With the racing season underway, nobody is more excited to toe the starting line than Boulder’s Tim Don. Just four short months ago, Don was in tip-top shape and ready to contend for the title of IRONMAN World Champion. But then he was struck by a truck just days before the race. With a severely broken bone in his neck and massive bodily injuries, the fastest man to ever race an IRONMAN was down, but not out. With the support of family, friends, and the triathlon community, this IRONMAN champion is ready to get back to the Big Island and go faster than before.
What has life been like since the accident?
Our lives changed dramatically, especially for my wife, Kelly, as it was like having a third kid for her. She had to shower me, clean all of my screws twice a day, and help me put on my clothes. I couldn’t help with the kids much, either. We’ve come through it and hopefully we are stronger for it. I guess we’ll see when I do my first race.
What has been the toughest part of this whole situation?
It’s been a tough time for me and my family. Some of the toughest things have been those feelings of “what if.” What if I hadn’t ridden that day. If I hadn’t had the crash, what would my race have looked like? What could have been the aftermath of having a good race in terms of my career? I felt I was in good shape and that has played on my mind a lot. The day-to-day stress of having a halo on was extremely tough, but I have been amazed by the support of family, friends, and people who are fans of triathlon.
After the accident, did you decide to watch the world championships?
To be honest, I did watch Kona on and off, but I cannot remember it because I was under very heavy medication and was in a lot of pain. I watched it, but with no emotion because I was in another world. Afterwards, you can live your life regretting and thinking “what if,” but who knows how I would have raced. It was great to see my friend David McNamee get on the podium. It is fantastic for British triathlon too. We trained on and off over the years during ITU, which was awesome. So I was very proud
What has motivated you the most as you get back to training?
I think questioning myself is what keeps me going. Can I be as good, quick, and confident? And wanting to know the answers drives me. They say “winners never quit and quitters never win,” so I have to try and give racing a go; then the questions will be answered. I will never forgive myself if I don’t try. I am lucky that I have amazing support from my sponsors, and I believe I feel like I have done everything possible to get myself in the best mental and physical position.
What are your race plans for 2018?
Ultimately, my plan for 2018 is to race Kona and go for a podium. Obviously, October is a long way off and my physical shape compared to a lot of my competitors is way off. It’s got to be a fluid thing. It’s such a unique injury and the treatment is so unusual that we don’t know how things will heal. You need your movement for all sorts of things and breaking my C2 in my neck hasn’t allowed for much of that. At the moment, I am penciled in for the Boston Marathon in April and, if all is well, I would like to do a 70.3 in June and an IRONMAN in July.
Do you think you can get back to world record-breaking racing like you did in Brazil last year?
I need to be quicker than I was in Brazil and I think I can go quicker. I think in terms of pure speed, looking at the time of 7:40, there are so many factors, like wind, rain, temperature, having the right course, and making sure your training is peaking. You need a lot of things to line up to go that quick. I definitely think people will be going close to 7:30 in the next five or six years. Race directors see that and they are designing faster courses. But ultimately, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing if I did not believe I can be back fighting for a podium spot in Kona. To do that, you need to go fast!