Almost killed when he was hit by a truck in August, 2016, Andrew Starykowicz made an incredible comeback in 2017, overcoming the odds and incredible challenges to become the Ironman Louisville champion.
October 27, 2017 | PERSONALITY|
In August, 2016, Andrew Starykowicz almost lost his life in frightening cycling accident when he was run over by a triuck. Just over a year later he was back at the top of an Ironman podium with a wire-to-wire win at Ironman Louisville. In addition to overcoming his own physical issues after the crash, Starykowicz's son also endured some near-fatal health issues.
The fact that Starykowicz was able to return to racing in 2017 is miraculous. A 4:01 bike split at Ironman Texas in April and the win in Louisville makes his comeback even more incredible. TriathlonWorld.com caught up with Starykowicz to get some details on the last 14 months.
TriathlonWorld.com: Earlier this year, in an interview with Orbea, you said: “Finishing an Ironman, to me means very little, winning races is what I do and until I am back to winning races with loaded pro fields, I am not ‘back.’” Do you feel that you’ve finally made it back with that win?
Andrew Starykowicz: I definitely raced to the maximum of my fitness this year, maybe a bit over, given the limited running and swimming [I was able to do] due to injuries sustained when I got run over in August, 2016. Leading the entire race wire to wire at Louisville was a feat for sure, especially when you had some uber-swimmers and the likes of Maurice Clavel (coming off a podium at Roth & sixth place at 70.3 world champs). To win was an incredible accomplishment, yet I will continue to say that these are baby steps in my continued comeback.
While you were coming back from the accident, you and your wife had to deal with some really scary times with your son. How is he doing now?
It took them over eight weeks to figure out what was going on with my son and, once he was diagnosed with Epilepsy of an unknown etiology, it took them another four weeks to control it. Now, his seizures did not present how we traditionally think of a grand mal seizure, when he had an episode he would stop breathing. We are blessed by the grace of God that we did not become a SIDS statistic and that we were able to catch it each time it occurred and do CPR to keep him alive. With the diagnosis, a pretty picture was NOT painted for the next five years of our lives. That said, our son has defied long odds and, with a lot of great support over the last year, he is walking and starting to talk, things they said he will struggle with or may not do for many years. Words cannot describe the emotional roller coaster, but every time he steals something from our daughter and takes off running and giggling it melts my heart.
How hard was it to focus on your own health and comeback while you were dealing with his issues?
It was a nightmare gone bad. We were five weeks out from me getting run over. I was still struggling with my concussion, I was immobile with two fractured vertebrae in my back and a broken leg. And yet those all seemed inconsequential with my son on a ventilator with a central picc line ... for days that led into weeks. The time all blurs together and I do not know how we did it and I get choked up when I think about it. All I can tell you is, once we hit December, there were a lot of unknowns, but life started to improve and has not stopped.
What has been the hardest part, physically, of getting back to the top rungs of the sport?
The hardest part was how limited I was on everything. Number 1, I was limited on sleep. It is hard to sleep at night when you have a child on a Pulse Ox [machine] that has occasional false alarms. You literally sleep with one eye open, waiting to hear the alarm go off and charge in there prepared to do CPR. Number 2, I was limited on time. I was in physical and vestibular therapy for six hours a week, plus hours more at home breaking up scar tissue and rehabbing. To schedule the training, such that you can recover from therapy, was a challenge to say the least. I can go on about the challenges I faced, but let's be honest ... I competed at Texas 8 1/2 months after going under the wheels of a truck. I won a 70.3 one year after and an Ironman 14 months after getting dragged under a truck. I should not be here, but the fact that I am and I am coming back ... forget the challenges I have had. Now I am a wrecking ball and I am swinging for the fence. You should be asking what is next. (Ed. note ... we did! Keep reading.)
What have you learned about yourself over the last year and a half?
Never take a single moment for granted. No matter how careful, meticulous and precise you are, there are thoughtless, disrespectful wastes of life that can take it all away in an instant and they will stand over you while you are bleeding on the road and smirk.
What does the rest of 2017 and then the 2018 season look like for you?
The rest of 2017 is to catch up on two years of honey-do's around the house. Then 2018's schedule will be determined once Ironman publishes their schedule, but I can assure you that Kona has a star next to it.