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Fear, Perseverance and Strawberry Waffles

October 10, 2019, 4:58 PM HST
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Monica Price will compete in her first VEGA IRONMAN World Championship Saturday. PC: Monica Price

Monica Price swims more frequently than she used to.

And every so often, as she’s knifing through miles of Kona’s nearshore waters, the words “strawberry waffles” dart through her mind. The 47-year-old triathlete laughs every time. She just can’t help herself.

What started as a favorite meal became a meditative mantra that helped Price get to where she is now, the precipice of her first VEGA IRONMAN World Championship event.

Price acknowledged the veracity of a long-held belief among the general sporting public: If you actively desire to compete in an IRONMAN event, you simply have to be a little crazy.

Most people run from their fears, albeit not as effectively as a triathlete might. But Price prefers to run toward them, which is why she’s racing in the first place.


A sports conditioning coach by trade, Price practices and teaches mental conditioning to negotiate the emotional obstacles inherent to any monumental physical feat — like, for instance, finishing an IRONMAN triathlon. Perhaps the most crucial element to this, she said, is coping with fear.


That’s precisely what Price had to do with her fear of the ocean to even make it to the starting line this upcoming Saturday, let alone the finish.

“I had to learn how to swim,” Price said. “I wasn’t going to drown or anything, but I don’t know if you’d even call what I do (now) swimming.”

A 14-year resident of Hawai‘i Island, Price has been dreaming about racing in the World Championship for nearly all that time. But the problem posed by the Pacific proved almost too much to conquer.


The only way to get past it was to adapt in any way she could.

“I was afraid of the ocean floor, and I would say ‘strawberry waffles’ over and over again to distract myself,” she laughed. “I would say it in my head. I would say it underwater. I would say it to the fish.”

Putting in work

Price mostly just savors strawberry waffles now, rather than talking about them incessantly with animals that can’t understand her. Although, under her current training regimen, she’s scaled back a bit.

Six training days and 22 hours per week has been the standard schedule for Price leading up to the race, with a financial investment of roughly $10,000 including the purchase of a new, triathlon-appropriate bicycle.

The effort required to earn a spot in the World Championship for local residents can often feel like running into a brick wall over and again, as Price found out over the last decade.

A single mother to a high school-aged daughter, traveling to qualify for the event is difficult for Price. Every year, IRONMAN offers a lottery into the World Championship for island residents through its IRONMAN 70.3 (Honu) competition on Hawai‘i Island. People can also qualify based on their performance in the race.

“I think people who do something like this, any sort of huge challenge, I think our mindset is a little bit different,” she said. “(It’s about) being unwilling to give up.”

For a decade, Price has tried to qualify as part of the lottery and via the race. And for a decade, she kept smashing into that brick wall.

She nearly did give up. Then, this year, everything changed.

“I almost didn’t put my name in this year,” she said. “I thought, ‘What the heck?’ and I did it on the last day.”

Price didn’t just win one of the 20 lottery spots after years of hoping — she also qualified by way of performance for her first VEGA IRONMAN World Championship ever. She has completed six IRONMAN 70.3 events in the past.

Staci Studer, Monica Price and Britt Bailey after a bike session in Kailua-Kona. Price will compete in her first VEGA IRONMAN World Championship this weekend. PC: Monica Price

“I’m nervous and beyond excited,” she said of Saturday’s event. “I’m loving the comradery with the other Hawai‘i athletes. It’s definitely a dream come true.”

Arriving at the 2019 World Championship was the journey, Price said. Now, it’s time for the reward.

That, she explained, is the ideal mindset for any competitor, and the one she plans to bring with her Saturday morning.

“You want to get to the start line and have it be like the icing on the cake,” she said. “All the hard work and sacrifice is already done. This is my reward, and I’m going to give everything I have. I’ve got the mindset that this is going to be the best day ever. No matter what happens, it doesn’t matter.”

That said, Price still has goals. She hopes to cap the swim in around an hour and ten minutes. She’s looking to spend around six hours on the bike course and will shoot for a four-hour marathon on the race’s last leg.

While confident in her preparation, she’ll also be looking to her supporters for motivation. They will line various portions of the track clad in specially-made “Team IRONMONICA” garb.

“I am incredibly grateful because I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support of the (Kona Crew Business Networking International) group and my friends and family here,” Price said. “There’s no way I’d be at the start line without them.”

“There’s so much support that I didn’t even know I had,” she continued. “We live in such an amazing community.”

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