$100K for literacy in Cambodia

$100K for literacy in Cambodia

Two and a half years ago, I started raising money for Room to Read, an organization I was just getting to know.

(This post was supposed to go out well over a weeks ago, to capitalize on Giving Tuesday, and for most friends of BJR, feigned sarcasm Wednesday and apathy Thursday. Sorry it’s late.)

I’m now training for my third Ironman, and working on the most ambitious fundraising goal of my life. Despite having a kidney transplant over 10 years ago, I’m not slowing down, I’m trying to keep giving back.

15 years ago I would celebrate when I could raise $3,000 for the MS150, a bike ride from Houston to Austin.

Two years ago, through the generousity of friends around the world, we raised over $42,000 for Room to Read Cambodia. In September, I had the chance to see the results. I’m in awe of the impact that we’ve had in such a short time, and I want us all to do more. I’m in awe of Room to Read, not just for what I’ve seen them do locally in Cambodia, but the way their entire organization makes a incredible impact around the world.

54 - whole school together

We did this with $12,000. Imagine what we can do with $100,000.

So, in six months (before my race on June 12th), I am raising $100,000 for Room to Read Cambodia. With this, we can build libraries that will open their doors to 1000s of children, we can fund girls’ education programs for 1000s of girls, and we can end the cycle of poverty in Cambodia through education.

Each month there will be contests with prizes (usually chances to humiliate me) for one person who has made a donation (so the earlier you donate, the more chances you have to win, and the more you donate, the higher your chance).

I’ll match the first $25,000 donated. Even better, Room to Read is matching donations through the end of December, so with my matching, a total of 4x your amount will be donated (email me if you need help with the maths on that).

give now

Thanks in advance for your support!

BJR

Turbulence at all altitudes

Turbulence at all altitudes

In the next 9 days, I’ll be in 4 different countries, with each hop being more than 5 hours. I’ll cover more than 100 km of changes in altitude before I get back home. With every flight, there’s are always rough patches, smooth patches, and the unexpected glass of wine spilled on you by the woman sitting next to you (true story, and it was not intentional or deserved, just for the record).

These next nine days are a microcosm of the last six months – I haven’t blogged publicly during that time for a number of reasons, most of which was turbulence. I didn’t really know which direction I was headed, and I couldn’t reach my laptop because the fasten seat belt sign was on.

No, seriously, fasten your @#$% seat belts. This puppy is about to barrel-roll.

Quick stream of consciousness recap since March. Each of these alone would be blog-worthy, but alas I am rich in humor, prose and adventure but time poor. Go.

  • Returned from Saigon to Australia where Khanh visited Manly for the first time. Torrential rain during an outdoor Opera House performance of Aida, delight in Josh Pyke and the Sydney symphony, a stunning day at Palm Beach, and a wet hike down the side of Govett’s Leap near Blackheath did not disappoint. Neither did my first colonoscopy.

2015-04-24 16.08.48

Palm Beach.

  • San Francisco, the city by the Bay. A weekend with Khanh in Santa Cruz where I was the de-invited wedding guest, and fled from an Orca in the water that turned out to be a porpoise.
  • On to Virginia, for my nephew’s first triathlon. Incredibly proud as we passed each other on the run. My first ever podium, though the competition wasn’t exactly elite.

IMG_0400

“No sharks in Virginia, right?”

  • Prague! Apparently one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, I did not see the outside of my hotel room as yet another sinus infection crushed me. 12 hours of meetings, 12 hours of hazy delirium. Repeat four times then get on a plane.
  • Gdansk, Poland! Presenting in a zombie-like state to 400 people, my speaker rating was essentially “this American is not horrible,” which is apparently high praise in that part of the world. Struggling still and not sleeping well, my team in Poland are such phenomenal hosts, that even in the haze of medication and insomnia I had a huge smile as the go-kart track blurred beneath my wheels. Luckily there are no drug tests in go-karting.

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Gdansk at night. Similar to Gdansk in the day, only darker.

  • Back to Virginia. My 12 year old niece crushed me in a 5K, running 21 minutes, and being the first female across the line, and eighth overall. My pride overflows, but I will also have my revenge!

bekah 5k

The entire family after their 5K. First place goes to my niece in the pink. Until next time…

  • Back to San Francisco. Living in the Marina I do not fit the stereotype, but I am amused and not freightened by it’s homogeneity. I am not a homogene-o-phobe.
  • Colorado for Dan’s Buck’s party. Three days of hiking and two days of celebrating including hot springs induced male nudity, a midnight digestive system attack from a freeze-dried Mexican dinner (imagine running in the dark with a plastic shovel and a flashlight on a very narrow trail, when every second counts), and the joys of seeing one mostly unclothed man in a hot tub slap another mostly unclothed man in that same hot tub in the face as hard as he can.

2015-07-18 10.11.22

Only the residents of Colorado are higher than the mountains

  • Back to San Francisco. An afternoon hike of pure happiness near Stinson Beach, including a quick swim in a calm, placid lake.
  • Back to Sydney for three weeks. A fairwell to Tobes and his arms.
  • Back to San Francisco for Dan’s wedding. Sick again. Amazing to see my brothers from Austin, and the Heller family, all of whom are family to me. As the sun set on the brutal oven that surrounded our black suited band of musketeers, I asked myself “Why have I left my family?” A week later, a perfect weekend, filled with two loops of Paradise, a dip in Aquatic Park, a run across the Golden Gate, and best of all time spent simply being, with Khanh.

2015-08-29 16.02.22

It’s not a seal. It’s just BJR-in-a-wetsuit.

  • Back to Sydney on September 6th.

By September 6th, I had spent 123 of the last 365 days out of the country. As one friend asked, “If you like Australia so much why are you never there?

The cult of FODMAP

fodmapno

“If it tastes good, spit it out.”

After Ironman Busselton in December, it took my digestive system about two weeks to recover from the 11+ hours of liquid sugar I had dumped into it during the day. In April, after talking to an ENT specialist about my sinus challenges, a Gastro specialist about the last 10 years of what I thought was a reaction to my medication, my nephrologist about the same problem, and the exceptional Meredith Terranova, it became clear that during my transplant, my digestive system had been completely reset. All the immune suppressing drugs and antibiotics conspired to destroy the healthy bacteria I had built up through a steady diet of dirt, Tang, peanut better, condensed milk, and lint as a child.

The recommendation was FODMAP. Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Fructose Free, etc. Very similar to Paleo, but more restrictive as it eliminates a lot of fruits and vegetables. Starting in April, within three weeks of this caloric torture I could already tell the difference. Trying to eat like a horse while not being able to eat 90% of the meals in most menus was not something I want to repeat. I’ve now folded back in everything except gluten, and I’m using something call “UCAN” (as in ‘you can’ complete the race without a sprint for the port-a-loo) for race nutrition and recovery. My last half-Ironman was much better – even the next day, nothing out of the ordinary. One small step for bacterial chemistry, one giant step for my behind. I love when I write something, and then have to stop for three minutes because I’m laughing so hard. Do I care if you laugh? Maybe?

Sunny Coast half-Ironman

wetsuit before the race top half

“Of course I’m smiling. I am completed unprepared for this.”

I’ve never attempted a race as undertrained as the Ironman Sunshine Coast 70.3 last weekend. With the travel schedule above, I did minimal maintenance training, and crammed in a handful of mid-length efforts in the few weeks before the race. My mate Nick joined me to support me in the race, and getting to see my coach and teammates was the best part of the whole weekend.

Once again my TT bike is a pain to maintain. The brakes were fully locked on the wheel and no matter what adjustment I tried, they were jammed. The local bike shop fixed, though they were incredibly lose. “It will stop, I just can’t tell you how long it will take,” said the mechanic. Um…

Despite predicting a disaster, I finished in 5:13, which is good for my fitness level but not a stellar time for an incredibly fast course. I started in the third wave but somehow managed a 32 minute swim. My bike was lazy at best, my heart barely working while my legs were clearly not conditioned for it. I did run a PR for the half-marathon (as part of a half-Ironman) – the highlight being half way up the hill near the end of the first lap, a woman who I had been leapfrogging said “Come on, brotha” and got me to pick up the pace, which helped propel me for the remaining 11K across the finish line.

I have another half-Ironman in Austin in November, where I will be in better shape but likely register a slower time given the equipment and course. The next day I returned to a brutal episode at work, then flew to Asia, and within 24 hours I could not focus my eyes or make coherent sentences. For these kinds of reactions I really should at least get the chance to take some interesting hallucinogens.

Our radar shows clouds in a pattern of a question mark

illustration of clouds in the shape of question mark on sky background

I’m a planner. I love google calendar and JIRA – I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at any time. Usually, a lack of a plan begins to slowly brew anxiety that boils over, and I close my eyes, jam the throttle forward, and push the yoke left, right, or some other dangerous combination, and see where I end up.

My emotional compass points West, across the Pacific. My skin is magnetized by the salt (and negative ions – look them up, they are totally science stuff…) of the ocean outside the window of my apartment. The uncentered, off balance gyroscope in my psyche careens off Argentina into Austin, through Northern Virginia, and comes to a rest against the Pyrenees. My legs are begging simply to sit still, even for a minute.

For now, I’m just letting the trade winds take me, and resisting the urge to attempt aerial maneuvers. Just over the horizon is Cambodia, where a piece of me that I left two years ago is waiting to be reunited, while a warm heartbeat will join me inside of the monsoon. I can’t wait. Stay tuned.

The Coaster: 2015

coasters

When Mak introduced me to “The Napkin,” my approach to New Year’s resolutions changed forever. Over a few pints, we’d take a pub napkin, and divide it into four and then in later years, nine squares, and each square would need a New Year’s Resolution.

But the secret was in creating them with your mates. Your mates would call you out if you were being boring, or not aggressive enough, and would even suggest things to get you out of your comfort zone. And they have to be binary – you either fail or succeed (though this year we did allow each person to claim a half point for one item that was close).

In Australia, “nappies” are diapers so “The Napkin” wasn’t really right. And while “Serviette” does mean napkin, it’s a more dainty or refined word than should be used when talking about planning the year ahead in dimly lit pub. Heading down the lift after work, I was lamenting this naming dilemma to a colleague, and a stranger in the lift said, “Coaster.” I said,”I guess you can write on them.” “Coaster,” he repeated.

So, ladies and gents, may I present to you, the BJR Coaster for 2015. Oh, and generally, code names for your resolutions are useful in case you need to discuss them in public but don’t actually want to reveal what change you’re trying to make in your life. Bonus points for being clever.

1. Chef BJR

It’s no secret I’m no cook.  This year, I will learn to cook something new each month. Last year’s “Cook three new dishes this year” was a dismal failure. We’re turning up the heat in the kitchen. Either delight or food poisoning will ensue.

2. Four-in Waters

I’m going to be traveling a lot, both for work and personally: Six countries in addition to the states and Oz. In at least four of those countries, I will do an open water swim of no less than 1 K. Outside chance I contract some water bourne disease or get to fight with a sea serpent.

3. Tri for Five and a Half

This year, I’ll race in five triathlons, including another half-Ironman. Right now I have the Huski Sprint, NSW Club Champs, the Naylor’s Beach triathlon in Virginia with my nephew Braden, and hopefully I can get a spot in the Sunshine Coast 70.3. One secret – I actually don’t like racing. I actually just like the training. Don’t tell anyone. If they know, they will look at me strangely, and I’ll mistake that for an invitation to ask for a back rub.

4. Don’t Stop the Yanks

“Stop the boats” has been a political rallying cry of the conservative Liberal party (confusing, I know) to keep poorly constructed ships of Indonesian refugees from setting sail for asylum in Australia. By the end of this year, I will have logged enough days in Australia to apply for citizenship. So, by the end of 2015, I will apply to be a legit Aussie with all rights and privileges. Everyone always asks “Will you have duel citizenship?” Such a silly question. Duels really don’t occur in modern Australia, especially since gun ownership is tightly controlled.

5. Keep Bryan Weird

“Keep Austin Weird” has been a slogan as long as I can remember. Austin is not Houston nor Dallas. It’s quirky, it’s a bit profane, it’s relaxed, and it’s fun. In the last two years, I lost a lot of the edge that’s made me love life, that’s put me in awkward situations or led to discover the quirky things that I enjoy. No more! I will feast on the unusual, I will seek out the extraordinary, I will court the rare. Over the next year I will collect 12 experiences that are great stories that I love telling. Or stories so good I can’t tell them.  I’ve already logged experience number 1, which included a highlight of a San Francisco park wino singing 80s pop hits (a Lionel Ritchie song was my favorite), and that was the most normal part of the experience.

6. Fork the Aussies

Food makes its second appearance in this year’s coaster. Aussies (and Brits) don’t eat like Americans.  There’s no dropping of the knife and switching the fork to the dominant shoveling hand. I will eat with Aussie table manners this entire year, regardless of what country I am in. And if I catch myself doing the wrong thing, I will apologize to the table, saying, “I’m sorry, I’ve (list the mistake). I’m an idiot and if I’ve offended you feel free to spank me.” So far, I’ve had to make three apologies, but have avoided any physical punishment.

7. The Unclet a month club

This year, I want to have a special activity, where I spend an hour with one of my unclets or extended unclets doing something just for them or just with them. (Note: Unclets is a term for nieces and nephews. Extended unclets are the kids of my closest friends). Already in January I’ve spent a whole weekend with Little Bryan and just recently went hiking (and even running) with my cousin Makalia.

8 & 9. Yeah, not going to tell you.

Well, you don’t get to know the final two. You’ll have to just know about the seven. Don’t be too upset – last year over half weren’t fit for public consumption. Or really anything public. Or anything consumable. So I’ll leave this to your imagination. With some of you, that’s quite dangerous, and you might hurt yourself, so please wear a helmet.

Happy New Year – May your coaster be filled with things that take you out of your comfort zone.

FRD vs. BJR: Unstoppable force vs. Immovable object (Bike Tech Review)

FRD vs. BJR: Unstoppable force vs. Immovable object (Bike Tech Review)

In March, I had my first ride on my new time-trial bike.  It was an amazing experience, being back in Austin, on roads that I loved, riding again (after 7 weeks on crutches).  New bike euphoria is nothing new. I’ve been riding the new bike for 8-9 months now, and have raced twice with it, so it’s time to take a step back and do a formal review, not just of the bike, but of all the gear on it and the software I’ve used in training.

This journey actually started about a year before. When my boss at work came to me at bonus time, he said, “Don’t just spend this on rent or a mortgage. Do something memorable with it, so you’ll remember the great year we’ve had.” I immediately knew that I’d be getting a new TT bike.  At that point I was targeting Ironman Melbourne (before I found I had a stress reaction in my left femoral neck) and reached out to Jack & Adams in Austin to work on what my next ride would be. While the Felt IA FRD was not on the market yet, the more I read about it, the more I thought it would be the bike for me.  However, the bike would not be available when I needed it for Melbourne, so I planned on riding my old Kuota K-Factor. But when I had to cancel Melbourne, I registered for Busso and a new window opened up. Jack worked with me to get the bike ready on my next visit to Austin, and the rest is well, not really history.

Felt IA FRD: Overall grade: B+.

Felt IA_FRD

Speed: A

The bike is definitely fast. In fact, it’s probably not a great bike for me, as an underpowered cyclist (I’m a much stronger swimmer and runner), and someone stronger would get even more out of it because it takes a small amount of power and delivers a lot of speed. The frame is not as light as I would have expected, but it’s certainly incredibly light given how much frame there is (the seat tube is massively wide). I do feel like I can push this bike without much power, which has been really important on my injured leg. I’m curious to see what I can do once I’m healed…

Right now, the test is still “how fast is the world’s slowest triathlete (me) on the world’s fastest tri bike?”

Comfort: A

It feel like you could ride in the bars forever. Everything is very stable and comfortable. Downhills on bad surfaces are not my favorite, but my previous tri-bike was even worse.

Di2 Dura-Ace is amazing. Having shifters on both the aerobars and bull horns make all the difference, especially when you’re riding in areas like the Northern Beaches were you don’t get long, sustained time in aero.

Maintenance / Practicality: D

I can take apart my Specialized Tarmac (road bike) and have it boxed up in 15 minutes, 10 minutes if I hurry.  With the Felt, I expected it to take longer, but it’s at least an hour start to finish for me, both in taking it apart and putting it back together. And things that are normally simple on another bike are complex and painful.

There are lots of panels.  Each have two tiny screws that a ~1mm allen key removes. For example, while I realized that Di2 would mean an electric shifting system, I still have some mental turbulence around charging my bike, and to charge it I have to remove a panel.

The bike has a built-in Bento Box (place for food / gels / tires) for long distance triathlons, which is a killer idea, but the execution is flawed. Even with an recent update, it’s very difficult to get to the contents of the box if they are in the back half. You can probably also fit an after-market bladder to have an internal hydration system, but I’m not a fan of those so I’ve never tried it. The Bento box lid is plastic and pops off the top tube. Originally it would barely hang out when I rode, and if I had a clif bar in the box, a good bump would knock the lid off and I’d have to stop to retrieve it.

On one bumpy downhill, the top flew off and disappeared too quickly for me to see where it went. I then had to order a new Bento box top. Living in Australia, there are no Felt dealers out here. I travel to San Francisco quite regularly but I couldn’t use dealers there, I had to go through my original dealer. It arrived on the last possible day before I left for my race. Two months for a simple replacement is a long time.

If you don’t live near a Felt dealer, in fact if you don’t live near the Felt dealer you bought this bike from, it’s a royal hassle.

Adjustment for the right brake is under the crank.  Must remove the crank to really adjust. I’m going to try and fashion a cheater allen wrench using a hacksaw to possible get in there, but the adjustment is really challenging even once you get the hey bold loose.

For someone trying to win Kona, or their age group, this bike makes sense. Honestly, for me, the amount of effort to ship this bike to a race adds a lot of challenges, and that makes the overall experience a bit of a downer.

Reynolds Race Wheels: A

These wheels are incredibly light – the first pair of race wheels that I’ve owned.  They are not super deep, 56 and 72 mm respectively. They feel solid riding on them and have performed well in the two races I’ve done. I’ll give them an A simply because they are great, but I’m no expert here given I’ve only used 3-4 types of race wheels in the past

Garmin Vector Pedals: B+

Garmin Vector

I had been training with power at a cycling gym and I wanted to transfer that to training on my own bike. Pedals or power tap? I went with pedals because I could transfer them to another bike. The downsides is that you must use a torque wrench to tighten them or the power readings are off. Calibration is very much dependent on the torque applied, too little torque under-reports the power. Garmin recommends 25-30 lbs-ft 34-40 N-m. I’d recommend being near the top of that range to avoid under-reporting.

Remember:

In rotational equilibrium, the sum of the torques is equal to zero. In other words, there is no net torque on the object. Note that the SI units of torque is a Newton-metre, which is also a way of expressing a Joule(the unit for energy). However, torque is not energy.

Actually, you don’t need to remember any of that. I just included that for fun.

It’s a little wild to have pedals with firmware.  I crashed the Garmin firmware update app of the pedals 7 times when trying to update the firmware, but eventually got it.

About three months before my race, my Garmin watch warned me that the battery levels were low on the pedals (they have an internal watch battery in each pedal). I read online that in some cases the pedals had been misreporting low battery with old firmware. So I ignored it – figuring it would just run out at some point then I’d replace it if it was a real warning. The batteries ran out on my last ride before leaving for my Ironman. A little scary that they could have run out during my race!

X-Lab Hydration System

Xlab Super Wing

These are a royal pain to take apart and remove. But, the point is that once they are on, they are solid and not going to move. I’ve still have bottles pop out, often flying out in what looked like an attempt to sabotage my training parter. I  changed the type of bottle, changed the orientation from vertical to angled, and launched zero bottles during Ironman Busselton (though I had one in Challenge Forster).

http://xlab-usa.com/super-wing.html

 

Xlab super wing with goodies

Specialized Tarmac: A+

Specialized Tarmac

My first road bike (gasp! Yes, believe it or not I went straight from a touring bike to a TT bike). I love this thing. Even with a downhill chicken like me I feel a lot more confident just letting this bike go.

Garmin 910XT: A-

garmin-forerunner-910xt

A big improvement over the 310XT, this next generation of triathlete watch. Of course, this review is largely useless because the 920XT is now out… But the watch and interaction with the ANT+ Agent has been flawless since I got it. Really happy with the watch. The points where the charger connect are still poorly made, but everything else is much better.

Garmin Connect: B+

Software made by device manufacturers is usually plagued with poor user experience and plenty of bugs, but the new Garmin Connect is actually decent. Competition from the likes of Strava have certainly made them step up their game.

Garmin Connect

TrainerRoad: A

TrainerRoad_logo

I used TrainerRoad to create home workouts for my “pain cave”. It gives you a heads up display, and integrates well with cycling workout videos like SufferFest (which are excellent).

Training Peaks: A

My coach uses Training Peaks, so I do as well.  It’s great. He uploads workouts, they appear in my calendar, and every day I get an email telling me my workout for the next two days.

Strava: A

Everyone loves Strava. Great social software for athletes. Nuff said.


Strava

Tapirik Sync: A+

So with Garmin, Strava, and Training Peaks, how to keep them all in sync? The best solution I’ve found is Tapiriik.

https://tapiriik.com/


Tapiriik
That’s all, folks.

Busso: The People Who Made It Possible

Busso: The People Who Made It Possible

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

Mick

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-Run

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

tobes garmin

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

Pain

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

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!

Room to Read

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

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:

This is your race Bryan

  • 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

WTC-Logo

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

Kieron

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!

Diane

donate life

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.

And…

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!

Ironman Busselton Race Report: “Ouch”

Ironman Busselton Race Report: “Ouch”

2014-IMWA-Header

Over the last two years, my free time has largely been filled with a singular (maniacal?) goal, and that was finishing my second Ironman. I’m happy with my race and I’m leaving Busselton feeling content about what I did on Sunday, but even happier with what it represents about my life.

Given the fact that I was on crutches in March, unable to run without pain until the last two months, and sick about half of the year, I can’t quite believe it. My finishing time of 11:12 is more than 90 minutes faster than the 12:45 I posted four years ago. I knew I was in better shape, and despite the lies I told myself and others, I would have been disappointed if I didn’t go under 12 hours. Still, there was a nagging concern about how my body would hold together after the last year of trauma.

Now, you’re lucky I’m not feeling prolific – after my first Ironman I wrote an entire post for every leg of the race….5 posts in total. But we’ll try to get it done in two posts.

Pre-race: All systems go

Justus and I arrived in Busselton on Thursday afternoon, and I spent Friday and Saturday doing the usual prep of assembling my bike, driving the bike course, getting something fixed at the bike shop, getting in a practice swim and going for a practice ride. The night before the race, I slept incredibly well. It helps going West for a race, because your body wants to sleep earlier and get up earlier, which it what you need when the race starts at 5:45 AM.

I had a few goals: beat my previous time by at least 45 minutes (i.e. go under 12 hours), not need a “pit stop” so many times (first IM was 6 total stops!!), and not walk on the run.

The Swim: Aquatic Combat in Paradise

Swim Start

I managed to get a decent warm-up in the ocean, and peed while warming up. Check and check!

Despite it being a wide open course, it was more of a melee than I had expected. I ran into a handful of pods of chaos, with swimmers who were opting to stay near others rather than just swim without being pummeled. At one point I was kicked in the goggle, and my calves were actually sore coming in from having so many people slap them. I’ll admit while I am pretty good about not slapping people’s feet and just forging my own way, I do retaliate when someone is just being ridiculous. And there was plenty of retaliation Sunday.

Overall I was swimming well “within myself” and could have gone a lot harder, but I had a game plan and I needed to save everything for the run given how little running I had been able to do over the past six months.

My one major mistake was heading toward the Busselton Jetty instead of the swim exit, and including that I probably tacked on an extra 50-150m over the entire course of the swim with poor navigation.

Overall, Busselton has to be one of the best swim courses in the world, if not the best (I have very limited experience but it’s hard to imagine something better, and a lot of my teammates who have done multiple races confirm it). The water is clear, the perfect temperature, and you have a massive landmark in the Jetty that you can follow. Luckily I breathe on the left side so I could always see the Jetty if I was veering off course.

The Bike: One position, five and 2/3rds hours

Bike TurnaroundMy game plan was based on a specific power level, but the one challenge with my Garmin power-sensing pedals I have is calibration. I don’t think the power readout was correct – it definitely felt low given my level of effort. I wasn’t pushing anything that hard, but the wattage was too low given my speed. Luckily I know what my legs should feel like and kept the effort level where it should be. I felt great after lap 1, and knew that I had enough in the tank to exit the bike ride with something for the run.

The wind came up a bit during the second lap, and my pace dropped a little in the face of a slight wind. The course is beautiful, and the surface is great. It’s just dead flat so you’re in the same position for 5-6 hours. And my man-parts were feeling it much worse than my legs. Time to look at some new saddles…

The course officials seemed to do a decent job of catching people drafting, though one friend got two penalties when in both cases he had been illegally passed.

Near the end of the race, seeing ~5:40 as my bike time, quick maths told me I had a shot at an 11 hour Ironman. I pushed that aside and told myself to follow the plan and not get cocky.

The Run: Suffering and wait… even more suffering

Run through the crowd

My first two ks were supposed to be the slowest of the marathon, but I started off too fast: my body was happy to be off the bike, wanted to move, and I was fighting to hold it back to the correct pace.

The first lap of ~12kfelt good (for all my friends back in the U.S., a marathon is 42k), and I took my first pit stop mid-way through. The second lap also felt great – I was holding pace just fine, but needed a second pit stop, but felt that it would be my last.  It was! 1 goal accomplished.

The third lap, the wheels didn’t just come off, they fell off, caught fire, and disintegrated. All of a sudden, I was dizzy – I couldn’t run straight. My legs got wobbly and I couldn’t concentrate. I began to walk. Confusion dominated the next two minutes trying to decide if I had too much salt, not enough salt, not enough calories, or not enough water. My race hung in the balance of the next two minutes. I had seen enough videos and first hand evidence of people collapsing during races that I knew what could happen. My mind drifted into the negative: I hate walking. I had now failed one of my main three goals, but I put that aside. I tried running again but my legs were jelly and could barely catch each stride I was making, and my balance had completely left me.

Finally I threw back a gel, a salt tablet, and three cups of water, and began to feel a little better. My legs were still wobbly, but my mind was clear. During that time, Scott Miller, a fellow kidney transplant recipient, passed me and said hello. Then Natalie, from my tri-club, came by and said “you can do this, Bryan.” And that’s what got me started.

I began to run again, and ran side by side with Natalie while I felt my system recover, then as I got stronger I picked up the pace. I was back on race pace (and actually way too fast during one section as I went through the crowd, knowing I had just one lap to go). Kyle and Justus were there cheering, and Scott and Sarah were yelling a bit further down the course. At that point, I knew I’d finish, and go under 11:30. 

Looking back, there’s no question it was simple dehydration that caused my near collapse. My nutrition was fine, I just wasn’t feeling thirsty even though I desperately needed the water.

The final 4K were tough, but much easier than my fight with dehydration. I asked my legs for more, and they grudgingly gave me a slightly faster pace, but there were no adrenaline reserves to speak of. I crossed the finish line with scores of muscles in pain, but more happy to be finished. The finish line comes so quickly in the last moments.

After the finish line I found my teammates, I found Scott Miller, and I found Kyle, Justus, Scott, and Sarah. Having them there made the celebration so much sweeter.

What it all means

So, I spent almost a full day in the ocean and racing around roads in Western Australia. What’s the point? Just to prove that I’m as daft as everyone thinks? (Please don’t answer that.) I’ve been training for two years for this – why have I spent ever spare minute pursuing this? Well, several reasons:

Four years ago in Austin, my training partner used his Ironman quest as a way to focus his energy and come back to life after a difficult end to his marriage. I suppose I started my journey the same way, two years ago, using the suffering and focus of training to cleanse my heart and mind of the anger and the hurt from my partner’s callous disregard for our relationship.

Along the way, I found Room to Read; I found a cause I cared about – where I could actually see the difference my donations could make. I met girls who could attend school for a year for the price of a nice dinner in Sydney. I met Kall Khan, who taught me about giving more and more every day.

I came back from injury and illness – a stress reaction in the femoral neck of my left leg a year ago. After seven weeks on crutches I still had months of rehab to undo the damage to the surrounding tendons. Winter brought a three-month intestinal infection. September, October, and November were near perfect, though I managed to contract a nasty lung infection two weeks before the race.

About 25% of the people in my age group did not finish the race – the run was hot and difficult. There’s some extra pride there. Four years ago, one of my coaches, Christie, told me that the journey is much more memorable than the race. And despite the difficulty of the last two years, the journey has been incredible, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Finally, and most important: In two weeks, I will celebrate the 10th anniversary of my kidney transplant. I don’t ever cross the finish line alone: my cousin Diane is always with me. I can’t wait to see her in January! She’s both the reason why I’m physically able to run even 5K, and the motivation behind why I love this sport. She was at the finish line at Ironman Arizona four years ago, and the one upside of not having here there is that I didn’t spend 15 minutes after the racing crying and holding on to her.

Coming soon….  The Gratitude Honor Roll.

Announcing my retirement (Challenge Forster Race Report, eventually)

For the first time in my life, I am thinking about retirement.

This is a new thing for me, because I never planned to live to be old enough. When I was in high school, I didn’t plan on living to be 29 years old, so I wrote my will (yes, I wrote a will in high school) in a way that one of my best friends would inherit all of my wealth if I died on the last day of 1999. My friend didn’t take the bait, probably for a number of reasons, including 1) I was living half way across the country 2) I wasn’t worth enough money to go to the effort of killing me 3) It’s New Year’s Eve for the New Millennium – are you really going to spend it knocking off a friend for money?

I didn’t put money in 401K plans for a long time, because I never assumed I’d be around. I always imagined getting crushed by a car while rollerblading on Central Expressway, or forgetting to look the right way as I step in front of an 18 wheeler. I’m seriously somewhat surprised every month I’m still alive on this planet. This might explain my approach to long-term planning in life and my choice in my romantic relationships (“Sure, she’s crazy but I won’t be around that long, right?”).

Now, I’m not thinking about retirement anytime soon – it might be in 20, 30, or 40 years, but for the first time I’m realizing it might happen.  So I am announcing that at some point, I will retire. No promises on when.

But, in my usual arbitrary fashion,  I have picked out the where long before the when. My place of retirement: Forster, New South Wales, Australia, which was the site of the half-Iron distance race I did last weekend.

First, let’s talk about the race.

blue-water

The Prep

Friday, I packed my belongings into the Bunting’s family truckster, picked up Christine, a teammate from the Warringah Tri Club, and we were on our way to Forster.

My instructions from my coach were pretty clear – don’t risk injury in this race just to find your limits. Use this race to find your pace for Ironman Busselton (just four weeks after this race).  The week before I had a work offsite that was draining in other ways but did let me recover physically from a generally abusive weekend. I woke up Sunday feeling pretty good and ready to race.

The Swim

A half-Iron distance race usually features an age group start (i.e. you tread water or run off the beach with only the people in your age group), which I much prefer to the salmon-spawning melee of an Ironman. Challenge Forster was a shallow water start, so all good. I started out with some decent pace, found some space for myself, and settled in.  I’ve never done a two lap swim before, so this was a new experience. Aside from the fact that it wasn’t really clear where the swim exit was (so the first pros out of the water were either running through the crowd, through the forest, or along the beach), the two laps didn’t really impact the race, except that around buoys you sometimes had first-lappers and second-lappers all clustered together.

For the first time I did have someone grab my skull during their stroke.  It wasn’t just a glancing blow – they actually contracted their hand muscles and were clutching my cranium for a good second. I resisted the urge to kick them or being eye gouging.

About half way into the swim, I realized that I had never put on my timing strap. So I wouldn’t likely get an official result, and anyone checking my progress online might think I had either slept in, DNF’d, or decided to just eat waffles. Now, you’re going to screw something up during a five-hour race – how you recover and deal with those mistakes determines how you’re going to do. I shrugged it off, and put my head down and kept plowing through the murky waters of the Forster keys.

In the end, apparently they mis-measured the course and it was short, so it’s hard to compare my time against the Port Mac 70.3 last year.

But while the water is murky, the Forster Keys are flat and smooth, and you can get a great swim time. Especially when the course is short…

The Bike

Challenge Bike - Side Profile

This was the first race with my new bike + race wheels. I don’t think I’m stronger than I was a year ago in terms of raw power output, but my endurance is better. There’s also a chance that my front tire was leaking air, since the tire was low once I loaded it into the car for the drive home.

The course is great – mostly shaded from high winds, though there was a tailwind going out and a headwind coming back. The course is largely flat but features a gradual descent on the way out and a false flat climb on the way back. There were a few cars on the course, and it did cause some slow downs – for example one ute (Americans, think El Camino) decided to park in the middle of the road at the turn around at the end of the bike course. Rumor also had it that the guy running with the blood on his face was hit by a car. Extra points for him for finishing despite a nasty looking facial injury.

A few people had warned me that the course was rough. But honestly it wasn’t as bad as Port Mac, so it felt fine. Bad surface in some places combined with slight incline plus headwind did make the return trip more challenging, but the incline is so slight, you never really need to be in the small chain ring except at the turnaround.

My race plan called for me to chill out during the first 30k, pick it up in the middle, and then push a bit in the third 30K. I followed plan well, and got off the bike feeling like I had a lot of energy in the tank.

The Run

Challenge Run - Turning

Even when you’re suffering on the run, you’re surrounded by the ocean, and it’s beautiful.  The turnarounds on each end of the three lap course are rocky points surrounded by water. It’s more of a trail run and not a road run, which is actually great on your legs.

The run across the bridge is a little annoying because it’s hard to have people passing both directions given the limited pedestrian pathway.  Now add in a single pedestrian (or a gentleman in a motorized wheelchair) and a bit of chaos ensues. But minor drama in the grand scheme of things.

There’s one decent hill to run up, but other than that, it’s an easy run course.

My legs were pretty tired after the 10K mark, but my heart rate stayed low, and I feel like I could have kept going.  My pace did creep back up above 5 minutes / km, so my time here was about 4 minutes slower than Port Mac.  I know I could have pushed it harder, but this is the warm up and not the big event.

Finish

Crossed the finish line, pigged out, went for a swim.  All done? Not quite.  I rode my bike about 5K back to where it was parked while wearing my transition backpack.  Then a chicken burger, and we were on our way back to Manly.

Net Net

Overall, I think I’m in much better cardio shape than last year, though I am not as strong on the bike or the run, but the swim sessions certainly have given me a lot more endurance in the water and on the land. But I have a massive sunburn from failing to re-applying sunblock.

The Challenge series is great.  I’d definitely do this race again next year.

Now back to retirement

For now, Forster is my current retirement target. It has old, opinionated barbers, beautiful coastline, small restaurants who smile at customers but are annoyed by tourists, and it’s spread out enough that you don’t ever feel cramped.  Apparently the population increases 300% during Chrissie!  But it’s four hours from Sydney, and I’m sure I can find a ranch property to build a small house on where I can raise the 20 Rottweilers I will have once I retire.

More race details than anyone needs

Stop reading and go do something else.  Unless you’re a triathlete, the rest of this can’t be that interesting. And even if you are a triathlete, you probably have better things to do. Like getting in some extra ks in the pool. Go on!

Race report details:
http://bjrtraining.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/challenge-forster-2014-race-report/

Results:
http://www.multisportaustralia.com.au/Home/IndividualResult?clientId=1&raceId=1144&eventId=1&athleteId=419678

Strava – Bike
http://www.strava.com/activities/217145674

Strava – Run
http://www.strava.com/activities/217145482

Ironman Melbourne: Room to Read for Cambodia

ironman-logo

The Course: Ironman Melbourne

I’m excited to announce that I’m in for my second Ironman, in Melbourne next March!   The last several months have begun the full year of training, and in October I’ll be racing in the Ironman 70.3 (a “half-Ironman”) in Port Macquarie, Australia.   Then next March I’ll take on my second Ironman.  For those of you new to an Ironman, it’s a simple race:

  • Swim: 2.4-miles / 3.86 km
  • Bike: 112-mile / 180.25 km
  • Run 26.2-mile / 42.2 km (a marathon)

The Cause: Room to Read and Cambodia

While I love training and competing, I always want to find a way to give back.  I wouldn’t be alive, much less swimming, biking, and running if it wasn’t for the generosity of my cousin Diane, who gave me a kidney in 2004.

When John Wood, the founder of Room to Read, came to speak at Atlassian, I immediately knew it was the right cause for Ironman Melbourne.  I’ve always been a supporter of education, and causes like Breakthrough in Austin, Texas.  I have been looking for something integrated with my life in Australia, and my company, Atlassian, has donated over 2 million dollars to Room to Read, $10 at a time.

Our focus country is Cambodia, where even basic education is often completely lacking, and both libraries and books are not found in many villages.

The Goal: $25,000

It’s my biggest fundraising attempt ever, more than twice what I’ve raised in the past.  But I’m more excited about this opportunity to give back, and make a difference in the lives of kids who don’t have basic access to any education.

The Next 7 Months: More to Come!

This time, BJR is going all in.  Contests.  Prizes.  Events.  And a trip to visit Cambodian villages firsthand.  Stay tuned for all the details.

Donate

Donate here now!

Kona : The Island is mute

I’m here in Kona for the Ironman World Championships, this coming Saturday.  Originally I was coming to help support my friend Dariusz who had won a lottery slot, but a driver in Sydney took his dream away with a careless left turn that shattered Dariusz’ collarbone.  I know I’ve said it before, but Sydney drivers are the worst I have ever seen when it comes to how they treat cyclists and pedestrians.  I’d rather be on a lonely Texas country road dodging beer botttles being thrown at me by a good ole boy than face the mass idiocy of Sydney traffic.

When I first arrived on Saturday, Kona was quiet and sleepy, but by Tuesday night, the serenity of the island town swapped out for the machine that is modern triathlon.  Triathlon has been a big business for a while, and it’s hard for me to get excited about the event with so many vendor tents and pro interviews.

The next morning I ran a local 10K and set my best time of 47:30, despite not having run in the heat since I left Austin.

Helping with registration, seeing so many amazing athletes who have qualified, and watching the parade of nations made the event feel smaller, that it is not such a machine after all.  It is just 2,000 people with talent and determination who are here to chase their dream.

For me triathlon has always been about the individual, and about how the sport separates you from everyone else – you can’t draft on the bike (except in the unnatural and abominable ITU racing circuit), you can’t get assistance from your team during the race, and in training you have to separate yourself from normal human life to manage your training schedule.   Here in Kona, everyone is a triathlete – most of the spectators have done a triathlon at some point.  In some ways it makes triathlon not feel special anymore, where there are 5,000 people all who are somehow involved in the sport.  On the other hand, the people you meet are incredibly friendly.

The island itself is amazing – the beaches, the jungles around the island, the volcanos, the people.  The relaxed pace of life is appealing and the smiles of people here are welcoming.

I had feared that being in Kona would fill me with such a fever that I’d make Kona the next big goal in my life.  That all else would disappear and Kona would become the next pinnacle.  In some ways, maybe I welcomed the idea, that my life might once again have purpose.

And yet after four days here my desire to do this race is completely gone.  In watching the genetic specimens that stride by and the $10,000 bikes going back and forth on A’li drive, in running in the inhospitable humidity and heat, in riding a rented Cannondale time trial bike along the Queen K, there is no voice calling to me.   There is no passion that fills me.

The island is mute.  In our mutual silence, the island and I understand each other.  This is either not the place, or simply not the time.

(All that said, I’m pretty excited about watching the race on Saturday)

The People Who Made This Possible

Whew.  This is the list I would think about in my head during the monotonous (i.e. all) the parts of the bike and the run during the race.  I used all the support and energy of the people below as fuel.   Please take this blog post as a small thank you for the amazing things that you did for me that propelled me across the finish line

Diane

I have to start with my cousin Diane, since fundamentally without her, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this.  She and her husband, along with my Uncle Cy and Aunt Diane (her parents), drove out from Northern California to watch the race.  When I first asked Diane if she would like to be there, she said “Yes!” and I had been envisioning seeing her at the finish line for the last 10 months.  Other athletes visualized their swim, their bike, parts of their run.  I ran with one image in mind.  Thanks for the kidney, cousin.  It held up pretty well during the 140.6 miles.

With everyone else, we’ll keep it alphabetical just to prevent infighting or catcalling.   Warning:  This will be a long post – I have a lot of people to thank!

Chris Garlington (The Ambassador)

I first met Chris registering for the Austin AIDS ride three years ago, and I kept running into Chris again and again at every triathlon in Austin.  I think he did my body marking at at least 3 races in the last two years before T3. When I joined T3, Chris was assigned as my ambassador, to show me the ropes of how to get the most out of T3.  But Chris, and Kevin as well, have become much more than mentors or teammates, but have become close friends.  Everyone cannot help but love Chris, because of his personable nature and the way he cares about other people.  But far beyond that, his determination, his intensity, and the glimpses you get of the strength of Chris as a person have amazed me, and were a huge part of helping me through the last 10 months and across the finish line.  And, we’re both crazy OCD organized types, though Chris edges me out by getting up at least an hour earlier than I do.

Dan Heller, Vic Chao, and Nate Moffett (The Cheering Squad)

Dan, Vic, and Nate were yelling for me, at me, with me, around me, and kept me motivated every time I would see them.  They made the trip to Tempe (okay, a shorter trip for Nate, but he’s got four kids), and survived the endurance event of watching the race.  I’ve known Vic since I was 18, and Dan since 2000 – and both have been there during my best and worst times.

Eric Colquette (The Training Partner)

Friendships are born from many different parents. Many of my friends have come from school, work, or business. But Eric is unique in that his friendship came out of pace.  We met at a T3 happy hour, and during the next few weekend bike rides, I noticed that Eric and I were close to the same pace.  We found ourselves to be similar in pace, and a whole lot more.  Eric is the closest thing to a training partner I had all year, even though it was mostly weekend bike rides where we found ourselves together.  Eric and I drove from Austin to Arizona for the race together, and having Eric’s straightforward view of the world was exactly what I needed.  Eric has a ton of guts and determination, and I’m incredibly proud to have had the change to train alongside him, and count him as one of my friends.  Eric finished about 15 minutes ahead of me at Arizona, and looked strong every minute of the race.

Escalation Point (The Job)

The past two years, after I left MessageOne, I’ve parachuted into the world of healthcare software.  To keep me sane, I’ve had a madcap cast of characters who were pursuing the same vision and helping me find my way along the path.  It started out with just John Cox and Chris Lacava, but expanded to a whole team of mischievous smart guys who are serious about their work but who kept me laughing and motivated during my year of training.  Despite being an early stage start-up, Escalation-Point made an incredibly generous donation to my fundraising campaign.  It is incredibly difficult to leave for Australia and leave such a great team behind.

Dr. Horacio Adrogue, Jr. (The Transplant Nephrologist)

In April of 2004, Horacio looked at me and challenged me, “If you’re not willing to work twice as hard as I am, then you shouldn’t be my patient.”  At that moment, I knew which nephrologist I’d be working with.  Dr. Adrogue shepherded me through the transplant process, and offered me the ability to be on a steroid sparing protocol, which makes my daily life post-transplant much, much easier.  I’m incredibly lucky to have found the combination of a world-class academic nephrologist,  a practical hands-on patient advocate, and an awesome all-around-human-being in a single package. We’ve become close friends through the process.  I remembering trying to figure out how I was going to bring up the idea of doing an Ironman, and to make sure he didn’t have concerns.  Despite the fact that my complains (“I need to be able to get my heart rate over 180”) aren’t the usual, he’s been there to help me get to the next step every time I call on him.

Jack & Adams (The Shop)

After my first triathlon, I realized that my 1999 Trek touring bike was not going to help me compete.  I stumbled into Jack & Adams bike shop on a recommendation of a friend.  I didn’t realize that it was Jack, the founder, who was helping me pick out my tri-bike until much later.  His approach to “sales” was remarkable.  “You’re going to want to take about four different bikes out over the course of the next month.  Ride each one for the weekend and see how it fits and what you like.”  I had just come out of another store which had asked for $80 to ride a bike for an hour to test it.  The surprises continued: “Don’t spend too much on the bike and save some for a wetsuit.” From that moment on, Jack & Adams became my arms dealer in the world of triathlon.  I’ve never met a single employee who wasn’t great.

Jess Kolko (The Architect)

Sometimes you may be unaware of how much you influence another person by your example. The marathon at the end of an Ironman was my biggest challenge. I knew I could finish an “aquabike” (the swim + bike portion of an Ironman), but despite being decent at the 10K distance, my first half-marathon was slow and simply not fun. In my first T3 specialty run workout, I ran with Jess Kolko, up and down the hills behind O’Henry Middle School.  Jess was at run practice just two days after a half or full marathon, and we paced each other through the workout.  Jess talked about her first Ironman, and how she had set a goal to not walk during the race.  That one conversation set in my mind the same goal, and during those first 10-15 weekends of training, while I was running 6, 8, or maybe 10 miles, I would see Jess running the other way on the trail, pounding out 16, 18, and 20 miles, with a smile on her face, anchored by an expression of determination and willpower.   Sometimes you lead by example, and Jess served as that example that I tried to model myself after during my run training.   And I didn’t walk any part of the run!

John Lilly, Kathy Howe, and Sam (The Surrogate Family)

In 2003-4, I was working at Reactivity, the company where John Lilly and I had been cofounders.  John and I met at Stanford and instantly became friends, and I owe an amazing amount of my personal and professional success to John’s efforts and abilities.  I was living in Austin and working in the Bay Area, and John and his wife Kathy offered to let me stay with them rather than do the hotel thing.  When I was first diagnosed with MPGN-1 on New Year’s Eve 2003, John and Kathy were in Austin and skipped their New Year’s Eve plans to come be with me in the hospital.  Once I started dialysis, the guest room they had for me and part of their garage was transformed into a medical supplies locker.  It was an incredibly dark part of my life, with the future completely uncertain, and Kathy and John adopted me like a family member, and I know that the threads of emotional stability that I hung on to during those times were there because of John and Kathy.  Their support of me through the transplant, and in just about every part of my life, is tremendous. And despite all they’ve already done for me, they’ve been the one of the top donors to my Lone Star Circle of Life campaigns, and now  my Transplants for Children fundraising campaign.

Katie Cully (The Sadist)

After any run of more than 15 miles, my body was always “jacked up,” and the next few days would be filled with pain, and an inability to train at the level I needed, unless I spent time with Katie, an exceptional massage therapist at Performance Wellness.  While the hours I spent with Katie were, without question, the most painful of every week of training, she put me back on the path to an Ironman week after week.  I have a congenital birth defect in my lower spine, specifically spondylolisthesis, which makes one leg take a much heavier beating during a run, and doesn’t naturally absorb all the punishment that the human body should.  I once asked Katie if she wouldn’t prefer working on someone with a less flawed body, and she let me know that she was more into fixer-uppers – i.e. working out knots and all the nastiness in my muscles was actually fun for her. Sometimes, in digging deep into a trigger point, I’d blurt something out (I once said “ROOT CANAL!” out of the blue), and I hear her giggling in the background.  During the Ironman, my legs never failed me, my back never hurt me, and Katie was a huge part of that.  There’s no way I would have crossed the finish line without Katie putting me back on the road week after week.

Lisa Rollins (The Wife)

Any partner of someone training for an Ironman deserves a never-ending thank you.  We saw a T-shirt at the race which said, “If our relationship is going well, I’m not training hard enough.”  I am lucky that my wife is actually the athlete of the family, and so she understands the mental and physical side, and well as the time-consuming side of training.  She gave me the permission to focus on the Ironman for this year, and came out to cheer me on.  Seeing her on the sidelines often hit me pretty hard.   This year, after my first 70.3 in Galveston, we spent a few days on the Cayman Islands just relaxing and being with each other.   One morning in our hotel, I woke up, and looked at her sleeping next to me, and realized that she’s my best friend.  In every other romantic relationship of my life, I have never been able to say that.  (I couldn’t even say that any of my romantic relationships were great friends, which may say something about my own issues…)  Even though Lisa isn’t the type to wear her emotions on her sleeve, she let me know how proud she was of me, and to me that meant as much as finishing the race.

The rest of the Rollins family have of course been incredibly supportive as well,(even though Mom worried a lot about my training and race and how it would affect my health).

Meredith Terranova (The Feeder)

I have always considered myself a “semi-healthy” eater.  Since elementary school when I told my mom to stop putting sweets in my lunch because they were bad for me (yes, I know, keep the “freak” catcalls coming), I’ve cared about what I eat.  Now, that hasn’t stopped me from devouring the occasional Scooter Burger or a dessert built for four, but you won’t find me huddled in front of the TV scooping mayo straight out of the jar.   In May I learned how little I really knew about nutrition, and how easily I could change my diet to make my training more effective.  Given that I had a kidney transplant, am hypoglycemic, sweat like a fur seal doing Bikram yoga, and hate cooking, I needed someone who could balance all those things and put me on a training and race plan for success.  Meredith, an incredibly sharp nutritionist, did all those things and more, and I feel like I not only received a plan for my Ironman race, but she taught me the fundamentals to figure out how to manage my nutrition going forward.   In almost every story of a disastrous Ironman race, nutrition is the #1 cause of the issue – either before or during the race.

Michelle Segovia (The Promoter)

Give a fish a man, and he will be eaten for a day.  No wait, that’s not right.  Anyway, since I see myself as a bit of a “connector”, I always appreciate people who help you find the right ways to accomplish what you need, who show you the paths to success.  A couple of years after my transplant, I was ready to stop being so selfish – okay, more honestly to start being less selfish than usual – and wanted to find ways to give back.  No person has helped me more through that journey than Michelle Segovia.  Michelle is the Community Relations Coordinator for TOSA, or the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance in Austin, which helps promote the Glenda Dawson Donate Life Texas Registry.   Michelle helped me get involved in the volunteer community to help register Texans, found outlets for my public speaking “skillz” (or maybe just my natural inclination to talk too much), and helped me find Transplants for Children as the centerpiece of my fundraising campaign.  Along with kudos to Michelle’s wicked sense of humor, she would want me to demand that everyone reading this blog become a registered organ donor if they are not already!!

Performance Wellness (The Mechanics)

I could not fit the full list of physical challenges I experienced in the last 10 months.  Seemingly every month, I would hobble into Performance Wellness, with something new.  And the team there would figure out what was wrong, help correct it, and teach me how to avoid it in the future.  A nasty meniscus issue threatened to prevent me from doing my first 70.3.  The aforementioned spinal defect was discovered.  IT band tightness was causing my quads to tweak and give up.  My piriformis was discovered (I didn’t know I had one.  Apparently I have two).  Chris Sellers would put his fingers on my leg in a vulcan mind meld, his eyes would roll into the back of his head like a peyote induced medicine man, and after twisting me around into some submission hold variant, and then after a simple question or two, he would announce the diagnosis. Chris Olson would walk in and say “Come on back!”, knowing that we’d be spending the next 15 minutes with him trying to get some errant muscle back into the right place.  Megan would always great me with a smile and help me navigate the mine fields of insurance, and make the pain seem a little bit better.  Above and beyond just the basics, they helped me understand which injuries required backing off training, which were superficial, and how to stretch, rollout, workout in order to prevent recurrence or future injury.

Neel and Melissa Sarkar (The Safety Net)

I met Neel in Austin just about a decade ago, and he’s been there for every part of the BJR Roller Coaster since.   Melissa has added another side to the Neel coin, and the two of them have been the place I can go when I need a frank and honest look at the world.  There are a lot of friends who will always cheer no matter what you do, i.e. “gosh, Bryan is just about the best serial killer there is.”  Neel is rare in his dedication to make you a better person, in the most positive yet honest way possible.  Early in my life, there are several cases where I should have told a close friend that they were making a horrible mistake, and I regret having held my punches.  I count on Neel for being honest with me, and always helping me work through the toughest decisions in life.  With that as the unshakable foundation for our friendship, some of the best times in my life have been shared with Neel, whether it was being soaked in torrential rains aboard kayaks in Vancouver or water rationing in Big Bend.  Neel and Melissa were also incredibly generous in their sponsorship of my campaign for Transplants for Children, which meant a great deal.   Thank you to everyone who contributed to my campaign as well.

T3 The Coaches (The Hot Coals)

I hadn’t been directly coached on a consistent basis since I was in high school, and was curious how I’d respond. Maurice Culley, a.k.a “Mo”, was the constant encouragement and fire behind my training.  One spin practice he was riding and not coaching, he looked over and saw my energy level was dropping, and he looked at me, pointed at himself, pointed at me, and then picked up his pace – a visual challenge to match him and beat him to the top of the imaginary hill we were climbing.  I instantly responded and attacked, turning a mediocre ending into one of my best workouts of the year. I met Charles when I showed up at the wrong place for my first weekend ride, and he rode with me for the 15 miles to make it to the start of the ride.  From there on, Charles Cannon was there, pushing me during spin classes and always there with a charged up smile.  I owe my performance in the Austin Triathlon to Chrissie Novak, who helped me build a race-specific plan, and who drilled into me the strength required to cross the finish line in Arizona, and whose calm, steady expression inspires me to try harder.  I could write paragraphs more about each T3 coach, but this post is long enough already.  Logan, Natasha, Amanda, Michelle, Blaze, Matilda, and Leslie all helped me get to the place I needed to, despite not being the most gifted athlete and sometimes needing to hear something several times before it sunk in.

T3 The Program (The Womb)

My training up until this year had been 100% solo by design – running, riding, and swimming were my catharsis and escape from the rest of the world, a way to shut out everything else.  I was skeptical about joining a team but am now proud to be a part of such an amazing group of people.  A special “shout out” to Brandi, JPool, Neilia, and Seth for their encouragement and brilliant personalities, though Seth has more chest hair than the other three. To everyone on the team, it’s been a privilege, and I am sad to move out of the country and have to find new teammates!

Transplants for Children (The Cause)

Motivation is key for training, and finding a cause that would motivate me through training was important.  I wanted something very personal – related to organ transplants, something close to home in Texas, something that helped the underprivileged and something focused on kids.  Transplants for Children met all four criteria to a T, and when I met Roddy Baker from TFC, I knew I had picked the right organization.  Thanks for all the tireless work that you do to make the lives of these kids richer, fuller, and better.

Of course, these aren’t the only people who have helped me – countless friends, family, and others have made all of this possible, so thanks to all of you as well.