Local triathlete chases a dream

HANALEI — Dick Smith paddles and trains for triathlons. The 65-year-old Hanalei resident is in good shape, but last week, something happened that nearly floored him.

“I was in shock,” he said. “I had to sit down.”

Smith was notified that he had been selected for this year’s Ford Ironman Triathlon on the Big Island.

“I didn’t know if I was going to be sick or faint,” he said. “I was frightened in a way. Now it’s up to me. I know it’s going to be a tough road.”

He had tried to qualify for the triathlon several times before and entered its lottery twice.

Nearly 6,600 athletes entered their names in this year’s lottery, the most in the program’s history. Only 200 of them were selected.

Outside of those who qualify in his age group, only one slot is given out.

Smith secured that spot.

The list was officially posted on the triathlon’s Web site Sunday. He logged on to double-check if the news was true.

“I looked for the Smiths because there’s only like a million of us,” he said.

And sure enough, his name was on the list.

Smith, a retired health inspector from California, was one step closer to a dream of doing the ultimate triathlon.

“Basically what I’m doing is chasing a dream,” Smith said. “I saw my first Ironman with my friend, Rex Burrell. He and I went over to the Big Island and I got bit. That was the end of it for me. I just can’t go watch it anymore. I want to be in it so badly.”

The Ironman is a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike race and a 26.2-mile run. The athletes have 17 hours to finish the race.

To this day, Smith has done 21 triathlons, which includes the Tin Man (2 hours, 25 minutes), Honu (7 hours and 35 minutes in the hot weather), Keahou-Kona (6 hours, 20 minutes) and the Lava Man (three hours, 15 minutes) races. Of the triathlons Smith completed, four of them were half the Ironman distance.

The next major step for Smith is to complete another race that is half the Ironman distance or one that is the full Ironman distance before the summer is over.

He will compete in the Honolulu Triathlon next month and another one in June.

“My main concerns are fighting injury, and maintaining the amount of training I need, and the biking portion of the race,” he said. “The biking is the longest part of the race and that’s what I’m weakest at.”

As far as injuries are concerned, Smith is worried about his knees and joints. Last year, he had surgery for a meniscus injury.

He currently has a pulled muscle in his leg.

Achieving this dream of running in the Ironman has been a team effort. His wife of 45 years, Barbara, has supported him in his decision.

“I wouldn’t dream of doing it without her support,” he said.

The two have discussed his near obsession with training many times over the years.

“You learn to go with it,” Barbara said. “We had two children and there had been times where he did marathons and just wasn’t around as often. You have to have an understanding that he has a dream and I have a dream. We’ve had many discussions and many compromises.”

She sometimes is a part of his training. Sometimes while Smith is swimming, she will be right along with him in a one-man canoe.

“One time he was swimming at Pine Trees and he was going, going, going, and he kept seeing this dark thing coming up on him,” she said. “He doesn’t seem bothered by the fish out there, but there was this something out there. Turns out it was the reef that was coming up on him and not anything else.”

This is Smith’s one shot at the Ironman.

“This’ll be it,” he said. “I’ve got this one shot at a dream, then we get to do that world tour. I’ve asked too much of Barbara and myself to come to this. (After this) we’ll be traveling. The sun is setting on my chance to do this. You better do it while you still can.”

Smith plans on spending some time on the Big Island to prepare for the race. He also might hire a trainer there.

The Ironman will be held on Oct. 13. The race begins at 6:45 a.m. for the pros and 7 a.m. for the age groups.

Dick Smith

Age: 65 years old

Residence: Hanalei

Family: Wife, Barbara; two children: Dianne Smith Soto and James Smith.

What’s up next: The Lava Man Triathlon (Olympic Distance) next month; Ford Ironman World Championship in October.

Smith sounds off on:

His dedication to the triathlon: “I’ve never been addicted to anything. If I do have an addiction, it’s probably to this one sport.”

An athlete’s diet: “I do eat junk food. I pretty much train on Starbucks coffee and a bagel.”

Wheaties vs. M&Ms: “I love M&Ms. They’re my Cheerios or Wheaties. Forget putting my pictures on the Wheaties box. Put my face on a bag of M&Ms.”

The Ironman

The course: A 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike race.

Where: Kailua-Kona, the Big Island. The swim segment begins and ends at Kailua Pier. The bike race travels north on the Kona Coast through scorching lava fields and then along the Kohala Coast to the small village of Hawi, and then returns along the same route to transition. The marathon course travels through Kailua-Kona and onto the same highway, the Queen Ka‘ahumanu used for the bike course. Contestants run back into Kailua-Kona, coming down Ali‘i Drive to the cheers of more than 20,000 spectators at the finish line.

Who: Nearly 1,800 competitors, from 49 countries and 51 states. Most qualify through the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Qualifying Event Series’ worldwide; more than 70,000 athletes enter one of the worldwide qualifying events annually.

This year, a record 6,579 athletes entered the Ironman lottery, which awards 150 slots to U.S. citizens, 50 slots to international athletes and five slots to physically challenged athletes.

The purse: A total prize purse of $580,000 is distributed among the top 10 male and female finishers. The first-place male and female finishers are rewarded $110,000, while the second place finishers both receive $55,000. For the first time in 2005, a total of $20,000 worth of Timex Ironman Watch bonuses were made available to athletes.

• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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