Special to the Tribune-Courier
Draffenville – Draffenville resident Brock Watkins loves a challenge. In fact, he wears a bracelet on his wrist that says “Don’t Tell Me I Can’t.”
Throughout his life, he has spent much of his spare time participating in various races and athletic competitions that others might shy away from for fear of not believing they can. One of his greatest challenges, however, was preparing for the Ironman Louisville Triathlon after experiencing a serious health scare at the age of 44.
On July 19, 2010, Watkins was enjoying a routine bicycle ride with his pastor, when he noticed that he was not feeling well. Despite his discomfort, he went ahead and reported for his afternoon shift in the roll shop at Gerdau Ameristeel in Calvert City. Within six hours, he began feeling worse with a tingly sensation in both his face and right arm. “The whole side of my face went numb and I was done,” he said. The diagnosis was shocking considering his young age: he had suffered a stroke.
Shortly thereafter, doctors discovered a hole in Watkins’ heart, a condition doctor’s told him roughly three percent of the population has. On September 14, 2010, he underwent surgery to repair the problem. For the next six months, he endured intense occupational therapy to relearn how to do even the simplest of things, including eating and tying his shoes.
According to Watkins, the diagnosis of a stroke was the ultimate inspiration to compete in the Ironman competition. “I had planned on doing the race anyway, so what better time than to get over this (stroke),” he said. Once Watkins was released from his doctors’ care, he began five and a half months of intense training for the event, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run through the Louisville area.
During his training period, from Jan. 1, 2011 thru Aug. 27, 2011, Watkins swam 60,580 yards, biked 2,099 miles and ran 394 miles. His total training during this time equaled 2,527 miles, which is roughly equivalent to the driving distance between Tampa, Fla., and Los Angeles, Calif.
Less than a year after his heart surgery, Watkins lined up with 2,800 other athletes to achieve his goal. “The body takes a beating during an Ironman, but it is all worth it,” he said. His time of 14:25:44 for the 140.6 mile triathlon put him well within the 16-hour cutoff. “Nothing I’ve ever done in sports has ever replaced the feelings I had of crossing the finish line,” he said.
Watkins admits that he is in the best shape of his life and is ready to take on life’s challenges. When asked if he will compete in another Ironman competition, he smiled and said, “I’m not really sure . . . not for a while anyway.”