As our 10 NYX athletes prepare for the 2022 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind or introduce you to the legends that echo through this unique biosphere. No matter your sensitivity to the energetic currents of the world, anyone who has been to the Big Island of Hawaii knows that this beautiful and rugged land of aloha is indeed enchanted. And therefore we are inclined to issue a gentle caution, a mere suggestion to approach this race from a slightly different angle.
Pele is the fire goddess of the volcanos and as such, she is both the creator and destroyer of the land. While tales of her fiery temperament penetrate far deeper into the psyche of the island than our single-day event, Ironman has it’s own mythic entanglement with the volcano goddess. After coming up short in 7 straight years to his rival Dave Scott, Mark Allen approached the 1989 Ironman World Championship with a plan to turn around his misfortune. The night before the race, he brought a sacrifice to Pele in order to pay his respect, resulting in the iconic Iron War, where Mark Allen pulled ahead of Dave Scott in the final miles to claim his first world championship title. Pele is said to appreciate gifts such as gin and berries if you feel so inclined to hedge your bets.
But the folklore of Hawaii expands far beyond a cautious approach.
The theme of the 2022 World Championship is the Hawaiian phrase Kū Like. Here’s how Ironman interprets it:
“Kū Like – Stand Together:
In times of hardship, when our struggle is greatest and we feel unable to surmount life’s impossible challenges, it is not because we failed. It is because the impossible was never meant to be overcome alone. We find strength when we kū like, stand together. When we stand together, we find that our bodies become stronger, the fierceness of our spirits become greater, our will becomes indomitable, and the idea of impossible disappears.”
Hawaii, in conjunction with this legendary race, always seems to present an invitation, if we are willing to rise to the challenge. It asks us to forfeit our limited capacities of exerting our individual will and to endure with, rather than against the energetic immensities of the island. It may be difficult for us to hand over our sense of control. After all, our will, it seems, is what has gotten us this far. We carried ourselves out of states of inertia, resisted the demands from our outer lives such as family and work obligations, as well as the demands from our inner lives: those well-intentioned protective mechanisms fighting to keep us safe and small and stuck. But resistance is an energetic tax on our systems, one that doesn’t hold up well if we are trying to resist the forces of Madame Pele.
One of the fundamental truths about languages is that they are not directly transferable from one to another. They are far too entangled in the culture and the environment from which they originated. So instead of plucking a phrase out of its animating habitat, a method which is as similarly myopic as trying to understand a fish without water, here it is in the context of a Hawaiian song:
LEI ANA MAUNAKEA I KA ‘OHU
na Ānuenue Pūnua
Of course we are still missing even greater contexts such as land and ancestry, but let us imagine, with full-bodied sensitivity rather than literal translation, what it could be like to stand not just together, but in the presence of another. And as the elemental forces are far too vast to be resisted, the invitation of the Big Island presents itself: to seek not simply to overcome, but to merge; to find a reciprocity between effort and surrender; and to be like a fish, wholly integrated in these enchanted, energetic currents.