Runnin’ with Rani: LavaKids Learn to Unleash the Beast

  • Dan Gampon and Michael DeCarli lead the group with stretches and warmup exercises. (Hawaii Sport Events/Special to West Hawaii Today)

If there was a motivational message that keiki took in stride from Saturday’s LavaKids Fun Runs held on the Queen’s Lei trail path along Ane Keohokalole Highway, it was Kailua-Kona’s Dan Gampon who delivered it loud and clear.

“Unleash the beast,” said the 23-year-old, two-time Ironman World Championship finisher on how to approach the start of a race. “You don’t want to get too excited. You always want to be calm before the start. And once you start, that’s when you unleash the beast, not before. So remember, always take a deep breath and remain calm. And just when the gun starts — boom — that’s when you unleash the beast and go for it.”


Gampon, along with Kailua-Kona’s Michael DeCarli, both competed in the 40th anniversary edition of the Ironman World Championships. Gampon finished in an impressive time of 10 hours, 16 minutes and 25 seconds, and DeCarli in a fantastic time of 11:11:28.

The duo were the honored guest speakers for the two-dozen keiki who turned out for the popular LavaKids Funs Runs held every third Saturday of the month.

“When I did my first triathlon, I was 17, and my first triathlon was Lavaman,” Gampon said to the group.

“But he was only 18 when he finished his first Ironman (World Championship) race,” Decarli added.

The young crowd instantly gushed with “ooh’s and aah’s.” Both Gampon and DeCarli shared their experience while playing a little trivia game on what it was like to compete in their second 140.6-mile world championship race consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, followed by a 26.2-mile marathon run.

From there, the eager group were educated on the importance of warming up the muscles before working out, as Gampon and DeCarli led them through a series of exercises consisting of jumping jacks, various stretches, and the famous “running man.”

Finally, it was the keiki’s turn to transition into “race mode” as they took their starting positions — all ready to “unleash the beast.” The free event featured a 100-yard keiki dash, followed by a 1-mile, 2-mile and 5K run/walk.

Several of the island’s most notable community contributors were also present to lend a helping hand with onsite registration and setup, while emphasizing the importance of getting the entire family involved, active and educated on how to live a healthier lifestyle.

From Gerry Rott, race director and founder of the popular Lavaman Triathlon and LavaKids — the youth branch of Lavaman — to LavaKids directors, Claudia Kane, Ted Spitaleri and Ellie Sumic.

Others who also routinely assist with the monthly fun runs were Barbie Nakamura from Club Rehab, Peaman — organizer of Frozen Pea Production events — and dedicated community volunteers Christine and Mercedes DeCarli, Lorraine Hall, Gene Power and Steven Frazer.

Gampon recalled how it all began for him as he waited at the finish line with LavaKids medallions in hand.

“First of all, we didn’t have a monthly LavaKids event like this growing up,” he said. “If there was, I would have most definitely come out. Back then, we found out about local events by chance or by word of mouth only.”

Gampon said that at the age of 13 he was a paddler, and by chance, he and friend took notice of a Peaman event happening down at the Kailua Pier while on his way to practice at Kamakahonu Beach.

“Whenever we had practices, we would always see these Peaman events happening,” he said. “So my friend and I decided to start doing Peaman events. Then came the Kukio Blue Water Swim and some other events until I did my first triathlon in 2012, Lavaman Keauhou. And then my first Ironman (World Championship) in 2013.”

DeCarli added that living a healthy lifestyle, exercising and contributing to the community has always been important for his family and how he raised his three children.

“Luckily, I really didn’t have to encourage my kids, they just followed my footsteps by watching,” DeCarli said. “They are all active. Our youngest boy, Teagan, is now 16, and his passion is not in the sport of triathlon. It’s more in the sport of martial arts. Lexi is 20, and she works with Ironman and enjoys the sport, I see her doing it one day. And Mercedes is 23, and she enjoys competing in triathlons. I think you just have to let your kids do what they enjoy doing.”

By the end of the fun morning, it turned out to be another successful LavaKids event summed up by the sweaty smiles on everyone’s faces.

Gampon’s message to “unleash the beast” can truly be applied to every aspect of their lives and well beyond any race course. From excelling at school, to not surrendering to peer pressure, and by giving their best effort no matter the outcome — there is no limit to what any of these keiki can do.


“I’m so glad to see these types of small races happen for these little kids because it encourages them to be healthy, and someday, maybe an Ironman like me,” Gampon said. “I believe that we need more of these kinds of small races for the kids.”

The next Lavakids Family Fun Runs will be held on Saturday, Nov. 17. For more information on the event or to preregister visit