Last year I got to be a guest on my dear friend Dwayne Kerrigan’s podcast. We did a couple of sessions and this one touches on the aftermath of my accident back in 2006 that resulted in the loss of my hand and how I came to accept, forgive and let go.
Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without you. It got pretty dark by the back end of the run, both actually and metaphorically. The cloud obscuring the full moon plunged all of us stragglers heading down to the Energy Lab into near blackness—lack of street lights and a pot-holed road don’t make a great running combination.
There are no spectators on this part of the Ironman course, just an occasional athlete appearing out of the gloom on their return leg from the turnaround, a glow stick around their neck dimly lighting their way.
I passed a sign stating that competitors continued at their own risk—as if someone would read that and decide to not proceed.
Why was I putting myself through this again?
It’s Kona, the Ironman World Championship, I kept reminding myself. A once a lifetime opportunity (for me, at least). I can’t not finish!
I swear the only flat section in Kona is the swim. When you combine the never-ending rolling hills, a climb up the side of a volcano, with temperatures touching ninety-nine degrees Fahrenheit (37°C), eighty-plus percent humidity, and a relentless wind that always feels like it’s in your face, it makes for a relentless grind. A fifteen-plus hour relentless grind, in my case.
As I resorted to power-walking the last thirteen miles of the run—the hill on the Queen K highway that just kept going and going, runners snaking into the distance, finally got the better of me—I knew I was in for a slog.
The course at Kona is distinctive in that the swim and bike are an out and back; usually, the swim at an Ironman would be two or even three loops (likewise for the bike).
Seeing buoys stretching for one point two miles into the distance brought home how long a swim it is. Driving our rental car to the bike turnaround at Hawi took well over an hour. For the first time, one hundred and twelve miles was starting to feel a long way.
But the run course, well, that’s a labyrinthian route. It heads off in one direction through the town, to a turnaround, then back towards Kona, a climb up to the Queen K, and then along the highway to a turnaround that loops back along the Queen K before dropping down to the Energy Lab and another u-turn that brings you back up to the Queen K and the last leg back to town for the finish.
Driving and riding parts of the run course had failed to bring home the near-constant rolling hills and climbs I now faced.
My usually good spirits had gone the way of the dodo. As night descended, it became a battle of sheer willpower to put one foot in front of the other. Yet, I couldn’t let all of you down, everyone that has supported me over these last three years. All of you that were following my progress live through the tracker app. Justin, who had flown to Kona to volunteer as my handler. Kerry, who was patiently waiting at the finish line.
It’s in these moments that we’ll do more for others than we’d do for ourselves. If it’d just been me racing out there, I’d have packed it in at mile twelve on the run, sat down on the side of the road, and called it a day. But it wasn’t just me racing out there; all of you were with me in spirit. I couldn’t let myself down; I couldn’t let you down.
So, when I finally heard those immortal words, “Keiron McCammon, you are an Ironman,” from the voice of Ironman, Mike Riley (who retired last year), I knew it wasn’t just me who was an Ironman. You, too, are an Ironman.
It’s been a decade-long dream come true, and thanks to all of you, I raised $140,600 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. That’s $1,000 for every mile of the race!
Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.
When I signed up to compete at the Ironman World Championship in 2020, I had no idea of the journey I was embarking upon.
Getting to the start line of a 140.6-mile Ironman is no walk in the park at the best of times, throw in canceled races two years in a row thanks to COVID, a broken clavicle, and then an eleventh-hour hurricane hitting us mere days before Kerry and I were due to fly to Kona, and I can honestly say it has been as much an ordeal of mental resilience as it has been of physical endurance…and I haven’t even completed the race yet!
As I sit here at thirty thousand feet en route to Hawaii (after rescheduling canceled flights), I can start to put the three years of training, broken bones, and a frantic post-hurricane cleanup behind me.
At one point on Wednesday, as surge water surrounded our house and flooded our garage, it looked like my Kona dream had been thwarted again. With no power, internet, or cell reception, figuring out if our flights from Fort Myers had been canceled (they were) was the last thing on our minds.
Training for an Ironman is partly about developing the physical stamina to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then run a 26.2-mile marathon. It’s not something most of us can roll out of bed and do. Yet, as I look back over the last three years, I realize it’s more about developing the mental stamina needed.
I have lost count of the days I didn’t want to get out of bed at 5:30 am to swim, bike, or run, that little voice whispering to stay snuggled up instead. Yet, except on the rare occasion, up I got.
With each passing year and no race, the voice grew louder and louder. Reminding me of what was coming at the peak of my training. The five or six-hour bike on a Saturday, followed by a short transition run. The four-thousand-yard swim, followed by a sixteen or eighteen-mile run on a Sunday.
It kept whispering to coast on my ride instead of pushing to hit my power target. Why not walk for a bit longer, give yourself a rest, it would say, a seductive siren call to tired legs.
At times it was a cacophony, shouting, I’m done! It’s too hot (one hundred degrees Fahrenheit really is), this hill is too steep (they are around Lake Tahoe), and you can’t possibly run another step or swim another stroke. And yet I put one foot in front of the other, pulled another stroke, and turned the crank one more time.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, one, two…and on and on. Repeating my counting incantation to focus or perhaps distract my mind.
All in preparation for Thursday 6th October 2022 in Kona, Hawaii.
Sometimes it was holding my dream tight that kept me going. Other times, it was the perceived expectation of friends and family, to who I had publicly declared my intentions, and many of whom have donated on my behalf in support and encouragement. And, at times, it came down to sheer grit and determination to get the job done.
I’ll need all of the above on race day. I’ve done everything possible, and now I surrender to what will come on the day. The waves, the wind, the heat, and the humidity, bring it on, I say. Bring. It. On.
Despite the twists and turns, I remain eternally grateful. I am grateful I get to train for and compete at the Ironman World Championship, it is a privilege. Grateful for the patience of my ever-supportive wife, Kerry. Grateful to Eric and Gigi for stepping in last minute to look after Jake after Hurricane Ian wrecked our dog sitter plans (we’ll be dropping Jake off in San Francisco before we connect to Kona). Grateful to all of you that have supported me and cheered me on from the sidelines.
I set out to raise $1000 for each of the 140.6 miles that I’ll be racing to support the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). As a challenged athlete, I know firsthand the difference participating in a sport and being physically active can make in one’s life. CAF provides grants annually to athletes of all ages, all disabilities, and across all sports, for the adaptive equipment or support they need to get out there and participate. It changes people’s lives; Kerry and I have been blessed to witness that up close and personal.
So far, I’ve raised an astounding $114,056!
Kerry and I have been matching your donations dollar for dollar and will continue to do so. Every dollar you give will have double the impact. If your company offers matching funds for your donation, it’ll quadruple the impact.
Whether I reach $140,600 or not, I’m overwhelmed by your generosity and patience as I keep pestering you for yet another donation. Your unquestioning support has been part of what has motivated me to keep pushing year after year in this seemingly neverending quest. Thank you with all my heart! Any final donations can be made online here.
I’ll be sure to post an after-race update, but for those who want to track me on the day, you can download an app: https://www.ironman.com/app-tracking-information.
P.S. I want to make a special callout to some long-time supporters and friends that have been most generous year after year in donating to CAF on my behalf. Ed, Graeme, Alex, and Lyndon, thank you.
Who knew that the road to Kona would be so rocky? Competing at the Ironman World Championship in Kona has been a dream since I completed my first full Ironman in 2010. So when Kerry bid on an entry for Kona at a charity auction back in 2019, it looked like I was well on my way to realizing that dream.
I opted to postpone my race to 2020 as Kerry and I already had committed travel plans for 2019 that precluded me from training for an Ironman distance event. But come October 2019, I dutifully kicked off my training preparation for the big day on October 10th, 2020.
Well, COVID-19 had other plans; the World Championships were first postponed and then canceled. However, undaunted, I continued training through 2020 (a good reason to be outside during the pandemic); as beneficial for my mental health as it was physically. And so 2020 came and went, and October 9th, 2021, beckoned.
That was until January 23rd this year.
A hard tumble on my snowboard combined with a hard-packed ski slope resulted in another broken shoulder. My left clavicle was already plated from a bike accident in 2009, yet somehow I managed to fracture it again, right at the tip of the plate. Fortunately, I could get back down the mountain to the ski patrol and from there to the local urgent care clinic at Beaver Creek to confirm the diagnosis. Day one of a week-long trip, and it was time for me to return home.
Kerry was none too impressed. Neither was my coach, given I likely wouldn’t be able to train for the next few months. Depending on my recovery time, my training window for Kona had just shrunk to less than six months.
On February 2nd, I celebrated my 50th birthday with an x-ray that confirmed that I hadn’t just fractured my clavicle. I’d torn ligaments in my shoulder from the impact and would need shoulder reconstruction surgery to patch everything back up.
My surgeon had a slot open the next day. So Kerry and I rushed from one clinic to the next getting an emergency COVID test and scheduling my surgery. Not quite how I’d envisaged ringing in the next decade of my life, though somewhat in character given the events of the past.
This pretty much scuppered my Kona aspirations for another year. Oops.
Yet, I remain undaunted. I’d always envisaged that the World Championship in Kona would be my fifth Ironman to celebrate five decades of life. And while I may not be able to race this October in Hawaii, it does give me the chance to complete my fourth Ironman at the end of November in Arizona instead—as they say, be careful what you wish for!
My shoulder is back to full fitness, and I’ve been able to resume my swim, bike, and run training regime. I have my sights set on the Ironman World Championship in Kona on Saturday, October 8th, 2022. Thank you to all that have supported me on this journey through your donations to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). You’ve helped me exceed my initial goal to raise $50,000…thank you, thank you, thank you!
And since life has thrown down the gauntlet once again, and Kona is still another year or more away, I have decided to up the ante. My goal now is to raise $1,000 for every grueling mile of the Kona Ironman World Championship course; that’d be a grand total of $140,600!
We have $57,740 already in the bank, and Kerry and I will continue to match every donation dollar for dollar. If your company offers matching funds for your donation, we will also match that; potentially every dollar you donate could equate to $4 going to CAF to help a physically challenged athlete get the equipment and support they need to take part in sports…something most of us take for granted.
You can donate online here:
P.S. I want to make a special callout to my long-time supporter and friend Ed who has been most generous year after year donating to CAF on my behalf and helped me break the $50,000 barrier end of last year.