Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without you. It got pretty dark by the back end of the run, both actually and metaphorically. The cloud obscuring the full moon plunged all of us stragglers heading down to the Energy Lab into near blackness—lack of street lights and a pot-holed road don’t make a great running combination.
There are no spectators on this part of the Ironman course, just an occasional athlete appearing out of the gloom on their return leg from the turnaround, a glow stick around their neck dimly lighting their way.
I passed a sign stating that competitors continued at their own risk—as if someone would read that and decide to not proceed.
Why was I putting myself through this again?
It’s Kona, the Ironman World Championship, I kept reminding myself. A once a lifetime opportunity (for me, at least). I can’t not finish!
I swear the only flat section in Kona is the swim. When you combine the never-ending rolling hills, a climb up the side of a volcano, with temperatures touching ninety-nine degrees Fahrenheit (37°C), eighty-plus percent humidity, and a relentless wind that always feels like it’s in your face, it makes for a relentless grind. A fifteen-plus hour relentless grind, in my case.
As I resorted to power-walking the last thirteen miles of the run—the hill on the Queen K highway that just kept going and going, runners snaking into the distance, finally got the better of me—I knew I was in for a slog.
The course at Kona is distinctive in that the swim and bike are an out and back; usually, the swim at an Ironman would be two or even three loops (likewise for the bike).
Seeing buoys stretching for one point two miles into the distance brought home how long a swim it is. Driving our rental car to the bike turnaround at Hawi took well over an hour. For the first time, one hundred and twelve miles was starting to feel a long way.
But the run course, well, that’s a labyrinthian route. It heads off in one direction through the town, to a turnaround, then back towards Kona, a climb up to the Queen K, and then along the highway to a turnaround that loops back along the Queen K before dropping down to the Energy Lab and another u-turn that brings you back up to the Queen K and the last leg back to town for the finish.
Driving and riding parts of the run course had failed to bring home the near-constant rolling hills and climbs I now faced.
My usually good spirits had gone the way of the dodo. As night descended, it became a battle of sheer willpower to put one foot in front of the other. Yet, I couldn’t let all of you down, everyone that has supported me over these last three years. All of you that were following my progress live through the tracker app. Justin, who had flown to Kona to volunteer as my handler. Kerry, who was patiently waiting at the finish line.
It’s in these moments that we’ll do more for others than we’d do for ourselves. If it’d just been me racing out there, I’d have packed it in at mile twelve on the run, sat down on the side of the road, and called it a day. But it wasn’t just me racing out there; all of you were with me in spirit. I couldn’t let myself down; I couldn’t let you down.
So, when I finally heard those immortal words, “Keiron McCammon, you are an Ironman,” from the voice of Ironman, Mike Riley (who retired last year), I knew it wasn’t just me who was an Ironman. You, too, are an Ironman.
It’s been a decade-long dream come true, and thanks to all of you, I raised $140,600 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. That’s $1,000 for every mile of the race!
Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.