May 18, 2009

From Tragedy to TRIumph

Last year, Brad was training to compete in the St. George Triathlon. He had managed to convince Cheryl and Lance to get on board, but I swore that I would never do anything remotely like that, and I thought they were all crazy. As it turned out, Brad's accident occurred a little over a week before the scheduled triathlon. Instead of standing in the dead heat of southern Utah, cheering on our brother in his personal, physical conquest, we were sitting in a chapel reminiscing about the remarkable life he had lived prior to him being laid to rest.

And so began my own personal journey and transformation from self-proclaimed non-runner to triathlete.

When the race organizer heard about our story, he offered our family a chance to run in a special Memorial heat in honor of Brad. I paid my dues, purchased a pool pass, and bought a treadmill, and I worked out...and worked out...and cried a bit...and worked out some more. All the while, Jason was a dutiful supporter as he watched the three boys and freed-up my schedule for the necessary training. Considering my starting point, it is easy to understand why I had to work so hard to get to a point where I finally felt comfortable about the race day. On day one of my training, I was terrified. After twelve weeks, I was excited. Bring it on!

Our family loaded up the van and headed south on Friday, May 8th. We arrived at a park where a spaghetti dinner, family and friends, and Kathy Aiken from KSL Channel 5 news awaited.

Here is Kathy helping Jenny set up her microphone:

Everyone was wearing their t-shirts (designed and printed by Cheryl and Jessica). Look how cool they are:

Now time for some major "carbo-loading":

After the feasting and festivities, it was time to go home for a good night's rest. Yeah, right! I couldn't get Garrett to sleep until 11:00 p.m. and then I tossed and turned all evening between dreams of swimming in open water and trying to get out of my wetsuit. Several times I looked at the clock and thought I've got to get to sleep!

6:00 a.m. came and rescued me from my pathetic attempts at sleeping, and Clark, Glen, and I drove out to Sand Hollow Reservoir, the site of the triathlon. We had to park outside the park and bike in with all of our gear--I guess you could call it a warm-up.

When we arrived, we learned that the race had been put on delay due to the high winds and choppy waves that were not conducive to swimming. After about an hour of waiting, they sent the lifeguard kayaks home and we were left disappointed that there would be no swim in our event. I was sad because I had really come to like the swimming and I felt most prepared for that event portion. I also didn't want to come home and tell people that I only did running and biking (I know. I know. It's totally a "pride thing"). Lest you think we got off easy, no sooner had they announced that the swimming was cancelled, they announced that they would have us run the distance (in place of the swim), bike, then run the distance a second time. In my opinion, that just made the triathlon all the more challenging for me.

The Olympic distance runners were all sent on their way, and then our Memorial wave lined up. I'm the one middle-right wearing the number 1374:

And we're off! Look how quickly Clark jumped out in front from the left side. He finished first in our group (80th overall--isn't that amazing for a first time triathlete!) despite a crazy bike crash at the bottom of the killer hill. I guess he did not ride his brakes all the way down the hill out of sheer terror for his life, as did I! (By the way, we had to bike up that beastly hill during the first half of our race.):

And speaking of bikes, I chose to cut back on expenses by riding my own mountain bike. Let me just say, some things are worth the investment, as I am sure having a road bike would have been. I was working so hard, only to have everyone pass me with a few cheers of, "Yea mountain biker!" The only time I ever passed anyone was when they got flat tires or a chain came off (something I was dreading, which also played a factor in my decision to ride a mountain bike). Oh well, I was still having fun:

And here I am approaching the finish line. I think it was at this point I figured I may never get another chance to cross a triathlon finish line, so I would do it with flair. The picture of my hop/skip/leap thing did not make it to the blog because I looked like a total dork in the picture. Hmm...maybe that was not such a good idea. I guess I'll just have to run another one so I can cross in a more dignified manner:

Here are the great sports who waited a little over two hours (bear in mind it takes a bit longer to run than swim) while I traversed the Sand Hollow Park, cheering me on and taking my pictures when I came into transition:

And now for one of my favorite parts of the day. Brad's wife, Jenny, had broken her toe three weeks before the competition, but she still wanted to run the triathlon for Brad. She did the entire course, and as she came in to the finish line, we all fell in behind her and crossed together in a show of support (not to mention, great admiration for her fortitude and strength). Jenny is my hero! Here she is alongside her daughter Tyler:

and here she is giving a final interview for KSL channel 5:

All told, there were over 100 supporters wearing the same blue shirts. Here is a picture of those who actually ran:

This was an incredible experience for all of us involved, and it was a fitting tribute to a man who wasn't afraid to push himself to the limits. Thank you, Brad, for inspiring me to do the same. I now feel like I can conquer anything...except, perhaps, a marathon. Hmm..that's how I felt about a triathlon a year ago.

After Kathy Aiken edited the story for Sports Beat Saturday, she turned it over to her director. He decided that the story was so inspiring, it should be taken to a wider audience and so it will air on KSL Channel 5 evening news on Wednesday, May 20th.

This post authored by Amber


Heather said...

Completely awesome!

Mandy said...

What an amazing story . . . thanks for sharing. It was so inspiring!!! I've been training(ish) for a half marathon. Maybe a tri would be the way for me to go instead?

Julie said...

How cool, Amber! What a neat thing to do as a family to remember the live of a loved one. I bet there was an unbelievable feeling of synergy and love in your group. Awesome! You should post the link to the channel 5 news story. I'd love to see it!

Pickle said...

You are a very good writer. I love reading the event through your eyes. You guys all did so great! Wish I could have done it with you (well sort of)!