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Stroke Victim Seeks Redemption In Hawaii 70.3

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After recovering from a stroke, Connecticut triathlete looking to undo ‘DNF’.

On June 3, 2006, Dirk Vlieks, an accomplished triathlete, was 22 miles into the biking portion of a half Ironman race in Hawaii.

As he raced through the lava fields, he began to feel dizzy. At first he brushed it off, but when the dizziness got worse he knew something was wrong. He got off the bike and lay down by the side of the road.

Race official Jimmy Riccitello, who was coming by on the back of a motorcycle, stopped and called for medical attention.

“I think I’m dying,” Vlieks told Riccitello. “Tell my wife I love her.”

Riccitello told Vlieks to close his eyes and relax.

“Man, you’re going to be all right,” he told him.

But Riccitello’s gut told him “it was really bad.”

Vlieks had suffered a major stroke, and subsequent complications almost killed him. He has spent the past five years relearning how to walk, talk and eat and drink.

And although he still has speech and balance problems and experiences double vision, on Saturday, June 4, the 38-year-old Vlieks will return to the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Hawaii race where he suffered the stroke and try to complete the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run.

“I want to get rid of that DNF,” he said, referring to the acronym for Did Not Finish. “As well as finish the story.”

Read more: The Day