Monday, October 17, 2016


B.J. Christenson is a local legend in my state, a 9x Kona Qualifier who has won more races than you can shake a stick at.

After this year's Ironman World Championships???

Let's just say the legend has grown...

Paul Bunyan territory.

Kick back and enjoy this read... hopefully it inspires you to do something epic yourself, in any aspect of life!

The Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI was supposed to be my “A” race in 2016. In fact I hardly raced this year trying to put together a race at the world championships that would finally let me step on to the podium and collect a coveted Umeke. On my final training ride the day before I left for the Big Island I decided to go do some testing to verify the machine was ready to perform. I have a route that I have taken over the past 10 years and have numbers telling me where I am at relative to myself and wanted that last bit of confirmation I was ready. I set out on the ride feeling quite good and after my first 2 intervals I was feeling very optimistic about my fitness. I had 4 intervals left and debated on whether to eat some nutrition before I started my 3rd or after. I decided it would be better to eat after the 2nd and then again after the 4th. Well I took my gel after the 2nd and proceeded to put the wrapper in my back jersey pocket. As I did this I began to veer off the road and when I got back to my handlebars I realized I was getting dangerously close to riding off the road. My anxiety was at full alert as I tried to save it but at the last second my front wheel slipped off the edge of the road and down I went. As a result of the crash I landed on my side and shoulder blade. I felt a deep sharp pain in my back as it happened and thought I may have torn a muscle. I sat on the ground for a minute or two digesting what had just happened and as it sank in I knew I was pretty hurt. A kind man picked me up off the ground and took me to the instacare and with each passing minute I knew I would not be OK to race or at least race the way I had intended.

As a result of the crash I fractured my Scapula for the 3rd time. Albeit the left one this time but nonetheless I was broken and the race was happening in 9 days. After confirming the break I had to decide if I would even go to Hawaii. I decided I would go because after all the freight had been paid and let’s be honest Hawaii with a broken wing is still a great place to be. I called my friend Mike Mamales and Arwa Jundi over to help me pack. Because I had fractured this bone before and that surgery would not be needed I knew that in 9 days it could be possible, albeit slow and painful, to finish before the 17 hour cut off. The Doctor was kind enough to call in a larger prescription so that I would have enough pain medication if I needed it. I knew I couldn’t take my super-fast Dimond race bike out of fear of stabilizing in the hard winds in Kona. I took my old bike with shallow rims and hoped it would be enough. I still didn’t know about racing but thought I would come prepared if I felt it was possible.

The trip over wasn’t too bad at least not when you are taking some good meds and I arrived in Kona with my gear and an attitude of I still have 2 good legs and one good arm. Some people have a hell of a lot less than that and besides I am still in HI. My friend Bob Macrae from the Dimond club picked me up and had to take me under his wing a little while I mended. He was looking fit and focused and also ready to smash the day. I spent a few days doing very little and decided to see if I could swim with one arm fast enough to make the cut off. We went to the swim venue and low and behold when the weight of the arm was supported by the salt water of the ocean it didn’t hurt as much. I couldn’t use it but at least it didn’t hurt. I swam .5 of a mile with one arm and after looking at my watch I knew that as long as I didn’t get hit in the shoulder or grabbed by another swimmer I would be able to complete the swim in time.

After another rest day the next test was to see if I could ride and stabilize the bike in the wind. So Bob escorted me through town as I was scared to death of falling again and I did a 30 mile ride on the Queen K and felt confident I could complete the bike portion. I knew that in order for me to make it I would have to stop at each aid station to drink and eat because doing it on the bike was not going to work. I started to feel more optimistic that it would be possible. I hadn’t ran yet because moving and bouncing my arm caused the most pain.

The Thursday before the race in Kona there is an annual tradition known as the Underpants Run. This is a great way for athletes and family and friends to blow off steam and run around town in their undies of course. This was the only run I did for the race and it hurt like hell. I started to think walking the marathon might be my only option, peppered in with some bouts of jogging. If something was going to keep me from finishing this was probably going to be it.

Race day came and it was time to see just how far this one arm bandit could go. I decided I would start in the back of the swimmers and wrap my arm to my waist with saran wrap out of fear of having it grabbed by another swimmer. My friends Mike and Dan wrapped me up and I headed into the ocean. My strategy was to stay consistent and not panic and take my time and be safe. This was a new adventure and I was going to see the race from a new perspective. One of the coolest things about being hurt was that I no longer felt pressure to perform and was able to relax and really soak up the experience of bobbing around in the pacific waiting for the cannon to fire. Usually I am on the front row wrestling with other men for the perfect start and running through my head how I would attack the day. This time I relaxed and waited and watched the sea turn white without much anxiety other than stay clear and try not to let the women who would start 15 minutes later kill me when they caught me. I let the fish swim away and started my 2.4 mile pacific tour with one arm and one mindset. The mindset was that this was going to be one very long day but I would do my very best to see it through.

I finished the swim in 1 hour and 40 some odd minutes so I was happy to have some time in the bank. I walked into transition calm and collected and rinsed the salt water off of me. I changed into cycling shorts and a jersey because I knew that if I was going to take my time I was going to be comfortable. I walked to my bike and laughed because it was the only one left on my rack. I walked to the mount line and saddled up. The one part of the entire bike I was most afraid of was in the 2nd mile. You do a small loop in town and part of that loop is a steep descent down Palani with a sharp left hand turn. I was able to rest my broken arm on the left bull horn and do the steering and most of the braking with my right. I descended cautiously and made it safely around the corner. Once that was over I felt some relief other than I still had 110 miles to go and the sun was out for blood. My plan of riding and stopping worked great even though I think some people were wondering why I kept stopping only to repass them again later. I saw some of the same bikes dozens of times throughout the day. One thing I began to appreciate even more than ever was the volunteer force at these races. Being in the back you get to see the carnage from all the racers who went through the aid stations as if a tornado had gone through. I mean every aid station had water bottles and garbage spread for at least a half a mile and there were thousands of bottles. The other thing I noticed is that the people in the back often get the raw end of the deal.

Towards the end of the bike aid stations had run out of water and reinforcements were not there yet. They did have Gatorade but I started to feel bad for the times I would take a bottle just to rinse off or cool down when I was at the front end of the race. You think the race organizers should have enough but when they run out before more can get there people suffer for it. In the future I will try to remember that. God bless the volunteers they put up with a lot and because of that we as athletes get to do what we love. I think I will try to volunteer more often and would love to see it as a prerequisite to racing. I took a pain pill about 8 miles before finishing the bike knowing I might need to take the edge off a little for the run.

I finished the bike in 6 hours and who knows how many minutes, I honestly haven’t looked, I just knew I was well ahead of the cut off and that if I needed to walk the marathon I had a fair amount of time in the bank to do it. I got off my bike and walked to transition not feeling the best but hoped a change of clothes and some cold drinks would pep me up. I took my time and changed into my running clothes and put my arm in a sling. Sure enough I felt a little better and set out on a jog starting to feel the pain soften from the narcotic.

My plan was simple and that I would run as long as I could and walk through each aid station, also known as my life rafts. This plan worked like a champ for about 16 miles but the shortened gait and pain in my hips were taking their toll. By mile 20 I walked through the aid station and found I couldn’t jog anymore. By this time I had befriended another athlete not having a great day either and we had settled on walking to the finish knowing we had plenty of time in the bank to do it. The run was a lot of firsts for me. The first time I watched the sunset in the race. The first time I got handed a glow stick. The first time I ate chicken broth. The first time seeing once again what the volunteers do to make this race happen. When I finally made it to the finish line I was overcome with joy. I mean real joy and gratitude for so many people. I thought often of Jason Crompton and grew my side burns out in his honor. There are many finish lines in life and the parables one gains from this race are countless. I have come away with a new perspective and a new fire burning.

The motto of the ironman is that anything is possible. Life has lots of obstacles and challenges and they come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes they prevent us from doing what we had originally intended but it will open up a new path that just might give us a new perspective and new outlook that would have never been possible without it.

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