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Runnin’ with Rani: Praters embracing their Cinderella path to Ironman

September 29, 2017 - 11:51am

Becky Prater has never considered herself an athlete, by any means.

She wasn’t a runner, hated the bicycle that her husband bought for her, and if she swam, it was always for recreational reasons with her family of four in a kid-sized pool.

Thoughts of ever doing a triathlon never crossed her mind and for the 17-years that she lived in Arizona, she didn’t even know there was an Ironman triathlon race right in her backyard.

But that instantly changed when the Praters moved to Kona in 2010.

“The first full year that we moved to this island we had come down to watch Ironman and saw the first finishers getting out of the water,” said the 46-year old Kailua-Kona resident. “I found it really emotional to watch the few people that were struggling to get out. My kids thought it was crazy that I was tearing up for the lady who barely made it out of the water.”

And for whatever reason, Prater said that after watching an action packed Saturday of swim-bike-run, she happened to come back into town early the next morning fully expecting to witness what remained of the world championship race that finished just six hours before.

“I looked around and I thought, ‘Was this just a dream?’ Everything from the day before was gone,” she said. “To me, I equate it to this Cinderella story. You work so hard and train so hard for the big dance, like Cinderella’s big ball, and at the stroke of midnight, it’s all gone.”

Prater admits that while she still wasn’t convinced that one day she would want to take on such a daunting endeavor, a health challenge at her workplace that occurred a year later helped to motivate her into running.

“About a year after watching Ironman I started this health challenge at work and I began running twice a week with Big Island Running Company,” said Prater who works in medical records at Kona Hospital. “Basically it challenged employees to get fit and feel better and that’s how I started running.”

Prater said that she began to feel energized from her new running program and it also introduced her to the local athletic community, like meeting one of Big Island’s most iconic runners, Jon Kunitake, who encouraged Prater to bring her young children to the monthly Peaman Biathlon events.

And as with all newbies to the sport of triathlon that use the popular Peaman swim-runs as a stepping stone to gain some much needed confidence, Prater later found herself participating in the annual Lavaman, an Olympic distance triathlon, which eventually led to Honu, also known as the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.

“Doing Ironman probably entered my mind when I watched Kevin do his first Ironman in 2013,” she said. “But I still wasn’t convinced that it was something for me. Even when I was asked last year if I wanted to put my name in the drawing for Ironman I thought, no. I just felt that there are too many other athletes that want to get in that have that desire. I’m just a what if. The desire then still wasn’t that strong. But later it became, could I do it?”

After being encouraged by her husband, Kevin, she entered the Big Island drawing earlier this year where 24 Big Islanders are selected to compete in this year’s Ironman World Championship. The iconic event is regarded as the most grueling one day sporting event in triathlon that features a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, followed by a 26.2-mile run.

Prater thought that there was no way she would ever be selected. She would be wrong.

Kevin Prater takes the challenge

Kevin Prater said that growing up he didn’t know how to swim and hated running, as he was a bigger athlete who played football in college and weighed a solid 230-pounds.

Years later a surprising discovery in 2002 had doctors removing most of his right lung due to a tumor, and left Prater looking for something to do to keep himself healthy and active.

“That’s when I started riding my bike,” said the 45-year old Kailua-Kona resident. “I needed something to keep me active and riding was my first choice. But when we moved out here in 2010, I saw that everyone not only rode their bikes, but also ran and swam. I wanted to hang with these guys but they were all doing triathlons. So that’s how I got into it.”

After being in complete awe watching his first Ironman World Championship race with his family in 2010, Prater decided that he wanted to post a social media challenge for himself.

“In 2011, I posted on Facebook that for my 40th birthday, I want to do Ironman. At that time, you needed to live here for three years to qualify to enter the lottery (now known as the drawing). Ironman became a unique challenge for me because here I was, with basically one lung, so I thought, why not? It would definitely be a challenge.”

But that wasn’t the only challenge Prater faced. He needed to learn how to swim first and get over nagging panic attacks that often came while being in the ocean. Shedding some weight was also another priority so that he could enjoy running.

“I did my first Lavaman Keauhou in 2012 and had learned to swim just two weeks before,” he said with a laugh. “After that race, they had a lottery for Lavaman Waikoloa for the following year which I put my name in and got in. And after doing Lavaman Waikoloa, I did Honu and put my name in for Ironman. I got it. So that year in 2013, I did Lavaman, Honu and Ironman all in one year.”

As luck would have it, Prater would eventually back his first Ironman World Championship with being selected again through the Big Island drawing to compete in 2015. Feeling fitter than ever, the now two-time Ironman World Championship finisher said he wasn’t sure why he felt a painful feeling around his heart last August during a training bike ride.

What Prater didn’t know was that he was having a heart attack. More surprisingly, it was the second heart attack that came within a week from his first.

“My grandfather died at age 44 of a heart attack, so it’s been in my family,” he said. “The first time I thought it was indigestion or something, but I felt like someone put a clamp on my heart and I was about 20 minutes into my bike ride. But I had that mentality that I didn’t want to stop so I just kept on going. I told Becky that I would go to the doctor, but I just never did.

“So the following weekend, I rode with Becky and it happened again. This time it didn’t go away. She forced me to go the emergency room and they basically told me that I couldn’t leave. They medivaced me to Oahu and ran tests. They told me that my heart was really strong but my arteries were really clogged — like 85 to 90 percent clogged. They went in and put a stent in. So now, I can say that I’m a true Ironman.”

Being selected

While Becky did not pay much attention to the Big Island drawing, or was even aware of the day when names would be selected, it was Kevin who had hoped for a positive result for the both of them.

“She was on her way to work when I told Becky, wait, you need to see this,” Kevin recalled smiling.

“I was already late and told him that I don’t have time, I have to go, what are you trying to show me,” Becky said as she remembered Kevin furiously scrolling through his Facebook posts.

When Kevin finally found the post he was looking for he held up his phone and said, “Look, you are in. We are in.”

“What are you talking about,” Becky said to Kevin, “I really didn’t think it would happen for me. And the fact that we both got picked was just — that would never happen. I felt like I was in a crazy dream.”

Tears welled up in their eyes in complete disbelief. Both in shock yet knowing that this time, just like all the other times of their 24-years of marriage, they had each other.

“This year was a whole new motivation for me,” Kevin said. “So when my name was picked I was both shocked and also thinking, can I really do this? I know that I’ve already done two Ironmans, but it was, can I do this now?”

With the Praters putting in some quality training time together over the last few months with a weekly average of swimming 5-6 miles, biking 230 miles and running up to 40 miles, one can almost bet that their Cinderella story will result to a great ending for the “Big Dance” happening on Oct. 14.

“Crossing the finish line during my first Ironman was such a rush,” Kevin said. “I remember that after I crossed the finish it went from all this noise, raucous and craziness to absolute quiet and serenity. That’s the moment that it hit me of what I just accomplished and then all of a sudden just tears — I just lost it. I think this year will be a similar kind of feeling because, when I think about it, had I not been doing this stuff, I may not be here now.”

“I still feel like asking myself, is this still a dream?” Becky said. “It just doesn’t feel like me being in Ironman is real. It’s still disbelief until crossing the finish line actually happens for me. I know it sounds cliche but if you put your mind to it and dedicate the time to it, anything is possible.”

Coming Up

Sunday: Team Mango presents the Pre-Ironman Triathlon Challenge at the Kailua Pier. Start time is 7 a.m. for the 1.2-mile swim, 15-mile hilly bike loop, and 6-mile run. Pre-race registration will begin on-site at 5:30 a.m. For more information and registration details contact Carl Koomoa at 324-7252 or visit

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