Eight minutes came between Rudy Garcia-Tolson, 21, of Bloomington, California, and making history as the first bilateral transfemoral amputee to finish the Ford Ironman World Championships, held Saturday, October 10, in Kona, Hawaii.
The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) spokesperson and member of Team Ossur needed every minute and every second of efficiency to propel himself on the bike the 112 miles around the unforgiving rolling hills of the Queen K. The bike is the second of the three disciplines in the Ironman, which starts with a 2.4-mile swim and concludes with a 26.2-mile marathon run. Garcia-Tolson completed the swim in a swift 1:05. His time on the bike-9:30-was just short of the bike cut-off time.
“The swim was pretty crazy,” Garcia-Tolson said. “There were arms and legs everywhere, so it was definitely an experience. I felt good on the bike and wasn’t too bothered by the 90-plus degree heat or gusty winds, but at about mile 70, I knew I had to keep a certain speed, and I knew it was going to be close. I kept pushing until the end.
“Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to,” he continued. “You can give up, or your can fight back and continue to go after your goal. I’m fired up! And after spending a couple hours at the finish line cheering the final competitors in and feeling the energy from the crowd, the spark grew even stronger.”
Virginia Tinley, CAF’s executive director said, “After a heroic effort, Rudy just missed his goal of becoming an Ironman. The fact that this two-time Paralympic swimming gold medalist was out there pedaling up the challenging hills of Kona in blistering conditions using only his glutes…proves he’s capable. It just wasn’t his day.”
“I have no excuses,” Garcia-Tolson added. “My equipment was perfect, but being off my legs for the three weeks leading into the event due to an infection in my stumps was a setback. In the end, it was an honor for me to participate in the event, and I’d love to have another opportunity to cross that finish line.”