I attended the Ironman 70.3 Hawai‘i this past weekend, fondly known here on the Big Island as The Honu. The race is an Ironman triathlon qualifier, starting with a 1.2 mile swim at Hapuna Beach (the ‘Au ‘Au Kai), which transitions to a 56 mile bike to Hawi (the Paikikala), and ends with a 13.1 mile run (the Holo Holo) on the grounds of the Mauna Lani Resort, finishing at the Fairmont Orchid’s Turtle Point.
It’s physically grueling under the best of circumstances, and to witness the human tenacity, strength and endurance of the athletes who participate on both the professional and amateur level is incredibly inspiring.
Raceday 2012 will go in the record books as the year The Honu was won by Lance Armstrong: Both Armstrong and 2nd place finisher Greg Bennett broke the previous course record set by Chris McCormack despite what most are calling “the toughest conditions in the event’s storied past.” (McCormack chose to compete in Cairns this weekend). Top female finisher Linsey Corbin set a new record as well, beating the time previously set by Michellie Jones in 2005.
Taking notice: A camaraderie of professional calibre
I try to make it to the event whenever I can. It’s convenient, just minutes from my home, and it’s smaller than the Ironman World Championship each October, achieving a much more intimate feel overall. The venue is spring-to-summertime beautiful, with the island feel you’d expect, and the event is quite remarkable in the professional partnership apparent between Ironman Hawai‘i, their partners, and the Fairmont Orchid as staging host. Event execution is exceptional, and I daresay spectator comfort can’t be beat!
No surprise then, that the field of athletes is always very impressive as well. Now in its ninth year, the Honu has matured from a local Olympic distance race of 227 competitors to an international 70.3 event that drew a record field of 1,980 triathletes this time. It’s a great event to be part of, whether as athlete, supportive friends and family (who turn out in good number, despite the expense), volunteer staff, or lucky spectator, as I was.
One of the things I consistently take notice of, is the wonderful camaraderie which exists among the professional athletes, before, during, and after the race. It is clear that they admire and respect each other, and no less important, they genuinely like each other. The Honu is a place to bear witness to HO‘OHANOHANO in action, when true professionals will “conduct themselves with distinction.”
Make no mistake, they are competitive, and they do compete against each other, with fierce determination. The stakes are clear: Only the top 50 male, and top 30 female pros in the Kona Pro Ranking system will qualify to race in the Kona Ironman World Championship. No one gets a free pass: Even Armstrong, who won the Tour de France each year from 1999 to 2005, is scheduled to race a 140.6-mile full Ironman event June 24th in Nice, France, in his quest to earn enough points to qualify for the world championship here on October 13th.
How do professional triathletes achieve this blending of fierce competition and genuine camaraderie?
Camaraderie is defined as “mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.” These athletes travel from event to event; they hark from all over the world, and their time spent together is predominantly while in competition. When I ask them about their experiences, many will say it’s their individual time away from the competition itself, and preparing for races which defines them; they claim their character gets groomed by regimen, and by how they train. It gives them a mental edge, not just a physical one.
It is the investment in self we have recently spoken of: The more their mastery of self, the more they will hold their own when they compete, and when they converse with each other. They will be able to be with each other, and put the competitive pressure aside, or in a place where it can better reside within them. Their “Language of We” isn’t a language of competitive success as much as one of shared effort in the work they have in common as triathletes — improving themselves enough to compete on a professional and international level.
The competition which seems more important to these professional athletes, is that which we speak of in Managing with Aloha most often: This appears with KŪLIA I KA NU‘U, the value of achievement within excellence:
Competition itself is not a goal
“The Alaka‘i Nalu became extremely committed to supporting each other as they pursued excellence. Kūlia i ka nu‘u is a reminder that competition serves no purpose if its only goal is to leave someone else behind. Kūlia i ka nu‘u reminds you to strive to be your best, not just better than someone else. It calls for some introspection, being sure that you are not your biggest obstacle. If you must compete, compete against your previous self; improve.”
You can see my 19-photo Flickr set of my day here. I settled for iPhone snaps with Instagram filters this time, yet I do believe they will share the feeling of my day with you. [These are from 2010, when Tim DeBoom won 1st in the field.] The official website of The Honu is here.
Start the conversation:
I share this with you today, as an example of the easiest workplace culture building there is. Events happen around us constantly, and what Alaka‘i Managers will do, is take notice of some value component within what occurs. They’ll be sure to talk about their observations with their team, as I’m doing with you here, and they’ll ask simple questions: What about us? What happens when we compete? Do you think our camaraderie is visible and admirable too? How are we like professional athletes, and how do we differ? What can we learn? What can we use in getting better?
They will ask people on their team to please, speak up, and be heard.
While at the Hualalai Resort, we called these conversation starters our ‘Ohana Mālama. Give a name to those talking story conversations that will be your own value-mapping culture builders. Then look around you, take notice of values in action, huddle up, and have your talks begin.
Ho‘ohanohano is thought of as the value of respect and self-respect, for it teaches us to honor the dignity of others, while we conduct ourselves with distinction, honor, and integrity as well. Hanohano is a glorious dignity, and to Ho‘o is to make it happen! We honor the intelligence of others, and we seek to learn from them. We ourselves aspire to be as upright in character and as trustworthy as we can possibly be. Short and sweet, this is the value of good, and noble behavior.