Athlete Todd Robinson Prepares for the 2011 RedMan Ironman Triathlon

Editor’s Note: Todd Robinson of Alpharetta,Georgia, a sales representative for At Home Medical, is training for the RedMan Ironman Triathlon competition in Oklahoma that will be held on September 24, 2011. Many have asked Robinson why he would endure the physical and the mental torture of a 17-hour race that includes swimming, cycling and running.  Robinson’s reply is, “To prove that I can and to become a better athlete. I’ve always set goals for myself and then tried to reach them. Only by setting goals and attaining them can you continually improve.” Very few people can be called trailblazers, but Todd Robinson, who has raised the standard and increased his ability to go further and work harder, has become a better athlete by being exactly that.  Part 1 of a four-part series.

Todd Robinson & his wife Melissa keep a down-home approach to everyday life - honest, humble and determined.

Todd Robinson & his wife Melissa keep a down-home approach to everyday life - honest, humble and determined.

Question: Todd, how did you get into doing triathlons?

Robinson: I’ve competed in them since my dirt-bike injury. I have participated in a few small ones and done sprint marathons and half Ironman competitions. I finally found a true Ironman competition in Oklahoma with the same type of distance and activities as the Ironman Championship in Hawaii, but this one is less expensive and doesn’t carry the Ironman logo. I called the director of the RedMan Ironman Triathlon and told him I was concerned that I might not be able to finish the race in the event’s specified time. He said that would be fine as long as I could get close to the 17-hour time frame. He also agreed to work with me on allowing me to finish. So, I started training.

Question: What events are included in this upcoming Ironman in Oklahoma?

Robinson: A 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike race that I’ll do with a hand cycle and a 26.2-mile race that I’ll complete in my wheelchair. The hand cycle is geared just like a mountain bike, but you peddle it with your hands. I’ll be using my racing wheelchair, which has larger wheels with smaller bush rings, for the race. I’ll have to travel about 140 miles in 17 hours.

Question: Why did you decide to enter an Ironman competition?

Robinson: Although I’ve competed in some other types of races, I’ve always wanted to try an Ironman competition. I’ve never gone that far in one day. I watched the Ironman competitions on TV, even before my spinal cord injury. I’ve always been curious to find out if I had what it takes to finish an Ironman competition.

Only by testing our limits do we ever learn what we can accomplish. A high jumper, who constantly sets the bar at 6 feet, because it’s his or her maximum jump height, never may jump any higher. However, if that jumper continues to move the bar higher than he’s ever jumped before and gives his best effort each day in practice, he will continue to jump higher than he’s ever thought possible.

Perpetual heroes are the men and the women who continually raise the bars, increase their expectations and continue to go further, climb higher and become more than they’ve ever thought they can be. To appreciate Todd Robinson’s strength and courage to compete in an Ironman Triathlon, we have to return to his accident.

Todd was an avid motorcyclist prior to the accident that changed his life.

Todd was an avid motorcyclist prior to the accident that changed his life.

Question: Todd, tell me about the accident that resulted in your spinal cord injury.

Robinson: I was 15-years old, and my dad, some friends and I were riding in the woods through some grass on dirt bikes. The grass was so high that I didn’t see a stump in the grass. When I hit the stump, my bike flipped end-over-end. I was tangled-up in my motor and the impact broke my back.

I was dazed at first but thankfully not alone. When my dad reached me, he told me to lay still. We were a good distance into the woods, so the ambulance took about an hour to reach me. Although I didn’t have any major pain, I couldn’t breathe very well. I had no idea at the time that my back was broken. I was still able to wiggle my toes and move my feet.

When the paramedics arrived, they had to cut-off my motocross boots. Once the boots were off, my feet began to tingle and burn like they do when your leg goes to sleep. That was the last sensation I ever felt in my feet. When I was loaded into the emergency vehicle, the pain really began. The doctor told me later that my spinal cord started swelling, which created major problems. After the pain hit, I went in and out of consciousness. I only have small memories of the time in the ambulance, the ER, the X-rays and then waking-up in intensive care after surgery.

Question: What were some of the long-term results of the accident?

Robinson: When I got tangled-up in the bike after I hit the stump, I was pinched between the front forks of my bike and the frame, which broke my thoracic vertebrae at sites 4, 5 and 6. It also broke-off pieces of those vertebrae. At that point, it didn’t damage the spinal cord. The doctor said that the swelling caused the damage to my spinal cord. When it swelled, it pushed the nerves against the bone and pinched the nerves going to my lower extremities. The doctor said that my cord was intact and that the majority of the damage was to my nerves.

When I first woke-up, my parents were around my bed, and the doctor started testing my legs and feet to determine what I could feel. I didn’t have much feeling. It was either the first or the second time when the doctor tested me that he told me I’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life and wouldn’t be able to move my legs, unless something dramatically changed.

Todd will hand-cycle up to 30 miles a day in preparation for his IronMan event.

Todd will hand-cycle up to 30 miles a day in preparation for his IronMan event.

Question: What did you think about the doctor’s diagnosis?

Robinson: I told myself, “OK, we know what you can’t do. Now let’s see what you can do.” The entire ordeal was really confusing, and life was coming at me fast. I’d never even broken a bone or been in the hospital before the accident. Every day someone in the hospital would encourage me to learn something new, even before I went to rehab. This was a huge advantage. I stayed in the hospital a month before I went to rehab and was in rehab 2 months before I went home.

Question: Were you involved in any sports other than motocross before the accident?

Robinson: I was an offensive tackle on my junior high-school football team. I always did a lot of physical activity. I grew-up in the woods doing chores like cutting firewood, bush hogging and whatever my parents needed to be done. My family never let me believe that I could still do anything I’d been doing before the accident, which was a huge advantage. They were always coming up with ways for me to do what I was doing before the accident, but just doing those things somewhat differently.

Before the accident, I worked with my neighbor doing commercial refrigeration, and I wanted to go into the military. After the accident, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to attain those two life goals. If you had asked me back then if I was mad about this disappointing turn in my life, I would have denied it. Looking back now at some of the decisions I made back then, I’d say, yeah, I was both mad and disappointed.

Next: Athlete Todd Robinson Learns How to Get Over Being Mad and Disappointed

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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One Response to Athlete Todd Robinson Prepares for the 2011 RedMan Ironman Triathlon

  1. Ilene Tacker says:

    Todd, Dan and I are so proud of you! Whatever happens during the event, you are a WINNER in our book. Love to your beautiful Melissa and your kiddies.

    Dan and Ilene Tacker (Cathy’s Dan and step=mom)
    Zephyrhills, FL

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