It's 3:23 AM. Sun isn't nearly close to rising and yet I've been up for 20 minutes already. "Didn't we just do this a few weeks ago?," I think to myself. My alarm isn't even supposed to go off for another twelve minutes and yet I just can't go back to sleep. Even for the twenty minutes or so that I may have slept, I tossed and turned, flipped my pillow, kicked off my blankets. While my wife and daughter are sleeping peacefully, I couldn't be more the opposite. My first inkling is to skip the race and just hang out at the pool until the Masters coverage starts. But the urge to punt subsides when I think of my brother sleeping next door. It's been a LONG month for us both. Between racing, training, racing some more and handling events, we both could use a little extra sleep.
Instead, we pull ourselves together and by 4:00 AM, we've started the van engine to make sure we can get to transition when it opens. We don't start for another four hours, but parking and traffic are a problem and we want to make sure we minimize the stress as best we can.
Jim of Special Compass meets us at the race site at 4:30 and we just sit in the car and laugh to keep the mood light. We could just stay here I think and treat this as a vacation day rather than braving the bulk of the day conquering 70.3. We could relax, eat a couple bacon, egg and cheese sammies, drink too much coffee and then just head back to the hotel. I know better and decide to get my race face on. Kyle decides to sleep for just a few more moments. My dad and I go and pump tires, check (and re-check the gear) and then head back to stage the boat. Lee Strawbridge is waiting for us. Lee was one of the first guys we met on this journey and we were glad he jumped in to lend us a hand today. It's now 6:00 and I ask Jim, Lee & my dad to get the boat and pads set up for us by the water. Kyle and I then just sit quietly in the car reflecting, not uttering a word.
It's 6:45 and we are working our way to the water.
"Our helmets", I panic...My dad runs to transition. "Everything is there" he assures me. The nerves are kicking in. I get a little more excited as the sounding of the horn grows nearer. I'm now glad to be up this early...ready to take on the day.
It's 7:05 and Kyle wants to get in the boat. Enough waiting around. We'd rather go off first, but we are in the last wave, which means we will have to navigate through a little traffic. When Kyle is settled in the boat, I lean in and whisper, "Today is for us. It's a chance to do something we love doing together. Smile today, Kyle, and smile often. When it gets tough, you get my back and I'll get yours."
The gun goes off. Our favorite Kayak Escort, Lisa, is right alongside us. It's always great to have a familiar face to help you through the day. We are swimming into the prior waves before I know it, turning into the oddly shaped course trying my best to keep the boat from drifting. Kyle is shouting, screaming, coaching , motivating, urging me on. My shoulder aches a bit and I pull harder. My legs didn't feel great when I woke up so I try to keep my legs relaxed. We are nearing the shore. I touch sand and stand up. Jim & Dad grab the boat. Jim rips Kyle out of the boat and carries him up the beach. We are getting sunscreen on Kyle, helmet, pads, nutrition in pockets and we are off. My quads are already screaming. "Be patient, Brent" I tell myself. Kyle smiles back at me and puts his head down.
The bike starts to get hard as the winds pick up around mile 27/28. By 33, I can tell it's going to be a long ride home. I had told Kyle when the bike gets tough just count to 5. The run we can count to 10. He keeps asking for water, water and bananas. I want to scream to relax, but his lips are already cracked a bit, his left ear a bit sunburned and he has been fighting the winds and roads too. I give him more water and I give myself more calories as I see our speed start to drop. I try to relax as we manage the course mostly to ourselves. We haven't been over 4 hours in a half since New Orleans 2012. The winds were brutal that day and we could barely pedal the bike. "Focus", Kyle is yelling again and pushing me up a hill.
One...TWO...THREE..come on Brent...FOUR..AND FIVE. I wince. My legs are barking louder now and we've still got six miles to go. "That's going to take 30 minutes," I think. Luckily it's a fun downhill to the finish and I tuck behind Kyle's head and yell over the wind that we need to get ready to run. He just nods. He worked hard to help get us here. There is work to be done.
We take off on the three loop run trying to hold off the competition as best we can. Competition is not something we are used to only because it's usually just one team per race. But it's fired us both up on the run. We were smart on the bike. Managed it as best we could, stayed patient in the wind and tried to stay diligent about eating and drinking. We hit the run course and there are some hills to battle in the first two miles of each lap. Kyle starts counting again...this time to 10.
At the top of each hill, we get ready to cruise down the hill to make up some time. We want that finish. Pretty soon all I can muster is a few grunts in response to Kyle. I am worried I may not make it to the finish. Betty's words are ringing in my head to push harder with each lap. Kyle's voice is coming louder and louder now. I hear the finish. Just keep pushing and don't stop.
We are here. I collapse. My wife helps me to my feet, placing my medal around my neck. I hold her and the tears start coming. I can't control it now. Everyone goes out of their way to help Kyle and I compete. Especially my wife and family. I find Kyle and I can only sob and mutter "Proud." The emotion of competing for 1 or 70 miles is always an ask of us both and I could not do it without you Kyle.
Today was for us and for our enjoyment. There was never a dull moment and only the opportunity to learn and pick each other up when we were down.
See you for the next one!