UNC Health Talk

I’m an Ironman!

Rodney Jenkins. Rodney is a Group Exercise Instructor at the Rex Wellness Center of Garner.
Rodney Jenkins

Post by Rodney Jenkins. Rodney is a Group Exercise Instructor at the Rex Wellness Center of Garner. He is also a Business teacher, a soccer coach and an athletic trainer with the Wake County Public School System. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette and his graduate degree from N.C. State. He lives in Raleigh with his new bride, Angie. In his free time, Rodney enjoys traveling, hiking and outdoor photography.

When Saturday, October 20 rolled around, it was hard to believe that 30 weeks of training were done and my wife Angie and I were standing on the beach of the Intracoastal Waterway at Wrightsville Beach along with 800 ironman wannabes. Before getting to this point, I had three ‘tests’ to pass.

After a wonderful honeymoon cruise to Scandinavia, it was time to test the pinched nerve in my shoulder. On August 11, we drove to Hillsborough for our first century bicycle ride (100 miles). It was a great experience and relatively pain free but most importantly, I knew that I could cycle the 112 mile ironman distance. Test number 1 was done.

Test number 2 was to return to triathlon competition, so on September 23 I participated in my first full triathlon in over a year, a Half Iron Distance Triathlon (70.3 miles). In some ways it was a relief to participate in an open water swim in Jordan Lake because I was so sick of swimming endless laps in the pool. This was a race that I really needed so that I could judge whether my shoulder was ready for competition and thankfully it was. I finished in 6 hours and 14 minutes which was good enough for a second place age group finish. Test number 2 was a success.

The following weekend was the greatest mental test for me, a 2.4 mile open water swim in Jordan Lake. It took me 1 hour and 36 minutes but after it was over, I knew I could finish the ironman so test number 3 was behind me.

So that brings me back to the October 20 start of the ironman distance triathlon. We said our goodbyes to our friends/support group, James, Frida and Mayra. When the gun sounded, we joined the mass start into the water. This was my first salt water swim so I really loved the added buoyancy and the current. Before we knew it, we were out of the water in 1:08. Somehow, Angie and I managed to arrive at the dock together so we stripped off our wet suits and ran to the transition area. We grabbed our transition bag, went to the changing tent for some dry clothes and sun block then ran to our bikes.

Rodney & Angie at the finish line
Rodney & Angie at the finish line

The ride was relatively flat so I never struggled. I covered the 112 miles in 6:23 so the training program really paid off. As I arrived at the Wilmington Convention Center, it was time for transition number 2 and a quick change of clothing from cycling clothes to running clothes. I felt good as I emerged from the Wilmington Convention Center for my 26.2 mile run.

Having run 26 marathons, I was in familiar territory and 30 weeks of training had me physically prepared. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the last 3 miles the most because I was familiar with the course and that gave me time to think about what I was about to accomplish. By this point, it was dark and emotionally, I was sky high. As I approached the final 500 meters, I could see the lights of the finish line and all I could hear were throngs of complete strangers cheering for me (your name is on your race bib). The time clock brought a very pleasant surprise because I paid little to no attention to my total time during the run. The clock read 12:57. I could not believe that I did my first ironman in less than 13 hours, well under my goal time. I felt great as I hugged Mayra, James and Frida and it was the best group hug I ever felt. As I stood near the finish line, I did a 360 to take it all in. There were other finishers celebrating with family and friends, live music, the smell of the food, all of it.

Once Angie crossed the finish line, I knew that this part of my journey of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and fighting through a serious injury was over. With the help of my wife, friends and family, I did it. I am an ironman! Will we do it again? Absolutely. We already have plans in 2013 for two 70.3 half iron triathlons and two marathons. We will return to full ironman competition in Sandusky, OH in October, 2014. Well, there are worse things to be addicted to, right?

Life Throws Curveballs…Even to Ironmen

Read more about Rodney’s journey

Get the whole story and check out Rodney’s first post, Life Throws Curveballs…Even to Ironmen.