Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Keaau’s Joe Barcia taking risks and learning from mistakes

Taking risk, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes are all part of life that we can learn through sports participation.

Keaau’s Joe Barcia has taken his share of risk and made more than a fair amount of mistakes, but has come out on top in the game of life.

Barcia became a quick study in learning about external motivation when at age 7 his father offer to buy him and his 9 year old brother, Dan, a boat to use in the canal in Kailua on the island of Oahu if they would train and compete in the Hilo Marathon.

The year was 1978 and the brothers, who were both learning the games of soccer, baseball and basketball, took their fathers boat offer and prepared to run a distance of 26.2 miles.

“I became the youngest marathon finisher in the State of Hawaii and I also beat my older brother by 7 minutes,” a proud Barcia said.

The seven year old completed his first marathon in 4 hours and 21 minutes, but his most excitable moment came on what he found that morning along the roadway.

“During the race I yelled out in excitement to my dad, that I had found 11 cents,” Barcia recalled.

In 1981 Barcia returned to do the Hilo Marathon at the advanced age of 10 and took more than an hour off his finishing time, crossing the line in 3:13.

“At age 12 I had run 11 marathons,” Barcia said.  “I come from a family of 12 and we got swept up in the wave of running during the mid 1970’s as the family all went to the local Oahu races every Sunday and every one of us ran.”

Barcia’s father would pass out homemade donuts to everyone which also became part of the motivation for the Barcia family members.

“My sister, Kathy, at age 12 won the Kauai Marathon in 3 hour 21 minutes,” Barcia said.  “She went on to run the Boston Marathon in 3:03.”

According to Barcia his love for sports caused him to place his education on the backburner.

“I became somewhat lost in high school and lacked the goals or direction, so I dropped out of Iolani and chose to go to Kalaheo instead,” he said.  “At Kalaheo I knew I could surf a lot more as I became quite skilled in cutting school, smoking, drinking and running away from home.”

Barcia placed a high priority on surfing as he went through what he called ‘lost periods’ in his life.

“After testing my parents, and the law, my parents yanked me out of school and I went to drug treatment with a bunch of old guys for 6 months,” Barcia said.  “Seeds were planted and with my girlfriend’s ultimatum and Narcotics Anonymous, I got clean and sober on April 15, 1989 and I haven’t drank or used drugs since then.”

In 1991 Barcia and that helpful girlfriend took an enormous risk and moved to Paradise Park in Keaau with no job and no money.

“At a friend’s suggestion, in late 1991, I started Windward Yard Service,” Barcia said.  “We manage landscapes and trim trees in East Hawaii.”

Barcia chose a highly physically demanding profession and with it the pressures and stress of owning a business.

“It is both physically and mentally challenging,” Barcia said.  “My wonderful wife of 19 years, Celeste, does all the bookkeeping and has provided us with three great kids, Sage, 17, Sydney, 14, and Hayley, 14.

And if you readers are wondering, yes, that encouraging and helpful girlfriend in Barcia’s past is now his wife.

But the story doesn’t end here, it only begins, as this highly motivated, risk taking middle aged man recently took on another immense challenge in his life.

Barcia, with his incredible athletic gift, watched his sister, Amy Harpstrite, finish her first Kona Ironman last year and decided to see if he was up for the challenge.

“I tried the Honu Half Ironman in June of this year and after cramping up and doing poorly on the run, said no to trying for Ironman,” Barcia said.

But as fate would have it Barcia received a lottery slot to the World Championships of Triathlons and still need time to decide.

“I went to Tahiti on a surfing trip with some of my family and there I was given a book written by two time Ironman winner Chris McCormack, called I’m here to win,” Barcia explained. 

While in Tahiti Barcia went on a mid day 16 mile run and hydrated with coconut water and bananas.  The proper hydration, along with reading McCormack’s book gave Barcia the answer he was looking for.

“Having a successful training run gave me the confidence I needed,” Barcia said.

Barcia began to juggle work with Ironman training over the course of the past several months, which was no easy task.

“I wanted to be able to race Ironman comfortably, as I didn’t want to be able to survive the Ironman,” Barcia said.  “My first priority is supporting my family, so training had to be fit in around my work.”

Barcia, the risk taker, not only completed the Ironman World Championships on Oct 8, he did it comfortably.

I admire Joe Barcia for his ability to live life fully and to take risks while doing it.

Barcia was given a challenging path to take and he has made the most of the situation while keeping his focus on what is important to him, his family.

And someday should you happen to see a blessed family man jogging around the streets of Hawaiian Paradise Park remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”


November 14, 2011 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments