Congratulations to CFE Coach Chad Brinkley, who completed his first Ironman this past weekend in Wisconsin!
Chad agreed to share his amazing story with us here…
Ironman: A 2.4 mile open water swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run—all in one event. The Ironman is often considered the Holy Grail of triathlons, and one of the toughest endurance events on the planet. Few people will ever attempt one, and fewer still complete one. People do Ironman for a variety of different reasons and every one of them is unique. The stories behind people’s Ironman journeys are often fascinating and inspiring. Mine, by comparison, is pretty humble. But since Jen asked me to share it, here it is…
The Ironman triathlon was made famous by NBC’s coverage of the World Championship event that is held in Kona, Hawaii, every October. Ever since I saw the Ironman on television, I became determined to do one. I have always enjoyed challenging myself to accomplish seemingly impossible things—like getting a Ph.D., for example. Ironman seemed like a natural choice.
My road to the Ironman finish was a pretty bumpy one. It began in 2007 when I completed my first marathon, and ended six years later when I finally completed Ironman Wisconsin. Along the way, there were several terrible moments (losing feeling in my hands and legs after my first 100 mile bike ride in 2008, projectile vomiting multiple times during my first Half Ironman race in 2010). I struggled to find a nutrition strategy that could fuel me for more than two hours without making me sick. I also had problems finding a training plan that required less than 40 hours a week. My solution, as many of you know, was CrossFit, CrossFit Endurance, and real food.
Fast forward to September 2013. The week leading into Ironman Wisconsin was nerve-wracking for me. Madison was full of athletes who looked incredibly fit and loved to talk about the countless hours they had spent training. They all talked about their plans to suck down GU and GELs throughout the entire race. They went on and on about their plans to attack the course and qualify for the World Championships in Kona. When they caught wind of my training plan (only 14 hours per week and 5 of them were CrossFit) and my nutrition strategy (bananas, turkey wraps, apple-cinnamon rice cakes, low sugar electrolyte drinks, and no GU or GELs), they began to give me that look… you know the one… the one that says, “You poor bastard. You have made a terrible error and now you will suffer for it.”
Then there were concerns about all of the other variables… the ones no one can control. The fact that the weather leading into the race was hot and humid, the fact that I would be starting the swim with 2600 other athletes—all of whom would swim over me if I was in their way, the fact that the bike course was notoriously difficult and filled with hills. There were millions of things to worry about and a billion ways to make myself sick. In the end, I decided to take some advice I have offered others on many occasions—focus only on the things I could control, remain positive, and find ways to overcome challenges rather than use them as excuses for quitting.
The morning of September 8 dawned and I already had much to be thankful for. The heat broke and the high temperature for race day was a wonderful 76 degrees. When the race started, I adopted a conservative approach to the swim. I started at the back of the pack, avoided the melee by swimming at the outside of the course, and tried to enjoy the perfect water temperature. The water was rough at times and I had to remind myself not to panic. In the end, I was able to maintain my calm and I exited the water feeling pretty good.
The bike course was as tough as I expected it to be. When things got hard, I reminded myself that the scenery was beautiful and focused on the wonderful support provided by the crowds of spectators. When I began to feel dizzy, I forced myself to take rest breaks to get my heart rate down. By being smart and pacing myself, I was able to limp in to the transition area on the bike with just 30 minutes to spare.
After entering transition, I got sick and threw up several times. It took me nearly twenty-three minutes to change clothes, get my heart rate down, and rehydrate. At no point, however, did I allow myself to think about quitting. I just kept repeating “Learn to Never Quit” to myself and started thinking about what I had to do to get through the marathon.
When I started the run, I was finally in familiar territory. I was able to maintain a slow but steady pace on the marathon by alternating between running and walking. I stopped at every aid station and fueled myself using a combination of water, fruit, chicken broth, and (at times) flat cola. Along the way, I heard many fellow athletes trying to talk themselves out of succeeding. By that point, everyone was suffering and there were some pretty tough times. In my darkest moments, I just kept thinking about all the hard work I had done to get to where I was. I thought about all of the WODs I have done, all the athletes I did them with, and all the heroes we have honored through our hard work. I thought about my wife waiting for me at the finish line. I kept repeating to myself “Never Quit” and reminded myself how fortunate I am. In the end, positive attitude and hard work was enough to get me to the finish by 16 hours and 25 minutes… 35 minutes before midnight.
I can’t even begin to describe how emotional the day was. The darkest moments were pretty bad. But the thrill of making it to the end… of accomplishing a goal I had for several years… of hearing the announcer say “Chad Brinkley… you are an Ironman!”… That made everything worth it.
I want to close by saying a few things. First, I am thankful to everyone for all of the support they have provided along my Ironman journey. To everyone who believed in me, I cannot thank you enough. Second, I want to pay that faith forward. I want to remind everyone that you are capable of anything you want to do. With enough hard work and positive attitude, you will accomplish amazing things. And I hope I am around to help you celebrate those accomplishments. Live well… work hard… burn bright… and never, ever quit.
WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU, CHAD!
This Week’s WODs:
Short Interval (Mon 5pm, Tues 10AM): “Short Tosh”– 3 rounds for time (100, 200, 400) with 1:1 Work:Rest
C2: “Short Tosh”–3 rounds for time (125m row, 250m row, 500m row) with 1:1 Work:Rest
Long Interval (Thurs 10AM, Thurs 5PM): “BEAR COMPLEX RELAY”–Athletes are grouped into teams of equal numbers. All members of the team complete each station, in order, one at a time. Each athlete must complete a station before the next athlete can begin working on that station. The clock stops when the last athlete on the team completes the last station.
Station 1: 15 Reps of this Complex [Deadlift, Power Clean, Jerk, Back Squat] (115/75)
Station 2: Run 800 Meters
Station 3: 30 Pull Ups
Station 4: 9 Reps of this Complex [Deadlift, Power Clean, Jerk, Back Squat] (115/75)
Station 5: Run 600 Meters
Station 6: 20 Pull Ups
Station 7: 6 Reps of this Complex [Deadlift, Power Clean, Jerk, Back Squat] (115/75)
Station 8: Run 400 Meters
Station 9: 10 Pull Ups
C2: 5 x 1000m row, rest 3 minutes between efforts
Congratulations to CFE Athletes Mari and Joel, who were married this weekend! Best wishes to both of you!
1. “Like” our Facebook page, CrossFit Running, for weekly WOD updates and announcements!
2. All CFE classes are now on WODIFY! Be sure to sign in and post your results!
3. Planning to participate in ANY of the Bass Pro Outdoor Fitness Festival Events? Join our CFS Endurance Team for Isabel’s House! Ask any of your CFE coaches for details, OR “like” Coach Leslie’s Facebook page, “Bass Pro Team Isabel’s House/CFS” for current updates and information.