The Around the Island Adventure

Due to financial and time constraints, triathlete Casey McGraw couldn’t make it to an Ironman competition this year.

This wasn’t a huge letdown because McGraw made his own.

After months of planning and training, McGraw and fellow triathletes Leo McCarthy and Travis Parker completed what they called  the “Around the Island Adventure.”

In simpler terms, the “adventure” was about a 100 mile journey around Kaua‘i that took the three men over 15 hours on trail, ocean and highway in search of the personal satisfaction that only completing a mega-triathlon can provide.

“We all love our sport but the thing is the that Ironmans are really expensive and you have to travel very far to get to them,” McGraw said. “We had occasionally talked about doing one all the way around the island and since I couldn’t do an Ironman this year I set a date.”

On Aug. 6 the three men began the quest with a 11 mile run along the Kalalau Trail heading to the Na Pali Coast. At the end of the trail they met up with an escort kayaker who watched over as they swam over eight miles along the Na Pali coast. Following the end of the swim, a five mile mountain bike ride through trails awaited before they were greeted with road bikes and another 75 miles of asphalt.

The first step was at 5:08 a.m. and the last pedal was at 9:12 p.m.

Over a week later, all three men are still recovering from the exhaustive quest.

“The soreness is interesting,” McGraw said. “It takes about 24 hours to set in. I woke up the next morning feeling great and loose but by the evening I was starting to stiffen up like the tin man.”

And that’s just McGraw.

On the beginning leg on the trail, McCarthy sprained his ankle and is still having trouble moving around.

Parker had the worst luck. He thought he suffered the brunt of his day in the ocean. Parker said he had never swam a distance that long before, and midway through he was getting a mix of fatigue and sea-sickness. But he endured and thought he was in the clear with only a couple of miles remaining. But that’s when his bike tire fell into a crack running parallel with the road. Once at speeds close to 30 m.p.h., Parker’s bike suddenly halted, flipping him over the handlebars. He hit the ground hard, splitting his helmet before smashing his shoulder blades into the pavement.

Parker, an emergency medical physician, thought his day was over, just a mere two miles from the end.

“I felt that my shoulder was out and figured I should just get in the car and go get checked out,” Parker said. “But the guys were able to fix my bike and help me back on. Then we finished and then went straight to the ER.”

Parker later found out he had broken his clavicle and had surgery to repair a few days later.

“I was going relatively good all day, but that was just the last test the island had for me,” Parker said.

The Island proved to be a strong test for all three men, as Kaua‘i tested the physical and mental toughness of those attempting to conquer it. Luckily, as opposed to a traditional triathlon which is every man for himself, Parker, McCarthy and McGraw could depend on each other. If one member began to struggle, the others would keep tabs and slow the pace and offer encouragement. In other cases they used their numbers to their advantage.

On the run, they ran in a single file line, the strongest runner took the lead and dealt with the navigation and the elements. The weakest runner at the time fell into the second spot, still keeping pace but not having to lead or worry of being third and falling back.

They used a similar strategy on the bikes — when one person led, the others fell in line and used a drafting technique to cut down on wind resistance.

By the end of the day, all three men could take solace knowing that at least two others understood what it meant to complete the challenge.

“To say you shared this moment with someone else that can relate to what you were feeling adds a lot to our friendship,” McGraw said.

“For me the favorite part of the day was running and swimming by all of these beautiful deserted beaches and being able to share it with good friends,” Parker added.

And while it may not have had the flash or flare of a sanctioned triathlon such as the Ironman, McCarthy, who has completed both the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona and the Exterra World Championship in Kihei, said the Around the Island Adventure ranked up there with the best of them.

“I’ve finished a lot of triathlons where they should have felt meaningful at the end but for some reason haven’t,” McCarthy said. “This one was tremendously meaningful.”

All three men said they would consider doing the feat again, but for now, they’ll continue to ice down their wounds and enjoy the memory of the day that they went all the way around the island.

• Tyson alger, Sports Editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or talger@thegardenisland.com.

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