Organizer optimistic Kona biathlons will start back up in July

  • Peaman, left, is pictured with Ben Finestone, right, who was honored with the Perpetual Pea Award in March. (Rani Henderson/Hawaii Sport Events)

  • RANI HENDERSON/West Hawaii Today Peaman, right, holds his Whirled Champeanship Biathlon at Kaiakeakua Beach last December.

While it has been three months since the last Peaman Biathlon event was held at Kaiakeakua Beach, Frozen Pea Productions event organizer, Peaman, feels optimistic the popular swim-runs will be up and running again in the months to come.

“It’s been really weird to not have events happening,” Peaman said of not organizing his April and May biathlon event. “I’m really hoping that our July event will be on and back to normal.”

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Since mid-March, all sporting events on the Big Island have either been postponed or canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing requirements and shelter-in-place mandates have made it illegal for any groups larger than 10 people to gather at any time. And while access to the ocean was allowed, people could not gather and linger on beach shorelines. This made it a no-go for Peaman Biathlons, which are held at Kaiakeakua Beach.

Peaman’s optimism came several days earlier in the week when there were no new COVID-19 cases on the island and the overall low count statewide. As the state and Hawaii County slowly takes steps to reopen the economy in phases, so is the hope of Peaman Biathlons returning to the sports calendar.

“Everything hinges on the state in terms of DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) and DOBOR (Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation),” Peaman said. “My hope is to get a permit from the State DLNR and DOBOR in July, as the state continues to open things up in phases for larger gatherings, then we will be good to go. So everything is up to them. When they approve our permit for the next event, then we will be back running as normal.”

The monthly Peaman Biathlon events have been a staple on the Big Island for the last 32 years offering a free, fun, family-oriented swim in Kailua Bay followed by a short run on Alii Drive. The event is geared for all fitness levels, with participants ranging from beginners to professional athletes with several divisions offered to include just about everyone.

Peaman, who is a four-time Ironman World Championship finisher, added that in all 32 years of biathlons, there has never been an event canceled.

“We actually showed up to every single one and we were able to put it on,” Peaman said. “I remember that big giant earthquake that happened right before the Ironman PATH run (in 2006). The PATH run still happened when there was no power and everyone had to run up to Kuakini because there might be a tsunami. So even through a giant earthquake, the PATH run still happened with Ironman happening a week later.”

Peaman shared his insight on how his event might be organized and the new normal for the popular swim-runs once given the green light.

“I think by July 1, the masks and things will be coming off for most people,” Peaman said. “The state will continue to start opening things up even more, but I think having an event with people getting together will be fine. I don’t think face masks will be needed. But if it’s required and that’s part of the permit process, then we will definitely wear masks, though I don’t know how many people will want to run with a mask.

“I think like anything, we will taper back to the way things used to be. We might be more cautious in upcoming events, but I think things will taper back as time goes on. People really thrive on wanting normalcy on the way things used to be.”

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly placed a burden on Peaman with more challenges than expected. Not only did it affect Peaman as an event organizer, but he is also a partner of Fitness Forever, a small business fitness center located in the former Hilo Hatties store location in Kailua-Kona, and a long-time resident of the Regency at Hualalai.

“Fitness Forever has been closed for two months, no one’s been in, and it’s been scary having to deal with paying rent and the upkeep of a large facility without having any income,” Peaman said. “It’s sad for people who use our gym because it’s been a vital part of their life. It’s something that keeps them healthy and what keeps their immune system healthy. People are healthy mentally and physically because when they go to the gym it’s social, it’s active, the health benefits are contagious.”

With high hopes for the reopening of fitness centers in the coming weeks, Peaman said precautions will be implemented and staff will be trained to follow safety guidelines.

“In terms of precautions, masks will be required, people’s temperatures will be taken when they come in, and extra measures will be taken for people to sanitize the equipment after using it,” he said. “We have disinfectant spray bottles, wipes and hand sanitizers everywhere. But it will still come down to the members respecting the rules and others.”

Peaman shared that he also temporarily moved into a condo from his primary residence at the Regency at Hualalai out of respect for safety measures implemented by the assisted living facility.

“The fear factor is just elevated there right now,” he said. “There are many people with respiratory illnesses and compromised immune systems, and just being chronologically blessed, everyone is so much more susceptible. It’s so much more scary to know that your chances of surviving the virus is much less than the average healthy person.

“So the precautions there are super tight. No visitors are allowed in the building at all, all employees have to sanitize and wear masks, and if you leave the Regency to go to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment, then you have to do a self quarantine in your room for 14-days before you could be part of any of the group activities. I have a lot of appointments that I need to go to as I’m still dealing with some health issues which is why I am staying in a condo.”

With sporting events worldwide postponed or canceled, Peaman feels “this is a unique time in all of our lives that hopefully we will never see again in our lifetime.”

“It really puts a void in your life,” he said. “In terms of local events – that’s my social life. It’s when we get to see all of our friends, connect with people, it’s really uplifting, mentally and physically. I think local events are a boost to our community and to each person who is there. On the bigger spectrum – statewide, nationwide and worldwide, it’s surreal to have sports canceled. I mean who would’ve ever thought the Olympics would be postponed. It’s just mind-boggling that something like this could escalate to that point.”

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And even through a pandemic, there can be a silver lining.

“I feel an increased amount of gratitude and an appreciation for the beauty that we are surrounded by,” Peaman said. “The abilities we had in the past, like the old normal of going to the beach when we want, going for a walk or run when we want, and being able to go and see our friends when we want, we can’t take for granted. And to remind those around us that we love them — family, friends — there’s just an increased appreciation in gratitude for the people around us and the beautiful island we live on.”

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