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  Ironmen Ready

Article courtesy of...

Ironmen ready to be sent off to Hawaii

By: Mike Takeuchi
September 28, 2007 8:44 AM

Since Joe Howell started the Ironman Sendoff Party 13 years ago, I still chuckle at the word "sendoff" because of the pleasant connotation attached to it. Much like the soothing way "Bellevue" is said in old movies when describing the New York mental hospital, it is a contradiction in terms.

Because as many know, the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run triathlon held in Kona is a brutal race on a hot and windy godforsaken course. It is by no means a pleasure cruise. But, spoken from experience, the Ironman World Championships is the Holy Grail of triathlons that many seek.

And this year, three locals -- Vic Birtalan, Andrew Maxwell, and Dan McCluskey -- are up to the challenge. Tonight at 6 p.m., the local community will be able to send them off in style at the East Beach Grill (1119 E. Cabrillo Boulevard).

With a no-host bar and great food, it is a nice evening to just socialize. In addition to the glowing words bestowed by friends and family, the event is also a roast of sorts for the feted that is guaranteed to be entertaining.

SPEAKING OF KONA: While on the Big Island (sigh) last week, upon former local and current Kona resident Jackie Hoffman's suggestion, I went to try some "revolutionary" Zura Alpha swimming fins. What I got was a very fascinating lesson on the art of swimming fast by a recently inducted swimming hall of famer.

As I reached the house above town, Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen was instructing what appeared to be a decent Master's swimmer in an Endless Pool, a modern-day swimming treadmill. When she explained that this was the guy's third swimming lesson, I was shocked.

Pipes-Neilsen, who has set over 162 Master's world swim records and bettered several NCAA (Division II) marks when she was in her mid-30s, was elected into the Master's Swimming Hall of Fame earlier this year. She is also an enthusiastic coach with a passion for swimming. She and her husband Eric (who is also racing Ironman) own the Aquatic Edge coaching service (aquaticedge.org).

Despite the pouring rain, Pipes- Neilsen clearly explained that a shoulder shift that emphasizes the front part of the stroke while lessening the back or pull part, swimmers can move through the water backwards. While revolutionary here, the technique has been used for years by the Australian national swim team and preached by longtime coach Ron Johnson. While I am not ready to abandon my doggie paddle stroke, I was fascinated.

As for the Zura fins (zura.com), I found them light and powerful enough to buy them. If I could use them at a race, I would come out of retirement.

Contact Mike Takeuchi by email at irontak@yahoo.com