Thursday, September 20, 2007

Setting his own pace

Sacramentan Jon Bik heads to Germany to compete in Triathlon World Championships -- 2 1/2 years after losing a leg
By M.S. Enkoji - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B1

He was on top of the world, a new job just within his grasp, when something gave way, plunging him toward what could have been a life of self-pity and bitterness.

Or not.

After Jon Bik lost most of his right leg in a work accident, he got up from his hospital bed, determined to rebound, first by golfing, then by running and finally, training for triathlons.

"I think it was the threat of not being able to do it that made me do it," said Bik, 33.

Just 2 1/2 years after losing his leg, Bik is bound for Hamburg, Germany, today to compete in the Triathlon World Championships.

Some seek solace in therapy, but Bik has channeled any darkness that came his way into training and concentrating on what milestone was next.

"It's definitely helped to take my mind off things," he said.

Bik spent Tuesday showing off the high-technology prosthetic legs that will help him through nearly a one-mile swim, 24.8 mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run.

He is shooting for a three-hour finish or less in Hamburg. He qualified for the world event at a New York City triathlon in July, coming in at three hours and 17 minutes. At least 8,000 athletes from around the world will compete in Hamburg. Bik will square off against others who also use prosthetic legs.

Because of the expense, Bik will travel without the relatives, friends and co-workers who have rallied for his comeback.

"He makes my simple life problems seem very little if you look at his accomplishments," said Ken Habel, who works with Bik at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Habel has helped raise money to defray Bik's racing costs. It will cost Bik $600 just to bag and ship his bike to Germany.

Habel and Bik have been working together for a few years, training as meter technicians for the utility district.

Bik initially wanted to be a lineman, scaling utility poles to do repairs. He went to "pole school" at the utility district during a vacation break from a former job. The physically grueling school typically weeds out most candidates, he said. But not him.

"I just finished the final test," he said, recalling the day he was injured in January 2005.

A spike on his boot caught wrong on a wooden pole as he shimmied down it. He dropped 40 feet, landing with a leg somehow skewed upward in front of him.

For three days, doctors worked to save his leg, which was attached mostly by skin, Bik said. He lost the leg above the knee.

Before the accident, the father of 6- and 2-year-old girls, owned a bike and had run in a few fun runs.

"I wasn't lying in bed thinking of triathlons," he said.

But he was thinking of getting his life back. Golfing would be his bridge to running again, he figured. After he started running, Bik took up biking and swimming as a way to rest from running.

Getting fitted for prosthetics was a process of trial and error. Blisters and another surgery, plagued him.

"No matter what," Habel said, "he always remained positive. He didn't let the setbacks get to him regardless of how it impacted him. He always pushed forward."

The prosthetics Bik will take to Germany -- made by Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics -- each are designed for a particular activity and imbedded with microprocessors that control flexibility and stability.

Joining other runners Tuesday at McKinley Park in east Sacramento, Bik ran a few rounds himself.

After he retires from marathoning and triathaloning, he says, he'd like to work in some way to help others deal with physical disabilities.

About the writer:
The Bee's M.S. Enkoji can be reached at (916) 321-1106 or

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