Thousands of athletes are visiting the scenic city to compete in Ironman Sunday, a triathlon filled with obstacles requiring sheer determination and commitment, but Todd Crandell, an elite athlete from Ohio, has used those same obstacles to overcome his addiction to drugs.
At three years old Crandell's mother committed suicide, an overwhelming loss he believes led him down a dark path later on in life.
"Emotionally as a three and half year old kid things started to unravel. I didn't know how badly they would unravel, but that to me was the start of what led to a 13 year drug addiction," Crandell said. "I'm not saying it was an excuse to lead to an addiction, but I didn't feel good about myself on any level."
At the age of 13, Crandell had his first alcoholic drink, which he said later quickly evolved into "a full blown cocaine, heroine, crack, alcohol addiction."
He said his addiction, left him homeless and ruined the chances of him perusing an athletic scholarship at the Ohio State University. He was also arrested multiple times, but it wasn't until his third arrest for a DUI, when he decided to take control of his life.
"That was the catalyst for me to say enough is enough with this drug addiction. I want something better in life and I'm gonna get it," Crandell said.
Crandell quit cold turkey turning to physical exercise to help maintain his sobriety. A few years later he competed in his first Ironman, an experience he says changed his life forever.
"It was more of not only improving myself physically but with each step I was feeling better emotionally, psychologically. It helped reduce cravings for addiction. It reduces anxiety. It's a great catalyst to improve in all areas of your life," Crandell said. "I remember watching Ironman back in my drug use days, literally with a mirror of cocaine...and I was thinking I'd like to do that one day, not knowing I'd be doing it today."
Now 27 Ironman competitions later, Crandell says he feels better than ever, with a family who admires his journey to sobriety, but also with a platform to help others.
His non-profit organization, Racing for Recovery, aims to prevent all forms of substance abuse by promoting a lifestyle of fitness and health for all those affected by addiction. The program's motto is "with sobriety anything is possible." One Crandell lives by every day.
"If we stop while we're perusing our goals we never achieve them. So anything worth doing takes sacrifice and struggle and hardships, and that's the drive that keeps me going in this."