He’s a Brick House
As a part of triathlon training, we have “brick” workouts, where after a long bike ride, we run. My brick workouts were my favorites of the year, because of the confidence they gave me in my ability to still run off the bike:
- My first 45 minute brick after an 80 mile ride in 95 degree heat was a trial by fire. I didn’t feel I could have run another step at the end of it.
- After a 90 mile ride on Parmer, I started running, and Neilia (a mother of four and a recent qualified for Kona World Championships) ran with me. Neilia is a phenomenal runner, and after just a half mile, we were running an 8:10 pace. I told her “I’m going to have to slow down.” But we didn’t. I hung on for four miles of 8:10-8:15 miles, with my legs and lungs burning. The last couple of miles were slower and brutal. But I had run an overall pace I didn’t think I could run off a long bike.
- After another 80 mile ride, I ran for an hour on a high school track. I finished the hour close to a 9 minute mile pace, and knew I could have run further.
Start of the Race / My Favorite Fan
As the run began, I put one foot in front of the other and felt okay. After a half mile, I looked at my Garmin and was running a 9:30/mile pace, which I felt great about. Even though I knew I probably wouldn’t hold it, it was a good start. About mile 1.5, there was an old man just off the running path, mumbling at a high volume at the runners, and it made me crack up. “Craziest @#$% I’ve ever seen! You’re all *&^%$#@ nuts. This is incredible. Damndest $#%@^&* thing I’ve witnessed in my life…” and so on. It encouraged me that someone seemingly pretty familiar with crazy was awarding me the label as well.
Seeing Diane for the first time
On the bike, I thought I had heard my cousin Diane’s voice. I had seen my Uncle Cy, so I knew she was there, but just hadn’t picked her out of the crowd yet. My memories of the day are like a dog’s – I can recall each one vividly and remember the emotion, but I can’t always put them in chronological order. I think it was around mile 4, where we loop back to the finish line area, where I saw her first. She had a smile on her face, and was yelling “Go Bryan!” with Mikala next to her (apologies to M because I am sure I am misspelling her name). A part of me wanted to just stop running and end the race there. Seeing her started a release of emotion that I knew I needed to hold in. I ran on, even more excited. The other kidney was right there!
Shut Up, Dan. Let’s Go, Angie. Nate! Nate! Nate!
When I was so angry during the Austin Triathlon, and my close friend Dan said “This is your race, Bryan,” my reply was “Shut Up, Dan.” My friend from college, Vic, loves that story. During my second loop on the run course at Arizona, there was Dan holding up a sign saying “This is your race!”, and next to him, Vic with a sign saying “Shut Up, Dan!” Dan was ever-present, and usually the first person I spotted, then usually with Vic and Lisa somewhere close. Just incredible how much seeing them supercharged me to keep running to see them again.
On my first lap climbing the one hill on the Arizona course, Angie from Jack & Adams passed me, on her way to qualifying for Kona. She and her husband James have been incredibly supportive of me for years, and we seemed to always be running on town lake at the same time for the last six months.
During the second lap, near the finish line, I saw my friend from high school, Nathan Moffett! Nate lives in the general area, but the fact that he drove out to get to see me for just a few seconds at a time was just awesome. After the first time I saw him, I was chanting “Nate! Nate! Nate!” for about five minutes, running to the sound of my own voice. I am bummed I didn’t get to hang out with him more. Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Nate! Okay, you get the point.
Shut Up, Muscles. Wake Up, Brain. Brandi!
Every mile or so, one of the problem muscles in my body would start to tweak. I would internally tell that muscle to cut it out, and I’d relax a little more in my stride, and the pain would go away. Apparently my brain was also being taxed as well: One thing I had planned to do during the bike and run was to think about everyone who had donated to my cause, or had helped me train, or who had been there for me during my illness and recovery. On lap 2 of the bike course, I was going through the people in my mind, and one of my female teammates who has been incredibly encouraging came into my mind, but I could not remember her name. Brittney? Briana? This is someone who I have run with several times, and spent a full hour telling her my story. This is like forgetting the name of a friend you’ve had for years. My brain was just mushy. Mid way through lap 2 of the run, out of nowhere I shouted “Brandi!” A few runners around me glanced at me like I was nuts, because we were nowhere near any spectators or anyone who could possibly be Brandi…
The entire race felt like a game of muscle Jenga. I kept wondering when the wrong piece would get pulled out, and I’d just collapse. Everything seemed stable, but my skeptical mind would not trust the training. My mantra was simple: 1) No walking 2) Every step you run is one less that you would have to walk. Chrissie had encouraged me to not walk until the half way point as a way of making sure I pushed myself. My goal was to not walk at all, as a result of a teammates encouragement during my first run practice back in February. I had not walked a step, and passed the 13 mile mark. And I felt fine. I had no intention of walking if I could help it. I broke the race into smaller pieces – 1 mile at a time, never thinking about more than that. I would not give myself credit for partial miles – if I had not seen the next mile marker, I had made no progress. Until I saw mile 18, I was still at 17.
Having never run over 20 miles in my life (20 was exactly our longest training run), I once again assumed that I would collapse at 20 miles and 10 feet. The 20 mile marker flew by. The inner dialogue began: “6.2 miles, Bryan. That’s just a 10K. That’s no longer a long run for you. You can run the entire thing. Except of course for the two bathroom breaks (where you didn’t walk either). Wait, no, that’s two 5K runs. Much better. Just give me one 5K here, and then we’ll go from there.”
Miles 22-24 hit hard. My legs stopped turning over in a relaxed fashion and my stride shortened severely, as the final run up the one hill took its toll. My stomach growled, signaling that I was behind on nutrition and was about to crash if I didn’t catch up. At the next aid station I ran through, grabbing a fistful of pretzels out of the tray and stuffing them in my mouth, but then missing the cup of water at the end. I had dry pretzel in my mouth and pretzels stuck to my face. But I ran on, looking like a lunatic, using the Accelerade in my fuel belt to wash down the pretzels, and eating the face pretzels that had come along for the ride. A grab-and-go cup of Chicken broth at the next aid station helped more. Slowly, I began to believe that I was going to finish, and have run the whole thing.
A team from Mexico City was well represented at IMAZ, and I was running stride for stride with a couple of their team members. In Spanish they were discussing that we had just one mile left. I laughed and said “Uno punto dos, no?” (1.2) They laughed, agreed, and turned to me and said “Vamanos!” I picked up my pace, though only slightly, because of course you want something left for good form in the final chute.
People always talk about near death experiences seeing your life flash before you in an instant. I have some idea of that now. In the space of just a few minutes, I flashed through the best and worst moments of the last 10 years of my life. I felt the loss of my father all over again. I could feel the sheets of the St. David’s hospital room, receiving my first treatment of chemotherapy, just hours after learning that I had MPGN-1,. I could see myself in my loft bathroom mirror, with a peritoneal dialysis catheter coming out of my abdomen, and wondering if I’d ever really be happy again. I felt the material of my couch, as I curled up in a ball and just wanted everything to end.
Then I felt the blurriness of waking up in the post-transplant ICU at Methodist Hospital, and hearing that the surgery had been a success. I felt Lisa’s hand as I asked her to marry me. I saw Lisa walking down the aisle on our wedding day. I saw my cousin Diane next to me during our first “kidney reunion hike.” I heard Coach Mo and Coach Charles in the final mile of my first 70.3. I saw Jobes riding next to me after 80+ miles of brutal July heat, both of us looking like there was nothing left in the tank and wondering why we were doing this to ourselves. And then I saw the finish line for Ironman Arizona.
(Tomorrow: The Finish)
(Yesterday: The Bike)