Aloha from Hawai'i! We all know "aloha" as the traditional Hawaiian greeting, but there's much more than a simple "hi" packed into the literal meaning of the word. It comes from the root words "alo" meaning "sharing" and "in the present," and "oha" meaning "joy" and "ha" meaning "life energy." Aloha, therefore means: "joyfully sharing life."
The Aluminum Man Biathlon Series in Maui is exactly that.
It's 8 a.m. Easter morning and I'm standing in a circle holding hands with about 40 other people... clad in Speedos and board shorts, goggles and snorkels on Polo Beach in south Maui.
An amazingly fit woman in a hot pink bikini and hot pink lipstick leads the ceremony.
"Welcome to the Aluminum Man!" she exclaims. "This race is fun. We're nice to each other."
"The swim leg is twice around the three orange buoys," she says, "But if you only want to do one lap, that's fine!"
"And on the run course, the Easter Bunny has hidden 200 Easter eggs. We have a special prize for the person who finds the most eggs. And now, let's start the race with a moment of silence, meditation and peace."
OK, so the Aluminum Man is not exactly the Hawaii Ironman. That race (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run) takes place every October on the Big Island of Hawaii. Nowadays, the race is sponsored by Ford, there is an international series and the entry fee is $550.
Then there's the Aluminum Man. Orange buoys mark the swim course and a PowerBar tent marks the finish line, but that's where the similarity ends. The Aluminum Man is the "Not So Serious Series" organized by Nancy Robberson and her husband Jami Kimmel. Seven times a year, a random collection of people gather on a Sunday at 8 a.m. on one of Maui's beautiful beaches for the event. It usually consists of a half-mile ocean swim over colorful reef fish and a three-to-four-mile run through spectacular island scenery. There is no entry fee and no timing system. And there are no awards, unless you count the door prizes that participants contribute themselves. I make sure to do an Aluminum man every time I come to Maui. One year I did the race on Valentine's Day and there was a special prize for giving the most kisses to fellow racers during the run. Those were some pretty wet, sloppy and salty kisses, as I recall.
The Aluminum Man is actually a loving tribute to Nancy and Jami's late friend, Jaiom Berger, whose life ended tragically in 1998 when he was struck by a drunken driver. He was a fixture on the Hawaiian triathlon scene, entertaining spectators by crossing the finish line of a marathon in a perfect handstand and completing a 5K by running backwards the entire way. Nancy and Jami have been sharing Aluminum Man with anyone who wants to show up ever since.
After the moment of peace, we plunge into the warm ocean. Jami is patrolling the waters in a sea kayak. Look, there's a honu (sea turtle)! I try to observe fish and swim fast at the same time. I've decided to use my flippers, so I actually come out of the water right behind Nancy. But she takes off on the run like a jackrabbit. Rather than futilely attempting to catch her, I focus on spotting Easter Eggs while I run. We run past a church and a woman walking out says to me, "You're an inspiration."
Not me, I'm just running, I think. Nancy and Jami are a true inspiration in the way they honor their friend's spirit and share their passion for multi-sport with others.
Nancy, who is the Energizer Bunny incarnate, almost always finishes first so that she can be at the finish line to cheer in every participant. There she is in her hot pink bikini.
"Great job, Pam!" she yells. "Way to go girl!"
"Jaiom's spirit touched everyone," Nancy recalls, "and we want to continue spreading his love and joy for life through the Aluminum Man Series. If spiritual pursuits are your passion and exercise is your meditation, then I promise you will experience some form of 'alumination' during the Aluminum Man. If not, then at the very least you will have gotten some endorphins out of the deal."
According to the old kahunas (priests), when you live the spirit of Aloha, you create positive feelings and thought which multiply and spread to others. What better way to do that than with endorphins in paradise? Mahalo, Nancy and Jami.