Bonner Paddock exemplifies the word “grit.” At 33, the Laguna Beach resident became the first person with cerebral palsy to summit Mount Kilimanjaro unassisted. A few years later, in 2012, he finished the grueling Ironman triathlon in Kona, Hawaii – another astounding feat of endurance.
Between training and working full time as the marketing director for Young’s Market Company, Paddock also launched the OM Foundation, which provides support for children with disabilities in Tanzania and Orange County. This month, between dozens of speaking engagements and the launch of his first book, One More Step, Paddock chats about his favorite places to train, his proudest moment and his dream of taking a helicopter to Catalina.
My Orange County training regimen When I was training for the Ironman, I’d do my swims on the south side of Crystal Cove – swimming north toward the point, turning and coming back the opposite direction. Biking was up the Santa Ana River Trail, starting in Huntington Beach and riding out all the way past Angel Stadium. When I’d do my 100-mile rides, I’d make three round trips. For the run, there was a figure-eight loop in Newport Coast, near my old condo, that featured a steady climb and ocean views.
In those painful middle miles during the marathon segment of the Ironman I thought of Juliana, a girl from Tanzania who was flown in by the OM Foundation to Orange County to have her legs amputated. This amputation made her life dramatically easier, but considering the fact that she was still rehabbing in Irvine when I was competing in Hawaii, it offered a great reminder of how much harder things could be. When my feet were bloody and nasty and aching – I was inspired by the thought of her.
My proudest moment was letting go of my anger and frustration from my past. Everyone assumes it would be finishing Ironman, but instead it was the act of releasing all that anger from childhood. I had so much I was holding onto: my parents’ divorce, not being comfortable with my body, kids who were mean to me… forgiving myself and letting go that’s my biggest accomplishment.
If I’m eating out in OC I love Nick’s in Laguna Beach – the food is amazing, the desserts are impossible to turn down and they have my favorite spirit: Hangar One Mandarin Vodka.
If I was touring someone through OC, I’d make sure to show them Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach – I live just a few steps away. After a morning on the beach, we’d hike the Dartmoor Boat Canyon Trail in North Laguna and reward ourselves with dinner and drinks at The Deck. You have to love a restaurant that hangs right over the water.
The main theme of my book is the power of one. It’s funny, life feels so overwhelming at times, but “one” really can make a difference. One thought, one smile, one moment of kindness can change your day. And these little things add up to define us as individuals… The reason we called the book One More Step is because it doesn’t always have to be leaps and bounds… sometimes life is about taking each step at a time.
One thing people don’t know about Cerebral Palsy is that it’s a disability, not a disease. Unlike multiple sclerosis or cancer – it’s onset at birth and doesn’t advance during your lifetime.
The experience of writing a book was therapeutic. It allowed me to unbury a lot of things that I didn’t deal with as a child and young adult.
If I decided to treat myself, I would I’d love to take a helicopter to Catalina, spend the night, then helicopter back. I know that the boat is a lot cheaper but – to be frank – boats aren’t my thing.
The Ironman was a process of love. Sure, there was punishment on my body, but the journey was enlightening and filled with kind-hearted, amazing people.
One question I wish you’d asked what was hardest, Kilimanjaro, Ironman or writing One More Step?
If you’d asked it, I would have answered writing the book. Physical pain is easier to heal than mental pain. It was grueling to pull those demons out of my closet and reexamine them and the endurance it took to finish the book was every bit as much as the endurance it took to finish Ironman or Kilimanjaro.