It’s been a mere 8 months since Tim Don was hit by a car while on his bike two days prior to the IRONMAN World Championships, a race in which he was considered a contender for the win – he broke his neck, fracturing his C2. The next few months an arduous struggle followed, one in which Don has received much attention through the film, Tim Don The Man with the Halo, which depicted the accident and his inspirational road to recovery. The documentary by an Emmy award winning director is being slated by Forbes magazine as 2018’s Most Inspirational Story in Sports.
In his first step back to racing Don pinned on a race on number to compete in the Boston Marathon running an impressive 2:49.42 in abysmal conditions. Last weekend Don entered his first IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon since breaking his neck – HE WON.
Heading into the race, Don said “The plan and hope was to swim near the front, bike hard till I got to the front, then see who was around me and conserve energy as it was crazy hot and humid.” While turning his neck to breath from both sides still remains difficult for Don, it didn’t stop him from swimming with the front pack of 6, completing the swim just 5 seconds back in 3rd heading into T1.
In the early miles of the bike Ryan Fisher, who had the fastest swim, led and was followed by a trio of Don, Santiago Ascenco & Felipe VanDeWyngard all within seconds of one another. The group of 4 stayed close together until late into the bike when Don decided it was time to mix it up and threw down a surge that stuck and grew to 54 seconds by T2, Don said “The bike was not crazy hard and I felt better as it went on so I decided to put some power down with 10km to go and the gap opened up.”
On the run Don was able to stretch his lead by a few more seconds on Fischer and padded a few minutes on Ascenco. Don commented, “I know Santiago is a great athlete and Ryan has ITU pedigree but on the run I was able to run my own pace and take loads of water at the aid stations, my EFS PRO and EFS Liquid Shot was key in the humidity along with keeping my core temp down too.”
Winning in a time of 3:49:59, Don’s phenomenal return to IRONMAN 70.3 was one for the story books. Don openly said
“Crossing the line was pure relief, to be honest, it was a bit surreal – the last 200 meters were like a dream.”
“There were so many mixed emotions running though my head from anger about been hit by the car, to pure joy, to sadness my family could not be there. I was a bit of a mess but ultimately happy and thankful that I could race again.”
Regarding cracking his first triathlon race since his accident, Don said “The first race is always a shock to the system and this was no different physically, especially given the hot and humid conditions. My neck did get a little sore in the swim and it was hard as I could only breath to my left but once on the bike it seemed to kind of loosen up, but at about 40-50km in I felt it get stiff along with tightness in my shoulders and upper back – I had to really focus for the later part of the bike and entire run. Fitness wise, I am like how I typically am in March but Costa Rica gave me a lot of confidence in what we have been doing and how we have been doing it – I have a great team around me.”
The next step for Don is to get back to training and determine with his coaches what’s next but if you ask the man who is on an upward trajectory and a mission to return to Kona, Don says “Hopefully an IRONMAN in the next 4-6 weeks”!
IRONMAN 70.3 Costa Rica
Playa del Coco, Costa Rica
June 24, 2018
1 Tim Don 3:49:59
2 Ryan Fisher 3:50:57
3 Santiago Ascenco 3:54:26
4 Felipe VanDeWyngard 3:59:51
5 Paulo Roberto Maciel 4:06:01