James "Kimo" Cuizon is a local boy who loves home-cooked Hawaiian food and quality time with family and friends. A stranger wouldn't know it, but come October 12, this home-grown Hawaiian will became our Hawaiian Superman of sorts as he competes in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Kimo will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run 26.2 miles amongst the sport's finest. And I know what you are thinking; impossible to most! And yes it is impossible to most regular folks; however, Kimo will not only complete the impossible, he does so as a physically challenged athlete! It is my pleasure to share with you my sit down interview with him as he raises awareness for his disability to inspire us all to never settle.
Q: Please tell us about yourself Kimo.
It is Ironman Kona's 35th anniversary and I'm also 35 years old! How awesome is that! I just had to say that out loud!
I was born in Honolulu and raised in Waianae until I was 10 years old. My family then relocated to Vallejo California where I attended Vallejo Sr High School and then San Francisco State University. While in college, I was offered a great job in Hawaii, so I returned home and eventually, graduated from The Hawaii Pacific University with a Bachelor of Arts in 2006.
Q: Can you tell our readers about your condition?
I have a neuromuscular disease called Charcot Marie Tooth or CMT Syndrome. I was diagnosed when I was 20 years old. It is a hereditary disease that runs in my family.
CMT is a condition where the nerves are not able to communicate with muscles correctly. This leads to muscle wasting, so eventually as I get older and my condition progresses, my muscles will deteriorate. Eventually, I will not be able to swim, bike or run. Right now walking and running is difficult so I use AFO's or Ankle Foot Orthotics. Also, with my hands, my fine motor skills are affected, so I have difficulty with things like buttons, zippers, remote controls, stuff like that.
Q: When and why did you start triathlon?
I started training with Boca Hawaii in 2004 and stopped in 2006 for no particular reason. I became lazy and soon gained 60+ pounds. I wasn't happy. Finally, in Feb. 2011, I decide to come out of retirement by walking into a 24 Hour Fitness spin class. The instructor's name was Lee-Ann. She asked me about my leg braces and I told her about my condition. We started chatting and I found out she was an athlete with Boca Hawaii. I decided it was time to go back, so in the Summer of 2011, I returned to training with the Boca Hawaii Summer Cycling Clinic and have not stopped since!
Q: What are a some of your race accomplishments?
- Tinman 2012: I improved by 9 minutes and 34 seconds
- Finisher of the 2012 DEMMR (112 mile bike race); the 2012 Waikiki Roughwater Swim (2.4 miles) and 2012 The Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles)
- Finisher at Ironman Couer d'Alene with a total time of 13 hours 48 minutes and 40 seconds taking the 1st podium spot in the Physically Challenged Division
Q: How do you stay so positive despite having to deal with your condition?
My Boca Hawaii coaches and fellow training partners are really supportive. They push and encourage me. I tend to beat myself up about not being as fast as I would like, but my training buddies keep me motivated and moving.
I also belong to a support group called CMT Athletes. There are so many CMT Athletes out there. CMT affects 1 in 2,500 people in the world and is known as the most common disease that no one has ever heard of. Most are not doing what I do, but, we are here to support one other through it all. And that is what keeps me motivated to push hard.
Q: Why was doing Kona IM Championships a big deal for you?
Racing Kona is important because it's an elite race that only 2,000 athletes participate in each year. In order to participate, you must qualify or win a lottery spot. Also, my disease is degenerative and over time, my ability will be greatly affected to where I will not be able to swim, bike, or run. I guess you could say my days in triathlon are numbered. I'm just really thankful that I have this opportunity to race the world's most sought after endurance event. And most importantly, this allows me to raise awareness and funding for CMT and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Q: Can you give our readers a brief idea of a typical training schedule for this event?
I train 4-6 days per week averaging about 15 hours per week. To give you an idea of my training volume, for the month of September, I ran a total of 82 miles, biked 490 miles and swam 15 miles. Due to my condition, I use twice as much energy when compared to a healthy non-challenged athlete and my muscles just don't work the same as most folks. I am learning that the most important thing is to listen to your body.
Q: What are your plans after Kona is done?
After Kona, I plan to train for the Honolulu Marathon with my 12 year old nephew, Kalana Pahinui. He loves to run and says he wants to be a marathon runner. Being CMT is a hereditary disease, so Kalana has a 50/50 chance of developing the disease. I want him to live as much life as possible should he ever have to go through what I go through with CMT. I am happy to be able to do this with him while I still can.
Q: How has the Challenged Athlete Foundation (CAF) help you achieve your goals?
CAF has been a huge help. I was awarded a training grant so I could work one-on-one with one of the best triathlon coaches in the state of Hawaii, Raul Boca. I would not be where I am today without the support of the CAF. I am passionate about raising funds for CAF so they can help others like me achieve their goals.
Q: As you visualize coming across the Kona finish line, what will you think?
That's a hard question. I really don't know. I do know what I will be thinking about during the swim, bike and run. I'll be thinking about all of the people who have supported me through this journey, especially my mom, a cancer survivor; my family, my BOCA family, all of the people affected by CMT and all of the challenged athletes in this world. Those thoughts will keep me motivated when things get tough on the race course!
On October 12, you can watch Kimo in action during his Kona Ironman by selecting the Live Coverage tab located at the top left side of the screen on www.ironman.com. His race number is 159. And please support Kimo and the thousands of other CAF athletes by sharing his story and placing a donation in his name by visiting this link.