Bonner Paddock Sets World Record; Completes Ironman World Champs With Cerebral Palsy
BONNER PADDOCK once again is making the most of an NHL lockout. During the '04-05 lockout, Paddock, while employed by the Ducks, was urged by Owners HENRY and SUSAN SAMUELI to explore more about his cerebral palsy. Paddock became involved in United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County and decided to become the first person with CP to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. This time around, Paddock wanted to be the first person with CP to complete the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. He finished the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run with a most unusual yet inspiring dance as he crossed the finish line. Paddock, 37, now serves as Senior VP/Marketing & Partnership Activation for Young's Market Company. Below he discusses his heroic effort, which thus far has raised almost $1M.
Q: First things first, what was your first meal after nearly 17 hours of exercise?
Paddock: The first thing that actually went into my body was two IV bags because I was taken to the medical tent right after I crossed the finish line. I’m not sure where the dancing moves came from when I crossed the finish line because miles before the finish I wasn’t doing well at all. Then, I don’t know, when you get so close you muster it up and go. When I hugged my coach GREG WELCH, I just felt my legs and everything else just start going. They had to unfortunately help me to the medical tent and I was there for almost two hours afterward. So the first thing I got to eat per se was two beautifully-made IV bags for me (laughs). … But my first real meal was a cheeseburger. I was craving a cheeseburger and fries.
Q: The Ironman has a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race and you came in 21 minutes before deadline. Did you have a plan for the race? How did it pan out?
Paddock: It was close. I had done the half Ironman earlier and a bunch of other smaller races, sprints and Olympic distance triathlons so we really had a good gauge on what my paces are no matter what the weather is plus or minus wind. I sent race maps out to everybody that was coming out and I told them roughly what times to be at each of the areas, like 10- or 20-minute gaps. I hit every one of those almost dead on. It was great because I think in order for this crazy endeavor to actually work we had to have a perfect game plan, a perfect race. We knew we were going to be 11:30 to midnight. 11:30 was best-case scenario and midnight or somewhere after was going to be the worst-case scenario. I nailed the bike. I told people eight hours and I did it in eight hours, two seconds. I told them that I’d do the swim between 1:20 and 1:30; I did it just short of 1:25. We trained for almost two years for this thing and my coach is a legend and arguably the greatest male triathlete, one of the best male triathletes to walk this earth. We felt like we had a great game plan, but it had to be.
Q: What was the hardest part of the race for you? Which leg (swim, bike, run)?
Paddock: With my cerebral palsy, since it primarily affects the lower half of my body -- it’s spastic diplegia -- that means my legs and lower back are very tight. … The bike basically is the worst for me because it’s almost 99% lower body. I’m just stuck on that seat and just pedaling those little legs. The bike for sure is the hardest for me, then the run. The swim is by far the best and I actually really enjoy swimming.
Q: You are sponsored by Oakley. Did you have any pre- or postrace obligations or appearances?
Paddock: Oakley has just been a supporter of my endeavors. They always provide product. They outfitted our expedition team in 2008 when we climbed Kilimanjaro to break that world record for a person with cerebral palsy. It’s a company based in Orange County where I grew up and where I currently live. They’ve been a huge supporter of the foundation. They have always given me everything that I need in terms of eyewear and stuff like that. Greg Welch works for Oakley so my coach works there. My contact went over and talked to him to say, “Hey this guy is interested in doing an Ironman, do you mind chatting with him?” And that’s how the whole thing came together.
Q: Can you describe the moment you crossed the line?
Paddock: It was a whole lot of emotion going on there. Like my dance -- I don’t know what that was, really. It was arguably the worst dance I have ever seen in my entire life. I don’t even remember much of it. It was just sheer elation and emotion and happiness. I wish I could say I thought of everything, except that I just kept saying in my head “We did it, we did it, we did it. Hell yeah, we did it!”
Q: What’s the blue cowboy hat worn by your supporters about?
Paddock: I have to give credit to one of the guys that climbed Killi with me, his name is JAYSON DILWORTH. He said he was coming out to Hawaii to support me and asked if we get team shirts. Every team out here has team shirts. So he said, “We got to do something different then. We’re OM Foundation, we’re going after a world record here.” So I told him to shoot me some ideas. And he’s from Texas. One day a link comes over with these huge 20-, 25-gallon hats. Monstrous foam cowboy hats. We just put the Go Bonner on each side of it with the foundation website and logo on the front. Everybody loved those things. People were asking to donate $50 to the foundation if we gave them our hats. Other people said they would make a donation if you cheer for my brother that’s coming by here shortly. They ended up calling it the "Blue Hat Army" ‘cause the NBC camera crews said it was the largest contingent by far. I just bought them out of my own pocket. I just wanted to give a few nice gifts for the people, because I knew we had over a 100 people come out.
Q: How is your body taking it? Any injuries during the race? After?
Paddock: I did have a bunch of little knick-knack injuries along the way. I had the standard issues: I had wet feet. I put so much ice down my shirt and my pants to cool the core because I heat up so fast because my body is already tight and overworking. So we try to keep the body as cool as possible, the core and all of my hip flexors and quads that really heat up, and that’s when they start cramping and spasming with my CP. At every aid station we dumped a ton of ice water on me, so my feet were soaking wet for 17 hours through my shoes. The bottom of my feet look like a cheese grater were taken to them. But they are not pusing and bleeding now, which is good.
Q: NBC Sports will broadcast the 2012 Ironman World Championships this Saturday at 4:00pm ET. Do you have plans for a watch party?
Paddock: The NBC camera crews spent almost 30 minutes with me as I was riding on the bike and then three times when I was out doing the marathon course. You just keep your fingers crossed and hope you don’t end up on the cutting room floor. It would be great exposure for the foundation, that’s what I’m really hopeful for. I do these things to try to help raise the awareness and share the story. The watch party will be calmly at my house. It’s just going to be my closest friends that are in town. My contact from Oakley, he and his wife are going to come.
Q: What’s your next adventure? You said before Mt. Everest wasn’t an option. Is that still the case?
Paddock: I think that the body is pretty banged up and we’ve put the best duct tape job we’ve ever done on a body up basically to get it to the start line. I’m not getting any younger; I’m not a spring chicken. I do feel for at least a good long while -- I would never say never, but I pretty much am convinced that it’s going to be never -- that I just am good. Someone came up to me and said, “I wonder what the number of people that have climbed Kilimanjaro and done Ironman Kona? It’s probably the smallest number we could even remotely think of is how many people have even done both. And to throw it in just for you to be a show-off -- you have cerebral palsy. It’s incredible. I don’t know where you go from there.” And I said, "You know what? I don’t know if I go anywhere from there." I think I’m content with using my time for the foundation. Not for training for something like that but continuing to get the message out.