Hawaii Athletes Descend On Cozumel

There were at least 40 triathletes representing Hawaii at the Dec. 1 IRONMAN race in Cozumel, Mexico. Some of them are pictured here, along with their supporters. Rick Keene photo

There were at least 40 triathletes representing Hawaii at the Dec. 1 IRONMAN race in Cozumel, Mexico. Some of them are pictured here, along with their supporters. Rick Keene photo

When Lori McCarney registered for the recent IRONMAN in Cozumel late last year, she wanted to try to get as many people from Hawaii to sign up too.

Well, on Dec. 1, at least 40 people from Hawaii (including some who used to live here) made their way to Mexico for the grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run race.

That’s an impressive number of people, especially when you consider not only the physical challenges of completing an IRONMAN, but also the time, effort and expenses involved, including airfare, lodging and shipping of their bicycles, which the majority of the participants from Hawaii paid $520 to do.

“I’ve done IRONMAN Cozumel before in 2010, and it was one of my favorite races because the support of the crowd was so good,” says McCarney, 59. “They basically close down the island for the race, so all sorts of people are out cheering you on, and that feels so good when you’re out there.

“Also, I had a really good swim time; they have dolphins in the beginning, and the course is friendly – it’s not super hilly or cold or hot. It’s pretty much like racing in Hawaii.”

Among her first recruits was KC Carlberg. “She coached me for several of my IRONMAN races and I kept telling her, if you’re going to train IRONMAN athletes, you have to do an IRONMAN,” says McCarney.

From there, more and more people became interested, and before she knew it there were 40 people signed up, plus about another 40 people who went on the trip as supporters. As a way to build relationships among the group, and as an easy way to spot each other on the course, McCarney created Team Hola Y Aloha tri kits (triathlon-specific racing tops and shorts) and T-shirts designed by Mariane Uehara Marr.

It was IRONMAN No. 8 (with a finishing time of 13 hours and six minutes) for McCarney, who is president of Spice Marketing and Business Strategies, and started doing triathlons when she was 50. Members of Team Hola Y Aloha ranged in occupation and in age from their mid-20s to late 60s.

Two people placed in the top three for their age group – Wendy Miki Glaus for the 50-54 age group, and Brenda Wong Yim in 55-59.

And for 22 people, it was their first IRONMAN.

McCarney also notes that the swim course was actually shorter than the usual 2.4 miles because of potentially dangerous wind and ocean conditions. She says the swim course was changed and shortened by half a mile, making it a 1.9-mile course.

“It was a great group of people who now have this connection of a shared experience that I think they are going to remember for a long time,” says McCarney about Team Hola Y Aloha. “Great friendships were made. They’re talking about what next Ironman they’re going to do.”

This year, McCarney also finished the prestigious IRONMAN World Championship in Kona just seven weeks before Cozumel. Next year, she’s planning for IRONMAN Brazil in May and has been invited to be on Team USA competing in the ITU long-distance triathlon world championships in China in September.

“I know what doing these things do for people; I know what it did for me,” she adds. “It changed my outlook on life and my attitude about things. I’m much more of a positive person now than I used to be. I’m healthier now than I ever was, and I want to share that with more people. I get a lot of joy from seeing people go down that path ’cause I know what it’s going to do for them, and it does time after time.”