A day before leaving for Kona BJ Christenson fractured a scapula, but that did not stop him, it merely altered his race plan. And apparently the race view is different at the back of the bus.
Slowtwitch: BJ, how are you doing?
BJ Christenson In the words of Larry David ďPretty, pretty good.Ē
ST: For some reason I thought I had interviewed you for slowtwitch before, but I canít find any trace of such a chat, so maybe you and I just talked a bunch before.
BJ: Nope, never had the honor of an official interview but happy to be having one now.
ST: A day before to Kona you fractured your scapula in a training accident. I think it was the third time that you had that injury, but I doubt you called it the charm.
BJ: Yeah not the charm, but seriously hope I donít have to go through it again.
ST: Were you thinking that maybe just would be only able to either spectate or volunteer?
BJ: Yes, after it happened and on the way to the Instacare. This time it was really hurting and the way I hit the ground I thought there might be more damage than a fracture. So I wasnít thinking of giving it a go until I had some answers and even then it was just a letís see how we feel kind of thing and make a decision as it got closer.
ST: I think you packed your old bike with shallow rims in case you would feel ready. How many days out did you actually feel that the race participation would be a go?
BJ: Monday before the race I felt pretty good. I hadnít run yet but felt confident I would make the swim cutoff and bike cutoff as long as there were no accidents. I felt I could walk the majority of the marathon if needed.
ST: As you stood in line to check in your bike, did you get any funny looks or comments?
BJ: Yeah a lot of people were probably thinking what an idiot, but I was more thinking I want my $900 medal. I didnít feel like it was a big deal I guess because I have had this fracture before and knew that I couldnít really hurt it much more unless I fell on it or someone punched me in the swim. Which is why the old bike came with me. I wasnít going to take a risk in the wind if it got bad on the super-fast Dimond.
ST: How many of these $900 medals do you have?
BJ: Well they didnít all cost $900. My first one was $575 I believe.
ST: Also, who watched your Dimond while you were off in Hawaii with another bike?
BJ: I put her in a safe place in my sonís room with some minor scrapes.
ST: How is that Dimond of yours set up?
BJ: Well for me the biggest thing was making sure it would fit my large frame. They built me a custom seat post and it fits amazingly. I am a huge SRAM fan and have Red 22 components with a 55 up front. I have a relationship with ENVE composites and use the SES bars and SMART 8.7s. It is the fastest most comfortable bike I have ever ridden.
ST: On race morning were you nervous, but maybe not for the same reasons as on other occasions?
BJ: Yes but not for same reasons by any means. Pre-race anxiety was nonexistent. I didnít care one piss about my performance. I just wanted to get through it and have as much fun as possible. I hope I donít get to participate in the same way ever again but I loved the experience. It really is a different race behind the mob.
ST: Saran wrap?
BJ: Well having been to this start before I knew that other swimmers could potentially end the day for me if I happened to get kicked, swam over or god forbid someone accidentally grab my arm as they are pulling through. And by someone I mean the women starting 15 minutes back who would be catching me before the turn buoy. It also hoped that it would send a signal that hey, I am injured here give me some space. But it didnít work to well. I had to wrap it around in the water more before the start because it came loose. But it did function as a nice place to keep my hand resting so in that respect it worked.
ST: I think you swam 1:40 with only one arm. Were you pleased with the time?
BJ: Of course, it gave me 40 extra minutes on the bike. However, Hector Picard the guy with no arms at all, actually swam faster than me, so then I was a little disappointed. I have one long good arm and he has none and still beats me out of the water.
ST: Did you get bumped at all?
BJ: No I think the Saran Wrap might have helped let people know I was a fish with my head stuck in a 6-pack ring so just let me be.
ST: Talk about the bike segment.
BJ: Well cycling has always been my weaker of the 3 disciplines, so not worrying about performance was a load off. But man I was out there a long time. It was so weird to see the pros that early in the course. And then the parade of age groupers and I could feel the anxiety about the drafting. I think people want a clean race but with that many talented people it is a real tough spot I hope they can make some improvements on it in the future.
ST: Word has it that you stopped at many aid stations. What did you learn?
BJ: Every one of them. I didnít feel comfortable riding and eating and drinking so I took pit stops along the way. I didnít get all NASCAR about it either. I loved talking to volunteers and then getting my shit together for the next stretch. One thing for sure is god bless every one of those volunteers. When you see the carnage caused from the mob at the back end of the race you feel a little ashamed. I mean thousands of bottles everywhere for at least a half a mile and an overwhelming majority over half full. People can brag about how green they are but on race day all bets are off apparently. The worst part is that later in the race a few stations had run out of water. I started to feel bad about all the times I would take a bottle just to cool off for a split second in years past that wasnít necessary. I know they were waiting for some to get delivered but again a little conservation from everyone goes a long way.
ST: Was any volunteer conversation or action more memorable than the others?
BJ: In all honesty every one of them worked and served with Aloha. One of the bike aid stations on the climb to Hawi had some good food cooking and they were so happy and encouraging. The high schoolers on the run near the harbor also had tremendous energy and made everyone feel like rock stars.
ST: Now onwards to that marathon. How did the arm feel?
BJ: Well I did take a Percocet 8 miles before the bike finished and hoped it would kick in for the run. When I got off the bike I could only walk to the changing tent but inside the tent they have cold towels and of course my arm sling, so it felt good to have some support. By the time I left, jogging along felt fine. I had to jog and just take a little break at each aid station but I could jog most of the way. By mile 19 my legs were done. Running with a short stride albeit easy still feels like death by mile 19. My hips hurt way worse than my arm at that point.
ST: I assume you no longer worried about not being able to make the time cut.
BJ: I knew a finish was going to happen barring some sort of trip and hit the ground. But I still kind of wanted to just be done so I did what I could to get it done quickly.
ST: Was this your first time running or walking with a glow stick?
BJ: Yes for sure, but kind of special watching the sun go down on the Queen K.
ST: Did you hold on to it?
BJ: No way, I put it around my neck like a collar. That way I could eat more stuff at the aid stations.
ST: I actually meant after the race, as a souvenir next to that $900 medal.
BJ: No it went into the garbage. Now that you mention it I kind of wished that I had kept it.
ST: So what is next?
BJ: Well I am about 80% healed and getting back to the gym and doing some light training. One thing for sure is I love my off season. Sometimes I take 12 weeks off. But I am ready to start building again. I am planning on doing Texas and go back to Kona if all goes well one more time. Then from there the bucket list racing begins.
ST: Anything else we should know?
BJ: First, I want to apologize if anyone out there was the victim of my shrimp toss bonanza at the TYR after party. I was being fed a steady diet of whiskey and I tend to shoot first ask questions later with my shrimp. Second, I have an M-Dot tattoo. Yes, because it means that much to me and I could give a shit about what the corporate views in the slowtwitch forum are. Every sport has to have them I suppose and they are entitled to an opinion. But seriously enough with the elitist bull out there. This is a sport of inclusion and participation, we welcome everyone, even if you tattoo ďMAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAINĒ on your shaft you are welcome to sign up and play. At the end of the day this is a hobby and should be fun and inclusive and hopefully we can find a way to make it affordable to everyone. Yes Ironman charges a heap but there is more to the sport than Ironman and donít get me started on USAT. It starts in the local community which is where I got started. I know that everyone thinks they can make a buck on all the triathletes who spend money like it is burning holes in their wallet. But we the community, state, country, and world are better when more people are doing something so fun and enjoyable as this. I hope we can all strive to make that happen and welcome anyone even if they come from the world of douchebag cycling. We are tri-geeks at heart and hope we donít lose ourselves in the better than you mentality that has a passive aggressive tone in some circles. If you donít like a particular race or direction thereof donít support them but certainly donít turn your nose at the people who do. We are unique crazy group of people and we should all wear that with a badge of honor and focus on helping others have a good time and continue the sport. I long for the days of a $20 entry fee, no medal, maybe a fun trophy if you placed in your age group and no shirt. Just good fun, some light trash talk, and maybe brunch when it is over.
ST: Wow, that was your longest and most passionate response. Were you saving the best to the end?
BJ: Nah just sometimes get on a rant when I see the direction of the sport lose that spirit of fun and adventure. I think we all can use a reminder from time to time to bring that spirit of adventure back to how this all got started in the first place. A lot of great things are happening and will continue to happen in the evolution of the sport so long as the roots stay strong.