Hilo Ironman

In one month, Colby La Brie will take the plunge.

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In one month, Colby La Brie will take the plunge.

He’ll be far from alone, but he’s got two unique comeback stories. He’ll be on his home island, but he’ll feel like a visitor.

La Brie will enter the crowded water off Kailua Pier at the Ironman World Championship feeling proud and a little pressured as Hilo’s sole participant.

“It feels good, but I can’t say if I don’t finish well that somebody else from Hilo did well,” La Brie said. “I have Hilo on my shoulders. I need to represent.”

Ironman comes exactly 37 months after La Brie’s first competitive race, a modest 5-kilometer run.

The 35-year-old didn’t play sports at Hilo High, and wasn’t much for exercising until Jan. 1, 2011. The new year spawned a new attitude for La Brie, who weighed 320 pounds when he realized he needed change.

“I was looking for a fitness goal and I wanted to run a marathon,” La Brie said. “I have a bunch of friends who were runners and I asked them if they thought I could do a marathon.”

He built off those goals, lost 100 pounds in a year and has since rattled off five marathons, one-ultra marathon, seven half-marathons, a pair of Olympic-distance triathlons and one Ironman 70.3.

It was at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii last May, while biking, that La Brie finally broke down.

“The whole race was emotional for me,” he said. “I cried, not because I was in pain, but because I knew the position I was in.”

La Brie reached a qualifying time and earned a lottery spot to Ironman.

And he didn’t just have to pick himself off the mat once to get there, but twice. Dropping weight was the easy part.

Life was swell for La Brie in June 2013. He finished the Kona half-marathon after serving as an emotional speaker at the race, and he became engaged to his future wife, Kaua La Brie.

Then, disaster struck. He was hit by a car while bicycling and broke his clavicle, an injury which sidelined him for five months. He couldn’t train, and he also missed time at his job at KTA Central Warehouse.

“I couldn’t work or pay my bills,” he said. “It was like depression. From running every day to not being able to carry the laundry basket or do the dishes.

“I wasn’t motivated, and I felt disgusted. Why did this happen to me?”

La Brie credits local race organizer Joe Wedemann with inspiring him to lift his malaise. If the world championship wasn’t his end game before, it was now.

His first race back was the Honolulu Marathon in December, and he resumed his training schedule, running at night after work, bicycling on his days off and swimming when he can.

While Wedemann has been working with La Brie on swimming, his weakness, La Brie figures he has next month’s 112-mile bike ride from Kailua-Kona to Hawi and back covered. In August, the 5-foot-8, 225-pound La Brie and Wedemann took on a taller task, a round-trip ride from Hilo to Waimea.

“It was very hilly both ways,” La Brie said. “I though I’d coast back to Hilo, but it was like I was going uphill again.”

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His goal is to finish Ironman in 15 hours.

Life is swell again.

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