AS someone who has twice conquered the brutal lava fields of Kona, Richard Hobson could not have been more proud to see four fellow Bathurst triathletes follow in his footsteps last week and reach the finish line at the Ironman World Championships.
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He knows first-hand the hours and hours of training it takes to prepare then just how tough it is to tackle the 3.86 kilometre swim, 180.2km bike and 42.2km run at Kona, Hawaii.
He knows the sort of suffering that Luke Gillmer, Fran Grady, Peta Cutler and Hollee Simons went through to reach the finishing chute.
"It's hard to explain to someone, you can do an Ironman, don't get me wrong, it's hard and it's tough and it's worth it, but when you do it at Kona, it seems to add a little bit of something," Hobson said.
"Whether it's the conditions or the crowd or the expectations or whatever, it just makes it so much sweeter to get to the finish line. It was brutal and you got through it.
"It's the humidity that kills you, you can't shake it off, it's hard to explain. It's always brutal and they did really well, it was amazing to have four Bathurst athletes over there.
"Anytime you go over there I think you've got to give yourself a high-five, but finishing, that's a Magnum moment isn't it? I think you need to buy a Magnum, eat it and enjoy it because finishing is a pretty special moment."
Hobson first qualified for the World Championships in 2009 and on a tough day placed 123rd in his age group.
In 2012 he got another shot and while headwinds meant he again suffered, he reached the finish in a then personal best time of 10 hours, 17.53 minutes.
While he still races, Hobson also coaches and Simons is amongst those triathletes he guides.
To see her place 14th out of 86 in her female 25-29 years age division at Kona in a time of 10:45.41 delighted him.
Simons covered the swim leg in 1:03.43, the cycle in 5:40.36 and finished with a run split of 3:52.34.
"I was pretty happy with Hollee's performance, she was blown away by her effort I think. It was only for the last probably five kay in the run she actually fell apart a bit, she was up to 10th I think which would've been absolutely awesome, but that's the way it goes over there," he said.
"Like she's got a full-time job, she's on her feet most of the day at the hospital, sometimes in theatre you can be there for 12 hours on your feet, and then you've got to put training on top of that in the cold. It's not fun, but it shows the dedication you need to get there."
Cutler was also ultra-impressive in her Kona debut as she finished in a time of 10:33.06 to place 16th in her female 35-39 years division. Her swim was a 1:06.02, cycle a 5:30.48 and run a 3:47.32.
Both Cutler and Simons were the first Australians to finish in their division.
Grady raced on the same day as that pair and was just as inspirational on her way to 60th in her division and the second Australian with a time of 16:06.29.
"Fran's she's a Trojan, her resilience is unbelievable, that lady is unbelievable," Hobson said.
"People don't realise how hard that is, coming from Bathurst, winter, minuses, you've got to do 20 hours a week training minimum, then pack everything up, get over over there, you climb off the plane and it's 30 degrees and 80 percent humidity - it's tough to do."
Gillmer faced his challenge two days later and suffered in conditions - the humidity reached a maximum 93.75 percent.
He was just outside the top 50 for his 40-44 years male age group after taking 58:17 to do the swim, but around 120km into the cycle was hit by heat exhaustion. He sought assistance at aid stations, but was able to continue.
In a mark of his determination, he reached the finish line in 11:37.15. Gillmer is now a two-time finisher at Kona.
"Luke had a not so good day, but you've just got to get there. A lot of sacrifices have been made, there's no point pulling out, you've just got to keep going," Hobson said.
"One of the things about Kona is, once your core temperature rises you can't get it back down, it's too late. You've got to stop to cool down enough to keep going."
Overall, to have four Bathurst triathletes not only qualify for the World Championships but now able to call themselves Kona conquerors, is something Hobson feels the entire community should be proud of.
"We've got a pretty good record over there, there's a few of us who have been, but it's good to have three women at once. That's pretty good going for a small club at Bathurst," he said.
"I'm sure it will inspire some other people."
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