Road to Redemption...140.6 miles away.
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A journey not soon forgotten...

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Where to begin!  A little over a year ago, on August 3rd 2009, I had extensive shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum.  While the surgery was intense, I was expected to make a full recovery.  Two weeks after my surgery, I noticed a dull pain in my left calf.  I went to get it checked out and was told that I had developed 2 large blood clots in my calf - Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT’s).  I was asked how my chest felt, and I said fine.  They scanned it anyway and it was revealed that I had 4 more blood clots in my lungs.  This is called Pulmonary Embolism and is fatal 34% of the time.  I spent the next week in the Pulmonary ICU at Kennestone Hospital and also spent the next 7-8 months on heavy blood thinners and told to take it easy for a while.  My Orthopedic Doctor does 500+ of these type surgeries a year and maybe ONE or two of his patients gets blood clots.  Lucky me.  I was in good spirits, though, as my wife and I were expecting our first child, a boy named Jet, in April.  On January 19, 2010, for reasons we will never know, Jet was born 13 weeks early.  He spent the next 6 days in the Neonatal ICU and was doing fine for 6 days but developed a blood infection (Sepsis) on day 7 and passed into heaven.  We were heartbroken.  I was still dealing with my 6 blood clots and had a final CT scan during the last week in March and was told they had finally gone away.  I could start exercising lightly again and planned on having an easy race year for 2010...maybe a few 5k’s, etc.  That all changed at noon on April 15, 2010.  That is the day that the 2010 Ironman Lottery was announced, which is a completely random system that chooses 150 US athletes and another 50 internationally.  I was driving to lunch and the first person to contact me was the head coach for Endurance Concepts - Dan Arnett.  Dan is a good friend and I had worked with him preparing for the NOLA Half-Ironman 70.3 in 2009.  I guess my plan to take it easy was out the window!  There were 7,339 entrants in the 2010 Ironman Lottery and I was one of the incredibly lucky ones.  Simply amazing.  



I started working and training again with Dan at Endurance Concepts.  I knew we had an uphill task at hand...I had been on a couch for 9 months and lost most of my fitness while on blood thinners.  My shoulder was 50/50 at best and would take a lot of time in the pool to get stronger.  We worked hard all summer and while I did not love to train, I stuck with it.  I knew that Dan had probably forgotten more about Ironman training that I will ever know, so I just trusted his wisdom.  We worked all summer on all three disciplines and I arrived in Kona, HI on October 2nd as ready as I was going to be.  The week before the race and week leading up to it out in Kona was the most incredible experiences I have ever had.  What an honor to be walking around with such incredible athletes. While at Bikeworks in Kona I met another lottery winner from Florida.  He was fit as a fiddle.  I believe his name was Rajish.  Oh yea, he was a triple amputee.  Unbelievable.  All the athletes in Kona had their own intense journey to get there and I was humbled to be there with them.  I ran into former Ironman World Champion Tim Deboom at the bike store and also met recent Ironman World Champion Norman Stadler at the Henna Temporary Tattoo Shop.  Very nice guy.  Got a good picture with him.  I did a few runs to check out the course out there.  I also swam the full swim course in 1:51 on Tuesday and swallowed half the ocean, I think.  This was my first long distance swim in the ocean and it was an important mental accomplishment.  At least now I knew I could swim the distance in under the cut off with no problems.  Now I just have to figure out how to add a century and a marathon to the mix and I’m all set.  =)



Race Day:



I slept pretty well the night before the race.  The time change worked in our favor and we found ourselves hitting the sack around 9PM each night and waking up very early.  We tried not to change this much so that race morning would work out similar.  I awoke a little before 4AM and showered and then had some almond butter toast with bananas and a Forze bar.  I had water and would grab a large coffee on the way to the race start.  Another racer, good friend, Casey Gallaher stayed with us as our condo was pretty close to the swim start.  We caught the shuttle at 4:45 AM and headed down to body marking.  As we were walking around the swim start and body marking area that it really started to sink in as to where I was at.  I passed Craig Alexander in the body marking area and he looked pretty focused.   There were literally thousands and thousands of people all over the place...it really was incredible.  I knew that I had done a few centuries, a trail marathon a few years back and three half ironman races.  I also recently completed my longest ocean swim that week, but being my first Ironman, I had not done anything close to what I was getting ready to undertake.  For some strange reason, I was not nervous at all.  I felt eerily calm.  Very giddy about all the people there cheering little ol’ me, but not nervous at all.  I think this was simply due to all the hours Coach Dan I had put into my training.  Long runs.  Short runs.  Tempo runs.  Bike rides out to Alabama and back on the Silver Comet.  Tons of hours on the trainer.  Endless sets in the pool.  While I knew I was not Chris Lieto, I knew I had come about as far as I could come in 6 months time.  I just thought about how 1 year ago had just been released from Kennestone Pulmonary ICU with 3 large blood clots in my right lung, 1 small clot in my left lung and 2 more large clots in my left calf.  I was blessed to even be alive.  How could I not be excited about the challenge I was about to accept?





SWIM:



I drifted into the water and got away from the crowd at Dig Me Beach.  There were tons and tons of people lined up on the sea walls and I swam over to say hello and take it all in.  I knew that I was not going to start up front with the masses but I also knew I was not going to start in the very back either. I had about 25 minutes before our cannon went off.  Treading in the sea water was very easy so I hung out and talked with spectators and watched all the fish in the water.  I saw something long and colorful along the sea wall so I swam down closer and........ooops, Sea Snake.  Nice to meet cha, gotta go.  I would more than likely NOT benefit from getting bit by a venomous snake right before my Ironman.  I drifted out towards the start line and hung out with an athlete from Japan.  He did not speak english so we nodded a bunch and smiled.  I tried to tell him how much I like Habachi, but my Japanese is not good, so I might have told him I just saw a shark fin.  Not sure.  He nodded and swam away.  I was treading for just a minute, not really paying attention and BOOOOOM!!!  The cannon goes off.  There’s my cue!  I knew that this was my time to shine and I started swimming, knowing I had a long day ahead of me but that it really would be over in a flash, so to take it all in and be as happy as I could during the race.  One thing that was apparent from the get go was how crowded the swim was.  It was a very polite group and no one really hammered me or climbed over me at all.  I settled in and just tried to stay relaxed and go slow.  During my practice swim I stopped several times to sight and clear fogged goggles.  I did not have to do that on the race swim....just follow the feet.  The view below was amazing!  Colorful tropical fish all over the place..sea turtles and the like.  I did realize that once you enter the ocean you enter the food chain, but luckily I did not see anything that found me particularly appetizing.  Yahoo for that!  Before the halfway mark, I noticed there was a guy starting to pull away from me on my right.  I watched swim for a moment and noticed he looked smooth as silk in the water.  Looking even closer, I saw that he had little or no right arm.   I was in awe at this point. Man is my life great just being here!  I reached the turnaround boat at the 47 minute mark and realized I was about 6 minutes faster then my practice swim.  I did not know what to make of this, so I gave it no mind and kept going.  About halfway back I started to get boxed in and kept getting hit on my feet and I was tired of it so I saw a small opening ahead of me and to the left between a couple of swimmers so I accelerated quickly and got out on front of the group a bit.  I then started to worry that I might immediately get out of breath from the acceleration but felt great and heart rate stayed down.  I immediately thought back to all the different acceleration sets Coach Dan made me do in the pool and was instantly grateful for those.  I came to the finish and saw my time was 1:33-1:34 and was very happy...I felt great.  Time to wash off and head to the changing tent.

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T1:


I planned to take 15 minutes in each transition so this went right as planned.  I changed completely and dried off and took time to apply lots of sunscreen and chamois cream.  I ate a PB&J sandwich and thanked the volunteer who was assigned to my entire transition... he was great.  Headed off on the bike.



BIKE:


I was mentally prepared for a 7 hour bike ride so I think the fact that it was a little over this was not that big deal.  If I made it to the finish line, then I would have an Ironman PR so my thoughts throughout the day was to minimize any mistakes that could lead to misery or even DNF.  Trying to swim, bike or run outside my fitness level or go just a little bit faster could be disaster.  I trained with long, slow rides with focus on nutrition, so that is how this ride was going to be.  We exited transition and I saw my wife and friends and the thousands of people cheering.  I could not get clipped in and ALMOST fell over coming out of transition.  I laughed...that was almost really embarrassing.  We headed through town for 3-4 miles and turned around to head up to the Queen K highway.  It was pretty flat here with some small rollers but I noticed right away it was HOT.  This was easily the hottest day of the week.  No mind, Atlanta was hot as heck this summer too.  I have battled some sleep issues over the past year and due to that I had to get a lot of my long rides in during the middle of the day on the weekend.  I was used to the heat.  At mile 11, some guy in an aero position goes flying by telling me “nice swim”.  It was 80 year old Lew Hollander.  What an amazing dude!!!  He would be my personal rival the rest of the day.  I stopped to pee on the bike about mile 30 and felt some intense burning but was not really worried about it.  Perhaps I got a little salt water in there.  Could be worse.  Aid stations were every 5 miles and stocked with everything you needed.  I stuck to my nutrition plan of Infinit every hour or so and lots of water.  I would eat a couple of PB&J sandwiches along the way to and had gels if I needed them.  So far, so good.  The main bike plan was to keep my HR under 140 for most of the ride.  My average HR on the entire IM bike leg was 127 BPM.  My max HR was 158 although only for a brief moment during a steep climb.  Anytime I saw my HR in the high 130’s,I backed off.  I never once looked at speed, in fact, I had this option turned off on my Garmin and took my bike computer off my bike.  We had a plan and I was sticking to it.  I stopped again to pee at mile 45 or so and the burning was worse.  Still not too worried about it.  We then started hitting the winds about mile 50 and it literally almost blew me off the bike.  You had to lean into the wind to compensate.  The riders coming back the other way were leaning so far into the wind, I thought they were going to fall over if the the wind stopped, but it never did.  I kept plugging along and was riding with a guy named Nestor from France.  Nestor looked pretty fit, so I was not sure why he was crawling at my speed.  I needed to pass him so I did, but looked over and said “keep it up my man!!”, he smiled and said thanks and off I went.  I would pass and get passed many times by Nestor and later found out he was pretty badly dehydrated.  We gave each other encouragement many times throughout the day.  By mile 56 or 57 I was not feeling very good.  It was hot and we were still climbing up to Hawi.  It would climb, flatten out, and then climb some more.  It went like this for 10-12 miles.  Nothing super steep but hard to get any rest anywhere.  At mile 58 I was past the point of ready to turn around and started to wonder if I was going to make it.  I was hot, getting sunburned, it hurt a lot to pee and my legs were starting to ache from the constant climbing.  How was I going to go another 50+ and then run a marathon?  Maybe I had made a mistake trying to complete a full Ironman.  Not a happy camper.  We finally reached the small town of Hawi and there were lots of people out everywhere cheering.  It felt good to be so well supported.  I stopped at the special needs at the turnaround and picked up my bag...had a couple sandwiches, more infinit and thought about grabbing my small tube of sunscreen.  I had stopped several times at aid stations on the way up and had more sunscreen put on, but grabbed it anyway and put it in my bento bag.  Later on, I would be glad I did.  I went the porta potty to pee and dreaded how it would feel.   P-A-I-N.  I was now worried that there was a problem..maybe kidneys or something.  I did not see any blood and had no back aches.  I figured I would have plenty of time to recover after this madness was over.  I pushed ahead.  The next section of 10-12 miles was screaming back down from Hawi and my Garmin log after the race said I hit 37 mph a couple times.  I was more happy that I could just ride in aero position and RELAX.  By the time we got to the bottom I was feeling much better mentally.  No more thoughts of a DNF.  Passed my French friend Nestor again and told him he was a machine.  He smiled but I knew he was hurting.  I am grateful he spoke english since I knew no french.  The episode in the Pacific Ocean with the Japanese racer still lingered and I was happy that my international relations were improving.  I was starting to get tired of riding about mile 70.  Not sore, just tired of the heat and the saddle.  I needed to do something to make the miles go by faster so I decided to dedicate the miles between 70-80 to my little brother Scott.  He is 6 years younger and we are the best of friends.  I thought about us growing up together and what a terrific father he is.  Those miles flew by.  Miles 80-90 were dedicated to my parents.  They live in NC and are the best parents anyone could have.  Putting up with all my shenanigans, teaching me right from wrong...I cannot thank them enough.  They are truly the best.  Miles 90-100 were dedicated to my son Jet.  He passed in January and fought his little butt off for 7 days before passing.  I feel lucky to have him in my life for those 7 days and know he is up in Heaven watching down.  I miss you little fella.  I dedicated the last 12 miles, 100-112 to my wonderful wife Denise.  She is my rock and I am lucky to have her.  She has stuck with me through everything and has strength I only wish I had.  She helped me get through a lot in life and I will be forever grateful.  I finally made it back to town and was back again among the cheering crowds.  Felt gooood to finally be off that saddle!!  Saw my wife and good friend Justin Mercer as I came in.

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T2:


Man was I happy to be off the bike.  I changed into some compression undies and put my tri shorts from the bike back on.  Ate a sandwich, grabbed my fuel belt and thanked the volunteer.  I had been in there 14 minutes and it was time to get moving.  I asked a spectator who won and they said Macca and Carfrae.  Whoa!!


RUN:


My training had included many long runs but after a brutal ride I had no idea what to expect.  I have had some rough races where I went out too hard on the bike and had nothing left on the run so I would know pretty early in the run if this was going to be one of those days.  I left transition and saw my wife Denise and started running.  Our run training was pretty simple but structured:  I run 9 minutes and walk 1 minute as a recovery break, then run again.  Doing this I managed to stay around 11 min/mile for most of my long training runs...the only different was that my training runs were fairly flat and this course was not.  I ran through town and was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt pretty good.  I thought back to all the run bricks we did...especially the ones after my 80, 90 and even my 115 mile rides.  I always asked myself, “why would Coach Dan have me running after such a long ride?”.  I am glad he did.  My first 3 miles clocked in at 33 mins and I knew I needed to slow down.  I was walking my 1 min breaks as planned but my run pace was too swift.  Really a testament to how good the legs felt more than anything.  It was just after 4 PM and it was still very hot out so I took advantage of the aid stations and all the ice and cold water.  Each station had a dedicated person to dump water on you if you wanted it.  I did.  Felt terrific.  I had gotten pretty heated on the bike so this was a nice change.  I had as much water poured over me as I could.  Ran the out and back section and as the sun went down over the ocean, I thought again how lucky I was to be in Kona with the greatest endurance athletes on the planet.  I passed my good friend Casey and he looked strong.  I looked out over the water and the view over the ocean was stunning.  How could I complain about a little pain with a view like this?

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I was running with my good friend Nestor from France and asked him how he was doing.  He said he was hot..I told him to get some water poured at the aid station and he told me he didn’t want to get his feet wet for fear of blisters.  Uh oh.  Why hadn’t I thought of that???  My feet were soaked!  Maybe they would dry.  First big mistake of the day.  We headed through town and up Palani and back out to the Queen K.  It was getting dark and I was on my walk break and came up on a nice lady and said hello.  She was in the 60-64 or 65-69.  Can’t remember.  She told me this was her 16th Kona IM.  Incredible.  We chatted for a while and before I realized it I had walked 3 straight miles.  Argghh!!!!  That’s gonna affect my run time for sure.  I told her I needed to keep going and started running again.  We were somewhere around mile 12 at this point.  In a short while I came up on Lew Hollander.  I said hello and told him I was a big fan. I asked about how many IM’s he had done and he said 50 or so.  Good grief...this guy was a machine.  80!!! and looked great. Well ahead of last year’s time for him.  I was still in good spirits and using most of what was at the aid stations at this point.  My left foot had developed a HUGE blister but there was nothing I could do about it so I tried to ignore it but it hurt like heck.  We turned into the Energy Lab and I saw Clayton Treska who was followed by NBC Sports all week. I am not sure how he will look on TV but in person he was a monster.  He had been diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer just last year and went through intense chemo and had his own stem cells injected back into his body and was doing better.  He looked very strong.  He was leaving the Energy Lab as I was headed in.  Keep on truckin' big man.  What an inspiration.  There was a lot going on in the Energy Lab - lights, music and an announcer on the course calling you out as you passed.  I laughed and waved.  I was not really hurting that much except for my blisters.  Legs were tired but I have felt much, much worse.  I owe that to a great race plan and terrific training plan by Coach Dan at Endurance concepts.  I was expecting to be in a mountain of misery at this point and that just was not the case.  Feet were a little sore and I was certainly tired from competing all day but felt much better than I was expecting.  Turned right back on Queen K out of Energy Lab and was just past mile 19 of the marathon.  I knew at this point I was going to make it.  I also knew that I was not going to make it in under 15 hours.  That had been a private goal of mine but no so important that I pushed harder that the race plan dictated.  Without the blisters I absolutely could have run faster...I also lost time while chatting it up the the lady earlier for 3 miles.  But I was ecstatic inside that I was almost done and that I would be an Ironman.  I slowed at the aid stations, drank soup and started drinking coke around mile 22.  I decided I had had enough with the walk breaks and decided to run as much of the last 4 as I could.  Blisters were pretty painful.  I turned onto Palani and had only a couple of turns before I hit Ali’i Dr.  I could hear all the noise from way up on Palani. A familiar face jumped out from the crowd.  Jason Lester!!  I had met him earlier in the week at Ironprayer.  He was the 2009 ESPY athlete for best male athlete with a disability.  He does tons of Ultradistance and Ironman events.  He has done Ultraman several times.  He also recently wrote a book called running on faith.  Check out his website at jasonlester.com.   The fact that he remembered me and my name was frickin’ unbelievable.  What a terrific guy.  Of course I did have a crazy, crazy haircut all week and it was the bee’s knees!  I had soooooo many people want a picture of the back of my head. 

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The color for the race was blonde and the design stood out even more than the pic.  Thanks to Clark Salon in Canton for that!!!  (www.clarksalon.com)



Anywho - I came down on Ali’i Dr and it was MAYHEM.  I meant wilder than you can even imagine.  I slowed down as the guy in front of me was moving pretty slow and looked to be in pain so I did not want to impede on his moment.  No on was close to me from behind so it worked out good.  I slapped high five with what seemed like 500 spectators...my hand hurt!  There were supposedly 25,000 spectators for this event.  I could not believe how crowded and crazy it was.  I slowed down right before the finish and held out my left hand as if I was holding a child’s hand....I was.  My little Jet was right there with me.  I heard Mike Reilly scream out “Brian Oringderff - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!!  I crossed and pointed to the sky to say thanks to God for this great day.  Without him it would not have been possible.  I started feeling a little lightheaded and was whisked away to medical just for safety precaution.  Felt better soon thereafter.

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COMMENTS:


What an incredible journey.  To think just last year I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Embolism and then had to endure the loss of our first child, Jet.  I knew this was be a long, tough road but if I found a way to finish the Ironman then perhaps I would have traveled the Road to Redemption.  It was only 140.6 miles away from the start line.  As it turned out, the race itself was tough but not nearly as grueling as I was expecting.  The recovery and days after were much easier than I anticipated also.  I owe all this to Coach Dan at Endurance Concepts.  I was a project of sorts and Coach Dan had to not only deal with a hard headed athlete, but he had to think outside the box from normal IM training.  I was basically doing a couch to IM in six months time.  He found a way to make it happen and we had a great training plan and a good race plan to match.  The past year has been the hardest of my life physically and emotionally.  I knew that training and hopefully getting through this race would bring me back to where I needed to be.  I feel great and I’m thankful for having been given this awesome opportunity.  I will never forget it.  One last note.  My beautiful wife is pregnant again...13 weeks along.  We are blessed in so many ways.



I would like to thanks all my family and friends for their tremendous support during this journey.  I could not have done it without them.  Many of them stayed up to 4AM on race day just to see me finish.  Very humbling.


I also owe just about everything to Coach Dan at Endurance Concepts.  There is no chance on earth of me getting across that finish line without his incredible assistance.  Thanks Coach Dan.


God bless everyone...if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at: 


brianoringderff@yahoo.com



Mahalo!!!!



Brian