LIHU‘E — Dick Smith’s dream of becoming an Ironman fell nine miles short of the finish line Saturday night in Kona.
The 70-year-old retiree from Hanalei was forced to withdraw from the ultra-triathalon around 9 p.m. at the 17-mile marker of the marathon — the Ironman’s final leg — due to blood blisters on his feet. The race must be completed by midnight.
Blisters also knocked Smith out of the Ironman in his first attempt in 2007, when Smith retired four miles short.
“I was doing really well up to that point,” Smith said. “Then I hit that point and I thought ‘Oh my. I can’t believe it’s starting to happen again.’”
Smith said once he noticed the blisters on his feet he stopped at the next available aid station. There, a doctor took a look at Smith’s feet and wrapped them with moleskin. Smith tried to continue on, but the pain was even worse with the wrap. He then decided to withdraw from the race.
“I didn’t want to destroy myself,” he said. “I didn’t want to end up on crutches and not be able to walk at all. It had been fun up until then.”
Smith said before the blisters appeared, he was having a great race. After the 2.4 mile opening swim, Smith was in sixth-place in the 70-74 age group. The group featured 24 competitors from around the world.
The 112-mile bike ride was the toughest portion for Smith, but he still managed to complete that leg ahead of schedule.
Smith said he wanted to have 7 hours to complete the marathon. After finishing the bike portion, Smith had 7 hours and 15 minutes.
During the marathon, Smith said he alternated between walking and running. He said he believes it was the walking that eventually did him in.
“My coach thinks with the walking, I was using a part of my foot that I haven’t been training on,” Smith said.
Despite dedicating nearly a year to training and putting life on hold in order to finish the Ironman, Smith said he’s in a much better place than he was following the 2007 race.
In both races, his failure to finish wasn’t something he could have trained any harder for, he said.
“Certainly I’m disappointed,” he said. “But I was much more able to accept it. Lots of people went down before me. I saw bike accidents and people passing out on the run. There’s no guarantee in this race.”
Smith said he will continue to compete in triathlons and other competitions, but he won’t attempt another Ironman. For the past 10 months his life — and his wife Barbara’s — has been on hold, and starting Thursday, the Smiths will begin to enjoy post-Ironman life.
“We’re retired and we should be enjoying life,” Smith said. “For the past 10 months I’ve been seeking this insane dream. We’re heading to the Mainland for vacation.”