72-year-old battles back from motorcycle crash for Ironman competition

Ken Hola is 72 years old and training for his first Ironman, a triathlon requiring 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running. One more thing: he had to pause his training to recover from a serious motorcycle accident.

The accident happened on May 8, just when the Shoreview resident was beginning his training. Ken was riding his motorcycle on a track.

“Came through a corner, about 80 miles an hour, missed the turn, and I went off the road. The next thing I remember I’m laying on my back, and taking inventory of what part of my body works and doesn’t work,” Ken told Fox 9.

Ken’s lung was punctured, his spleen was injured, his ribs were broken, and — most devastating to his training — his shoulder blade was shattered.

Ken was taken to Regions Hospital, where his spleen was removed. After several weeks of healing, he met with an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Peter Cole, who told Ken he might be able to fix the shoulder in time for the Ironman.

“He looked at me and was very optimistic,” Ken said “He said, ‘no, I can take care of it. We’ll probably have to put a plate in there, line it up for you.’”

Dr. Cole performed the surgery in June, and then Ken started a rehabilitation program, which he completed in a couple of months, giving him a couple months to prepare for the Ironman on November 5.

“The fact that he was able to complete physical therapy so quickly shows that the human spirit is stronger than any bone that can be broken,” Dr. Cole said in a statement to Fox 9.

Ken is now back to swimming, biking, and running. He hopes to use the Florida Ironman to qualify for the Hawaii Ironman, perhaps with his son who has competed in the Hawaii Ironman for 15 years. While the Florida Ironman will be Ken’s first, he has completed triathlons, but has never run more than a half-marathon.

“If you’re in good shape, no matter what age you are, you can take a lot of hits,” Ken said. “Think positively. If you think you can do it, you probably can.”