Talkin' Story With Ironman® Competitor And Kona Local, Skye Ombac
Ironman Championships: The Whole World Comes To Kona
After two years, we are thrilled to welcome back the athletes along with their families and fans for one of the most exciting and demanding races on the planet: the Ironman® World Championships. During the month of October, our small town of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii is transformed into the global center of endurance athletics, where thousands of triathletes swim, bike and run along the rugged coast of western Hawaii.
For the athletes, qualifying for the event represents the culmination of a lifetime of training. The Ironman® World Championships is the end of a long, grueling year of races across the world—an invite-only event that one must qualify for or be selected through a lottery. To be here is to win, already. To cross the finish line at the end of the race is simply the cherry on top for these athletes, many of whom have worked endlessly to be invited to this prestigious event and are seeing Kona for the first time.
SKYE OMBAC - Feeling Right At Home
For competitor Skye Ombac, this week in Kona means even more, because she lives here. Skye is a local athlete, born and raised right here on the Big Island, and a 5th grade teacher at Kahakai Elementary in Kona! We’re thrilled to welcome to her to Team KCTC as she competes in this year's Ironman Championships!
With the competition just days away, Skye Ombac is making the final preparations for race day. Learn more about her passion for triathlons, her support from her students, and her favorite drink from our café…in her own words!
KCTC: What does this event mean to you, being from Hawaii Island?
I grew up in Panaewa on the Hilo side of the Big Island. My parents would always drive my sister and me over to Kona to watch Ironman growing up. I still have all my autographs and photos of me at Ironman from when I was little. I was always inspired by the amazing athletes that were competing. We would volunteer at the volunteer’s tent, making food and getting drinks for the volunteers that were in the hot sun. Ever since I was little I was always fascinated by the sport and wanted to do it one day. I had no idea that one day was going to come so soon. I moved to Kona in 2019 after I graduated college. The energy Kona brings cannot be matched, it inspired me to get back into running after taking a four-year break and one thing led to another and now Ironman is just around the corner! This journey has felt like a dream, this is the only dream that I can remember that I have had since I was a kid. I am on my way to making my dream come true. This journey has been so special for so many reasons. I keep thinking of young Skye and it makes me smile knowing how proud I would be of myself. At this point, I know every step of the course. Throughout the day I will have special memories with me, every step of the way I will be able to think of something that happened right there. Whether my memories come from when I was little and spectating or when I was training, I am carrying all of those moments with me. The day will be extra special because all of my training partners will be out on the course, either racing alongside me or cheering me on. My family will be there the whole day... My family is the one who originally got me into the sport and has been supporting me throughout this journey. My goal is to not cry every time I see them during the race because I would not be on the starting line if it weren't for them. I also have friends driving over from Hilo and all around Kona to support me. And to top it all off some of my students will be there too! It baffles me to think about all the support I have here on the island. I am so lucky to be surrounded by people who love and lift me up.
KCTC: You are a 5th grade teacher at Kahakai Elementary, just down the road from the finish line...How are you navigating your time up to race day, while still teaching?
Skye: My journey is extra special because of my students, they hear me talk about the race more than anyone else! Every morning we get into a circle and share whatever we feel comfortable with. I have been sharing with them the countdown to my race and all of my training ups and downs. One day we were running short on time and I didn't have a chance to share and one of my students went, "Wait! What about your race?!" And one day they shared the countdown day before I had a chance! The whole school and especially my class have been so supportive. On the last day of the quarter before fall break, the whole school had signs and were cheering Bree (a fellow teacher and athlete) and me on as we walked down. It brings me to tears thinking we have the future supporting us! Teaching can be exhausting but I am thankful I have a class that gives me all the positive energy I need. I will be thinking of them throughout the day to give me smiles. I know a few of my students will be out there cheering for me and I already know seeing them will be a highlight of my day! I want to show these kiddos how I had a big dream and they should dream big too. Whatever their dream may be, I want them to know that local kids like us can reach our goals! I want to make my students proud and I could not imagine my journey without them.
KCTC: How long have you been doing Triathlons? What is your motivation?
I am fairly new to triathlons, my first triathlon was Hawaii Ironman 70.3 in June of 2021. It all happened very quickly! I was solely focusing on running when Covid-19 hit and I wanted to become a fast runner. I started "swimming" because I had heard that swimming was good cross-training for running. I distinctly remember telling someone in mid-2020 that I would not be doing a triathlon, there was absolutely no way. Anyways, my dad, who competed in Kona in 2015, heard I started swimming and instantly told me that we needed to find a bike. I didn't oppose it but I told him it wasn't a big deal... It was a big deal to him and he found a great bike pretty quickly! I know it is also a dream of his to watch me cross that finish line. So I got the bike and then I told that same person when they asked me if I was going to do Ironman that there was absolutely no way that would happen! I had already signed up for “Honu” in 2020 (which got deferred to 2021 due to Covid-19) as a relay, but now that I had a bike and was swimming I decided to switch that entry from a relay to a solo entry. And that was the beginning of it all! I told my tribe (Bree, Makayla, and Sierra) who we had been running with that there was no way I was going to train for a triathlon alone so we all needed to do it... And we did! Bree was one of the professional athletes I looked up to when I was little and now I was training with someone who inspired me! At “Honu” in 2021, we qualified for Kona and the rest is history! I remember people telling me, "Well that escalated quickly." Lol, I had no idea what I was in for but I knew I was excited. Triathlons all happened so quickly and I cannot wait to be an athlete this year instead of a spectator. I am sure it will bring all different types of feelings and I am looking forward to soaking it all in!
KCTC: What is your favorite drink at Kona Coffee & Tea?
My favorite drink at Kona Coffee & Tea is an iced matcha latte with macnut milk! Their matcha is superior to any other matcha I've had! I seriously cannot order matcha anywhere else because I know I will be disappointed. It is creamy and delicious! I tell everyone who goes there to order the matcha!
KCTC: Describe your relationship with Hoka Shoes
I love Hoka and the support they have given me! In 2021 they gave Bree and me an opportunity to share our Ironman journey and have been nothing but encouraging since. My favorite Hoka shoes to run in are the Mach's! Bree and I have convinced all of our friends and family to get them because they are so comfy to run in! Their trail shoes are my all-time favorite! When training isn't in full swing I love to trail run and the Speedgoat model is the best! They are comfy and I trust the grip they have! I tend to slip a lot of trails because of my clumsy tendencies and I definitely feel safer running in the Hoka Speedgoats.
KCTC: What is your favorite part about Kona?
My favorite thing about Kona has to be the people and the energy the people bring! The island is so special and Kona is no exception. I have met people here that will be a part of my life forever. There's a special connection you form with people who have seen you in the hurt box during training that can't be explained. The people in Kona have seen me at my best and worst days and love me no matter what! My training Tribe gives me the energy to get me through life. Not only my training partners but the community support surrounding everything is amazing! I have also been teaching for 5 years and 4 of those years have been in Kona. Most of my students are members of the Kona community and I feel a special pride knowing they are the future. This little town that turns into a wild town during Ironman week is what has gotten me to where I am today.
KCTC: Any tips or advice for someone just getting into the Triathlon world?
My advice for anyone getting into the triathlon world is to enjoy the journey! The journey is going to be long and bumpy; embrace the bumps because they only make you stronger. There will be days when you absolutely don't want to train or you are training and you are regretting everything... But it is SO worth it. The feeling you have when you cross a finish line is indescribable. I have done many run races, but the 3 triathlons I've done so far have been my proudest moments. It takes a lot to train for a triathlon and it shows you have tough you really are. I have never crossed a triathlon finish line with a dry eye. All of the highs outweigh the lows. Another piece of advice that has helped me is finding your people. The Kona Tribe is the only reason I'm still sane and am where I am. I have done 99.9% of my workouts with them and we always say... "Strength in numbers." Having people around you, going through everything with you is a huge help. My tribe and my coach, Coach James Cotter have given me all the support I have needed along this journey. And last but not least- HAVE FUN! Triathlon is something special and you are joining a select group of people, enjoy it!
Thank you everyone!!
We are proud to sponsor Skye Ombac as a TEAM KCTC competitor and a local of this island. We want to thank her for her contribution and wish her good luck on race day!