Lexington man to compete in Ironman World Championship 3 years after serious accident

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-11 07:44:22-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — When heading somewhere new, people often rely on maps to get from Point A to Point B.

Lisle Adams says he had a plan all mapped out three years ago to go from retired collegiate swimmer, to an Ironman.

“Just to be able to look back and say I covered that distance," said Adams. "I did what I didn't think I could do, I did what I set out to do."

But just three weeks before competing in the Ironman Maryland, he hit a roadblock he never saw coming.

“I was in great shape ready to roll. I was in a little accident on New Circle Road, as I got out to check the damage to my vehicle, another car ran off the road and hit me between the two vehicles,” said Adams.

Police said the driver had a seizure behind the wheel, pinning Adams between a car and truck for several minutes.

“When the vehicles opened up and I fell to the ground, I remember trying to run away but I couldn't,” said Adams.

Adams says everything from there was a blur.

“My Dad says he got the call from my Mom; ‘Come to the hospital, Lisle's been in a bad accident, we don't know if he's going to make it’,” said Adams.

Eleven blood transfusions and 10 surgeries later, doctors were able to save his life, and his legs.

“Shattered my pelvis, broke my femur, extensive soft tissue damage to my leg, torn ACL PCL, so lot of recovery,” said Adams.

After 16 days in the hospital, Adams was bedridden for more than 2 months.

“It's the most humbling experience I've ever had," he said. "At one point while I was at home I had three person showers. My mother, father, and wife would have to help me."

His sports medicine doctor initially told him he would never run again.

“There were times that I was really down,” said Adams.

That's when a friend recommended he meet with Physical Therapist Jim Rothbauer.

“I showed up on day one wearing khaki shorts and a polo thinking that we were just going to click off some paperwork. Within five minutes he had me doing a gait analysis, doing a strength analysis, I was sweating through my polo. I knew it was going to be a good fit,” said Adams.

Adams started working with Jim at Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy in Lexington, but they had to start slow.

"I've been a PT for 23 years and I've never seen anyone with the extent of injuries that Lisle has had,” said Rothbauer.

Adams, though, only has one speed. He soon was going two to three hours a day, five days a week.

"This was grueling. But every day when I got done I knew I was getting better,” said Adams.

“Building strength, building muscle back, building power. It was just very intense workouts. My feeling was if he was up for it, we were going to do it,” said Rothbauer.

Adams says Jim put him back on the map.

“Once I achieved that 5K then I said I've got to think bigger. 'What am I going to do to get back?' And then I ran a marathon and then I said, 'I've already got one third of an ironman down why not just knock out the other two thirds.’ And you know we mapped out another plan,” said Adams.

Last September, he crossed the finish line at the Ironman Maryland.

“That race was terrible. It was so mentally grueling, I was uncomfortable, it was the worst race I'd ever done,” said Adams.

So naturally, he's coming back for more. His new destination - the Kona Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

“I don't think there's any way that I don't complete this race,” said Adams.

Adams applied to compete in the physically challenged division. Back in the spring, he found out he was 1 of just 3 Americans chosen.

“That’s the most excited I've been probably as an adult. You don't see too many adults get giddy,” said Adams.

Months of training now in the rear-view, Adams says he ready to compete on the biggest stage in triathlon this weekend.

“The opportunity to do what less than 1 percent of the world has the opportunity to do. I'm going to make the most of it,” said Adams.

Looking back on his accident, Adams tells us he's not angry. In fact, he's learned a lot.

“It's kind of surreal. It's kind of hard for me three years out to think about three years ago I was hit by a truck," he said. "It seems forever ago, and just yesterday. I think I'm a better person as a result of my accident."

Adams says he's come to realize life is more about the journey than the destination.

"I don't take anything for granted anymore, I do my best to live in the moment. As well as to help other people more so than I would have,” said Adams.

Sometimes it's okay not to know where you're going, as long as you keep moving forward.

“Do what you can, two steps forward one step back, that's still progress,” said Adams.

You'll end up exactly where you're meant to be.

“I don't think that this accident was necessarily an accident. You know God has a plan, and thankfully my plan is working out well,” said Adams.

The KONA Ironman World Championship airs on NBC Sports on Saturday Oct. 12 starting at 1:30 p.m.

Adams credits his young son and wife with being big sources of inspiration for him.

He also wanted to thank everyone at Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy for all of their support. He said the clinic is truly like a family.