As I headed toward my starting position outside the University of Washington Huskies stadium, I felt like I was running in a home race. I grew up in Washington and several of my family still lives here. As a teenager, I left home to attend the University and being a Huskies fan, the stadium holds some good memories!
What made this race even more special was I was running with my nephew, Flip Herndon, who was a former collegiate track athlete. He agreed to set the pace, as opposed to running his own race and leaving me in the dust.
From the first mile of the 13.1 mile race, I knew I was in trouble. My right leg and foot – leftovers from the stroke, from doing a half Ironmen two weeks earlier, and running too many miles in between the half Ironmen and half marathon – were fatigued and dragging. Flip knew where I was because my right foot kept scrapping the pavement. Needless to say, after the race was over, I threw the running shoes away. Had it been a marathon, I would have been running in my socks! Without my TurboMed 3000, I would have been in running in my right sock by about mile 6!
Still, Flip kept up a decent pace. At the start, before I knew I would be having a problem my with right leg and foot, I had told him that I would finish at 2:15 mark. He kept encouraging through his occasional spoken word and pace, especially when I would slow down.
I have never broken 2:30 in a half marathon. To be fair, I had only run the half marathon once before, and ran the distance a couple times after swimming and biking in a triathlon a couple of times. Truly, running (as well as triathlons) is new to me. I was surprised to learn that I had finished in 2:16! As an “old” man who’s been running under two years and who has survived a stroke, I was pleased.
I couldn’t do this alone. Special thanks to Flip and TurboMed, as well as God, my hard working wife, my family, and all of you, many of you I haven’t met. Again, thank you!
What’s next, you ask? In December, I have the Honolulu Marathon, and in April 2018, I’m planning to participate in the Boston Marathon! Who would have thought that five years ago, I didn’t like running, to being wheelchair bound, then participating in triathlons, including the World Championships Ironman (2016), and Boston Marathon (2018)!
I never saw the stroke coming, and I never saw the results athletically coming. Don’t ever give up hoping for a brighter tomorrow, and for me, it all started with exercise, starting with lifting my right arm and taking a haltingly few steps, the biking, then swimming, and then running.
Honu, the Hawaiian name for turtle, is the affectionate name given the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, held yearly on the Big Island during early June. Each year, 1500 people from all over the world, come to participate in a unforgiving 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a half marathon, 13.1 mile of running, all within a predetermined set of time guidelines. A few are out to win; most, including me, participate to get through it. All are winners.
My preparation was on track until early April when I was involved in a bike crash during another triathlon, Lavaman, an Olympic size triathlon. I suffered a fractured left clavicle and three ribs, and Honu was is serious question. I pulled out of the Hapalua half marathon, being help a couple of weeks later, being hurt from the crash.
While recovering, I rode the stationary recumbent bike, adding swimming couple weeks later, bike riding on stationary trainer, then running, and then bike riding. While hurt, I did improved my leg strength, and that helped my bike. While rather painful initially, the level of pain diminished gradually, and by race day, my shoulder was “comfortable.”
A couple days prior to the event, I had a pre-race meeting to attend, check in where I got the race bag and number, and brought my bike to check in. It was a good time meeting people that I only knew on Facebook, and running into people I already knew.
Race day, I woke at my scheduled time at 2 AM after getting 5 hours of sleep. I packed my race gear and nutrition, double and triple checked that I had everything, and I headed off the race, about an 1 ½ hour trip. About a half hour into travel, I forgot my nutrition for my bike ride, an essential for my bike! Panicky, I called Greta, who helped host me, who was also racing but had a much later start time, to see if she could bring it. Gratefully, she didn’t leave yet, and she brought it! Whew!!
The moments before the race is stressful. The race itself doesn’t stress me out that much. Did I remember everything from swimming, biking, and running? I went through things for the transitions. Gladly, I was able to do a warm up jog and swim, and it helped clear my mind.
The start time to swim was a couple minutes after 6:30 AM. Gratefully, I’m comfortable in the water, and I didn’t have issues with it, even got to pass some people from the group before me! I did the 1.2 mile swim portion in 38:10, and I was pleased with that.
Next up, the bike portion was challenging, to say the least: 56 hilly, hot, humid, and windy (35-40 mph) miles. All along with way, I saw people sidelined with flat tires, and occasional crashes. I, however, was not in any bike crashes or flats! Many people passed me; I don’t think I passed anyone. My bike time was 3:41:16. Clearly, I’ve got a lot more training to do. One unfortunate thing that happened for me it all my electrolyte tablets, which aid in keeping cramps away, blew off of my bike on my second half of the bike course. I would be needing them on my run.
The run started off well. I had plenty of energy left, although I was missing Hot Shot, an anti cramping drink, and, as previously mentioned, my electrolyte tablets. What the run course consisted of was the two laps around a golf course and a hot, barren road called Hell’s Kitchen. As I began my second lap, I had muscle cramps in both of my calves. I sure could use Hot Shot and electrolyte tablets! I was on pace for a 6:45:00 ending time (my goal was to break under 7 hours) until the cramps hit. I walked a good portion of the second lap and my run time was 2:36:00. Darn!
In all, it was a challenging day to race for everyone. I take my hat off the everyone who tried, finisher or not. You all are winners! I finished with the official time 7:13:45. I am happy with that considering all.
I couldn’t have done it without people who supported me every step along the way:
Honu specific: Kevin Lannen, physically challenged athlete volunteer; Bree Wee, volunteer cheerleader; Larry Derbes, volunteer; Tiffany Nakamura, Ironman staff; Wil, Toni, and Greta Friesen, hospitality
It does take a village to raise of a triathlete from the ruins of stroke!
One final note: it is my passion (or craziness) to pursue triathlons. You have a life affirming passion within you. You might not even know it. Before the stroke, triathlons didn’t even show up on my radar screen! It all starts with exercise. It might not end up in you doing anything athletic, but it starts with being healthy. You are worth it.