Categorized | Featured, Multi-sport, Sports

Ironman: Confidence, courage ahead of the world championship

At Thursday's pre-race press conference, Rasmus Henning, Andreas Raelert, Chris Lieto, Craig Alexander, Chrissie Wellington, Mirinda Carfrae and MC Greg Welch. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

The pre-race press conference can sometimes be a bit tense. A panel of revved up super athletes squaring off against a mob of journalists armed with all kinds of flashing cameras, off-topic questions and a myriad accents. It’s not usually a fair fight.

Thursday morning, however, felt a bit different. In addition to the seasoned veterans were a handful of professionals just starting to make a name for themselves in Ironman circles and three athletes very few have probably ever heard of.

On either side of the reigning world champions were serious contenders eager to swipe the crowns from Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington, including three athletes coming into the race for the second year and a Ironman Kona rookie.

Tucked further down the table, quietly waiting for to be introduced by Greg Welch were Kathleen Allen, Kyle Garlett and Clayton Treska.

Here are their stories:

Kathleen Allen — Bib #158

During a routine training ride Aug. 24, 2007 and five days before she was to represent the U.S. at the ITU World Championships, Allen was hit by a truck.

Allen broke seven bones, her neck at C6, her back at T8, T10 and T12, both of her wrists and a rib. Her glasses shattered into her forehead and her handlebars broke into her right finger, almost severing it. A torn muscle meant she had no use of her right arm.

Allen was unconscious for several minutes and had bruising and swelling in her brain. Upon arrival at the hospital, doctors discovered her left carotid artery was damaged and contained a large clot, which caused a minor stroke.

Blood thinners caused a large bruise on her right leg to develop into compartment syndrome, and doctors had to perform six operations to remove additional blood clots, keep the muscle alive and avoid amputation.

Allen spent 22 days in the hospital, including eight in the intensive care unit.

Allen went through an intense period of physical therapy, but she thought of the time like training for a triathlon, knowing she had to start somewhere and build on to that base every day.

She specifically remembered her decision to train for an Ironman (she had raced at Ford Ironman Florida in 2007) and the support of her husband and four children.

When she was re-learning how to walk, her children cheered, “Go mommy.” As she was getting stronger and beginning to ride her bike, they would cheer, “Go mommy!”

Allen was motivated to get better for her children, to be a good mom for them, to be healthy for them and to be able to do all the things they wanted to do.

Just a year after the accident, she was back to racing. Last year, Allen’s recovery had progressed far enough that she earned a sixth-place finish in her age group at the Gold Coast ITU Triathlon World Championships, setting a new personal best in the Olympic distance.

In November, Allen finished Ironman Arizona in her best time to date, 11:18:09.

Kyle Garlett — Bib #157

In 1989, soon after the start of his senior year of high school, Garlett was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After five months of radiation therapy, Garlett graduated high school and enrolled at the University of Missouri to study journalism.

A year into his college studies, cancer returned, and he underwent a five-month chemotherapy regiment that included seven powerful drugs. Garlett returned to school in the fall of 1992, and stayed for a year before moving to California to pursue a sports broadcasting job at Azusa Pacific University.

Garlett worked in the sports information department and became the voice of APU’s basketball and football teams.

Then, in November 1994, Garlett’s cancer returned for a third time, and he was forced to leave school to begin a four-month-long bone marrow transplant. Garlett was able to resume his studies at APU in the fall of 1994, and he graduated in the spring of 1996.

Garlett began a television production job with Fox Sports Net. A year into his professional life, Garlett developed a secondary leukemia, caused by earlier chemotherapy.

In the summer of 1999, Garlett changed positions within Fox to become a scriptwriter and a year later he was promoted to senior writer, a position he held until late 2004.

During the year of his promotion in 2000, Garlett began experiencing side effects from previous treatment and had to have his right hip and left shoulder completely replaced.

In 2001, the damage Garlett’s heart sustained during the bone marrow transplant began to worsen. Soon after, he was implanted with his first pacemaker and placed on the heart transplant waiting list at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In 2002, Garlett met his future wife, Carrie, through volunteer work with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. One year later, Garlett and Carrie were married on national television on ABC’s show, “Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition.”

On Oct. 10, 2006, Garlett had a heart transplant and, eleven months later, Garlett completed his first triathlon, the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.

On Oct. 10, 2009, the three-year anniversary of his transplant, Garlett stepped up to the start line at the Ironman World Championship. His quest was cut short when he missed the two-hour-and-20-minute swim cutoff by 8 seconds.

But he’s back this year to achieve his dream of joining the Ironman family.

“Last year, I got a little sick sea, which I wasn’t expecting, and being in the ocean for two hours is a really, really long time,” he said. “I will finish the swim. That much I can guarantee.”

( For more on Garlett’s story, see: hawaii247.com/2009/10/09/ironm… )

Clayton Treska – Bib #156

Treska finished Ironman 70.3 Hawaii in June, despite the fact that he was still undergoing chemotherapy.

The Marine staff sergeant was diagnosed with terminal, stage 4, testicular cancer last year. He’d been diagnosed with stage 1 cancer on his return from deployment in Iraq in 2008.

Instead of simply accepting the prognosis, Treska’s family searched high and low for some sort of a cure. Eventually he was put in touch with the same oncologist who treated Lance Armstrong, who put Treska on an experimental program.

Treska went from fighting for his life to completing the 70.3 and earning the right to line up at the Ironman World Championship.

“There’s no cure for cancer,” Treska said. “But that doesn’t mean you have to give up. This time last year, I was still dying.”

( For more on Treska’s story, see: hawaii247.com/2010/06/07/marin… )

At Thursday's pre-race press conference, Clayton Treska, Kyle Garlett and Kathleen Allen. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

PRO MEN

Craig Alexander: The 2008 and 2009 champ is looking to join the exclusive club of three-peaters. The 37-year-old Australian is not ready to give up the world champion title.

“It’s never been a heavy crown to wear. I live for this race,” he said. “A lot of these guys have been racing each other for the better part of a decade. Everybody knows each other’s strengths and weaknesses inside out. What you don’t know is what someone’s level of preparation has been like, what their last six months have been like in terms of illness and injury, and that’s what we’ll find out Saturday.”

Chris Lieto: The 38-year-old American has recorded finishes of 18th, 9th, 6th, 23rd and 2nd the past five years.

Known as an outstanding cyclist, Lieto has focused on the run, moving to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and training with Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist and the defending New York City Marathon champion.

Lieto will be looking to improve on last year’s marathon split of 3:02:35 and hope to get off the bike with enough of a lead to hold off the rest of the pack.

“This sport is very complex and you just don’t know what the day is going to bring,” he said.

Andreas Raelert: The 34-year-old German’s debut last year at Kona ended with him on the podium behind Alexander and Lieto.

Despite an impressive 2:51 marathon, Raelert said Ironman Kona took a lot out of him.

“I don’t think I was prepared to hurt that bad last year,” he said. “Kona is very different. About 80 percent is just your head.”

Rasmus Henning: The 35-year-old Dane will be happy just to race without a broken hand this year and wants to improve his fifth place as a rookie.

“I was mainly just stoked that I got through it and did that well, after all,” Henning said. “It was also a huge carrot for me to go out there, and say, ‘Hey, I want to show these guys what I’m up to when I don’t have a broken bone.'”

Chris McCormack: The 2007 champ can’t be overlooked. He posted a second place finish at Ironman 70.3 Austria and knows what it takes, having raced in Kona eight times already.

Terenzo Bozzone: At 25, the New Zealander is young by Ironman Kona standards, but many will be watching to see what he’ll deliver. Bozzone ran a 3:02 marathon, which left him 11th in his Kona debut last year.

PRO WOMEN

Chrissie Wellington: No one has beaten her to an Ironman finish line yet. On her way to winning three straight world championships, her margin of victory has increased: 5:29 to 14:57 to 19:57 last year, even while someone else was breaking the run record.

Last year in Kona, Wellington erased Paula Newby-Fraser’s 17-year race record, winning in 8:54:02. Newby-Fraser’s old mark was 8:55:28.

In 2009 in Germany, Wellington set the women’s Ironman-distance world record, finishing in 8:31:59.

She returned last summer and shaved more than 12 minutes off her mark: 8:19:13. Just a month earlier, the Brit was awarded an Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her outstanding achievements in the sport.

Typical of Wellington, she takes those highs in stride and even manages to find the positive after breaking her arm in a bike fall in January. She said it just made her focus on fitness and conditioning.

“I know I’ve done everything I can to do the best I possibly can,” she said. “I am stronger, faster and fitter. I definitely feel I am capable of lowering the course record. But you never know what Madame Pele will throw at us.”

Wellington knows as well as anyone how quickly the heat and wind can change an athlete’s plan for Ironman, but looks forward to the challenge.

“There’s no way you could ever get tired of being world champion, let alone triple world champion. It’s an absolute honor to hold the title,” she said. “Coming bak to Hawaii is incredibly special. I can’t wait to race.”

Mirinda Carfrae: The Australian said she learned a lot by just doing this race last year. The 29-year-old always had planned to move up to Ironman distance and raised some eyebrows when she set a new course record on the run in her first ever marathon.

She spent the year working on her biking, but says her running hasn’t seemed to slow down at all. “Otherwise, you’re done anyway.”

In addition to flipping her training schedule around to focus on cycling, Carfrae said she switched bikes.

“This year I’ll push harder on the bike,” she said. “I’m more comfortable on the bike. It feels like a part of me. Before, it felt like I was driving a big tractor.”

Julie Dibens: The 35-year-old Brit said she has seen Samantha McGlone and Mirinda Carfrae follow up wins at the Ironman World Championship 70.3 with second place finishes in Kona.

Look for Dibens to be at the front of the pack going into the run.

“I have to push it (in the swim and bike) because I can’t run with some of these girls,” she said. “But I can’t push it too much because

Catriona Morrison: The 33-year-old Scot spent 40 minutes on the sideline at Lanzarote because of a bike problem, then came back and won.

Virginia Berasategui: The 35-year-old Spaniard finished third a year ago. Her 5:01 bike split was second only to Wellington’s 4:52.

— Find out more:
www.ironman.com

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