Local Teacher Competes in Ironman Triathlon Despite Injury
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided by Amy Payne & FinisherPix
Kyle Beimfohr played baseball, football and basketball as a kid. Once he got to high school and college, however, other activities took precedence. As a digital learning coach for Zionsville Community Schools, it wasn’t until he began his teaching career that he realized it would probably be wise for him to start exercising again. He took up running and ran the local Mini-Marathon, but after logging lots of mileage, his knees began to bother him so he started cycling and fell in love with the activity.
“Biking is my happy place,” says Beimfohr, an Avon resident. “You see the world at a different pace. I like doing long rides because it offers a lot of time for reflection and conversations with God.”
One day a friend suggested he sign up for a triathlon. Beimfohr shook his head.
“I’m not a swimmer,” he said at the time.
However, the seed was planted and he was up for the challenge. After doing a couple of small local races, he was hooked. Then his buddies upped the ante, this time inviting him to try an Ironman competition. Again, the idea initially seemed too daunting. After all, a full Ironman race is a 2.4-mile swim followed by 112 miles of cycling, then capped off with a 26.2-mile run.
His friends suggested he try the Half Ironman, since he was already doing triathlon training, so he did. That was in July of 2015, and his goal was simply to finish, which he did. After a month passed he felt the itch to try it again to improve his time. He signed up the following year. When he wasn’t too sore following the competition, completing a full Ironman became his new goal.
Training for an Ironman requires a huge time commitment. A typical training week involves swimming three days a week, running four days a week and biking three days a week. Closer to the race date, he does long runs and bike rides on the weekends, sometimes biking for four or five hours.
“I try to mix it up so it’s not too monotonous,” he says. He has also gotten better at listening to his body. For instance, during the last few years he has battled shin splints, especially after passing the six-mile mark, so he started doing shorter runs. While he loves biking back-country routes, springtime road conditions can be dangerous because of all the salt and sand that gets put down, not to mention the prevalence of potholes.
Kyle Beimfohr signed up for an Ironman in Louisville in October of 2017.
“I was probably in the best shape of my life then,” Beimfohr says. “I felt comfortable with all three disciplines and I was excited.”
Then, two and a half months before the race, he was out on a long training ride with his teammates when one of them fell down in front of him, causing Beimfohr to flip over him, thereby breaking his clavicle and ribs.
My buddy was like, “Kyle, you’ve got a hole in your shoulder,’” he recalls.
The doctor put metal in Beimfohr’s shoulder to keep it stable. His first question following surgery was, “Will I be able to race?”
The doctor informed him that he was done for the year.
“I had tears in my eyes when he said that,” Kyle Beimfohr recalls. “To have that pulled away just killed me.”
Though his friends, family, and teammates all promised him that there would be other races, Beimfohr was obstinate. When he found out that he had missed the deadline to get a refund of his $800 Ironman registration fee or defer to a later race, he had a fresh goal.
“I started doing physical therapy,” he says. “I decided that as I tried to recover I was going to see where I got. I figured worst-case scenario, I could always go down to the race, pick up my shirt and backpack and call it a day, but really I hoped that I could finish the race.”
Kyle Beimfohr began training five weeks after surgery, but on the bike he couldn’t lean forward with his shoulder. He also realized just how much he used his arms to run. Aqua jogging in the pool was the best place to be. He didn’t begin swimming until mid-September. His friends, family and girlfriend, Sara Hunter, were all supportive even though they thought he was a little crazy.
“There were definitely tears when I crossed the finish line and heard on the loud speaker, ‘Kyle Beimfohr, you are an Ironman,’” he says.
Following the grueling race, Beimfohr was extremely sore.
“There was a lot of ibuprofen involved,” he says. “You’re exhausted. Your body has been spent because you’ve actively raced for more than 13 hours.”
After completing any big race, Beimfohr takes a much-needed break from training to recover and rejuvenate, both physically and emotionally.
“I find something else to do that does not involve biking, swimming or running,” he says.
One of those things is decorating sugar cookies.
“I’ve always liked drawing and painting so this edible art feeds my creative side,” he says.
After the first Ironman he completed with the broken clavicle, he got the itch to train for another so he could do one in good health. As soon as registration opened up, he signed up for the Louisville race again. The following year, in February of 2018, he was out running the rail trail in Zionsville on a beautiful warm day. He went under a bridge and stepped on what he thought was shade but turned out to be black ice. The slip tore ligaments in his foot and broke a metatarsal bone.
“I had to have screws put in my foot,” he says. “I made sure to defer my race.”
Though he endured four surgeries in one year, thankfully things have been on an upswing, health-wise, ever since. In fact, he has completed two more Ironmans. Next on the agenda is competing one in Arizona this November.
“I like that that will be a river swim,” Beimfohr says. “I tend to stay away from the ocean swims. It’s hard to train for ocean waves when you live in Indianapolis.”
He appreciates the camaraderie of triathlons. Although it’s an individual sport, he feels there is a great sense of community.
“I’ve got a great group of guys and gals that I train with, some of whom drove down to Louisville just to cheer me on,” Beimfohr says. “So in those dark moments when struggling in training, even when you’re not injured, it’s great having people who will encourage you like that. That’s one of the things I love about triathlons.”
Beimfohr often shares his training stories with his students because it’s a great way to connect with them.
“When I’m wearing my Ironman jacket at school, kids always ask, ‘Have you done one of those?’” he says. “They love to hear all about it.”