim standout, Aiden Ankrum, was the first to complete the double loop half-mile swim course, clocking in a swift time of 10 minutes and 57 seconds before tagging his relay partner and dad, Adam.
Not too far behind and leading the individual’s race was Peaman in 11:27, who was followed by a chase pack that included Josiah Randerson (12:22), Rob Murray (13:16), myself (13:49), DeCarli (13:54) and Joe Catanzaro (14:02).
The 15-mile, three-loop hilly bike course consisted of quad-burning climb up the twisty turns of lower Hualalai Road before heading south over the undulating hills of Highway 11. Another turn onto Kuakini Highway required one to exhibit strong bike handling skills as athletes were forced to navigate over the bumpy and dilapidated shoulder of the road. Koomoa refers to this as the famous, “Mango Loop.”
“This is a wonderful course,” Koomoa said. “We do three laps of the Mango loop and one lap for the run, so it’s a tough little distance. I always joke about the bike. The first lap people tend to think, ‘oh it’s not that bad,’ then the second lap becomes, ‘ok, it’s kind of tough,’ and by the third they are going, ‘now I got to run this thing?’”
While relay rider, Adam Ankrum, was literally out of sight due to his huge lead from his son’s strong swim split, DeCarli utilized his strength on the bike to zip past both Peaman and Randerson after two and half laps of the loop. DeCarli then continued to widen the gap to punish the rest of the field before heading into the bike-to-run transition as the new leader.
Over the hot and humid 6-mile run, DeCarli proved unstoppable. He cruised through the finish line to win Sunday’s Springtime Triathlon in a blazing time of 1 hour, 39 minutes and 41 seconds.
“I felt that I did very well,” DeCarli said of his performance. “I knew that my swim would be slower than normal just due to the lack of swim time. And for the bike, I’ve been riding only for the past four weeks, so not too much bike time either but I felt confident on the bike. And since I’ve been running quite a bit, I knew I could run.”
In three weeks, DeCarli said that he plans to compete in the Ironman 70.3 New Zealand scheduled for March 3.
“I was using this race as a test for my upcoming race in New Zealand — just a little speed work to fine tune and to put all three distances together and see how I do,” he said. “I enjoy racing, having fun and traveling around the world to these races now. It’s just a fun adventure for me and my family. Mercedes and Dan (Gampon) will also compete in New Zealand.”
Following DeCarli among the individual placing was 16-year-old Randerson in a great time of 1:42:48. I finished next, third overall and first for the women, with a time of 1:47:58. The next two spots went to Peaman and Catanzaro, fourth and fifth place, with their times of 1:55:27 and 1:58:45, respectively.
The relay division belonged to the talented Ankrum family, son Aiden (swim), dad Adam (bike) and mom Laura (run), who finished with a combined time of 1:38:04.
For DeCarli, his season is just beginning as he plans to challenge himself at Sunday’s Team Mango Mini Monster 70.3. He also entered the Ironman World Championship Hawaiian Drawing with high hopes of being one of 20 entrants selected. The drawing took place on Feb. 8 but results were not available.
“It’s just going to be one full year. I put my name into the Ironman drawing because I did the Ironman on its 35th year in 2013, and this year will be the 40th, so I thought it would be a pretty cool anniversary race.”