Tuesday, May 4, 2010
After 15 tries, Jeff Rhodes thought this was going to be his day - the day he would qualify for the Ford Ironman World Championship. He was racing with all the top men in his 40-44 age group in St. George, Utah last Saturday, feeling on top of the world. Two miles to go on the bike, though, things went horribly awry when he rolled a tire going around a corner.
Rhodes hit a brick wall and flew over his handlebars. No sooner had he hit the ground than he tried to get back on his bike. He saw the tire was off. Ever tried to get a tubular back on a rim? Ever tried to do that with one hand, because your other arm won’t work? Rhodes deflated the tire, put it back on the rim, re-inflated it with a quick-fill, then realized that his shoulder was up by his ear. He popped his shoulder back in place and tried to get back on his bike again. This time he realized his chain was off, too.
When he finally was able to get back on his bike, Rhodes managed the last two miles of the ride by holding his shoulder – it wasn’t just dislocated, he’d broken his collarbone, too.
When he managed to get some medical attention in T2, he was assured that he had broken his collarbone and should get into an ambulance for some medical attention.
“I told them I could still qualify for Kona,” Rhodes said in an interview today. “I got them to help me change my shoes.”
It only took three steps before Rhodes realized that there was no Kona qualifying for him last Saturday. Rather than quit, though, he was determined that he would finish the race, and started walking.
“It never even crossed my mind – I was going to get through it,” he said. “This was my 16th Ironman and I’ve never DNF’d. Last year in Japan I had an asthma attack during the swim. I had to pull myself along from buoy to buoy. It was the closest I’ve ever come to death. I knew I could get through the run with some shoulder pain.”
So he started walking. Meanwhile, just behind him, Quinton Berry, one of the five men from Orange County who had been training together for Ford Ironman St. George, started the marathon. Like Rhodes, Berry was having an incredible day – he was also in the hunt for a Kona spot. Berry ran up to his friend and stopped to walk with him.
“You’re having a great race,” Rhodes said. “You keep running. I’ll be fine.”
Berry made it a few feet up the road and turned around.
“At some point you’re going to need some help,” he told his friend. “If you’re going to walk it, I’m going to walk it with you.”
A short while later, another of the group, Scott Callendar, came across his two training buddies. He started walking, too. He and Berry took turns finding ice packs for their friend. They got his food at aid stations. They tracked down ibuprofen from the medical crew. The re-strapped his shoulder.
The three came across the line together. It was their slowest Ironman. It was also the best.
“This was the best Ironman I’ve ever done,” Berry wrote in an e-mail to Rhodes.
“It’s what you do for a friend,” he told me. “It was pretty impressive to see the support he had out there. There were some pros out there who said they were inspired by him.”
Pros? These three inspired an entire community. You want friendship? You want perseverance? You want grit and determination?
They showed it at Ford Ironman St. George last Saturday. It might not have been the fastest Ironman, but it will go down in history as one of the most inspiring and impressive of Ironman achievements.
Rhodes is registered to race at Subaru Ironman Canada later this summer.
“I know that I’m going to qualify there,” he said. “Those bumps in the road, you learn a lot from them.”
I think we can all learn a lot from Jeff Rhodes, Quinton Berry and Scott Callendar.
Posted by Batlou at 6:32 PM