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How I Qualified For 70.3 Worlds: Tommy Clarke

Over the next couple of weeks we'll introduce you to a mix of age-group triathletes who all punched their tickets to Vegas.

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Over the next couple of weeks we’ll introduce you to a mix of age-group triathletes who all punched their tickets to Vegas—some in more harrowing circumstances than others. The athletes also give training advice that helped them get to the level they are at today. The 2012 Ironman World Championship 70.3 race will take place on Sept. 9, 2012 in Henderson, Nev. Check back to Triathlete.com for complete coverage from the race.

Tommy Clarke
Age: 31
Qualified: 2nd at Ironman 70.3 Augusta

Clarke, a financial advisor assistant from Charleston, S.C., was doing a hypoxic (oxygen-deprived) set at the beginning of his local Masters swim workout last January when his head started to pound. The sensation grew more intense as the workout progressed, and by the end, the muscles in his limbs began to lock up. When he began vomiting, his swim coach called an ambulance, and Clarke, a new father, was rushed via paramedics to the hospital and diagnosed with a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage. He spent five nights in intensive care and the next month at home recuperating. “My doctors initially told me to write off Vegas, but I told them, ‘We have eight months before the race, let’s just see how it goes,’” says Clarke. He credits his preexisting fitness with a speedier-than-expected recovery, surprising even doubting doctors.

To get back on track, Clarke enlisted the help of Purplepatch coach Matt Dixon, who outlined a plan to rebuild his fitness in a realistic timeframe. “I’m always itching to go out faster and harder,” says Clarke, who started running to quit smoking, which led to triathlon. “I’ve tried to stick with what he told me to do, and I have to hold off on doing speed stuff until I’m ready for it.”

This will be Clarke’s second 70.3 world championship, having nabbed a roll-down spot to the 2010 race in Clearwater, Fla. “This one,” though, “will be extra special,” he says.

The takeaway: “Use any downtime to work on improving your weaknesses/imbalances, and focus on workout frequency and consistency,” advises Clarke. “Be patient and hold back from intense workouts that may set you back from a recovery standpoint.”

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