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.
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
The 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.
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
This 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.
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
I 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!
I couldn’t do this alone. I have many people to thank! Thank them for believing in my cause!
- God, my wife, family, Team Kevin, and friends
- My sponsors Kona Bike Works who supplied me with a Specialized Shiv and provides maintenance, Waikoloa Bikeworks Beach and Sport with provides me with clothing, Rudy Project, XX2 , and TurboMed Orthotics
- Rick Rubio, Triathlon Coach/Personal Trainer
- Kristina Roberts, ND, Kona Integrative Health
- Daisy Delangen, LAc, Kona Acupuncture Studio
- Sondra Rhinehart, Handmade by Sondra
- Todd Plymale-Mallory, Lac, massage therapist and acupuncture
- Countless professionals who believed in me
- Future sponsors!
- Special thanks to the town of Kailua-Kona and the Big Island who cheered me on through training and race day!
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.