Sometimes you choose a sport.
Sometimes a sport chooses you.
It was a little bit of both for Scott Kuwaye. The 47-year-old was one of 20 triathletes selected for Saturday’s Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona via the lottery for Hawaii residents.
The odds of getting picked are close to 1 in 100, some of it depending on the number of entries within one’s age group.
And the odds of getting picked as a first-timer?
"My friends are telling me I have to go to Vegas," Kuwaye said. "The day the (lottery) list came out, I had so many phone calls from people congratulating me, saying how lucky I was because they had been trying to get into the Ironman for years.
FORD IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
» Saturday, 6:30 a.m. (pro & elite), 7 a.m. (age groups)
"Kona is the ultimate. I didn’t realize what an honor it was until I got in. I feel blessed. It’s been quite a year."
Actually, it’s been quite an impressive 16 months for Kuwaye, who had never done a triathlon until the Tinman in July 2010. Although he was an accomplished runner, with several marathons — including Boston — on his resume, "I didn’t have the swimming technique that you needed if you wanted to do a triathlon," the Hawaii Baptist graduate said.
"I started swimming lessons with the goal of doing the Tinman. I had such an awesome experience that I was hooked. I just wanted to do something different than road racing. I wanted to get that excitement back."
There’s been plenty of that in recent months, some of it unintended. About a month before competing in last June’s Honu 70.3 triathlon — a half-ironman along the Kohala Coast — Kuwaye’s job as an insurance claims manager took him away from training and to Huntsville, Ala., scene of the tornado devastation.
"I wasn’t able to exercise at all for three weeks and I thought, ‘Oh, well, there goes all that training,’" he said. "But I was able to overcome that obstacle and finished the race.
"I think a lot of this is mental and dedication. If you really focus on a goal or a dream, anything is possible. I don’t consider myself as someone who is extraordinary, but I do have a lot of determination."
Kuwaye finished the Honu 70.3 in 5 hours, 26 minutes and 8 seconds. He was 341st out of 1,415 and 50th in his age-group. He registered for the Ironman lottery.
He’s also had an obstacle heading into Saturday’s race. When out on a group bicycling ride Sept. 10, Kuwaye hit a skateboarder "who came out of nowhere," he said. "I thought it was a bruise, but my doctor told me I had three fractured ribs.
"There’s nothing you can do about those. It has hurt to run and ride and I didn’t swim (until last Saturday). I just decided that I’m going to go and do my best. It might not look pretty, but I’m not going to quit."
Prior to the bike accident, Kuwaye said he had hoped to finish between 12 and 13 hours. Now, he said, he just wants to finish before the midnight deadline (under 17 hours).
"I’m really looking forward to the whole experience, not just the race but what it’s all about," he said. "I don’t wear a watch because I don’t want to fixated on what pace I should be at. Just want to enjoy the moment."
As a "normal person" with a wife and 10-year-old twin daughters, Kuwaye said the hardest part about the training was the two-a-days, particularly getting in an hour of working out before he started his job at 5:30 a.m. in downtown Honolulu. He’s decided that he’s going to add CrossFit strength training next year because "this isn’t going to be my last Ironman and I want to get stronger," he said.
Saturday is just part of Kuwaye’s lucky streak. He also was one of the first Hawaii residents chosen in the H.U.R.T 100 lottery, a 100-mile endurance trail run put on by the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team in January.
"If you asked me two years ago if I would do a triathlon, I would have said no," Kuwaye said. "I’m just trying to take advantage of everything that comes my way.
"The Ironman is a golden opportunity that a lot of people would love to have. Sometimes I can’t even believe it."
"Probably right after the H.U.R.T. 100," he said.
The Ironman World Championship field is limited to 1,800 competitors, most of whom have qualified in one of the 28 Ironman events held around the world. There are also lottery slots reserved for full-time residents of Hawaii County (25 this year) and Hawaii residents not living in Hawaii County (20 this year).