2009 Beach to Battleship Race Report

The Battle(ship) is won! (Part 1)

B2B Take 1 —
After nearly two decades of competing in adaptive sports, you’d think there really wouldn’t be much left for me to try. But life has a funny way of directing certain types of people (OK, I’m talking about me) toward new and difficult challenges. In late 2007, as my fortieth birthday appeared on the horizon and I was refocusing my energy on making 2008 a successful, positive and enjoyable year, a full page ad for the inaugural Beach to Battleship Full and Half Ironman Triathlon jumped from the pages of Triathlete magazine and caught my eye.

The race appealed to me for many reasons. It was going to be staged in Wilmington, NC, and I jump at any chance I get to head to Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. The course seemed friendly to a physically challenged athlete like me. And did I mention I like challenges? Enough said.

Believe it or not, the date of the event had a unique meaning to me, too. If my calculations were correct, and memory served me, I realized that I would be completing the swim segment of the race at just about the same minute that I broke my neck. That thought, in itself, seemed like hook enough to get me to register. I thought exiting the Atlantic Ocean after swimming over a mile would be far better than how I did it (i.e., on a stretcher) 18 years earlier. So I tore out the page, stuck in on the fridge for motivation and began counting the days until registration opened.

I set my sights on completing the half ironman. To put it in perspective, a half ironman (or half iron distance triathlon depending on what you call it) consists of a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. The clock starts when you enter the water and it ends when you cross the finish line. There are no breaks, no timeouts and no halftime. If you want to stop for a breather, the clock keeps running. And if you need to take a bathroom break, you guessed it, that time is included, too.

Triathlon is a relatively new sport for the disabled and there really aren’t too many athletes who compete in all three disciplines. Many adaptive athletes compete on relay teams and swim, bike or run but few compete in all three legs. In fact, I know of only about two dozen wheelchair athletes in the world who race this distance (and longer). And to my knowledge, no man or woman with my level or injury – anywhere – had ever completed a half ironman. It sounded like a perfect challenge for a guy like me.

An interesting thing happened before the 2008 race that kept me from achieving my goal. I got sick – really sick – and missed the start. You see, in the months leading up to race day, I knew I had an illness that required antibiotics (plus rest and relaxation) but instead of knocking it out and getting healthy, I chose to put off treatment until after the race. I hardheadedly stuck to a very strict and intense training schedule, balanced a busy work schedule, pushed hard and traveled a lot. I even made the bad decision to fly to Arizona and back (on the redeye nonetheless) the week of the race when I should have been resting and tapering. Long story short, Sarah and I weren’t in Wilmington in 2008 for more than a few hours before I got so sick that the ER rolled out the red carpet. To end this chapter, let’s just say New Hanover Regional Medical Center, a race sponsor, got their money’s worth from this guy, and I wound up watching the athletes race from the wrong side of a window.

I left Wilmington in 2008 with some unfinished business.