The final interview in the Spark Series is with Angela Kwong – one of Oahu’s most consistent faces at the Boston marathon in recent years and an Ironman triathlete!
Angela is definitely an example of longrunergy in action. With multiple Ironman finishes under her racing belt, Angela is first and foremost a dedicated and determined runner having completed 25 marathons, 3 of which were in full Ironman races. Angela has qualified for the historic Boston marathon every year since 2009 (and already has the qualifier 2017 in the bag), running her best time on the course in 2011 – 3:42:27. Angela is a huge supporter of local Hawaii events and is one of the most encouraging people out there, whether training or racing, Angela always has a loud cheer! It’s an honor to feature Angela in this series and I hope you enjoy reading more about her shift from non-athlete to Iron-wo-man, and why Angela keeps on running.
LRY: Let’s dive straight in to talking about your life as a runner. I know that Boston Marathon is a big high light every year in your running calendar – although I see that you are also hoping to run in the London marathon in 2017 (usually about a week after Boston)? What is it about the marathon that draws you back time and again?
AK: It looks like I will be running 3 marathon ‘majors’ in 2017: Boston, London (yes a week after Boson), and the New York Marathon – since I got a guaranteed slot. I will not miss that opportunity! I ran the New York marathon in 2011 and it’s my second favorite! What is it about the marathon that draws me back time and again? Really it’s not so much of the marathon itself that draws me back but a way to set goals, and the journey to achieve the goals. Friends I train with are a big part of drawing me to sign up for the next marathon as well.
LRY: Looking back – when did you first venture up to the marathon distance?
AK: Before 2005, my longest run was the Great Aloha Run, and I thought running 8 miles was like eternity. Then I heard about a certain marathon and that in order to run it, one has to qualify. I decided to use this to show my son (then 13) that in order to achieve a goal, we cannot just have a desire, we have to have discipline to follow a plan. I wanted to share with him that having discipline can be thought of as that moment when you don’t want to do the required work to achieve something – but you have to DO it – otherwise the moment will be gone. That was literally the reason why I ventured into marathon running, to qualify for Boston to show him that even I could do it even though at the time I had only ran 8 miles at most. I took me 4 years to qualify and he witnessed the whole process, including the time I had to crawl to the Honolulu Marathon finish in 2009 to qualify for the first time. I hope that left a positive mark on him.
LRY: There are so many different reasons why people run. Can you sum up in one sentence why you run?
AK: My sentence would be “Why not?” To me if I need a reason to run, I can also find a reason NOT to.
LRY: Triathlon seems to have been a big part of your athletic life for the last few years. What or who first persuaded you to start swimming and cycling and take up triathlon?
AK: I ventured into triathlon all because of a running injury! I had a MCL (medial collateral ligament) knee sprain and a small meniscus tear in 2011 and was ordered by my doctor not to run for 6-8 weeks. I decided to get a road bike to stay active. Then I saw videos and pictures on Facebook about an event called Ironman and some of the people I knew were actually going to do the crazy distance! I was very curious about the Ironman but thought that it would be absolutely impossible for me to even think about being part of such formidable event. I was not a cyclist nor a swimmer, and on top of that I would not swim more than 10 meters from shore, I had (still do actually but much more manageable) panic attacks when I swam far away from shore due to a dreadful ocean swim experience in the 80’s. Ironically, the fact that it seemed impossible was what made me take up swimming lessons, so that I could deal with the one thing that was a potential obstacle to me partaking in this formidable event. Eventually I signed up for my first sprint triathlon, the Na Wahine event. I think I came in third to last in the swim but to my huge surprise, as I was packing my stuff to go home when the race was over, I head that I actually took 3rd in my age group! I really thought they made a mistake! Well, triathlon since then has become a pretty big part of my life. I have done over 20 triathlons locally, nationally and internationally since my running injury in 2011.
LRY: There are so many awesome triathlon events to take part in across Hawaii but also outside the US – where else have you travelled to for a triathlon and what do you enjoy about competing abroad?
AK: I have travelled to California, Mexico and Brazil to partake in Ironman events. What I enjoy most about racing abroad is again the journey to get there, mainly the people I train with and that we get to travel together to explore, to race and eat, and have a beer or two away from the hustle and bustle of life. BUT the one thing I enjoy most is seeing the little children in each of the Ironman event who cheer us along the way. They love high-five ‘ing us along the course! I remember both in Cozumel, Mexico and Fortaleza, Brazil, children used homemade cowbells with soda can caps, and whatever else they could find to make noise. They jumped up and down in the streets under the hot sun with the sweetest smiles. I absolutely loved that. During the painful part of any race, I often think about the fact that if I can just inspire one kid while I am out there, it is worth all the pain in the world and it really keeps me moving towards the finish. It’s almost as if I don’t want to let them down by quitting.
LRY: Longrunergy is about ‘the long run lifestyle’. Do you have any advice for people who are trying to establish an active lifestyle?
AK: I don’t think having an active lifestyle has to be something monumental, my advice is to start off with something small – you don’t even have to leave home to start having an active lifestyle e.g. do air squats while brushing your teeth. Or do lunges walking around the house for a few minutes. Another idea is to set an egg timer of a period of time, say 30 mins, and each time it goes off, do 10 push ups/jumping jacks or burpees etc. Or do some bicep curls while watching TV. You can really get creative even when it appears that you don’t have time. Then eventually one day, you might venture out side to take advantage of our beautiful state and weather. Our health is one of the most precious commodities – take care of it. It’s never to late to start being active.
LRY: Motivation is often a big factor when it comes to fitting in workouts, the longs run or bike rides and swims that are needed for endurance events. What gets you out’ the door on a day when you’d rather stay home?
AK: I work in the medical field and often see patients and residents in long-term care homes who are immobile, or in pain and they frequently tell me how they wish they could do what I get to do, instead of sitting in a wheelchair etc. So what motivates me is simply: “ Today I GET to train, yay!” That gets me out of the house immediately the moment I dread a long and hard workout.
LRY: As a triathlete, which is your favourite discipline, the swim, bike or run? How do you approach training for the discipline that is your least favourite?
AK: I love them all so I don’t have a least favorite. Swimming is the most challenging discipline to me and that is my favourite right now because I know the potential to get better is limitless – as long as I keep working! Interestingly, there are actually two other disciplines in triathlon: nutrition and REST. I need to do better at taking rest and sleep more!
LRY: Who do you look to for inspiration within the Hawaii triathlon/ endurance/ athletic community?
AK: The best thing about doing triathlon in Hawaii is the Hawaii triathlon community. In fact, I would call it the Hawaii triathlon ohana. I cannot even begin to name names. Groups like Boca, Team Jet, Pacific Fitness Design, HR training, Tri Fitness, Triple Fit, Simmons Endurance Coaching etc all have coaches and athletes who inspire me – day in and day out.
LRY: You’ve finished the longest bike ride of your life – what are the first things you want to eat and drink?!
AK: After finishing a LONG bike ride, eating is actually the last thing I want to do when I get off the bike. I eat so much on the bike that I often don’t have an appetite until the next day (next day I eat like a horse)! But I often have a craving for chicken soup right after an Ironman race. At the finish of my first Ironman in Cozumel, everyone was eating pizza but I had 5 cups of noodles. I inhaled all the soup!
LRY: Where can we expect to see you racing over the rest of 2016?
AK: I did the Boston and Tokyo Marathon earlier on this year and so I’m now switching gears to triathlon. First I have the Vineman Ironman July 30th in California and then the Kona Ironman World Championships on October 8th.
LRY: If there was something you could tell your younger self – what would that be?
AK: This sums it up:
“On this road called life, you have to take the good with the bad, smile with the sad, love what you got, and remember what you had. Always forgive, but never forget. People change. Things go wrong. But just remember, the rides go on…” Tim McGraw.
A slow race is not a bad race. Maintain an ‘attitude of gratitude’ in life and especially when you’re going through the toughest patches of a race. All races are experiences and they often involve self discovery. Savor each race, and the friends you make along the way.
LRY: Whoa. Thanks Angela. Sound advice and perfect timing with the summer triathlon season starting to heat up. Best of luck for your race at the Vineman and then also in Kona! We’ll be cheering!
Thanks for reading the summer Spark Series of interviews. If you’ve enjoyed the series I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! It’s been great to hear from five of Hawaii’s best local athletes – only a small selection of the active endurance running and triathlon community across the island – but I hope you’ll agree it was awesome to read how a few simple ingredients (namely consistency, discipline and having fun with your friends and training group) can result in amazing opportunities and transformative experiences.
Next up on longrunergy – preparing for the Honolulu Marathon – tips and advice… watch this space!
As always, wishing you Happy Trails!