My Ironman Story

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Blog written by: Brian Perry

So there I am, in a bar with teammates and the legendary and current Leadership Director of Team RWB, Joe Quinn.   There’s just four of us there, sitting at a table, waiting for the rest of the crew to join us.  I was young in my endurance journey and none of my clothes fit, but I felt great.  What I didn’t feel great about was my career.  I was explaining my story to the group when Joe snapped back with a way to help me get out of this rut. His response had a surreal impact on me. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone in New York … or in my goals.  I was about to ride the RWB wave from my first half marathon to an Ironman.

“I would like 9:30, but just under 10 would make me happy,” I planned with my 4th coach in 2 years.  In the world of ironman triathlon, this is Kona-qualifying fast; a feat similar to the esteem of a Boston marathon qualifier, yet much more elusive.   In other words, you better want it bad, really bad, and you better be ready to hurt.

My athletic performance over the past two years had slid to levels of “do you even lift, bro?”  Leading up to the Ironman, I knew the training I was doing was not up to par with my pie-in-the-sky expectations.  Ironman had fallen low on my priority list and I didn’t have my typical edge.  This is dangerous for such an event, and even more so for my pride. It is an impeccable accomplishment, and should serve as your main focus from the time you start training for it.  I was just trying to squeeze it in.

My warmup race at 70.3 Syracuse was not a good day.  I was average in the swim, got a flat from my rented bike, and WALKED a lot of the half marathon.  Perfect execution. Either way, Ironman Lake Placid was happening and I had to make the best of it.  In the days leading up to this epic race, there was a lot of angst in the house, with everyone trying to eat whatever magic they thought would serve a PR on game day.

Ironman

The swim starts and I am being trampled.  Awesome.  Right away I look at the life raft and think, “It could all be over.”   Then I remembered Sarah had bought me an Ironman mug, and I’ll be damned if I don’t get to use it.  After the first loop around, things settled down, and I was able to settle in a rhythm.  I lost my Garmin in the water, but I knew I could pace myself reasonably well on the bike.  I remember finishing the bike and yelling at Sarah to get me a vegan sandwich from the only place in town.

And then it happened.  I started eating at a couple of the stops along the course, splurging on Gatorade, pretzels, and whatever else was available.  My stomach turned and my day just got increasingly longer. I met a friend along the way and we suffered the rest of our Ironman journey together.

The best part of the race was at the end – entering the finisher’s oval and Betsy handing me Old Glory to take across the finish line. For me, the most powerful moment was crossing the finish line, and the crowd cheering at a fever pitch. Of course I got emotional, briefly, and I chalked it up to the energy and atmosphere; but really this whole athletic journey was necessary for me.

In the end, I now have a different type of glory.   Mostly that it was finished.  Over. Complete. I am an Ironman.  What really matters was that I pushed forward in my life and can reflect back on some incredible memories of the past two years and the awesome people I’ve met along the way.  There could be a day that I seek a revenge performance.  For now, I am content to cheer you from Boston while I sip from my new Ironman mug.

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