The Ironman World Championships in Kona may be the most exclusive event in Hawaii, with over 80,000 athletes fighting for spots in a field of almost 2,000 people.
This year, three of those 2,000 participants will be from Kauai.
Joe Kali, Brandon Jacinto and Mary Castelanelli will represent Kauai in the 35th annual Ironman World Championships in Kona on Saturday.
The 140.6-mile course, which is located smack dab in the middle of lava fields on the westside of the Big Island, comprises of three sections: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.
Kali, a 28-year-old Anahola resident, is the only one of the three to qualify outright for the Championships after his performance in Ironman New Zealand on March 2.
“When I found out that qualified for the Ironman World Championships, I literally broke down,” said Kali. “It’s kind of seen like your dreams or your goals unravel in front of you. It’s beyond the clouds.”
For Jacinto and Castelanelli, they took a different route to earn entry, the state of Hawaii lottery.
Fitting the criteria of participating in at least one Ironman race (half or full) in 2013 and residing in Hawaii for at least two years, Jacinto and Castelanelli were able to claim two of the 20 state slots.
Jacinto, a 28-year-old lifeguard for the County of Kauai, was selected after being in the Ironman state lottery three times.
“When I found out I got picked, I was super excited,” said Jacinto. “It always was my biggest goal to get into this race. I already knew Joe got in, so I was stoked we could race together.”
Castelnelli, on the other hand, was selected on her first go around.
After finishing the Kona Half-Ironman in June, the 28-year-old math and science teacher at Island School was selected.
“I definitely screamed a little,” said Castelnelli, on how she felt when she was notified about being selected. “Not sure if it was out of excitement, fear or from being surprised. I think a combination of all three.”
And for good reason.
Not only will this be Castelnelli’s first full Ironman, but it will be Jacinto’s first as well.
“I’m nervous,” said Castelnelli. “I’m really nervous, but I’m excited.”
Jacinto is sharing the same nervousness as Castelnelli but explained that it hasn’t completely registered.
“I checked the calendar and it’s this Saturday,” said Jacinto. “It’s kind of hit me, but it’ll probably hit me more once I fly and touch down in Kona.”
For Kali, this will be his 11th triathlon and his second Ironman.
“The Ironman event is probably the toughest of all triathlons I ever did,” said Kali. “There is no comparison for an Ironman triathlon. Other triathlons, like the Half-Ironmans, Olympic distance triathlons and sprint triathlons you can kind of wing it so to speak, but there is no winging an Ironman.”
Kali, Jacinto and Castelanelli have all been juggling full-time jobs, significant others and families on top of their training regimens, which for each of them totals roughly around 25 hours per week.
Saturday’s Ironman will put a cap on months of training for all three and all of them are itching to get out and compete.
“This event means a lot to me,” said Jacinto. “It’s the Super Bowl of triathlon racing and I feel honored and privileged to be part of it.”
Jacinto, Castelanelli and Kali’s main goal in Saturday’s Ironman is just to finish.
“I just want to finish it and enjoy the experience,” said Castelanelli. “Of course I have a time I’m looking to get, but this is not only my first full Ironman, it is one of the toughest Ironmans because of the heat.”
Jacinto understands the hype and will try to keep himself under control on Saturday.
“I know the race will be crazy,” said Jacinto. “My emotions will probably be going through the roof but I know I have to keep things in check and relax and have fun.”
Kali echoed Castelanelli and Jacinto and is intending to give Saturday his all.
“My first goal is just to finish … but I’m trying to put up a respectable time to me,” said Kali. “I am planning on not leaving anything behind. I want to be completely exhausted when I finish this knowing that I left everything out on the field.”
Coverage of Saturday’s Ironman World Championships will begin at 6 a.m. on Ironman.com. The male pros will take to the water at 6:30 a.m. with the female pros to follow five minutes later. The age group fields will begin at 7 a.m.
• Tyson Agbayani, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.