Today I watched the 2009 Kona Ironman World Championships on TV as I have so many times before and was inspired by the trials and tribulations, the many incredible stories of pros and age groupers alike who made it to Kona this year. I also had a few friends who either qualified or won a lottery spot, but honestly, I couldn’t relate to their experiences and stories. I also couldn’t relate to Chrissie Wellington’s unbelievable 3-peat performance or Craig Alexander’s win. I’m sure the pros have their share of challenges and defeats, but I needed to see the struggle of the guy more like me, and watching the Kona event was exactly what I needed as I started my ironman training this month for IM Couer d’Alene next June. I’m going to be doing most of my training while traveling extensively on business overseas, and much of that will be in Bangalore, India. I’m determined not to let a globe-trotting schedule or the limitations of training in India stop me.
I’m having my Trek 5200 road bike re-built to the exact fit of my tri bike (as close as possible, anyway) and shipping it to Bangalore with my trainer at the beginning of January. When I’m home in California I’ll ride outdoors on my tri bike, but I’ll be spinning in my hotel room at the Leela Palace. They have an unheated 27-meter pool which stays at a comfortable temperature to train.
Running is impossible outdoors. The streets of Bangalore are at 600% capacity so I’ll have to do what I can on a treadmill at the hotel gym.
I raced my local sprint triathlon in Morgan Hill this year with 2007 Kona champion Chris McCormack and Chris Lieto. I saw them racing to the finish as I started my bike that day. I know it was only a sprint, but they were running at 5:39 pace having a conversation. So it was sobering to watch both of them walking the marathon at Kona even as Lieto finished in 2nd place, McCormack in 4th.
I was particularly interested in the story of 19 yr.-old Rudy Garcia-Tolson, a double amputee. Rudy was born with rare, multiple birth defects – a combination of crippling Pterygium Syndrome, a clubfoot, webbed fingers on both hands, and a cleft lip and palate. His legs would not straighten from the knee and he was forced to crawl or push himself in a wheelchair, so he chose to have them amputated when he was only five years old. He missed the bike cutoff in Kona by just five minutes. He was committed to finishing an ironman, so he called Muddy Waters, my coach, and came to my local bike two blocks from my home to train for IM Arizona. They built a whole new bike for him and I watched Rudy spin on the CompuTrainer. Last month he finished IM Arizona.
Navy Commander David Haas did his training for Kona on a Navy frigate with a CopmuTrainer, treadmill, rowing maching, and VersaClimber. Haas would often ride his CompuTrainer on the bridge so that he was accessible in case anything came up. Once every two weeks he’d jump off the side of the ship into the 105 degree water and swim around the ship with a couple of search and rescue members to keep him company. Lieutenant Commander Don Cross trained in a submarine! He had to do it while making no noise, and submarine life is organized around an 18-hour-day, so there’s even less time to train. His daily routine was on watch for 6 hours, 6 hours of maintenance and training, then 6 hours of time to himself where he’d get a couple of hours of training and four hours of sleep.
57-yr. old Elizabeth Thompson suffered a stroke two years ago, leaving her unable to walk. She finished at Kona. Lots of great athletes did not finish. I wonder if I’ll be one of them. I’m still not entirely sure why I want the Ironman. I don’t think I’ll ever climb Mt. Everest. Ironman still seems to be the biggest challenge of all, and I just watch the images of people crossing the finish and see the euphoria painted across their faces. I don’t care about the lifetime bragging rights people talk about. I want this one for myself. And if some of these people can overcome the obstacles they had in front of them, I know I can do it.