When I qualified for the Ironman World Championship at Ironman Florida in November 2013 by winning my division in the Executive Challenge series, it was the culmination of a five-year journey that started when I was 75 pounds heavier and was told by my doctor that a future with Type 2 diabetes was inevitable. But simply reaching triathlon’s ultimate race in Kona wasn’t the goal; I wanted to compete—and I wanted my family and close friends who’ve supported me all these years to be there to share the rewards of all my training.
As soon as I confirmed my entry into the World Championships, I reserved three Inspirato homes on the Kohala Coast. One was for my parents and my wife Holly and I and our three daughters, ages 2, 5, 8; another for my sister and brother-in-law (who are also Inspirato Members) and their kids and the third for my brother’s family and some lifelong family friends. Between all of us, there were 10 children under the age 10 in our group—the youngest was 4 months old.
I arrived at the Hale Kai house on the Big Island two and a half weeks ahead of the race to acclimate myself to the heat and time difference while I wrapped up my training (Kona is six hours behind Atlanta, where we live). I’d work in the morning and train in the afternoon. Tina, our Inspirato Destination Concierge, set me up with regular massages at the house and meals—I’d tell her what foods I needed to eat and she’d find a restaurant that would accommodate me, and she even offered to deliver it to the house. I didn’t have to think about anything beyond work, train, eat and sleep.
Everyone else arrived a couple days before race day and again, Tina took care of everything: airport pick-ups, stocking the houses with food. She and Inspirato changed my whole race experience for the better. I didn’t need to worry about playing host—quite a relief.
While Inspirato’s homes on the Big Island aren’t clustered together in the same resorts, they all had wonderful beach access and pools, and the separation actually helped. Tina worked with each family to come up with their own agendas and activities months ahead of time. We could all come together for a meal or go off and do something on our own.
On race day, my wife Holly and our girls were able to get out into the bay to watch the swim portion of the race from a Zodiac, and later I was surprised to see Holly and my sister-in-law, Kim, 30 miles up the bike route cheering me on. Tina graciously loaned them her two mopeds (the only motorized transportation allowed on the racecourse) after she told us that every rental moped on the island was booked that week. Seeing them gave me a huge shot of energy.
After racing for 10 hours, 47 minutes and 25 seconds, I crossed the finish line and won the Executive Challenge Division by all of 74 seconds. Holly and our daughters greeted me, and that moment is still the best part of the entire six-year process. I couldn’t have done any of this without their support and for my girls to see the race and be a part of the day was incredibly important to me.
The next week was a celebration of family, and we made the most of it. A couple days after the race, Tina set us up with a barbecue dinner at one of the other houses. We watched the sunset from the patio, and with all of my family there, it truly felt like home.
The rest of the week was packed with activities. The kids had a blast at the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort, swimming with manta rays and playing on the beach. One night, we headed up to the telescopes high atop Mauna Kea to go stargazing. We saw the Andromeda galaxy and the planets up close. On another day, Tina set us up with a boat and we went snorkeling out on Kailua Bay, and a pod of wild dolphins showed up and swam with us. That’s an experience we will never forget. We also headed to the coral reef just off shore at Captain Cook Monument Kealakekua Bay, which has some of the clearest water and best snorkeling in Hawaii. Between the sea life we saw snorkeling and the stars and planets we viewed through the telescope, the experiences drove home just how special a place Hawaii is.