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Local Triathlete Hector Picard Becomes First Double Arm Amputee To Complete Ironman World Championship

A local triathlete made history this month when he became the first double arm amputee to complete the grueling 140-mile Ironman World Championship race.

Hector Picard, who lost both of his arms in a work-related incident at age 26 and calls himself the "#NoHandsIronman," started competing in triathlons seven years ago after going through a divorce. 

With a schedule of 25 triathlons for 2016, the Ironman World Championship on Oct. 8 in Kona, Hawaii, was arguably Picard's biggest. As motivation, the 50-year-old athlete has been racing this year with the goal of fundraising $50,000 for Broward Children's Center. He also wears visual reminders of the young patients there when he's racing.

On Wednesday afternoon, Picard visited the Pompano Beach nonprofit to present his Ironman finisher's medal and race sleeve—adorned with names of the children—to the patients at an Olympic-style ceremony.

Repeatedly throughout the Ironman World Championship race—which took Picard through a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike race and 26.2-mile marathon—the triathlete says he asked himself, "Why am I doing this?"

"I thought about the kids that I was racing for. … That's why the medal is not my medal. It's their medal," Picard said. "They earned it, without a doubt." 

Picard's first attempt at the Ironman World Championship came last year, when he got overheated, ended up with second-degree burns and couldn't make it past the biking portion. So, he admits he felt a lot of pressure coming into this one.

"We got there five days prior to the race. That whole week, I was nervous," he said.

Throughout the swim, however, Picard stayed focused and swam as straight as possible, completing the first leg of the race in an hour and 34 minutes.

"I had a really good swim. I felt great. I got on the bike, I was excited, but the winds were tough," he said.

For the first six miles, Picard biked an impressive 33 mph, but once the winds changed, it took him over four hours to get to the turning point and a total of eight to make it back to the end. That was an hour and a half longer than he had planned for.

"The defining moment on the bike was crossing that 80-mile marker where I got caught last time," he said. "But I was saying to myself, 'I've got to get through here and go to the next station,' and once I got through that, I got a little second wind."

By the time he started to run the marathon, Picard says his feet were already wrinkled up like he'd been swimming all day.

"That's a bad sign. After mile five of the run, I was all blistered up. I felt like I was running on crushed glass," he said. "So I started to walk and run, walk and run, and kept reminded of the goal."

Picard, who embarked on the full-day race at 7:15 a.m., ultimately made it to the finish line a couple hundredths of a second after midnight.

"Just finishing that race was a huge gorilla off my back," he said. "Just accomplishing that feat and now setting the bar." 

In the week he's been back, the triathlete has run a 5K, worked out at his Orangetheory classes, and has plans to present other garments from the race—his jersey and shorts—to individuals and organizations who've supported him, such as his sponsor Novation Settlement Solutions.

Picard has three more triathlons to wrap up the year: the Miami Man on Nov. 13; the Turkey Tri at Tradewinds Park on Nov. 26, during which he will pull a person with disabilities alongside him throughout all three legs of the race; and a final tri down in Key West on Dec. 3.

Picard will then take a break from the triathlons over the holidays, but not before he is inducted into the USA Triathlon Florida Region Hall of Fame in December.

"I'll be the first amputee inducted," Picard said.

Then, sure enough, he'll be starting back up again in January for more training and new races.

"What can you do? Now there's no excuse for people with arms. Now you've got to get out there and do something that makes you happy," he said. "This makes me happy."

Hector Picard completing the marathon portion of the Ironman race in Hawaii on Oct. 8. Courtesy Novation Settlement Solutions
Hector Picard biking in the Ironman World Championship. Courtesy Novation Settlement Solutions
Hector Picard at the Ironman World Championship finish line. Courtesy Novation Settlement Solutions
Hector Picard speaking to Broward Children's Center patients on Wednesday, Oct. 19. Courtesy Novation Settlement Solutions
Courtesy Novation Settlement Solutions
Courtesy Novation Settlement Solutions