Post Ironman World Championship

I still think sometimes it’s like a dream but I did it.  After 12 months of training, I finished the Ironman World Championships!  I wasn’t fast, but I was persistent and determined, both in my training and during the race.  Here’s what I went through on the day, October 8, 2016.

Check in

I got up at 3 AM, having about 7 hours sleep.  I ate a light breakfast, packed my numerous bags, and rechecked them many times.  I got to the venue at about 6, stressed because I wanted to get there at 5:30.  Because I was competing as a physically challenged (PC) athlete, I was able the avoid the long lines of triathletes and went through the VIP section and got my body marked with my race number and put on my timing chip.  There were triathletes everywhere, with 2300 starting!   After that, I quickly made my way into PC tent.  There, I was able to put my gear into carefully organized piles, stuff that I would require of the swim, bike, and run, things that I had stuffed into four bags, which included clothes, shoes, orthotics, and snacks and liquid nutrition in between the events and during the event.  I didn’t have time to do a warm up swim like I wanted, but I did have time to get my shoulder muscles massaged.

Feelings wise, I managed to turn them off mostly.  I went in mission mode; I knew what had to done.  My race was just with myself, remembering my pace, and not racing other competitors, who were faster substantially than me (the top 1% of Ironman triathletes were here, along with the pros).  Remember, I was in it for stroke survivors, to give them hope that their lives were not over.

Swim – 2.4 miles

89_3rd-188806-ft-1369_012573-4410494The swim start time was 7:10 and off the races I went.  Heads, arms, legs, and torsos were everywhere throughout the swim.  It was pure pandemonium and partly aggression.  I put my mind elsewhere in order to cope, plus I was relatively comfortable in the water.  I paced myself but had cramps unexpectedly with first two hundred yards.  It was inconvenient, but no problem.  I barely used my legs as a result and I relied on drafting on the person in front of me.  I finished in 1 hour, 18 minutes with plenty of energy for the bike ride.

Transition 1

This was where you change in to your biking gear.  Shower quickly (if you can say shower) to wash the salt off my body, and assisted by my handler, Scott Rigsby, the first double amputee to complete Ironman, helped me take off my swim speedsuit, swim cap, and goggles.  To save time, I wore my bike/run gear underneath it my swim speed suit, a common practice.  I had a long drink, put on my helmet and sunglasses, put on my bike riding shoes, and left with my bike in hand.

Bike – 112 miles

96_3rd-188806-ft-1369_018189-4410501This was where I needed work, and I knew it.  Not only was it long, but hot, humid, and windy!  Despite the added weight, I wore a camelback for water because of time saving consideration, and I had a water bottle filled with liquid nutrition.

While biking, I had uncooperative hip flexors who liked to cramp, and this time was not different.  No fewer than 10 times did I dismount my bike to do stretches.  It was worth it, though it cost me time.  Nonetheless, I was stressed.  There was a bike cutoff, and I just barely made it, huffing and puffing.  I think I was the last bike to be allowed to continue the race, barely making the cutoff time!!  I finished the bike portion in 8 hours, 55 minutes.

Transition 2

This was where you change from bike gear to running gear.  This was slow for me because of my orthotic I wear over my right foot.  Without it, my right foot would drag, so the orthotic was worth it.  My handler, Scott, was invaluable here.  I was able to change into my running shoes, get refreshed, catch my breath, and calm my head down.  I “knew” that if I made the bike cutoff time, chances were good for me to run the marathon in the time allotted, even though I had never run this far.

Run – 26.2 miles, a marathon

120_3rd-188806-ft-1369_100403-4410525I was last out on the run course, and I had my work cut out for me.  The first part of the run, approximately 10 miles, there was a surprising number of people I knew, cheering me on, including my wife, Laurie.  That was nice and supplied a surprising amount of energy!

I was determined after swimming, biking, and running this far, I wasn’t going to be late to the run cutoff, which was approximately 7 miles to the finish line.  I made it through the intermediary run cutoff, with minutes to spare.  A little anxiety was helpful in this situation!

With 1 mile to go, I heard to announcer say repeatedly to the competitors crossing the finish line: “You are an Ironman!”  Yes, the end was in sight!  With ¼ mile to go, so many people cheered me on.  It was surreal; it was like I was in a dream!  With 25 yards to go, I entered the finishing chute, with lights blazing and the cheering crowd was unbelievable.  Strangely, all tired thoughts and feelings left my body.  As I crossed the finish line at a little before midnight, there was only one thought: we did it!  We, stroke survivors, were an Ironman!  Yes, stroke survivors CAN!

Thank you!

I couldn’t do this alone.  I have many people to thank!  Thank them for believing in my cause!

Kevin Rhinehart
Stroke survivors can!

PS: Be watching for Stroke Survivors Can, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping stroke survivors (re)discover noncontact physical sports!  If you want updates on this, please send an email.  We do not redistribute your email addresses.


Ironman World Championships

frontIt’s almost time!  What I’ve been doing in training for the past year is almost here.  Those tears of sweat of my skin and eyes, the injuries, the never ending muscle soreness…  This Saturday, October 8, is the World Championships of Ironman.  The top 1% are represented here, having earned it through the performance at other Ironman performances.

How did I get in?  Back when I was training, I was thinking a sprint or Olympic size triathlon, maybe a half Ironman.  Never did I think a full Ironman.  That would be crazy – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride that was tough, and 26.2 mile run (a marathon).  By the end of June, I had already done a sprint triathlon, an Olympic size triathlon, and two half Ironmen.  At the encouragement of my coach and others, and a large part my insanity, I entered a physically challenged category drawing put on by Ironman.  And I won!  I’m definitely not 1%.

So, there you have it.  An older man who does not like to run, who couldn’t run one mile a year ago, who had a serious stroke in 2012, entered.  And he will be starting the Ironman World Championships.  That is a victory in itself!bike

I hope to finish!  The bike is my weakness and there is a time limit.  If things are looking favorably, I should make it.  Pray that my body will cooperate with me!  My right leg, of course, is giving me problems.

I could not come so far had it not been some generous people: Rick Rubio, coach, who volunteered his time; Grant and Janet Miller from Bike Works Kona, who gave a Specialized Shiv bike; Francois Cote, TurboMed Orthotics; and many more listed on Team Kevin.  Thank you all!

Stroke Survivors CAN!


10 weeks until World Championship Ironman!

It might seem like a lot of time, but it’s not!!  I got OKed to start running again after 5 weeks off due to foot injury – planter fascitis.  It was and still is painful, but the pain is only temporary, I hope.  The podiatrist gave me some stretches and something to wear in my shoes.  Anyway, I am behind on my running but I hope to be where is was running before too long!  I have kept up with biking and swimming.

Plus, I’ve been spending time analyzing my running style.  I overextend my knees and I’m not pushing off strongly enough.  Easy, right?  My right foot dragging is another story.  James, a physically challenged athlete who I met racing Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, said he noticed my foot drop at a training session I had while in Honolulu.  He set me up with TurboMed Orthotics, who makes athletic braces for foot drop.  Short story, I ordered one and it should be here in a couple of day!  I am so excited!  

I also had a conversation with a guy who is a professional cyclist and does Ironman and Ultraman, and he has seen me bike.  He says the number one reason physically challenged entrants in the Ironman don’t finish is because of the lack of speed of bike.  Gulp!  I better get on this!!   You got until 5 PM to be done with 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride through some hilly and windy country (before starting on the run portion, a Marathon).   I’ve already adjusted my  training schedule to include more rides at a faster pace.

This brings me to today.  I rest of Fridays, and I need it.  My legs are so sore!  Right now, I’m icing my right foot and I’ve got my two legs undergoing some electrical stimulation.  Earlier today, I did yoga and stretching.  Later, some more stretches.

Why am I putting my body through this, you might say.  To give stroke survivors hope!  Too often I hear stories where people give up on life because of stroke (or other catastrophic life event).  I’m here to say stroke, though unfortunate, just means adjusting life’s message and/or goals.  Life is not over; it’s just starting!  Stroke survivors CAN!!

As always, I would like to thank my sponsors for making this possible – Bike Works of Kona and Bikeworks Beach and Sports, Project Rudy, and XX2i!

Racing and Training Update

Halfway on my 112 mile biking run, June 18, 2016, Hawi, HI.

It’s been three weeks since I competed in Ironman 70.3 Hawaii and I’ve been busy! I had Sunday and Monday following the Ironman off to recuperate, light training for the rest of the week.  On June 12, I participated in Peaman’s 2016 Papa Pea’s Sizzling Summer Sprint, a 1/2 mile swim and 2 mile run.

Let me say something about Peaman events.  They are free and offered every month. An interesting plus is they have special races for kids (keikis) with toys as prizes. What a wonderful way to help build the community. Hats off to Peaman!

Anyway, I finished well, coming in 23rd place. I did the swim and run at 36:39, counting a very slow transition time.  Apparently, I still need help in my transitions.

I’ve been hard at work building my cycling endurance and strength. Part of it is psychological. I have this fear that the wind will cause me to crash. Now, when I say wind, I’m talking about side gusts up to 40 miles per hour, regular occurrences in North Kohala. Downhill presents its challenge, as well. At almost 40mph, I have this tendency to use my brakes. Factor in that I have just one working hand, and you get my drift. However, my confidence is growing as I continue to practice.

Three weeks ago, I injured by right heel while running.  June 19, as I ran 20 miles, it really began to hurt. Last Tuesday, I had x-rays done, and the radiologist still hasn’t looked at them. Frustrating!  Needless to say, I’ve been giving running a rest. Ice is the treatment until I hear from the radiologist. Meanwhile, swimming and cycling don’t seem to hurt it. I will be glad when the running can resume. Hard to believe, right?

Ironman Vineman, the full length Ironman on July 30 in Napa valley, California, is in question. The Lord is in control, and unless a minor “miracle” happens in the area of finances to go to California, I won’t go. I’m fine with that. The Lord’s been good to me by letting me participate this far, and I’m in the World Championships through a drawing in October!

I would like thank my sponsors for helping me get this far – Kona Bike Works, Waikoloa Bikeworks Beach and Sport, Project Rudy, XX2i, special mention to BioAstin, and to my first coach, Rick Rubio. Thank you!


Humbly and with Gratitude,
Kevin Rhinehart
Stroke Survivors CAN!

Ironman 70.3 Hawaii

13335911_1102627216462497_2185197965966400087_nI did it!  My first Ironman is in the books. It included a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a half marathon, 13.1 mile run.  Swimming was no problem (42: 25), and I was surprised that running (2:27:03) didn’t create more of a problem.  What I was surprised at was the biking (3:46:19).  Too slow!!  I need to work on speed and endurance.

However, I was pleased with my first Ironman.  I finished it and was not last!  Incidentally, that same morning of the event, a newspaper article cover me was published.  It covers my story and gives hope to stroke survivors!

Lesson learned from this event, besides the bike time, were many.

  1. Don’t try any long distance stuff two weeks to the event.  I swam 2.4 miles nine days prior.  I felt miserable during the swim.
  2. Decrease weight on the bike.  I used a Camelback during this ride.  While it may be fine for a leisurely bike ride, Ironman was not leisurely.
  3. If I use socks for the run (I don’t, typically), wear compression socks, not household socks.  I had the socks fold up under my feet, and I have blisters as a result.
  4. If I ride my bike after the event, don’t try and hold sacks (me, anyway).  The sacks got caught in my front tire and I flipped, breaking one of my electronic gear shifters.  I’m still bummed…

As Coach Rubio says, every event is a learning experience.  Yippie…

As always, and it comes from the heart, I would like to Grant and Janet Miller of Bike Works and Bike Works Beach and Sport.  Without them, participation in triathlons would not be possible!   Thanks for my other sponsors, coach Rubio, teammates, and Team Kevin.  You have been an invaluable source of support, encouragement, and friendship!


Kevin Rhinehart
Stroke Survivor, Triathlete

Ironman Preparation

Being in an Ironman takes a great deal of effort.   It’s no longer being in shape alone.  There are a lot of lifestyle changes.  No more are the days are eating and drinking a whatever (although my stroke was a big factor before I ever thought about being shape).  I now eat lots of grains, veggies, and fruit.  I still eat meat, although much less of it.  And I pay much more attention my mental health, working hard to erase negative scripts in my head and filling it with truths about me.  I try to maintain a semi balanced life; not an easy thing to do.  I connect with my wife and kids, volunteer, go to church, read nonsporting materials, and visit friends, for example.

I do, however, spend lots of time and energy due to Ironman, from reading, talking, working out, and recovery from working out.  A lot of time…  I read about ways to build up endurance, foods and supplements to fuel my body, and ways to become more efficient in training.  I also want to find out want other triathletes do, both what worked and learning experiences.

I spend a fair amount of time each week swimming, biking, and running.  I try to do a couple of disciplines each day, but I take two days off during the week (Monday and Friday) because I need to rest.  Saturday and Sunday are reserved for extra long distances biking and running.  These next two weeks are lighter because of Ironman 70.3 Hawaii on June 4.  After June 4, it will be back to my regular routine but getting tougher because I’ve got two full sized Ironman in front of me… Vineman Ironman in Napa country in California at the end of July, and the big dance, World Championships Ironman in Kona at the beginning of October.

Yes, I’m excited to be able to participate, but I’m also intimidated!  To be able to participate in two half Ironman (70.3) and two full Ironman (140.6) is unheard of considering it all…had a stroke at 53, I’m 57 years old, didn’t start training until last October, and all the unusual circumstances (I personally hesitate to call it a miracle).

I am learning to rest, too. As hard as I train, I’m tempted to myself lazy, but I have learned (learning, to put it more accurately) the value of letting my body recharge/rebuild.

I would like thank Kona Bike Works, my coach Rick Rubio and team, and all the other sponsors and Friends of Kevin.  Without it, I would not be where I am today!  Truly!!

Stroke Survivors CAN!!image


Race Day, Lavaman Triathlon!

The Lavaman Triathlon Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Lavaman Triathlon was held at Waikoloa Resort, just North of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. My “big race” had arrived! By “big”, I mean there were over 1500 racers registered, and at least double the viewers, event staff, team supporters and resort guests in attendance.  There was a lot of energy and excitement in the crowd, clear bright Kohala Coast sunshine, and a well-organized race course ahead of me.

I had just spent 6 months training and preparing, so I was ready!  As my carpool made its’ way North on the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, I noticed there was a fairly strong wind.  Although I felt physically ready to race, and had rehearsed my race plan, I began to obsess about being blown off my bike and wiping out in the gravel, or getting pushed into fast moving highway traffic!  The highway remained open during the entire race.  And like most racers, as the start time approached, I became very aware of everything going on inside me and what was going on around me.  It’s all a little overwhelming, but thankfully, a teammate reassured me they had “never seen anything like that happen”…so with that, I could set my mind at ease and pay attention to the details of my race.

Early Start:

First things first  in order to prep for my first “big”race, I had to start my day at 3:30 AM.  An early start is all part of the race plan. Get up with my alarm, shower, dress in my tri-suit, and have a good breakfast. Now the thought of eating breakfast at 3:45AM was not very appealing, but previous experience taught me the value of eating well before my race. I’ve learned to fuel my body and help sustain me for the day.  Breakfast, being oatmeal with fresh fruit, eggs, cup of coffee, and a sustained energy drink was a great start, and also helped settle pre-race jitters.

Go Time:

When my coach arrived, (lucky me I didn’t have to drive myself to the event!), I was packed and ready to go…or so I thought. When I arrived at the staging area, while unloading my gear, I realized I’d forgotten my changing stool and the bath towels that help make transitions between segments much more comfortable and easier to manage.  But nonetheless, a crucial part of participating in events like this is to remain flexible. It was GO TIME, so the only thing to do was to stay calm and focus on the start of the race..  All I could think of were the words of E.E. Milne’s character, Winnie the Pooh. “Oh, bother.” and just keep moving!

 Pre-Race Staging:

The day before the event, I was assigned race number 1163.  I set out to find the parking place for my tri-bike, located in the transition area. Talk about good fortune! My place was located on the end of a row of hundreds of bikes.  From there, I could easily position all my race gear and  supplies…bike shoes, running shoes, socks, portable nutrition, sport drinks, and bike helmet. From there, I checked in with the race officials and was given a timing chip to wear on my ankle. I set out to warm up and prepare for my first stage – the swim.

Race Time:

For those of you who’ve been following my blog, you already know there are three segments of the Lavaman…thus a Triathlon!  Swim. Bike. Run.

Stage 1 = 1500 Meter Swim:

After surveying the start line, I decided to position myself on the outside of my race group. This way I wouldn’t be caught up in a mass of flailing arms, kicking legs, and moving bodies.  And although my race line was not direct, my position paid off and I was able to swim relatively unimpeded, turning in a time of 30:45 for a 1500 meter swim.  This was my fastest time in the water and gave me confidence for the next segment.

Transition 1:

Things were going great! But when the swim ended, and I started to run toward my bike in the transition area, I managed to stub my right toe. Hard.   Another “Oh bother” crossed my mind.  Remember, due to the stroke, I have trouble picking up my right foot.  Well, my thoughts  may have been a little stronger than “Oh, bother,” but by then, my adrenaline had kicked in, literally, and the pain didn’t last long at all!.  My transition time was a bit slower than other races because I’d forgotten my changing stool, as well as an extra towel to dry my feet, and for some odd reason, I decided to wear socks!  Trying to put on compression socks over wet feet was a bad idea.  Thankfully, I had help from two team mates not participating and was ready to ride!

Stage 2 = 40 Kilometer Bike:

As a newcomer to not only the sport, but also navigating a customized racing tri-bike, (provided by my sponsors at Bike Works Kona and Waikoloa shops) my skills and times are continually improving. But biking is arguable my slowest segment. Prior to the stroke, biking for fun was a no-brainer. Lavaman was a whole new experience. In spite of the strong wind, balance challenges, a somewhat bothersome toe,  and legs feeling worn and heavy post-swim, I covered the 40 K distance in 1:26:29.  My plan was to complete the segment in 1:30:00, so overall, not a bad ride. And true to my teammate’s words, I did not get knocked over by the wind!

Transition 2:

I got this! Again, with help and encouragement from my teammates, my second transition time was better than the first, and had no complications gearing up for the run. Even a bit of hi-jinx humor from my teammates sustained my motivation…As I think of it now,  I can see several ways to practice and improve my transition times.  But at race time, there was no time for analysis or any place for self-doubt. My mind and body was in the “zone” and I visualized myself crossing the finish line.  I was ready to run!

Stage 3 = 10K Run:

Leaving the transition area on foot, my quads were letting me know I’d just finished a 1500M swim and a 40K ride! I started cramping up, stopped, did a little stretch, and ran slow for about 1.5 miles. The cramps eventually calmed down then subsided, much to my relief!  I’d never experienced cramps during a race prior to Lavaman, and I realized I had to be do the right things for my body and remain calm to accomplish my goal of finishing the race.  So at every aid station along the route, I dumped cold water on my head, put ice down the back of my shirt, and drank the electrolyte drinks offered by race support.  The majority of the 10K was open road, but the last mile was single track – lava and coral.  Passing was nearly impossible.  With a sluggish right foot, the terrain was a challenge, and I just about fell down twice! To make things even more challenging, the last 300 yards was marked by soft, deep, unleveled sand.  Aha, another item for practice notes.  All this said, I finished 10 Kilometers in 56:45. Again, one of my top finishing times for the distance!

Finish Line: 

During my time competing, one thought kept coming to mind: I want to do triathlons so I bring hope to other stroke survivors.  Even when challenges come up, I don’t want to quit.  There is great reward for continuing whatever path is set before you -whether it is working to regain speech, doing endless physical therapy exercises, or showing up willingly for occupational therapy sessions.  Sharing your story and your personal mission is a gift.  In the big picture, my finish time and place become irrelevant. Why do I run Triathlons?  Because I am a stroke survivor, and stroke survivors CAN!

As always, I would like to thank by sponsors Bike Works of Kona and Waikola, Rudy Project, and XX2iXX2i. Special thanks as well to my coach Rick Rubio, my team mates, and Team Kevin! Without all of you, reaching my goal of racing a triathlon would not be possible! With all of you, I can bring hope to so many!