TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
I got to talk triathlon with the TCSD’s most recent World Champion Kyle Hummel. It will blow your mind to hear what Kyle has gone through just to be able to walk around like a normal guy. He has come so far to become the Ironman 70.3 World Champion for the men’s 30-34 age group. He is an awesome athlete who really appreciates the gifts he has been blessed with. I know you will enjoy getting to know Kyle.
Craig: What was your athletic background before you started racing triathlons?
Kyle: I grew up competing in every sport my parents would let me be in. The one sport I never had enough time for was swim team which would have paid off big time now, but that is all good. Basketball has always been a love of mine, I never have enough time to get on the court anymore but hoops is definitely a sport that I love. I always kinda knew growing up that running was going to be my best sport. My family moved into Yakima, WA when I entered high school and was blessed by being able to run cross country and track for one of the best coaches in the country. I was able to earn a scholarship as an 800 meter runner for Eastern Washington University.
Craig: What was your first triathlon experience like for you…and the spectators?
Kyle: My first tri was a sprint tri during my junior year of high school. For some reason I thought some good cross training (swim, bike, and run) would be good for my cross country summer training. I never swam before the race, I rode a couple of times, but was running every day for Cross. I swam in board shorts and no goggles. My contact came off my eye mid swim and I was all loopy coming out of the water. I thought running shorts and especially spandex were very un-cool, so as I entered T1 I stripped my board shorts off (now completely naked), threw on underwear, bike shorts, and then basketball shorts over the bike shorts. I tossed on a cut off sleeve shirt, bike gloves, helmet, my sister’s sunglasses, socks, running shoes and hopped on my dad’s old school yellow 10 speed bike where you had to shift down on the frame; it was awesome. I came into T2 for another complete change of clothes and then ran my guts out for the 5K. No one ever said anything about me getting all naked in transition; looking back I don’t know how. Gotta love tri people, they know what’s up.
Craig: Congratulations on recently becoming the Ironman 70.3 World Champion for the men age 30-34. I heard your IM 70.3 career started a few years ago with a bang. How did your first 70.3 go?
Kyle: My first year of tris was 2006. In 2007 I gave my first shot at the 70.3 distance. I was still rocking my road bike with clip on aero bars. I was racing Lake Stevens 70.3 and at this time the bike was a two loop course. The end of the first loop went right by the swim area so all of the spectators were located there. As I came into this area I decided I wanted some water at the bottom of the hill right in the middle of what happened to be where my parents were located. I tried to grab a water bottle from a volunteer but he was holding on much too tight to the bottle and when I tried to grab it I was thrown backwards, I tried to correct but it was too late, I was going down. I bounced across the pavement like a ragdoll. Luckily my dad was taking photos and got some in action wreck shots. I was a mess of road rash anywhere on my body that was bony. My ankles, knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, everything was torn up. My first attempt at a 70.3 was a DNF.
Craig: You have had some major health issues for a young guy. One of these started on August 6, 2009. What happened on that day?
Kyle: August 6, 2009 was the day that tested my attitude about life and family more than I ever could have imagined. The reason I got into triathlons was to complete an Ironman. Three weeks before trying to complete my 1st ironman I was hit head on by an SUV while on my bike.
I had never really been injured before, let alone break a bone. But I knew that day, lying face down in a ditch in the Montana summer heat, looking up at my leg with the Tibia bone sticking out that there was no doubt I had not only broken my leg, but it was shattered. The very first thought that went through my head was that all of my hard work is down the drain, I will never compete again.
But I did, and I was even faster, more committed and determined.
Craig: What was your comeback like after that terrible accident?
Kyle: Very slowly and painful. My family is incredible and my parents took me in because I needed 24/7 care. I had so much support from extended family and friends that would stay with me once I got out of the hospital while my parents were at work. I had some really dark days over the first six months. I went from full on ironman training to stuck in a bed all day. Just to do something/anything I would go in the back yard and my dad would bring weights out to do some upper body weights. After I was able to get around OK on my own I moved back into my townhouse in Missoula. I could not work so I would do as much as I could at the gym. I would lift upper body, a lot of one legged squats and toe raisers, swim in the pool but no flip turning in fear of hitting my left ankle on top of the pool. The break to both tibia and fibula were so bad that the bone growth needed was a very slow process. I ended up having five surgeries to the leg over a 13 month period with two bone grafts to help enable bone growth.
Craig: Lesley Paterson has had a big influence on your success. What have you learned from Lesley that sets her apart from other coaches you have worked with?
Kyle: I originally met Les in the pool and we swam in the same lane in Masters swimming, and she was all intense and encouraging all at the same time. I was like ‘who is this little Scottish girl all amped up all the time?’ Then I realized she was one of the strongest riders in the group rides I would do and I knew that she was someone special. We became friends and started doing workouts together and we both realized that we both have the same attitude and killer drive in ourselves that make for great training partners. I looked at many coaches in the San Diego area but I did not connect the same way with anyone that I did with Lesley. Her amazing training philosophy of strength work before speed makes so much since and my racing has had amazing improvements because of her training style. I could not maximize my racing abilities just in the race season doing all speed work. It starts from weeks and weeks of hard core strength work and gradually building in the speed to peak at just the right time.
Craig: The team at Rehab United and Tyler Forbes have also played a significant role in your success. How have they helped you?
Kyle: I was introduced to Bryan Hill with Rehab United through Lesley because our first year of working together I could not stay healthy. After I broke my leg I did zero hours of physical therapy, I honestly thought it was a waste of time. My mind set was that my body will just fix itself. But one injury after another I knew I needed outside help. Bryan and I got really close because I will do whatever it takes to be my best so I was in PT three times a week. Bryan really worked out some issues and built some needed strength in my broken leg.
But even with all of Bryan’s incredible work I was still getting injured. Two years ago I could barely walk because my psoas was so inflamed. I was a mess and needed some serious deep tissue work. That is when I was introduced to Tyler Forbes, a chiropractor with Back in Motion. This guy is quite honestly amazing. He tore into my body in a way that would make me scream for bloody murder. I would leave an hour long session drenched in sweat from Tyler breaking apart my muscles. These sessions hurt more than anything, but I knew that it had to be done. If it was not for Tyler I would still be injured and I truly believe that. My body was such a mess and so tight all over that it took two months of working with him before I was able to run pain free. I have now gone two seasons of racing with no injuries by keeping constant visits with Tyler.
Craig: What other fringe benefits have you enjoyed from your workouts at Rehab United?
Kyle: Bryan puts on great strength and injury prevention classes a couple times a week at his Rehab United clinics. I originally met Randi at these strength classes. I would briefly say hi to Randi after I originally met her, but since I was there to work out that was what my focus was on. She may be hot, but I have other things to worry about, like how bad can I make myself hurt today. But after one class I found Randi and I in a great conversation out in the parking lot for 10 or 15 minutes and was about to approach her about getting dinner together when she abruptly ended the conversation because she was getting too cold and before I knew it she was gone, leaving me standing there. I thought ‘that sucks’, but I will see her again. Rehab held a team building event at a Padres game around ten months after our original first (what I thought) great conversation outside of RU. As a triathlete there really is no time for a social life, especially the more serious you take the sport. Your training partners become your training best friends. That night I was able to attend the baseball game because I was injured and Randi had just finished an ironman so we were both out of training and actually had time get to know someone. We both connected at that game and now have become more than best friends, but each other’s better half until death does us part. Bryan claims to have set us up. All I know is that I owe that guy big time because without Rehab I would have never met the love of my life.
Craig: You had lung surgery earlier this year. What brought that on?
Kyle: The lung issues were the result of a bacterial infection to my lung and diaphragm. The exact cause of it all will always be a mystery. But it all started the week of Oceanside this year when I went into that race already feeling sick. I got in a fist fight with some guy in the swim and ended up with a black lip and swallowed a lot of that nasty water. 15 miles on the bike I puked all over the place. A week after the race I was feeling worse and worse and could barely run. In the middle of a 6 hour bike ride I was on the side of the road, not able to breathe and honestly pretty scared. Not being able to breathe is no joke and nothing that I had encountered before. I ended up in the ER and was diagnosed with Pneumonia and Pleurisy. That was the start to the crazy summer of mine.
Craig: You had a major physical set back this year. How did you bounce back so quickly from being so sick to World Champion in a few short months?
Kyle: Last year I was able to put up good results and I really wanted to get a great base of training going into this year. I was doing seven hour training days the first week of December and people were telling me I was nuts, ‘what the hell are you training this hard for when your first half ironman is not for over two months?’. The thing is that you never hear of anyone doing something great by being normal or by doing what everyone else does. I was going to take my racing to another level and that meant taking my training to another level. I really did not care what anyone else thought. My goals and ambitions are higher than the next person; therefore I am going to do twice the work as them. We must have dreams to make us strive for greatness… ‘Nothing can happen if not first a dream.’
After my 6 day hospital stay from lung surgery I spent two weeks recovering. I ended up with eight weeks until World Championships 70.3. I spent that first 3 weeks absolutely murdering myself with strength training. I maxed my body out every day because that is what needed to be done to compete at a high level. Regularly waking up before 4 AM, running hill repeats in the pitch dark or on my bike trainer pounding away. I moved into speed four weeks before Worlds getting more quality or quantity and that paid off big time. If I did not have those monster months of training in December and January my body would not have been able to handle the load I put in the two months before Worlds.
Craig: How did the IM 70.3 Worlds go down for you in Mont Tremblant?
Kyle: I came out of the water in 27 minutes which I was happy with considering how physical the first 7 or 8 minutes were from a run in start. The body felt good and headed out on the bike (what ended up being in 39th place).
I got on the bike and started passing guys with ease, groups of 5-10 guys like it was nothing. I moved into the top five by the half way mark and knew I was having a special day. By the end of the bike I came into T2 tied for second and felt great. I ran down the leader at mile five and never looked back. It was one of those days where the mind never breaks, the body feels no pain, the day every triathlete hopes they have when they race. Randi was there at the finish line and hugged her so hard with tears running down my face. I would not have accomplished what I just did without her.
Craig: What are your favorite benefits of membership in the TCSD?
Kyle: The largest benefit from being involved with TCSD is all of the friendships you make just by involving yourself in a couple races a year. The club has so many great opportunities that can make everyone feel welcome and a part of. Triathlons really are about the relationships that we create and build upon.
Craig: Who are your sponsors?
Kyle: Scott Bikes, ENVE composites, Oakley sunglasses, XTERRA wetsuits, PowerBar, Betty Design, On Running, Powertap, CycleOps, Tommie Copper.
Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?
Kyle: My individual goals as a racer I like to keep between my wife and coach. I will always set goals for myself as a racer but this year has shown your plans can be interrupted by just about anything. My knowledge that I have gained from Lesley and her husband Simon have made me become much more involved in the coaching side of tri’s with Braveheart Coaching. My knowledge as a racer and understanding of going through injuries and ups and downs that life throws at you enables me to work with any athlete, no matter what level of athlete they are. Everyone deserves to feel great about themselves. Braveheart Coaching creates opportunities for everyone who wants to fight those demons that tell you life is too hard, that you cannot do this, because you can. My doctors said my race season was over, and then I went on to become a World Champion.
Craig: How can someone reach you if they would like to benefit from Braveheart Coaching?
Craig: Kyle, congratulations on your World Championship! You have made the TCSD and your loved ones very proud. Thank you for sharing your story. I know you will crush your future goals. Good luck in that journey!