Cranberry resident ready to tackle Ironman course in Hawaii

| Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

David Vest competed in his first Ironman triathlon in 2000 and, not knowing what to expect, his goal was just to cross the finish line.

It didn't take long before Vest set his sights on qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Achieving the goal took more than a decade, but the 45-year old Vest of Cranberry finally qualified at the Ironman Couer d'Alene, Idaho, this past June.

He will compete in Kona in the men's 45-to-49 category on Oct. 12.

“The feeling was overwhelming,” said Vest, a native of Denmark. “My eyes were filled with tears, and it was difficult to breathe almost. It was a dream come true. … Training for so many years in the cold, in the dark, getting up early and pushing yourself, then finally crossing the finish line and getting to that goal, it's hard to describe for one who hasn't been there.

“Anyone who's done something outrageous, they know the feeling of being rewarded like this.”

Vest, 45, said he knew from previous experience that it would take a time of about 10:04 to qualify. The race conditions weren't the best in Idaho. It was colder than normal, and the transition from the swim to the bike was difficult. Vest was assessed a four-minute penalty for drafting toward the end of the bike portion, and was so rattled by it that when he left on the run he forgot to grab his watch off the bike and had no way to monitor his pace.

Despite all of those obstacles, Vest crossed the finish line in 9:54.

“I really thought I had the slot, that I'd qualified,” he said. “It turned out I came in fifth and there were only four qualifying slots in my age group.”

Vest had missed qualifying by about 90 seconds the previous year, but just when he seemed in danger of being so close yet missing again, he caught a break. It turned out that one of the finishers ahead of him had qualified in a previous race. The fourth spot went to Vest.

It was Vest's 10th Ironman, and the seventh race in which he was seriously attempting to qualify for Kona.

Vest credits a lot of his success to Irwin's Chad Holderbaum, a four-time finisher in Kona who's been coaching Vest since spring 2012.

“His lifelong goal was to qualify for Hawaii, and he came to me with that from the beginning,” Holderbaum said. “That was the goal. Like I do with all my athletes, we assessed where he was at through testing and really took a step back and developed a big-picture type plan on what he needed to achieve along the way in order to qualify for Hawaii.”

Ironman races consist of a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride followed by a marathon, or 26.2-mile run. In Kona, the swim takes place in the Pacific Ocean, the bike portion goes through notoriously windy lava fields and then there's the heat and humidity to contend with throughout the race.

“It's unlike any other race,” Vest said. “Should the race be anywhere else where it's normal conditions it would be easy. Since it's there, it's a challenge to cope with the heat and the wind.”

Vest has no illusions that he'll win his age group, he said. He'd be happy just to finish in the top 100 racing against some of the top competitors from all over the world. More than anything, he wants to enjoy the experience.

“I think it will compare to the first Ironman I ever did, when I didn't know what to expect and it was all about getting to the finish line,” he said. “I'm not going to think about my finishing time. I'm just going to go and have fun.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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