Man, this guy makes me feel lazy. I can never hope to accomplish what he has, because I’ve never weighed 340 lbs. But throw out the weight, and we share the same story of fat men becoming Ironmen, except I’m still working on mine while Kerry has already arrived. I just got this story in an email, and hope Kerry doesn’t mind me posting it. But I think it’s highly inspirational and can help a lot of other people out there. If you’re not into reading, the photos say it all.
1st photo – The beginning of the journey. Kerry in 2001 at 340 lbs.
2nd photo – The completed journey. Kerry at the finish line at 2009 Ironman Canada at 185 lbs.
3800m (2.4 mile) Swim
I looked at all the other 2600 athletes at Okanagon Beach in Penticton, BC, getting ready to do Ironman Canada on Sunday, Aug.30th. I reflected on the 8 1/2 year journey that I had undertaken to get here. Losing 155 lbs over this time period and developing a healthy lifestyle. The journey was not always easy, overcoming unbelievable odds at times. I had many health issues along the way, but was able to get through it all. This race was a celebration of how far I had come.
At first I thought that the Ironman was a crazy idea, never achievable by me. But as time progressed and the more that I talked to other veteran Ironman triathletes, the more I got passionate about the idea. I originally wanted to do it in 2008, but decided to delay it for one year because I felt I wasn’t ready. You need to be prepared physically and mentally to do an Ironman.
I seeded myself in the middle of the crowd on the beach. I felt calm, realizing that this was going to be a long day. We sang the national anthem at about 6:50 am and the horn sounded for the start at 7:00 am. I started slow. Bodies were all around me, but I zoned it all out and concentrated on what I had to do. My energy levels were good and I was starting to get into a rhthym. I noticed that I was off the buoy line, so I tried to get back on it. This seemed to be a constant problem throughout the swim. However, I seemed to correct the problem in the last 1500m. I swam to the first corner of the swim course at 1600m. There were two houseboats marking the back 450m leg of the swim course. I continued to ramp up the pace. As I was turning the corner, a girl hit my left goggle with her return stroke, driving it into my eye socket. I couldn’t see out of that eye until I was able to pull back the goggle a bit. I was now on the home stretch with 1800m to go. I continued to ramp up the pace. I was staying on the buoy line a lot better now and wishing that the swim would be over soon. I got to within 400m of the shore and started ramping down a bit. Once my hands could touch the bottom, I stood up and started running in calf deep water. I exited the water and proceeded over to the wetsuit strippers. I was a little disappointed with my 1:35 time, but thought that getting off course a bit may have cost me. I went to the change tent and got ready for the bike. As I got sunscreen applied to my body, I remember Clint Lien in the transition. I was a little rattled after the swim. However, Clint gave me words of encouragement and got me focused on what was coming up. I was really thankful for what he said to me.
180km (112 mile Bike)
I ran with my bike out to the mount line and headed south through Penticton. Forest fire smoke from a neighbouring forest fire had blown in recently. It was not going to be fun breathing. The crowd was awesome and you could feel the energy with every pedal stroke going through town. I exited Penticton and headed down the Skaha Lake Road. Just before I got to McLean Creek Road, I stopped briefly to make an quick adjustment to my bike. For some reason, I didn’t get proper footing and down I went. I banged up my knee a bit, but I still got up and continued on. The climb on McLean Creek Road was slow, but my legs seemed to handle it ok. I got to the top of the hill and then made the descent to OK Falls. As I was going down the hill, I noticed my back tire was flat. The Bike Barn Tech Support was almost immediately behind me and changed the tire quickly. I continued on through OK Falls and headed towards Oliver. At this point, I had established a good pace and heart rate and was taking in nutrition and salt tabs. I got to Oliver and realized I had another flat, darn ! I quickly changed it and got back on the road….only to find that I had another flat in Osoyoos at km 60 !! I said to myself..what is it with these towns…I keep getting flats in the towns ! The Bike Barn showed up again. They looked at it closely this time and realized that the rim tape was worn out and that exposed metal was constantly puncturing the tire tube. I got back on the road and began preparing to ascend Richter Pass. I started to shift down and found out that I couldn’t use the last three easy gears on my cassette. I quickly decided that I couldn’t waste time anymore with tech support and I needed to suck it up with the harder gear ! I started to climb the 11km of Richter Pass. Since I was moving slow, it was really starting to get hot. Also my breathing wasn’t good because of the forest fire smoke. However, I was climbing at a good pace. Luckily Richter is separated into four sections with flat spots in between. I passed a number of people in the ascent and was rewarded with a nice downhill. I passed aid stations and took advantage of the water and Gatorade. I also poured water over my helmet / bandanna to keep my head cool. It wasn’t long and I was tackling the 7 to 8 rollers. I felt I was climbing good on these, but again the heat was unbelievable. Depending on where you were, it varied between 36 deg C to 40 deg C. At times I was coughing from the smoke in the air as well. I finally got to the Keremeos Flats. It was windy, but I was able to keep my speed up. I tried not to over extend myself and kept a nice, steady pace like I did in the first 60km of the bike course. I got onto the out and back. I could hardly wait until I got to the bike special needs station at km 120. Once I got there, I reached in my bag immediately to get some vaseline. I continued to finish the out and back and start the Yellow Lake ascent. The climb to Yellow Lake was probably one of my biggest challenges in the race where I really had to fight mentally to get through it. It was ugly with people laying down in the ditch with their bikes, getting sick on the side of the road or ambulances picking up people that were affected by the heat. I got to within 50m of the ascent and my abductors started to cramp. I had a big decision to make…I got off the bike and walked it to the top. I needed to give my legs a little break. One thing was for certain, the bike had caused me a lot of problems during the race. I was going to carry it back to Penticton if I had to just so I could finish. I got to Yellow Lake at km 150 and I knew I had a few more hills to go, but it was mostly downhill. I got back on the bike and my legs felt revived. Also, I was going faster with the bike and I could feel the heat less. I felt new life and soared down towards Penticton, knowing that time was not on my side. I needed to be in transition by 5:30 pm. I got into town and went as fast as I could. I finally got into transition by 5:00 pm. I felt tired and a bit dehydrated.
42km (26 mile) Run
I gave my bike to the volunteers to be racked and proceeded to the change tent to get ready for the run. I didn’t feel good and didn’t know how I was going to run a marathon. My legs were so tired from the bike. I decided to walk briskly to try and get my legs back. I met Coach Sara at about km 2 while she was proceeding to the finish line. She called out to me to “jog it out”. I decided that I would at least try to start a walk / run routine by about km 5. I realized that I would have to run part of the time to finish. I took in ice water, Gatorade and flat Pepsi at the aid stations. As well I had my own salt pills and sports drink. I got to km 6 where I was greeted by one of my fellow athletes, Kendall. She was so excited for me and having her say that I was going to make it, helped me push harder. At km 8 by Skaha Park, Wade Church (Great White North Race Director) had a music tent and was playing some catchy tunes that were really motivating. The sun was starting to go down. It was going to be nice not to have it beating down on me. At km 15, I ran into Chris Brown and the photographer, David McClone. By 7:30 pm it was starting to get dark and the volunteers gave us glow sticks to wear around our necks for safety reasons. Both did a good job of motivating me and keeping my spirits up. My stomach was starting to feel better, but my legs were still tired. I walked most of the big hills by the McLean Creek turnoff and once I got to the top, I began running continuously downhill to the turnaround. We had to be at the turnaround by 9:00 pm. I managed to get there by 8:15 pm. It was completed dark by this point. Due to the shortness of time, I decided not to call for the run special needs bag. I climbed the hills out of OK Falls and felt like I was starting to get myself back together. I continued the walk / run and started passing a lot of people since most people in this position of the race were mostly walking. The second half seemed to go faster. I was encouraging other athletes to start running, so that they could finish on time. Straight walking just wasn’t going to do it. I got into town again and went by Wade’s music stand again at km 34. I felt energized. And then finally, I had been looking for my buddy Floyd from Fort St.John all day. I finally found him at km 40. It was so fitting that we would finish this race together.
I made the final loop on Lakeside Drive to the finish line. The crowd was unbelievable even at 11:15 pm at night. The whole finish area was lit up and looked like the Stairway to Heaven. I crossed the finish line and raised the finish banner high above my head. My final time was 16 hours, 17 minutes.
I had seen many obstacles today, but I still got it done ! The Ironman race was so symbolic of my journey to get to the race….adversity along the way, but still moving ahead and achieving the ultimate goal.