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From Cobalt to Iron Man

      By Denise Kloeppel
          Posted June 2014


This is not about me, but about my amazing husband Kirk, who had a total hip replacement in June 2013 and completed the Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas on May 17, 2014.

The journey started few years ago when Kirk was diagnosis with hip dysplasia. His hip pain continued to get worst and in 2011 Kirk could no longer run without pain. Sometime in 2011-12, Kirk’s Doctor informed him that his hip is bone and bone, he will need a hip replacement, and that he will never run again. I remember getting that phone call after the appointment with the news that Kirk will never run again. There was silence on both ends. You see, Kirk and I were team mates. We ran four marathons together, numerous half marathons, and countless triathlons. So when we got this news our world turned upside down.

The next days we discussed how our lives would change and we were grateful to find many events that did not require running. Kirk did Aqua velo’s, while I did triathlons, and we both did more Century rides.

All was good till I got a crazy idea to do an Ironman. Now Kirk, with his job, travel, and hip could not do one, but he supported me. He was the best Sherpa ever, even with his hip pain. At some point though the pain became unmanageable so Kirk chose to get a hip replacement in 2013. He was so selfless. He made sure his surgery did not impact my training or the race. His surgery was June 25, 2013. His recovery was awesome.

Kirk did four weeks of rehabilitation under the care of a professional therapist. His first week was dedicated to learning to walk again. He used a walker to get around the house and had compression socks on to ensure he did not get blood clots. After week one he had to work on strength and flexibility. Exercises and stretching include leg lifts, leg slides (working on ab and ad doctors), and balance on one leg. During the next couple of weeks he had to do continue to working hip flexors, leg lifts and knee lifts. After that he went back to gym and did weight training with a focus on quads, hamstrings and hip ab and ad doctors. Two months after the operation he started walking and swimming. Three months he was cleared by the Doctor, and allowed to start cycling again. By October he was able to walk, cycle and swim and weight train.

All was good till I got a crazy idea to do an Ironman. Now Kirk, with his job, travel, and hip could not do one, but he supported me. He was the best Sherpa ever, even with his hip pain. At some point though the pain became unmanageable so Kirk chose to get a hip replacement in 2013. He was so selfless. He made sure his surgery did not impact my training or the race. His surgery was June 25, 2013. His recovery was awesome. After rest and rehab he was back on track and driving me to training events. On my race day he followed me on the course. I saw him over 30 times. His presence was the reason I was able to finish Louisville Ironman with a smile on face. It was that smile that encouraged Kirk do an Ironman, hip replacement and all. He told his Doctor his plan, and although the Doctor was not totally behind this request, he had no reason to stop him, but warned him that he should take it easy on the run.

After rest and rehab he was back on track and driving me to training events. On my race day he followed me on the course. I saw him over 30 times. His presence was the reason I was able to finish Louisville Ironman with a smile on face. It was that smile that encouraged Kirk do an Ironman, hip replacement and all. He told his Doctor his plan, and although the Doctor was not totally behind this request, he had no reason to stop him, but warned him that he should take it easy on the run.

Fully recovered Kirk started his training in October 2013. Off to training at 4:45 am, swimming, indoor cycling and walking . The goal the early months…get strong. During the initial stages of training his plan was to walk the entire marathon. He continued with the plan for the first three months but things changed on New Year’s Eve. Kirk participated in a 5K run, which his plan to walk with a little running, but the energy of the crowd got the best of him and he ran the entire run. So, although he knew it was not in his best interest to run an entire marathon, he devised a plan to run for 2 minutes, the walk 8 minutes. He developed this plan so he could walk to water stop on the marathon, the run for bit, then walk. During training he was able to do 11 minute miles.

Training was going along nicely but once the Holiday season was over, Kirk still needed to work on his nutrition. So we went Caveman Paleo! Becoming a “caveman” was a big transition for Kirk. He had to give up bagels, cookies, chips, pasta, rice, all dairy (no cheese), and sadly diet Pepsi. He changed his breakfast to egg muffins (egg, bacon and onion), lunch to leftover meat, salads, pecans/sunflower seeds/raisins and fruit, and for dinner broccoli, fish/chicken/pork of steak and white potatoes (not truly Paleo but he won’t each sweet potatoes). Once a week he diverted off the meal plan, but for the most part, even on business trips he stuck with the plan.


Well in a few weeks Kirk saw a drop in weight and increase in energy. Less weight meant less impact on the hip, which is a good thing. So, over the course on the next months his scheduled was packed with work, travel, training and eating Paleo. By taper time he was ready. He lost 30 pounds, he developed a rock solid plan , swim strong, bike steady and walk 8 minutes and run 2 minutes for the marathon.

His plan worked. On May 17, 2014 Kirk finished his Ironman in 13 hours 45 minutes! He was so handsome crossing the finish line. His two daughters and I saw him finish and could not have been prouder. Kirk most likely will not do another Ironman. Lots of wear on the hip parts is not a good thing. But for one day….and now for the rest of his life, Kirk can brag, “I am an Ironman”!



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