It takes more than a team or even a small city to get me across the finish line. These are the pillars of the last six months of my training, who got me across the finish line. “Thank you” seems so insignificant given what they’ve done to help. But this is my way of saying thanks.
(If you’re interested, here’s the long winded race narrative and play by play).
Coach Michael “Mick”/”Smithy” Smith
I can’t start with anyone other than Smithy – I first met Smithy at a WTC BBQ for noobs at Manly Dam, and I thought, “This guy kind of looks like the coach from Rocky!” When I found out he was coaching Iron-distance athletes, I signed up for the WTC training program. Over time, the logistics of my daily life and the WTC coaching program changed, so I signed up with Mick individually. I have little doubt that I would not have made it across the finish line without Mick’s help. His training program was great, but he didn’t coach a program, he coached me – he pushed me when I was making the wrong decisions, and always had the final goal in mind.
From my first coach in high school swimming, Jerry Lusk, I’ve always appreciated coaches who were direct, and focused on what you needed versus a general program. I’m an odd duck of a triathlete with a suppressed immune system, a spine that should not support long distance runs, and a work schedule that doesn’t give me much flexibility on the weekdays. Mick was amazing at figuring out how to maximize what I could give him to work with, and helping me through the low times of illness and when my recovering leg couldn’t handle the higher intensity workloads.
Meredith Terranova, Nutritionist, Eating and Living Healthy
Meredith was my nutritionist for my first Ironman four years ago, and I wanted to work with her again. She’s simply smart, direct, and knows her stuff (aside from being an incredible long-distance athlete herself!) Beyond that she manages to make it practical. She knows I’m not going to eat avocados, because I just don’t like them. She helped me put together a program I could train and race with, so that on race day I was just executing and not having to think. With the dropout rate in my age group around 25%, I know the nutrition and hydration plan kept me from DNFing! Big ups to Mer!
Check her out at: http://eatingandlivinghealthy.com/home
Toby Watson, North Curl Curl Physio
Even though this isn’t a recent picture of Toby, I had to use it, because it captures the fact that he’s a bad-ass dude. But he’s also one of the nicest guys you can run across. Given my leg trauma, my coach wanted me to find someone top-notch to help me get back to form, and Tobes was the answer. Tobes’ resume is astounding: Head Physio for Garmin-Transitions Pro Cycling team covering three Tours de France is just one example. Given the poor treatment and witch doctoring I’d received from a physio in the CBD, Tobes was a massive change: scientific, knew his stuff, and always good value (translation for the Yanks: “he’s funny”). The pain in my leg was complicated and didn’t make sense at times, but Tobes stuck to his guns and his method, and everything that transpired matched his theories. In the end, I ran without pain in the area of my injury for both Challenge Forster and Ironman Busselton. Hats off to you, mate. You’re legend.
Check out Tobes at: http://www.northcurlcurlphysio.com/toby-watson.html
Penny, Massage Therapist
I’m lucky that just a k away from my home lives a woman who knows how to deliver pain in the kindest way possible. She and her husband Martin are always a pleasure to see, and her girls could not be cuter! But Penny has kept my body working when it wanted to stop. There were weeks where we chatted and laughed non-stop while she removed all the knots from my body. There were weeks where she could tell I was exhausted and broken, and she’d work silently, bit by bit repairing the damage of the last training sessions. Her sense of humor is unbeatable – even more reinforcing my already bizarre association between pain and happiness.
Kall Kann, Country Director, Room to Read, Cambodia.
Kall’s bio says, “After being separated from his family under Pol Pot’s regime and years later reconnecting with siblings he assumed had not survived, Kann has spent over 14 years working in the international development sector including more than five years specifically on educational development in Cambodia.” This only provides a glimpse into Kall – when he first told me his life story, and how the pain and loss of his family has driven him to dedicate his life to help others, it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
Just days before my race, Kall wrote:
“I am glad to hear you had recovered from the injure and ready to race. With you briefing, I can feel that the Ironman Western Australia race is really hard. So please accept me and millions Cambodian children wishes for your successful race on this Sunday.”
I’ll admit I was more than a little choked up when I read that. I thought about Kall and the kids during the last lap of the marathon a lot, and could see the faces of the kids I had met in the villages of Cambodia last year. What I did is not hard – what they do every day is hard.
Everyone who donated!
While my target was $25,000, I was overwhelmed with the support from my friends – 94 donors who donated a total of over $43,000 for Room to Read Cambodia. John Wood, the founder of Room to Read, sent me a personal thank you note, and of course Kall has become someone I reach out to on a regular basis.
The Support Crew
Kyle and Justus both came out to Busselton to cheer me on.
The Buntings have been my family in Australia for the last two years. Sunday dinner at their place is a regular occurence, and Jill is an exceptional cook, and has contributed not only a lot of calories to my diet but the tastiest ones! Kyle (at right) and I worked together in Austin, and he’s the reason I moved to Manly after realizing the Eastern Suburbs were the wrong place for me. Having Kyle at the race was the punctuation mark in the story of their support for me over the past two years.
Justus and I have worked together for four years, but became close friends a couple of years ago. A fellow American, Justus has joined forces with me to form our own Australian political party once I become a citizen. We look forward to the cushy lives of Australian senators in our future. Justus now lives in Vietnam and flew out for my race. The rest of this week, we’re checking out WA together – the two Yanks touring the SouthWest of Western Australia. Political upheaval in the region is imminent. Tonight after a bottle of Cabernet, we decided to fire bomb all hotels that don’t offer free internet. “If you aren’t willing to fight for free internet, you don’t deserve free internet.” But we’re tired and just going to sleep.
But I digress. During the race, every time I came to an intersection on my bike, like magic Kyle and Justus were there. It was like a magic act, where they’d disappear 10K away and reappear at the next juncture. Apparently while I stayed penalty free during the bike course, Kyle broke most major Australian traffic laws as well as a few moral codes of conduct getting from place to place. On the run course, they picked a fantastic spot, where I could see them twice a lap. After the race they admitted it was the closest spot to the bar at the Goose (nearby pub). And Scott and Sarah Fraser were phenoms as well – yelling and firing me up every single time I saw them.
And so many more to thank:
- Vic and Elaine, for being the loudest virtual support team, and who even posted my finish line video (with Vic yelling over the top of it) to where my family thought he was actually at the race. He and Elaine were a little busy to attend the race, because they are busy popping out kid #1. SO FRIGGIN’ EXCITED.
- My entire family, for helping support me from places all around the U.S., and managING not to be scared by my foolish pursuit of this
- Andy Kean, for helping me have fun and learn to love the sport of triathlon again (and letting me tell “not for kids” jokes at track practice).
- Marty Henderson, for the constant stream of advice and recommending ingredients for the creation of my own pain cave.
- My nephrologist, Professor Carol Pollock, and my GP, Dr. Peter Purches, for medical support during the crashes of the last 12 months. Dr. Purches asked the best question when he was treating me three weeks before the race: “Are you going to be drug tested?”
- And the hundreds of work colleagues, friends, family, for continuing to support me no matter what I sign up for.
The Warringah Triathlon Club (WTC) – with a shout out to Natalie
My lowest point in the run was when I was walking, and just beginning to lose the feeling of dizziness. Natalie (who I had just met a few days earlier, and who is also coached by Smithy), ran past me and simply said “You can do this, Bryan.” Those words jarred me into action, and we ran next to each other for a few Ks, keeping our mind off our legs and just letting the distance go by. I’m not sure how much time would have disappeared before I found my own motivation, so a huge thanks to Nat. She’s a great example of why I love WTC – it’s a massive club, but for the most part, the people in it are great human beings, who push themselves incredibly hard but look out for each other. My teammates at Busso made the experience 10x better, and the entire WTC club is great at simultaneously supporting and pushing each other. To everyone I’ve ever shared a bike ride, track run, ocean swim, dam swim, or pool workout – Cheers!
Kieron, Training Partner Extraordinaire
I had no idea I was holding Kieron back. We rode every Saturday for almost three months straight together, suffering out of Akuna Bay, seeing Bobbin Head more times than I ever want to, and fighting traffic back on Pittwater for 3, 4, 5, 6, and even a 7 hour ride. Spending that much time with someone is not easy – but Kieron is easy going, friendly, and simply a great guy who I’m proud to call a friend. Both of us were training for Busso, so our needs matched, and I was led to believe that he was about the same speed as I was. But come race day, my training partner absolutely crushed it, in 10:20 – beating me in all three legs of the race and by almost an hour. It’s fantastic to make a friend through shared suffering, and I’ll be cheering from the sidelines as Kieron takes on three more Iron-distance races… I’m in your corner, mate!
December 21st, 2004, I woke up in intensive care, with a kidney from my cousin Diane inside of me. The next ten years of my life have been a result of her amazing generosity. Our ten year kidney-versary is a special one, and I’ll get to see her within a month of that day.
How do you say thank you to the person who saved your life? How can you ever express in words what this gift does for you every day – that every time you laugh, struggle, fight, lose, or win – you’re getting to experience life because of that person. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see the scar, take my meds, or have some other reminder of how Diane has given me a decade of life that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I love you cousin – I still don’t understand why you did it, but I am humbled by your care for me.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone, and it’s going to hit me any minute, and I’m going to need to apologize. Blame it on the sore quads!