Wobble Gobble and Triptophan Tri — a Thanksgiving tradition

  • Event director Kym Kiser has been putting on the (Tri)ptophan Turkey Day Triathlon for 11 years. (Dave Hodges/Courtesy Photo)
  • Melissa, Emily and Jason Braswell pictured at the annual Wobble Gobble Run/Walk on Thanksgiving. (Hawaii Sport Events/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Participants prepare to start the Wobble Gobble on Walua Road on Thanksgiving morning. The event featured a 6.4-mile, 3.5-mile and 1-mile walk/run. (Melissa Braswell/Courtesy Photo)

Thanksgiving has popularly become known as the day to celebrate with loved ones, the gifts in life we should be most thankful for: family, friends and good health.

For many, it also represents a day of indulgence, often beginning with turkey and all the trimmings and ending with pumpkin pie. Fortunately, the morning is filled with several preemptive calorie-burning events to help us minimize the damage.


For the husband and wife team, Jason and Melissa Braswell of Big Island Running Company, Thanksgiving morning represents continuing an annual tradition now going 14 years strong — the Wobble Gobble runs on Walua Road.

“Our favorite part of this race is seeing everyone out here with their families,” Jason Braswell said. “And that’s the part that is really great about this race — seeing people’s families grow over the years. It’s just a great grass roots community race.”

The Braswells have operated the event as a family since the beginning. Jason and Melissa organize the setup, cleanup and the timing of participants, while their now 3-year-old daughter, Emily, takes charge of the food drive donations.

“Right here, right here,” yelled Emily while motioning with her arms in the back of a pickup truck. “You can bring your cans right here.”

“It’s definitely a family affair,” Jason said. “Melissa and I have run in this event several times, and one day, I will run it with Emily.”

Every year the Wobble Gobble runs attracts well over 300 participants, mostly families with young children along with a few who enjoy testing their competitive drive against the clock.

The event is free and features three distances — a 6.4-mile run, 3.5-miler, and a 1-mile sprint. In lieu of entry fees, the Braswells accept non-perishable food items for the Hawaii Island Food Bank.

“It all goes to the Food Bank,” Jason said. “And every year it’s fun to see how many pounds we end up with. I don’t know off the top of my head, but I think one year it was well over 200 pounds.”

In the 1-mile sprint, Chachi Kay-Wong and Lily Kay-Wong took tops honors by winning the male and female division with their times of 6 minutes and 18 seconds, and 7:34, respectively.

While in the 3.5-mile event, Jahren Simpliciano claimed gold in the men’s competition with his time of 21:30, with Keili Dorn winning and setting a new women’s course record in a blazing time of 22:46. Brooke Myers set the previous record in 2014 in a time of 23:05.

In the full distance 6.4-mile run, Kailua-Kona’s Ben Halpern shredded nearly 2 minutes off of his 2017 race to defend his title in a blazing time of 40:23.

“Today felt great. Anytime you can come away with first place it’s great for sure,” the 33-year-old said. “And I feel very thankful to Big Island Running Company for putting this race on for many number of years in a row.

Halpern credited his faster finishing time to initially chasing, then later being pursued by Kailua-Kona’s Jacob Fansler.

“Jacob is a very strong uphill runner,” Halpern said. “He had a solid lead on me up until we made the turn. I just kept him in my sights, we both pushed hard on the downhill but I got him with just about half of a mile to go. I knew that he had a pretty good stride but I think I had the stronger kick in the end. So as soon as we hit that last yellow gate, I just turned on the burners and got him.”

Fansler settled for second place in a time of 40:42, with Alec Ankrum finishing in third overall at 41:50.

In the women’s competition, Vicki Hunter easily won her first Wobble Gobble title in a great time of 50:16. Second place went to Kealakekua’s Erin Rene, who finished in a fabulous time of 52:28. And rounding out the women’s podium was the three-wheeling trio of Rani-Cole-Raen Henderson with their double stroller time of 52:29.

Halpern, who is gearing up to compete in his first Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 9, said there was much to be grateful for on this sunny, blue sky, vog-free morning.

“I’m grateful for my whole ohana and the multi-generations getting together because, like me, a lot of us are transplants so it’s really great to get everyone together,” he said. “And I’m especially grateful to all of the firefighters in California battling the wildfires that’s happening right now.”


Turkey Day Tri

What began years ago as a fun, laid-back, sprint-distance triathlon for eight employees looking for bragging rights on Thanksgiving morning, continued in tradition with the 11th running of the (Tri)ptophan Turkey Day Triathlon.

Presented by Kiser Motorcycles, the triathlon has evolved into one of Big Island’s most popular holiday events and for many good reasons.

The short distance of a 1/3-mile swim, 16-mile bike, and 2-mile run makes the event appealing and doable for just about anyone looking to have a good time while burning a few calories before filling their bellies with a turkey feast.

And according to event director, Kym Kiser, there is no better way to start the tradition of feeling thankful through a fun swim-bike-run.

“It’s on Thanksgiving day so I think everyone shows up with the feeling of being thankful for a fun morning with friends and family,” Kiser said. “I hear from many saying ‘it’s a no pressure event, since not really a race.’ They like that it is small, and the feeling they can have a fun training day. Eddie-O volunteering as emcee gives the run down throughout the morning which really adds to the fun as well. Most of the participants have done the event multiple times so it has become a tradition for them and their family.”

Yet every year from first-timers to veteran triathletes — to those who feel more comfortable using a snorkel, fins or boogie board for the swim, and others who would rather spectate and cheer — Kiser knows first-hand the importance of creating a special and unique event for the 100 participants who show up every year.

“My favorite events when I first started competing were the small events such the Mango events, Peamans and in Honolulu, the Tinman Triathlon,” she said. “I loved that feeling of a tight-knit, friendly community coming together. Those events set the stage for the bigger events such as Lavaman, USAT Nationals and Ironman races. Yet I still loved the small events because of the closeness it brought. I want to keep bringing that feeling, but adding some of the fun swag that you typically only get at the big races. Everyone including the volunteers and athletes at our event seems like a part of our family and I love that.”

While the event is known for its “no pressure” and laid back vibe, the race started off just like any another other local event on the Big Island – with a lot of “smack talk” amongst friends, training partners and newcomers alike.

Thanksgiving bragging rights for first turned out to be an exciting battle with 17-year-old Kealakehe senior, Josiah Randerson, running down Ben Torres over the final mile to claim his first Triptophan victory in a stellar time of 57:43.

Torres, who recently won the Big Island Time Trial Cycling Championships two weeks ago, settled for second place in 58:04, with Michael DeCarli rounding out the men’s top three in 59:13.

The women’s competition was déjà vu from last year as the same three women finished in the exact same positions.

Kailua-Kona’s Winona Chen defended her title in a great time of 1:03:49, with Sara Bloom and Jennifer Real claiming silver and bronze with their times of 1:07:19 and 1:07:58, respectively.

Kiser hopes to keep the Thanksgiving triathlon tradition going for many years and shared what she envisioned it would be in the next five years.


“I really hope for the most part it remains the same. If its not broke, don’t fix it kind of thing. I do hope to add more sponsors at a higher level to help with the costs. It will also be great if the families with the little ones that join us start to bring their little ones into the sport as they get older. We can continue with the tradition with added family members.

“I also hope a lot of the athletes join myself as race director and Hawaii Cycling Club for The Dragon cycling race next March.”