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2015 Ironman Florida: Relay w/ JDude... Alll Daaay Loooong!

The following is part two in a two part series which captures the many highs and but a very few lows that made up Ironman Panama City. As most fans of the Kyle Pease Foundation are aware, the foundation is intended not to showcase Brent and I, but instead to provide opportunity for other KPF athletes. It was an absolute joy to witness our very own Justin Knight compete and become an Ironman with assists from John Rutledge in the 2.4 mile swim, from Paul Lick in the 112 mile bike portion and from Tim Myers who completed the event with a 26.2 mile run. 
I am so proud of Justin and his family for their wonderful accomplishment and I can't wait to see the next wheel in our journey. 

In the following Race Report we will hear the sounds and experience the sights of all those involved in this historic weekend including Justin Knight himself, his mother Teresa and her boyfriend Willie McCoy, as well as John, Paul and Tim (above). So sit back and experience Ironman Panama City Through the Eyes of the Ironman. 
Back Story by Tim Myers: I had just come back from a fractured hip and was running my first 13.1 race on Sunday, March 22nd at the Publix Half Marathon. I had heard that a few teams from ATC were organized to help the Kyle Pease Foundation assisting their athletes. John and Paul were to assist Justin Knight (aka JDude) for this event. They had such a great experience. Seeing all the pictures and stories made me feel a little selfish that I didn't offer and participate. I had a few discussions with John after the race and I told him I would be interested if ATC did more with the Foundation.
He mentioned that he had some discussions with Brent Pease about doing a relay at Ironman Florida. I told John I was most definitely in. We received verbal confirmation on May 17th at Chattanooga 70.3 that it was a go. It was hard to hold back the excitement, but knew I had a few races beforehand I had to concentrate on.
On Saturday, September 12th we organized the team of JDude, John (swim), Paul (bike) and I was doing the run for a test race at the John Tanner Sprint. JDude's mom, Teresa, was there with her boyfriend Willie, along with Brent and Kyle Pease. It started off with Justin having a seizure and then he got a little cocky and flipped the boat and he went under.  Luckily he was fine, but this happened all before the start of the race putting a little fear in us. Not the best way to start the day, but we learned a lot about both Justin and Teresa's character and confidence in us and the process.
John had a great swim and Paul buried himself on the bike. I finished the run in 24:52 (8:01/MI) and was completely spent, as was Paul. It was a great experience and eye opener for all of us, knowing we had to put in the practice time if we were to make the cutoff at Ironman Florida.
Training: After I finished Ironman Chattanooga and John and Paul finished Augusta 70.3 on September 27th, it was time for us to start our training for JDude's Ironman in Florida on November 7th. My first day of training was October 4th and it included 6 weeks of training for IMFL. I ran 18 times for 135.19 miles and 18:17:28 with and without JDude and the chair. It was great bonding time for the Team and JDude's family.
We worked on pacing, nutrition and most importantly communication. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything as we became one big family. To further attest to our bonding, we all got Mohawks to become unified. The confidence grew each and every week and we all knew we would give it our all and help Justin become an Ironman.

Pre-Race: I traveled down to Panama City Beach, FL on Thursday with Paul. When we arrived the team registered together for the race. Later that evening after dinner we all went to the Justin's hotel room where a local news channel did an interview with JDude, Teresa and the Team.
The next day we had planned to do some training with JDude, but only were able to get in a test run up the West Bay Bridge with me as Paul's passenger on the bike. We were all confident that we had the training needed for a good day for JDude. Later that night we all met at Longhorn for our pre-race dinner. It was great to see so many there in support of JDude.
Race Day: I woke up at 3:45 am and had my normal 2 packets of oatmeal and a banana. I sipped on EFS powder until the start of the swim. John and I walked down to Transition to get body marked and meet the Team at 4:30 am. Once we had everything setup in transition we started down to the swim start to prep the kayak for the swim.
We walked through the process and had a few last minute directions before John and JDude went off for the swim at 6:05 am. The waters looked pretty good with a few breaks closer to the shore. The excitement of JDude becoming an Ironman was overwhelming.
Swim (John): I was very proud of John and how selflessly he handled the swim when things didn't go as planned. It showed how much character and what a class act he is. Justin was also great during this whole process. We were all disappointed, but seeing how JDude and John handled this situation we knew we were going to move on and still have an awesome day for Justin.
T1: After a long wait, we took Justin to T1 after the swim and changed him completely out of his swim clothes into his dry bike clothes. Justin was then wheeled around to the bike, where Paul was waiting to start the journey in hopes of doing a sub 8 hour ride.
Bike (Paul): While they were out on the bike, I waited and watched both Bethany and Rogue go out on the bike. After they were on the course, Jen and I grabbed a late breakfast and then headed back to the room to rest. We watched a few entertaining feeds from Periscope that Brent was hosting on the bike course. We also were getting texts, phone calls and Facebook updates from Brent and Teresa throughout the day on Paul's and JDude's progress.
About 12:00 pm, I headed to Pizza Hut for some pasta and then went out for an easy ride to warm up the legs. Once I received notice that they were at mile 100, I headed to transition to ready myself. I had heard from Brent that Teresa was bit concerned over JDude because of the heat of the day. I took a mental note and started to plan for the run. As we were waiting around for Paul and JDude, I was getting anxious, nervous and excited. Standing there with my Heart Rate monitor on, I saw that it was reading around 85 BPM. When they started to get closer my HR started to climb. When I finally saw them coming in to T2 it shot up to 110 BPM. I guess I was starting to feel that excitement that is was now my turn!
T2: We took JDude off the bike and into a chair we would use to take him into the changing tent. Paul was spent and JDude looked tired. We had a few special moments and laughs in the tent and at that moment we knew Justin was ready to go. After getting JDude into his running gear, we headed out to place him in the running chair.
Teresa made sure he took his medicine and was okay to continue. John sprayed him with sunscreen and then we were off to the run course for 26.2 miles. It was my turn to take care of the man of the day, and I was more than ready to do my part.
Run: We started off on the run course and had Marjan and Kyle pacing us for a few yards. The plan was to go out easy, breaking down the course in 4 quarters. We would try to do a sub 4:00 marathon that JDude and I talked about during training. Breaking down the course in 4 quarters is easy to do since the run course is a two loop out and back. Ultimately, all of our goals were to get JDude to the finish line so he could realize his dream of becoming an Ironman!
Well, my plan didn't start off well. I was on such a high to start the run, I couldn't slow down or hold back. We approached the ATC tent and I did a wheelie with JDude. ATC was so loud and encouraging to JDude. It was quite a sight to see and be a part of. Justin was smiling and laughing and I couldn’t help myself from grinning from ear to ear.
I was so darn excited that I ran the first 2 miles at a 7:53 and 7:41 min/mile pace. Hardly taking it easy or a sub 4:00 hour marathon pace, but the adrenaline was very high and this was just the beginning of the fun. As we passed all the Tri Club Tents on Thomas Drive, JDude was given so much love and encouragement I couldn't stop smiling. The spectators and athletes were unbelievable throughout the day.
We turned onto Surf Dive and the encouragement just kept coming. Surf Drive starts the seemingly endless succession of speed bumps. At first JDude and I were having fun with them breaking up the flat course, but after a while it became mundane. JDude would make me laugh as we approach each one, saying "Oh boy, here's another one!"
We approached the first aid station on Surf Drive, and from earlier conversations with Brent I knew my priority was to keep JDude cool and hydrated. I made sure before we started the run that he had a hat on so I could put ice in it and keep him cool. JDude and I communicate as we approach each aid station, so I would know if he needs any liquids or solid food. I knew for the first half of the run we would still be running in the sun, so I took extra precautions to make sure he had ample liquids at every stop.
When we came up on an aid station I would call out water and a volunteer would hand me the water and I would stop and put it into JDude's hand. I would then call out for Gatorade, GU or water for myself as needed. Drinking and slowly walking through the aid station until Justin was done drinking was a priority. I was in no hurry to start running, until I knew he had enough hydration. After all, if I hurried too much and he didn't get his hydration his body could shut down and that would be the end of his day and that burden would be on me.
I was not about to let that happen, so we took extra time at each aid station. I made sure he took in water and I would also continue to put fresh ice in his hat and sponges on his neck. JDude would also pour water over himself as needed. I was constantly checking in with him to evaluate him. I even told him I would be doing this more often than usual and he might get tired of it, but I wasn't going to stop as this heat was a serious thing.
We continued that similar approach to each aid station, changing out sponges and getting ice into his hat. We started getting more efficient with each and every aid station. In some cases, a volunteer would come out to us and ask what we needed. They would run back and get everything we needed so we could keep moving. I still took my time at each station to make sure JDude was getting the hydration that he needed.
It was a challenge to get around people, but we managed with Justin's mighty horn and me patiently waiting for people to move over for us. We were moving well compared to the rest of the field. I later found out from Rogue we passed over 1,000 athletes. I even started calling "On your left!" I think JDude got a kick out of me saying that, so with horn in hand and him yelling "On your left", how could I not help but smile the whole time out there?
I think a few people would get a bit discouraged when we came up on them with JDude honking and announcing we were on the move. Once they saw what was happening, not one of them didn't acknowledge him and saying what we were doing was "Awesome". JDude would say right back to them "You are Awesome, too". JDude was so polite with each athlete when they would say "Good Job", "Keep it up", "You are an inspiration", etc.
It was hard not to get a bit emotional and just keep smiling. He motivated me to continue to work hard and get him to the finish line. The one that cracked me up was when someone would say "Keep it up!" and JDude would respond by saying "Alll Daaaay Loooong!" I told him that I didn't think I could keep it up all day long, but I would keep it up to the finish.
As we continued on, we came across a small dirt section near a bar a few miles before the St. Andrews State Park. Each time we went by it, the people erupted for JDude. That was really exhilarating and timely, giving us a lift. As we approached the park, it became a little more difficult to maneuver around people. We ended up taking out 4-6 smaller cones in one section to get around people and JDude thought that was fun, but definitely unavoidable.
We made our way into the Park and saw Angela Nelms at the Base Salt station and she ran with us shouting encouragement to JDude. It was a little bit of an uphill there so it helped me get up that section a little faster. We made it to the turnaround and headed back to the start where I told JDude he would see his Mom and the rest of the Pease and ATC families.
On the way back, the sun started to set and JDude told me he was getting cold. I quickly made sure he didn't have any ice in his hat and removed all of his sponges. I didn't want him to go from hot to cold, as that could have been just as bad as being overheated. I would continuously check in with him and ask if he was hot or cold. He would say "No" to either one and I would then ask if he was "perfect" and he would say "yes". So that became our word when I would check in with him. Are you hot or cold or just perfect?
As we made our way back to Surf Drive and all the speed bumps, we started to bottom out on some of them. I would not have been concerned, except knowing what happened the previous weekend to Kyle and Brent at the NYC Marathon left me a little concerned. I wasn't about to stop and I knew we had a backup plan, if something were to happen. So we continued and just had fun with it.
Making our way back to Thomas Drive and the Tri Club tents, it was getting loud again and we started looking for the ATC tent. I planned to give my sunglasses to Jen and get my headlamp from her for the second loop. I told Justin about the swap and that he would be wearing it. I think he was excited about it wearing it. We passed the ATC tent doing another wheelie and they went nuts for JDude.
We continued on and Brent was Periscoping and talking to us about our first
loop. We did the turn to head back by the ATC tent and our second loop shortly after. This time we stopped and Jerome assisted with putting the headlamp on Justin. Everyone was so excited for JDude at this point. We were in good shape to meet our goal of sub 4:00 marathon after running the first half at 1 hr:46 min and both of us still feeling good.
We headed out on our second loop and JDude did a great job of shining the light on the course ahead of us. Athletes could see us coming and would politely move to the side and Justin would thank them. We made our way over the speed bumps again and made our way out 1 mile at a time. The 3rd quarter was the hardest for me. I could see our splits getting slower, but just tried to push through it.
Justin could hear me sighing and he would tell me to take my time. How could you not love this kid? I made it out to the dirt/gravel area and we were again greeted with a much needed roar from the bar. Continuing into the park, I took out a few more cones as we made it to the Base Salt station where Susie Kelly ran up the hill with us, shouting encouragement. After that I kept telling JDude we were getting close to the turnaround and then we would be heading home and he would become an "Ironman!" He would say We will become and Ironman....all of us!"
We made the turn and I started to get excited. I didn't have much left to push the pace, but knew I could maintain and possibly run a faster split then the 3rd quarter. We saw Susie again as we passed by the Base Salt Station. She ran ahead of us and yelling "fast runners coming!" to get people to move aside. I think JDude got a kick out of that.
On our way back, we continued to get encouragement from everyone. I continued to check in with Justin and asked if we was doing okay and he said "Perfect". I asked him about halfway back if he was able to pee. He said with a smile "3 times". I knew we had done a good job with hydration at that point. If you know Justin, he will never say he is tired, but he confided in me that he was tired heading back in; saying it was a long day. I told him I was tired too, but we were going to make you an Ironman. He again corrected me by saying "We"!
Along the way back we came across a gentlemen at an aid station that had pushed an athlete for the Team Hoyt in the past. I think everyone knows the story of Dick and Ricky Hoyt that paved the way for so many. He was doing the race solo today, but was extremely gracious as he grabbed the chair for me and started pushing as I was assisting Justin. Although only brief, he told his story and that touch me and I got that second wind.
We also came across Caryn and Kerry, the other assisted group that John helped out in the water, and we spoke a brief word to each other giving encouragement.
After that it was all downhill. I was pushing as hard as I could breaking the course down from a 10K to a 5K and then to 2 miles. I kept telling JDude we were heading home so he could become an Ironman. At about 1.5 miles I started yelling out loud to him saying "You are going to be an Ironman!" over and over again. As we approached Thomas Drive again it felt like we were flying.
I was so pumped up and he was so excited. I told him we would stop by the tent and take off the headlamp so he didn't have it on for the finisher pictures. As we approached the ATC tent I could hear JDude and a song I requested from John, The Final Countdown by Europe. We had listened to this song during a training run capturing a moment we had together as we were getting closer to the big day.
We quickly stopped and removed the headlamp. Jerome filled me in that John was going to meet us at the beginning of the finisher's chute and run across with us. I was so excited for him, especially after the swim. I had hoped all four of us could cross the line together, but understood it wasn't possible under the WTC rules.
We left the ATC tent and continued onto the Finisher's chute. I was getting so pumped up and continued yelling for JDude. I came across some slower runners, but hung back to give us all some room. I saw John and we were both so jacked up for JDude. Together we pushed JDude down the Finisher's chute until we saw the Pease group, along with his Grandma and Grandpa. We stopped so that everyone could get a piece of JDude. They were all going nuts and John and I were walking on air.
I did a few wheelies and a spin that Justin and I had practiced and talked about. For a few weeks before, we had discussed him walking over the line with assistance. I told him to think about it and let me know during the run in case he was too tired from the long day. About halfway through he told me he didn't want to walk over the line. I told him that was fine, but I asked again before we approached to make sure. I asked him what he wanted to do for the finish and he said it was up to me, hence the spin and wheelies.
After the spin, we waited to give him some space to cross the line alone. With fist pumped in the air and yelling JDude became an Ironman and his Mom Teresa was there to put the medal around his neck. It was great to see Paul and his brother Jim at the finish. It was an exciting and emotional ending to a magical day.
Nutrition: Gatorade at every aid station except when taking a GU w/water at mile 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, 22.
3 Salt Sticks approximately every 5 miles. Total calories: 600+ Gatorade
Run Time: 3hr: 46m: 09s  Pace: 8:37/mile
Post-Race: After the race we had a few pictures taken together, champagne was popped and we walked on air for the rest of the night and a few days after.
Talked with Paul and his brother Jim about the bike experience and discussed my run with JDude to everyone. Received a lot of hugs from friends and family. Couldn't thank my wife Jennifer enough for her love and support through this whole process. 
What would you do differently: Not one thing!!
Rate your overall experience with this race: 5 out of 5. This was by far the best race experience of my life thus far. I was thankful for this opportunity to assist JDude to complete his first Ironman. Teresa and Willie were awesome through this whole process and we forever bonded with them. Also thankful for the Pease Foundation and Kyle and Brent for all they do for athletes like JDude. You guys are an inspiration and I truly hold you in a class by yourself.
John and Paul and now my brothers and we feel like together we can achieve anything that we set our minds to it. JDude is the best! We could not have had the memorable experience in the race had he not been such a great person, athlete and friend. I was honored that he allowed us and trusted us to help him become an IRONMAN!
JDude's Race Report
When did you know that you would like to do an Ironman?  Last year when Kyle and Brent showed me how it is done.  When I watched them, I learned about how they trained for it and I watched them work hard and get it done.  I knew that they believed in me and I knew that if they could do it, I could too.
During training with your team, did you ever consider changing your mind and not going for it?  Nope, I never even thought about giving up on what my dream was.  This year I met, Paul, John, and Tim and they are my team.
How has becoming an Ironman changed your life?  I think it has made my life really, really better.  I feel I am stronger and it makes me feel like I can do anything.  Don't give up, and don't quit on anything.  Paul, Tim, and John are so much fun.  We worked hard together.  Each one of them is strong.  I feel like we all fit together and we are special.  I am happy that I have new friends now.
How did you feel when you got to Ironman Village to actually register?  I was calm, but I was excited too.  I was excited because I knew that it was for real and I was really there and I was really going to get to do this race.  Everything was coming together.  I felt like we were going to do really well because we had worked so hard.
When you woke up on race day what came to mind?  3 am sucks!  That's what I was thinking... but besides that I was ready to get my swim gear on and head over to meet my team at the start.  It was dark and a little cool out there but we made our way over to where the boat was.  I wasn't nervous, I was thinking everything was going to go smooth.  So my team and supporters got me settled into the boat and got me onto the water.   John and I were getting over the breaks in the water.  Some of the waves were crashing kinda hard onto the boat but John was able to get me over them.  He started to swim and then the lady next to me flipped over in her boat and yelled for help.  John swam over there and helped her.  A big wave rolled right on top of my head, as I saw it coming I yelled a couple of words that I can't repeat here, held on tight to the boat, turned my head and closed my eyes. The wave hit really hard and made my boat come apart.  I still wasn't scared, I knew I was safe.  I was just trying to get all of the salt water out of my mouth so I could breathe again.  Everyone got me to shore and we were going to start again, but the race people said no way so we just started to get ready to go to the bike.  I was still having fun!
What was your favorite thing about the bike ride?  I was comfortable on the bike but man that was a long bike ride I was excited about the next step in the race.  It was pretty cool to be the first team leaving out on the bike.  Paul was awesome in helping me get food and drink all day long.  It was pretty cool passing other bikers on the street and cheering them on.  I could tell that Paul was having a hard time at the end so I kept cheering him on to push, push, push up over the bridge.  I told him that he could do it.  It was hot out there too.  When I knew Paul was having a hard time and it was hot out there, I said "let's pray for rain"... and you know what... it rained just enough to cool us off some!  My favorite part was coming down the bridge faster than 30 mph.  When we made that last turn on the bike, I was so excited that I was about to be getting off of the bike and ready to move on to the next challenge in spite of sore hips, legs, feet, and fingers. I loved hearing all of the people cheering for us when we came in from the bike. I couldn't stop smiling and it was awesome.
Tim was ready and waiting for us to head off on the last part of this race.  He was nervous and excited.  We were all smiles as went ran into to the run out area.  Everybody was cheering so loud.  Kyle was screaming so loud for us and he even ran right beside us for a minute.  Tim was so fast!  We were passing everybody. Tim took great care of me, keeping me cooled off with ice and making sure I had something to drink.  We were yelling "On Your Left", so many times to all of the people we were passing.  When we were feeling tired, Tim would say to me:  "we are gonna keep pushing, because you’re gonna be an Ironman soon JDude.  I kept telling him "You can do it"... On the second loop we stopped by the ATC tent and got a head lamp so that I could keep a watch out for people and holes in the street.  I helped Tim get around anything that was in the way.  It was cool to see people we knew who were on the course cheering us on. That really pumped me up!
When we came down the home stretch to the finish line, it was so loud.  Everybody was screaming, I was screaming and throwing my arms up in the air.  My whole body was sore, but I didn't care.  All I could do was scream and pump my arms in the air.  My heart was beating so fast and Tim yelled "You are about to be an Ironman".   The lights at the finish were so bright it was hard to see, but I managed to see my grandparents, Kyle, Brent and so many of my other friends.  That was the most awesome feeling.  After I came over the finish line, there was my mom and she put the Ironman medal on me along with a kiss on the cheek.  That made me happy and pumped me up.  When I thought it was over, not so much.... there was Kyle with a bottle of champagne and gave me my very first champagne shower!   I felt so much love from everybody.
I think that other people with disabilities will see what I did and they will know that they can do anything.  I want to help others to make their dreams come true.  We are all Champions.
 And Mom's report:
Wow! Where do I begin?  This weekend was an experience of a lifetime for me as  J-Dude's mom.  I always knew he was a strong soul, but that really radiated through him during this whole Ironman experience.  
As I woke at 3 a.m. on Saturday, November 7, 2015, I knew that this day would be like no other since Justin's birth 27 years ago.  In part, I had an idea of what to expect but another part of me was filled with excitement, fear, and butterflies in my tummy.  I knew that Justin and his team had trained hard and that he would be in the best of hands out there on the Ironman course.  I believe I was subconsciously in constant prayer for his safety, for no seizures, and for him to have the time of his life spreading his love, light and infectious smile.  My prayers were also with his team: John, Paul, and Tim, as well as all of the many supporters that made the trip to PCB - that they would be safe and healthy and love every moment.  
It was 6:05 a.m. and time to head out into the waters of the gulf for the 2.4 mile swim.  I admit that this was the only part of the course that I was somewhat nervous about.  After getting settled into the boat, John Rutledge came over and prayed with Justin and me and prayed for all of the athlete’s safety. A few minutes later, Willie McCoy came and prayed over Justin as well.  I knew all was going to be okay and we were set to head out into the crashing waves.  I was so excited all I could do was smile and yell for the guys as they headed out.  They made it through that first set of breaks and we all stood in silence for a few minutes as the waves started breaking again and the neighboring athlete needed help after she capsized.  John immediately went to her rescue while simultaneously another HUGE breaking wave came crashing down on top of Justin.  Your first thought might be that I would totally freak out.  I stood there watching, with my eyes fixated on Justin.  I saw that he had held onto his boat, he was still sitting upright at that moment, and he was still IN the boat.  Just knowing that he stayed in the boat was instant relief and I just knew that he was okay.  Many people rushed out to help get him...Much love and thanks goes to Brent for being one of the first ones to drop everything and leap over waves to get out there to make sure he was okay.  I know that was very calming for Justin just knowing you were right there.  Once on shore and catching his breath, Justin yells to me:  "Hey Mom.... I'm still having so much fun!"  John, you kept my guy safe and helped a fellow athlete.  You were exactly where you were supposed to me in that moment and did exactly what needed to be done.  Happy times!
What a team effort in T1 getting ready for that 112 mile trek on the bike with Paul "The Beast" Linck.  It was the coolest sight to see these two (and Jim) riding through the bike course.  Every time we saw them, they were smiling and focused. Even after mile 98 in the heat and knowing they were about to take on "the bridge", they were still looking great and strong.  They zipped by us so fast that we almost didn't even see them!  Justin was all about cheering on the other athletes.  The stories that Paul came back telling me about how Justin really helped him through some tough moments out there just made my heart smile.  I filled with pride as Paul told me how Justin was so encouraging, positive and engaging throughout the 112 miles.  I am so happy that he is learning how to let his inner light and strength shine through.  Being a part of KPF and his Ironman team has really taught him more about himself and how to reach in and pull out strength that he didn't even know he had.  Coming in to T2, it was evident that the guys were really feeling that 112, but you know they just kept those smiles going.  JDude was ready to rock out on the 26.2 marathon just minutes after coming in to T2.
Leaving out with Tim Myers onto the run course, he was like "alight, let's do this!"  He kept Tim pumped through the miles.  The ATC crew was so supportive with their music and cheers!  These two were flying through the streets.  No one passed them!  They passed over 1000 other athletes - JDude was honking his horn the whole while.  
Once they were on their second loop it was time for us to take our places at the finish line.  Brent and Kyle, you were both so gracious with making this so special for me and Justin's grandparents.  Grandparents took their places along the finishing chute and I took my place inside the chute just past the finish line.  I was so ecstatic when I saw them coming towards the finish.  I was so excited, I could not even cry!  I remember just jumping up and down screaming "You did it J-Dude, You did it"!!  It was so heartwarming to see his HUGE smile as everyone screamed for him and he was giving high fives and fist bumps, yelling and smiling with his arms up in victory.  There is nothing that can ever compare to the feeling of putting that IRONMAN medal around my guy’s neck.  I am so proud of the young man that he is.  I am so very grateful and humbled to be a part of such a caring group of people. Kyle, and Brent I will never be able to thank you enough for what you have done for Justin and for our family.  You have given us an extended family, a desire to set and reach new goals, and a renewed confidence that "Anything is Possible" because "Where there is a Wheel, There is a Way!" 

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2015 Ironman Florida: Jdude's First 114.4 Miles

The following is part one in a two part series which capture the many highs and but a very few lows that made up Ironman Panama City. As most fans of the Kyle Pease Foundation are aware, the foundation is intended not to showcase Brent and I, but instead to provide opportunity for other KPF athletes. It was an absolute joy to witness our very own Justin Knight compete and become an Ironman with assists from John Rutledge in the 2.4 mile swim, from Paul Lick in the 112 mile bike portion and from Tim Myers who completed the event with a 26.2 mile run. 

In the following Race Report we will hear the sounds and experience the sights of all those involved in this historic weekend including Justin Knight himself, his mother Teresa and her boyfriend Willie McCoy, as well as John, Paul and Tim (above). So sit back and experience Ironman Panama City Through the Eyes of the Ironman. 

The Swim by John Rutledge: As I sit down to write down my thoughts about the race, I keep coming back to what could be the working title of my report, “Short swim, long journey!” The swim with JDude was indeed short… much shorter than I had planned for (I’ll get to that later), but the journey is what I’d like to focus on.

As a member of the local triathlon and running scene in Atlanta since 2009, I’ve come into contact with a number of standout people, but none garnering the same level of admiration held for the Pease brothers. I first heard about Kyle and Brent Pease as they took on the goal of completing Ironman Wisconsin in 2013, then I had the honor of presenting an award to Kyle at a local charity event in 2014. Shortly thereafter, some Atlanta Tri Club teammates raced the Publix Half Marathon with the Kyle Pease Foundation.

Before these events, I really had no awareness of able-bodied athletes pairing up to race with physically challenged athletes outside of the famous duo of Rick and Dick Hoyt. After hearing and seeing what the Pease brothers were doing, I made a promise to myself that I would get actively involved. I stress the word actively, because for some time it was easy for me to give a little bit of money to a cause, feel good about it, and then move on.

Don’t get me wrong, giving money is absolutely essential to keep an organization going, but I felt it was important for me to give of my time and energy as well. I also started to feel at the time (still do) compelled to share about the KP Foundation with my network of friends, as I had so much respect for what they were doing. 

Fast forward to the beginning of 2015, I was thrilled to help put together several teams from ATC to race the Publix Half Marathon. That is where Paul and I met JDude. In a world where there is so much negativity, JDude is a breath of fresh air! I’ve never met someone who smiles so much! That race, teaming up with Paul and Justin was extremely impactful to me.

To see how much fun JDude had was so rewarding…immediately after the
race I was thinking through when we could do it again. Apparently JDude was thinking the same thing because he messaged me the next day on Facebook and asked if I would push him at the Peachtree Road Race so we could beat Kyle and Brent! Ha, ha! I had to tell him that, unfortunately, it wouldn’t work out because: 1. I was going to be out of town 2. Have you seen how fast they run!!! It worked out ok in the end, as JDude found a much faster runner, Matt Shectman, to run with him.

Well, the wheels continued to turn. What about an Ironman? I knew that I was nowhere strong enough to complete all 3 disciplines, but how about a relay? At this point, I had no idea that JDude had been with Teresa and Willie in Panama City to watch Brent and Kyle compete at IM Florida and that JDude had said he wanted to race there next year. Conversations starting taking place with Brent and WTC and the next thing you know, green light!

The months leading up to the race had Paul, Tim and myself all racing at least half ironman distance, so after our other races were over, we started focusing on IMFL. For me, that meant getting 3-4 swims in a week. One would be an ATC swim where I swam very hard, 2 would typically be moderately paced & the 4th was a continuous swim that got gradually longer each week until I was swimming close to the full 2.4 miles I would be swimming in Florida.

While I was swimming, especially during the long continuous swims, it was hard for me to think of anything other than the race. I, literally, had a smile on my face underwater on several occasions! I kept thinking about how amazing it was going to be to see JDude cross that finish line and hear the words, “Justin Knight, you are an Ironman!”

We got a chance to run through all 3 disciplines, racing at the John Tanner Sprint in September. Between that, another swim with JDude at Red Top Mt and the rest of my training, I was feeling great coming into the race. I also had a chance to meet up with JDude, Paul, Tim, Teresa& amp; Willie on a regular basis as we trained the other disciplines every weekend in October. Getting to know everyone better over that time was really special. Teresa and Willie made a tremendous sacrifice of time and energy to allow us to get in the practice we needed. They were as much a part of the Ironman JDude team as any of us.

After having a successful and very fun send-off event for JDude at Monday Night Brewing, it was time to race! My wife, Bethany, and I headed down a few days before the race and got great sleep Thursday night, which was 2 nights out from the race. That one’s always important because the night before the race is always hit or miss for me as to whether I’ll get much restful sleep. Race morning, I woke up at about 1:45 am and never went back to sleep. I could hear some waves outside, but looked out at first light and thought everything looked pretty benign. After a good breakfast, headed down to get body marked and prepped for the race.

Getting everything set up happened so fast and before I knew it JDude was sitting in the raft, waiting the last few minutes until our 6:05 start. I had a chance to high five a few friends and give Bethany a quick kiss before focusing on the task ahead. About 10 minutes before the start, I had a chance to kneel down and pray with JDude and Teresa. I was thankful for the opportunity we had to race and asked for most of all safety.

Directly after the prayer, I was overcome with incredibly excited to start the event we had trained so hard for. I looked around and really soaked in the crowd cheering for us. It was amazing the amount of people there to support the team! Thanks to everyone from Atlanta that came down to cheer us on! I asked JDude if he was ready to rock and roll and he responded with a resolute “Let’s do it!”

Boom!!! The gun goes off and we are in the water starting an Ironman! Because the waves were pretty strong close to the shore, I decided to hold onto the side of the kayak until I got past the breakers. At this race, all physically challenged and assisted athletes were able to start 10 minutes before the first wave of age-groupers. In our wave, there were 2 other assisted teams with athletes in boats being pulled for the swim.

As we crested what I thought was the end of the breakers, I started swimming, thinking were in the clear and we wouldn’t have to worry about large, breaking waves until we came back for the 2nd loop. Unfortunately, that feeling of being in the clear was a little premature. After taking a few strokes, I saw another large wave coming. JDude took a nice wave to face and we were able to get over this one, but I looked to my left and another team’s boat had flipped over.

Their swimmer began screaming “HELP, HELP!” in a way that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. As we were on a sandbar I was able to take a few steps toward them; close enough to see that their elderly PC athlete was still in the boat, upside down in the water. I grabbed the side of their boat and began flipping it back over. Just as it was almost back upright I looked up just in time to see a huge wave bearing down on JDude in the kayak. This wave hit us dead on with tremendous force, launching the padding we had in the boat and popping the inflatable sides out of the kayak shell. 

Although JDude never left the kayak, he was basically sitting on top a barely submerged submarine at this point! Looking at the state of the boat, I knew there was no way to move forward. Brent, Tim Adkins and a number of others came out to help us back to shore. My thought was that we would empty out the gallons of water in the boat, re-inflate the air bladders & restart our journey. A race official came up to us and said what I thought was our day was over. What? This can’t be happening! I can’t describe how numb and shell-shocked I felt in that moment.

True to the motto of “where there’s a wheel, there’s a way” Brent sprung into action looking for a pump to re-inflate the boat, absolutely not accepting that our day was over. I love that never give up attitude! A minute or two later, another official came over to us and said we would be able to continue with the bike and run, but he wouldn’t allow us back in the water. Seeing the chaos that erupted in matter of seconds and taking into consideration the stakes at risk, I understand where they were coming from. 

For a brief second, I started to have my own little pity party. I felt embarrassed that we didn’t get to swim more than about 2 minutes. I made the mistake of thinking that the race was about me. Then I heard Willie ask JDude, “What did you think when you saw that big wave?” to which JDude answered “OH SH#T!!!” followed by a big smile and a laugh! In the midst of what could’ve been a traumatic event, JDude was still having fun!

In that moment, I made a conscious decision to follow Justin’s lead and enjoy the rest of the day…and we did! It was one of the most amazing days I’ve had the privilege to live, but I don’t want to steal the thunder from my teammates as they share their stories of how things went down after the swim.  I’ll just say it was awesome! 

So, this is the part of my report where I come full circle. Yes, it was a short swim. Yes, it was a bit disappointing, but do I regret anything? Absolutely not! I saw someone who needed help and I would’ve had crushing regret had we continued on unscathed knowing I didn’t at least try to do something for a fellow competitor in obvious need. Watching the video of the start, I’m not sure it would have made a difference if I had been holding onto JDude and the kayak at the moment the wave hit anyway.

Additionally, I know not everyone believes that everything happens for a reason; in fact, I’m not sure I believe that statement holds true in all circumstances. What I do believe, though, is that something can be learned from any given situation. What I take away from this long journey is that what you focus on can greatly influence your state of mind and your perception of whether things are going well or not. I’ve raced for years and had events that made me feel proud of my effort, but I’ve NEVER felt the level of joy and satisfaction as I did racing with JDude…especially getting to cross the finish line with him!

My experience with the Kyle Pease Foundation has been instrumental in helping me to shift focus to realize that helping someone else accomplish a goal or realize a dream can be far more gratifying than constantly chasing your own. I thank JDude and the Pease brothers for allowing me the opportunity to learn this firsthand!
And now a word from our sponsor: Kyle's new book will officially be unveiled on Sunday, November 15th during the Kyle Pease Bowling Fundraiser to be held at Stars and Stripes. If you can't make it to the event, order yours today at Available in regular print, LARGE PRINT, and Read-a-long DVD so that no one misses out on Kyle's story regardless of their ability.


The Bike by Paul Linck
Date of Race: 11/7/2015
Total Bike Time: 7h 58m 2s
This past week, I participated in one of the most demanding and the most rewarding races I have ever done.  We put a relay team together to help Justin Knight (aka JDude or JD) complete his first Ironman.  John Rutledge did the swim leg with Justin, I did the bike leg with Justin and Tim Myers did the run leg with Justin.  

The Kyle Pease Foundation (KPF) provided everything needed – equipment, transportation, housing, athletes, handlers and all the organization to make it happen. The Kyle Pease Foundation supports people with disabilities of all kinds to be active and participate in sports. 

We all trained very hard together for this day spending our weekends riding, running and swimming together in addition to the training during the week in our specific disciplines.  We spent a lot of long days together and became great friends.

Race Morning
I was excited and nervous so I did not sleep very well.  I got up at 3:13am – 2 minutes before my alarm went off, hopped out of bed and started to get ready.  I bought 2 Chick Fil-a chicken biscuit w/egg meals the day before so I could have it for race day breakfast.  I ate those with OJ, apple, banana, some bonk breaker bars and lots of water for a nice breakfast.

At 4:00 AM I went down to the Wal-Mart across the street to meet Justin, Teresa, Willie, Kyle and the rest of our gang to walk down to transition.  It a nice time for chatting, having fun, getting rid of the butterflies and preparing for the day. 

We knew it was going to be fairly hot and humid so we discussed that we would need to take a lot more fluids than we had in training so we planned all that out.  We went into transition area, got body marked and began getting everything ready.  As typical with Ironman, it was a hectic place at 4:30am in the morning.

I was walking around in T1 getting our bike setup, preparing mentally for the long ride and drinking and eating to top off the fuel I needed for the big day ahead.  I waited until all the athletes cleared transition to complete everything so I did not have to wait in line for the port-o-potty.  Then I walked out to swim exit to watch the swim.  I saw John and Justin out in the water, but I was too far away to see everything that was transpiring.  Then, Jerome came running up to me asking me where the pump for Justin’s kayak was.  He said Justin had tipped over and the air came out of the kayak and it need to be refilled.  He said they were okay, but needed to pump up the Kayak.  

I went running around transition asking everyone I could think of where it might be but just a few minutes later was told that they found it.  They were coming in so I needed to get ready to start the bike a little earlier than expected.  At that point, I had to go potty one more time and when I got there I noticed I had my bike bib shorts on inside out – holy crap.  Luckily I had time to flip them around in the port potty and re-lube with all my chamois.  Of course, there was a lot of chamois all over since I had lubed with them inside out once before … But, at least one minor crisis was averted.

Then, the fun began.  After getting Justin changed, giving him his medicine, we all got together to get him on the bike and ready to roll.  We got about a 40 minute head start on all the others, so we were the only ones in transition at the time and got to start the race all by ourselves. 

Bike Time: 7:58:02
The bike course changed from last year.  They eliminated the out and back section to Youngstown that had the 10-mile section on poor quality roads, and replaced and out a back section on highway 79 to New Hope. 

This new course was nicer, but certainly tougher for us since the new section had some hills and one fairly long climb (relative to IMFL standards).  According to my Garmin files (apples to apples), the *old* course was 1,000 feet of elevation gain and this new course is 1300.  On a normal tri bike, those hills and that little extra elevation gain is pretty minor in comparison to other IM courses, but with a 340 pound load, it has a pretty significant impact.  If I remember correctly, that was in the mile ~75- 90 range so the legs were already dead and I wasn’t expecting any hills out there.

My twin brother – Jim – was an official handler for us and rode the bike following behind us to keep an eye on things, help if issues occurred and keep in constant communication with Teresa on how Justin was doing.  Teresa was justifiably a nervous Nellie so it was extremely helpful to have Jim help keep her informed that things were OK.  By the end of the bike leg, I think Teresa was texting or calling every few minutes.  Justin just laughed it off and told Jim to tell his mom “I am busy”.

 We rode out of transition through the bike chute and the crowds were going wild.  It was amazing.  Justin was squeezing his dog-head plastic squeaker and pumping his arms for everyone.  The adrenaline was through the roof and we were pushing 250-300 watts for the first 10 miles or so – a mistake we would later pay for – but it was impossible to hold back.  We were escorted by the lead motorcycles and police car.  Everyone was yelling – “You are in first!”  Justin and I joined in the chanting – “We are in first”.  Pretty fun while it lasted.

We hit the 1st 10 mile split at about 37 minutes and had and an average speed of over 16 MPH.  We knew we would not be able to maintain that speed and this was one of the easier parts of the course, but it felt good to get 10 miles behind us at a decent clip.  Right about that same time, the lead male riders came through.  

They were pretty split apart and sparse – just a few of them.  For the next 10-15 minutes it was like that — just a rider here and there and no bunches.  Almost everyone that passed by cheered us on and gave thumbs up or other encouraging gestures.  Justin would squeak his dog-head horn, and yell right back at them “You are looking good too”.  If they didn’t say anything when going by he would squeak and yell “You look good”.  He wanted everyone to be as happy as he was and almost everyone was smiling after seeing him.

We continued to ride along taking it all in, getting ready for the first climb over the bridge.  I had practiced riding it the day before with our team runner – Tim – so knew what we had in store, but we hunkered down for it. 

We discussed our strategy that turned out to be the way we climbed the hills all day long.  I would keep my head down staring at the stem, and JDude would give me the play by play and keep the team motivated.  He constantly shouted out where we were – “We are about half-way now, good job!  We are almost there!  Near the top.  We got it”.  Then we crested the hill, pump fists for the screaming fans and took off down the backside reaching a speed of well over 30 MPH.  That part was fun.  See video  (thanks to Jim Blackburn for the GoPro setup and video).

At this point, it was still overcast and we were feeling very strong.  At each of the mile markers, we discussed far we had gone, but we did not discuss how far we had to go until we got to mile 100.  It is too defeating to think about what is ahead and it’s rewarding to think about what we had accomplished.

Up to this point our nutrition was bonk breaker bars – many flavors, water and electrolyte drinks.  Every 10-15 minutes, we drank water.  I would just tell JDude that we were ready to drink and he would lean his head back and I would squirt in 3-4 gulps of water from the bottle.  Then, I would drink some myself and put it back.  It got to the point where I didn’t say anything since each JD heard me grab the bottle he leaned his head back for a drink.  

Every 30 minutes we shared a bonk breaker bar and I also added a bit of hammer cafe latte perpetuem for myself.  We also squirted water on our heads and necks to keep cool as it got hot and we picked up a couple of new water bottles at each aid station.  Jim also got us some extra fluids when we needed.  For the second half of the race we consumed more fluids, watered our bodies down more often and ate more of a variety of foods like wraps and some of the other stuff Teresa put in SN.  

I did have a towel in my Jersey pocket that JD used when we spilled too much food and liquid all over him.  I have no idea how many calories or the amount of liquid we got but our goal was 400 calories/hr. for me and 200/hr. for JD with lots and lots of water but I did not keep track.  We just kept to a minimum of 15 minute routine for fluid and 30 for food with more frequent watering as it warmed up.

We were still going strong at 30, 40 and 50 miles markers.  Our power was still reasonable (~225 average).  It was dropping more than I wanted but there wasn’t much we could do about it. (NOTE: I typically shoot for 220 in IM so we figured about 210 for this, but it was just a guess since the ride was so much longer).  

Brent had told us that if we could average 15 MPH by the time we reached Bike Special Needs, we could stop for 4 minutes to have lunch.  We were at 15.2 at that point, but we had a bit more climbing to go before we hit SN so it was going to be tight.  We were both sick of bonk breaker bars bars at that point and looking forward to a nice turkey and cheese wrap and other goodies that Teresa packed.   We reached Bike Special Needs just in the nick of time – 15.0 MPH, but almost immediately after I stopped, it read 14.9 MPH so we decided to shorten our 4 minute break to about 3. 

We stopped and grabbed my Special Needs bag and Justin’s.  Mine had 2 wraps in it.  Teresa packed Justin’s and it was jam packed.  OMG.  There was a giant baked potato, 3-4 wraps, a large bag of sun chips, pretzels, M&Ms, recess pieces, candy bars, and a whole host of other items.  We had enough for us and all the volunteers helping us.  

We could have fueled 10 full Ironmans with the contents of this one special needs bag.  We will give Teresa some training on Special Needs packing in the future :-).  I gave Justin his medicine with lots of water and then we ate lunch.  By the time we started again, our average speed had dropped to 14.5 MPH so we were starting to cut it closer that I would have liked but JDude was confident.

Sidebar perspective.  As many of you know, I am a poor swimmer and a strong cyclist.  It actually gives me an advantage on the bike with lower stress.  I am far back at bike start so I typically spend almost the entire bike leg passing folks and don’t get close to most of the fast cyclists until close to T-2.  I can just ride my race, not worry about the others around me and I don’t pay much attention to it.  So, I don’t see what really happens on a flat course like this.  Going 14-15 MPH changes that.  

By the time we hit 30-40-50 mile markers, there was a non-trivial number of packs with a non-trivial number of riders that would fly by on a pretty consistent basis.  I am not going to harp on this, because I don’t care and nothing with spoil the wonderful day we had together.  But, I just saw the race from a different perspective than I am used to and it was, well…, different.    To be fair to all, I did not see this in the leaders (they were quite sparse) nor did I see it in the back of packers.  And, FWIW, the majority of folks were doing the best they could.   

Almost every single rider that went by us said something nice and gave thumbs up.  If they forgot, Justin would just honk his horn and that would remind them so they did.  Some of the back of the backers went by us a few times and always smiled and laughed.  Those folks tend to stop and start more than the FOPers.

I can’t remember where we were on the course but one rider rode buy us and shouted “Way to go Brent and Kyle”.  Justin and I had a frank discussion about this.   We love Brent and Kyle but we are not Brent and Kyle.  We are Justin and Paul.  This happened several more times but we were ready.  Justin would yell back – “We are Paul and Justin, we are NOT Brent and Kyle”.  Just another great idea from Justin to keep the whole day in perspective.  Okay, I don’t want to write too many words without a picture so below is a good one from the Halloween party.  (JDude is obviously the one in the Ironman costume).

Around the 50 mile marker the Sun started to come out more and more and it got hotter and stickier.  We were hoping for rain.  I got into a bit of a dark place in the 60-ish mile area after some tough, off-camber climbs — those off camber sections are very tough on that bike, constantly fighting to stay on line — Justin clearly sensed it and starting praying for rain – he kept saying – “we need some rain”.  Ok, some of you are going to think I am embellishing but I am not.  At about mile 60, Justin was wishing for rain and not 2 minutes later it started raining – it didn’t rain hard – but it did.  We both raised our hands to the sky and cheered and laughed for the rain.  It was great, got us out of that dark place and moved on.  Unfortunately, the rain was short lived but it gave us the boost we need at the right time.

We got to the new section on highway 79 a little before we hit the mile 80 marker if I remember correctly.  The roads were in perfect shape but the climbing in that section put us in the hurt locker.  After that section, we were riding on will power more than muscle power.  Brent ran alongside us for a bit there to cheer us on.  And, Teresa drove by, took some pictures and blew Justin and kiss.  Of course, Justin said “I am busy” and waved the kiss off and started laughing and honking the horn.  Cracked me up when I needed it.

When we hit mile 110, we looked for the Waffle house on Front Beach since that was our 2nd to the last turn and about 1.5 miles to go.  After we hit that, we looked for the next waffle house since that was our final turn onto S Thomas Drive and the home stretch.   The adrenaline was building and so was the lactate and the burn.

Coming down the bike finish chute was surreal.  The pain in the arms and legs was excruciating to the point where I was getting a little light headed and my triceps were weak to the point that it took everything we had to steer the bike.  Justin provided that extra motivation and got the crowds going.  We were shooting for an eight hour bike split and we knew it was in reach but it was gonna be very tight.  We pushed and pushed and made it across the timing mat just in the nick of time – 7 hrs 58 minutes.  We proceeded into T-2 and I got off the bike – which was an ordeal in and of itself.  I was completed overcome with emotion, gave Justin a big kiss on the cheek and a bear hug and almost fell over in the process.

From the minute we got on the bike to the minute we got off, we knew there was nothing that was going to stop us from completing this.  For me, personally, it was the only time I have done an Ironman where I did not even consider quitting — it never crossed my mind and JDude felt the same way.  We knew that we were going to finish what we started.  Justin makes you feel that way.  

He knows when to provide the extra encouragement needed in the very tough times, when to make a joke to keep things in perspective, when to get low and aero for a quicker section, and when to scold me when I deserved it – like when I got mushy banana all over his face and torso (Mom and Brent thought he got sick since he had so much stuff all over him at T-2).   

T2: T2 was pretty fun.  I almost fell down getting off the bike and was drained.  My legs and arms were dead so the Pease team with Teresa, Brent, Willie etc. took over to get Justin changed and ready for the run. 

After getting things settled.  My brother and I went back to the hotel to clean up and come back down to the cheer Justin during the run and meet with him at the finish line. It was great to get the whole team together for the big finish.  Justin Knight – You are an Ironman.

Parting Thoughts: What can I say?  Hooking up with the Pease foundation, spending time and training with Justin and meeting all his family and friends has been wonderful.  Completing an Ironman with my great friends / “dream team” of John Rutledge, Tim Myers and Justin Knight was a culmination of a lot of hard work by many extremely dedicated, wonderful people.  I am not good at all this mushy stuff so I am not going to go through the litany of great people that made this all happen since I will leave someone important out and I can’t live with that.  

I expect that Brent will take care of all that for us since he makes sure everything is covered no matter what we ‘all miss (we ‘all is like y’all).  It really opened my eyes and heart to see what lengths people are willing to go to do really good things.  Racing with JDude to assist him in completing his first Ironman is something I will remember for the rest of my life.  It was a fantastic day.  Justin has become a good friend who has helped me more than he knows. He is a very special person and makes everyone around him feel special.   A wonderful day that I hope to do again sometime – but not tomorrow. 


Words from Willie: Being a part of The Kyle Pease Foundation has really opened my eyes to how others live their lives and how people with different types of disabilities are able to accomplish things if they believe in themselves and are given the opportunity to compete.

Justin and Teresa Knight are true role models setting the bar high and teaching us all that we can achieve anything that we set our minds to.  I enjoyed being a part of this experience and working closely with Teresa and Justin.  Brent and Kyle are truly an inspiration to us all.  I am so proud of Justin and the team for accomplishing something as incredible as being Ironman champions.  Paul, John, and Tim, you are incredible guys that represent the name Ironman.

I was so inspired by Justin and the team, that I am considering Ironman for myself.  Oh boy…

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Pease Brothers Turn it Over to the True Heroes at Ironman Florida

For those of you who may not have been paying attention for the last week, Brent and my trip to the Big Apple to take on the 26.2 miles known as the TCS New York City Marathon turned out to be quite a memorable event, when my back left wheel shattered at mile 12.

The event has been well-documented on several television stations around the country, newspaper stories, all over social media and on several blog posts, as it was a real life example of our motto, "Where There's a Wheel, There's a Way". We've attached several links in the unlikely event that you missed it.

As Brent and I have long stated, however, the Kyle Pease Foundation is not about us, but about the many athletes that we are able to support. The attention is exciting because it ultimately brings attention to the true heroes that make up KPF but it's time to turn the spotlight onto them.

This weekend marks the pinnacle of the Kyle Pease Foundation brief history as Justin "J-Dude" Knight will be participating and ultimately completing Ironman Florida in Panama City. J-Dude will be swimming, biking and marathon-ing over 140.6 miles with assistance from John Rutledge, Tim Myers and Paul Linck.

With the KPF Team busily loading up the trailer and heading to Panama City, John and J-dude's mother and biggest fan, Teresa, spent a few minutes and shared their thoughts on the upcoming, historic Ironman weekend.

Before I turn the blog over to our guest bloggers, we want to make sure that people sending well wishes and also those at the event posting to social media rooting the KPF team on, use the hash tag #imjdude or #togetherwewheel either together or separate to have their posts appear on the KPF  Tag board. You can post as you normally would to any social media site and can include pictures or just well wishes from afar. Our goal is to have fans post real time using that hash tag.  

And now, here's......John and Teresa!

Q: How many Ironman events have you participated in solo? 

John: I've completed 4 Full Ironman races and 9 Half Ironman races.

Q: Presumably this is your first as a partner athlete, how do you view the difference?

John: This is my first Ironman as a partner athlete. I raced the Publix Half Marathon and John Tanner Sprint Triathlon with Justin earlier in the year. Both were a blast! I can honestly say that those two races were among my favorite sporting events I've ever participated in. As far as differences, an Ironman presents challenges to athletes that are much different than shorter events.

You not only have the physical demands of moving for the better part of a day, but you have to get your nutrition right and also stay mentally positive.  Additionally, racing triathlon is usually a solo endeavor. I've always loved team sports; this race offers a rare opportunity in triathlon to experience the joy of competing as a team. It is going to be a rewarding experience to race with new friend Justin and my longtime friends and teammates Paul and Tim.

 Q: What do you think the biggest challenge will be?

John: One of the hardest parts, to me, of completing an IM is the mental ups and downs you face throughout the day. Overcoming the down times and getting through it also happens to be one of the most rewarding aspects of long course triathlon racing. There are times in a race that self-doubt tries to creep in and you have to keep a laser-like focus to stay positive. Justin will be experiencing the same mental struggle we face, so we will work as a team to overcome it.

Q: How will this impact your life and how do you think it will impact Justin's?

 John: As I mentioned previously, triathlon is typically an individual endeavor. It's easy to become a little self-centered, focusing an inordinate amount of physical and mental energy looking inward. I feel like racing with the Kyle Pease Foundation this year has already opened my eyes and challenged me to look outward for more opportunities going forward to make an impact on someone else's life.

One of my goals for this race has always been to show my Atlanta Triathlon Club teammates how much fun this can be, to encourage them to get involved with the KP Foundation or one of the many other Atlanta-area organizations doing great things in the community.

I'm hoping that Justin experiences the same feelings I did when completing the race. That feeling is an overwhelming sense of pride that you completed something that you yourself might have doubted was possible. For me, that sense of accomplishment has bled over into other areas of my life, giving me the courage to do things that I might not have otherwise. I sincerely hope that Justin feels the same way, because that self-confidence can be a springboard for great things.

Q: What has your training regimen consisted of?

 John: I train year-round swimming, biking & running, with changing distances and intensities of each depending on what races are coming up. For this race I've tried to consistently swim 3-4 times a week with at least one of them being an ATC group swim where I'm swimming all-out with faster swimmers and one being an increasingly longer continuous swim. We also had a chance to do an open water swim at Red Top Mt. last weekend as a team to test out the boat, harness and a new wet suit. All systems are go! We're ready...all that's left is for us to do it.


Q: As mother of the future Ironman what thoughts will be going through your head during the event?

Teresa: I am so excited to be supporting him through this dream he has.  I am sort of a nervous wreck as well.  LOL. While he is out on the swim I know I will be on pins and needles because I know if he goes into the water he will be face down and can’t turn himself over.  I know the guys will get to him, but I also know that it will be a struggle for them as well to get him back into the boat, etc. 

But, we are going stay positive and keep fingers crossed that he stays in that boat! LOL.  I am bursting with pride and can’t wait to see Justin out there on the course having the time of his life.  I am hoping that I will be able to stay in a close proximity to where they are throughout the course so that I can keep an eye on him since he does have some medical issues with seizures and such. 

Part of me is probably overly concerned but the other part of me is over the moon with pride.  Overall I think everything is going to go off without a hitch and I will be a blubbering, proud, crying mama as he comes down the finish line chute.

Q: You watched the Pease Brothers complete this event last year, did you think that Justin would be participating this year? 

 Teresa:  Yes – the whole time we were there in support of Kyle and Brent, all Justin kept saying was “I’m gonna do it next year”!  I knew that it was in his heart and he had set his sights on completing this feat.  As Kyle and Brent came down the finishers chute, they stopped and hugged Justin and gave him a big high five and said “Next year is your year J-Dude!”

Q: Is this the biggest moment of Justin's life? 

Teresa: Without a doubt and without question, this IS the biggest moment of his life.  It is the most monumental goal he has set for himself and I am just in awe of him, his courage, and spirit.  I have always taught him to look past his disability and know that he can do anything he set his mind to.  I have stressed to him that it doesn’t matter if he looks different than typical peers in doing something, he can still do it.  I can remember the first time that he and I did the Marine Corp Marathon in 2013.

It was such a blessing to be pushing him through the streets of the Capitol.  He and I had such a fun time together.  I will never forget making our way up that last hill, and at the top there was a line of Marines he bent down and gave him high fives as we passed.  Crossing over the finish line, he threw his arms up and jumped up in his seat in excitement.  If he hadn’t had a chest strap on he would have probably come up out of the racer!!! 

 Picturing that moment makes me truly anticipate his level of excited and pride as he and his team come down the chute and the announcer says “Justin Knight you are an IRONMAN!” 

 Q: As the first KPF athlete to compete in such an event, what does it mean to the other athletes?

 Teresa: This will help pave the way for other KPF athletes to overcome any fears and know that they too can take on such a challenge.  After he completes this Ironman, Justin plans on helping to motivate, inspire, and encourage other athletes to keep moving forward and take on challenges and know that with a strong spirit you can do anything!

Q: What type of training has Justin done leading up to the event?

Teresa: Each weekend in October Justin has trained with his Relay Team each Saturday and Sunday. They have put in approx. 5-6 hours each of those days training on the bike (about 80 miles per weekend) with Paul Linck, swimming at Red Top Mountain with John Rutlege, and running with Tim Meyers.  He has gotten stronger and his endurance has gotten stronger with each training session. 

 The guys all work so well together in communicating needs and what might work best for such a long day as Nov 7th will be.  The care and encouragement that the guys have given is immeasurable an Justin has really gained some wonderful friends. 

In addition to training with the relay team each weekend, Justin has been training on a stationary recumbent bike at home as well as doing floor exercises to keep his muscles stretched out.  He can now even hold a two-minute plank!!!

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Kyle Pease Foundation Brings Disabled Athletes to Their Feet

We're coming down, but only slightly, after an incredible weekend as the Kyle Pease Foundation set up ship in the Nation's Capitol for the Marine Corps Marathon. Once again, we co-sponsored with The Ability Experience and it was phenomenal event. Even the uncooperative DC weather could not dampen our spirits.

We saw many of our friends including the famous Rick Hoyt, who together with his father Dick pioneered the entire ability running movement, as well as spending some Q-time with Ainsley's Angels. There were many heavy tears shed as two of our team members got to rise from their running chairs and walk across the finish line under their own power. John Crais, who was guided by Thomas Oden, and Jason Dorn ,who was pushed by Kyle Thomas, both contributed moments that  onlookers will never forget. John's moment is captured in the story link above.

The highlight for me was getting to hang out with some of the KPF families before and during the race. Jessica Minton's husband Bryant and son their Grant, as well as, Naomi Williams, Noah's mom entertained me nearly all weekend. It was quite an experience being on the sidelines with all the marines and the sounding of the cannon.

I couldn't be more proud of the Kyle Pease Foundation. Hats off to all the volunteers who raised money and pushed 26.2 miles through the beautiful country that we live in.

The fun continues this weekend as Brent and I compete in the Big Apple at the NYC Marathon, followed by a very quick turnaround and trip south as we'll join J-dude, Justin Knight and his team in Ironman Florida in Panama City. One hundred and forty point six miles separates J-Dude from history as the first KPF athlete to become an Ironman.

As if that's not enough, We have our Bowling with Kpeasey event on November 15th from 3-6 PM at Stars and Strikes Bowling to celebrate all of our athletes, as well as, the awarding of the Jake Vinson Family Grant.

Don't forget my new children's book "Where There's a Wheel, There's a Way" will make it's debut to the public at the bowling event where I will be signing copies with my co-author Todd Civin. We will have regular and LARGE print editions as well as audio DVD versions and a limited number of 2016 "WTAWTAW" calendars.  Can't wait to see everyone there.

Keep your eyes open for next weeks special blog with Justin Knight's Ironman Florida preparation and comments from the team. Brent and I gotta go catch a plan to we'll turn the rest of the blog over to Noah William's mom, Naomi for her thoughts on the Marine Corps Marathon weekend as well as the inspiring words of Mike Ragan, our friend, teammate and all3sports colleague, who started the weekend off with his inspiring words.

Naomi Williams:

The weekend was A-MAZE-ING!! It's always fun to 'run' a race, yet this race was special as I got be a cheerleader, not only for my son, but for ALL of the athletes. I won't ever have the chance to be a soccer mom, but this weekend gave me the same euphoric high!! Waiting with anticipation for Noah and Kevin to come around the last corner and into eyesight, beaming with pride as they crossed the finish line - that was the equivalent of watching the winning goal.

For Noah, it provided an opportunity to be successful and experience what it feels like to be a winner. He LOVED being around people who embraced him for him. Noah has a special connection with Kyle and it is beautiful to watch their interaction. In addition, I realized that life is a team effort just like this race. Everyone plays a vital role no matter how insignificant they think it is!

Mike Ragan:

I met Brent Pease a little over two years ago, when I started working at all3sports.  Soon after I learned of his work with his brother's foundation.  In spring of 2014, Brent invited me to consider running my first marathon at the Marine Corps Marathon with KPeasey. 
The experience of training last year was amazing; the purpose I felt every day with every run.  Brent paired me with Tina and her daughter, Naomi.  Since they lived almost three hours away from me, the first time we met was a month before the race, but we hit it off right away.

We both arrived for the race in Washington, D.C. a couple of days early, and we were inseparable.  We spent hours at the Expo checking out the booths, and we even met Sean Astin, who starred in Rudy and Lord of the Rings.

Race morning found us ready to run.  The assisted athletes were sent off five minutes before the rest of the field, which helped me look good.  I ran the first mile in 8:45.  On the official time my first mile read a scathing 3:45.  I'm sure this helped my coach find several new athletes.  After the first 10k, I notice that Naomi was waving with both hands in a strange way.  I asked if she was okay, only to have her reply, "I'm done!  Where's momma?"  How did we make it through the race?  Singing!  We sang "Let It Go" from the movie, Frozen, The Wheels on the Bus, and Old MacDonald.  Needless to say, there were tons of animals on the farm that day. I averaged an 8-minute mile for the first twenty miles and then the wheels fell off...of my run. 
I hit the wall and struggled through the last 10k.  In the last mile, two of our KPeasey teammates, Curtis and Fred, passed us.  Fred smacked me on the bottom and Curtis said, "See ya!"  It is okay because this year, I'm running with Fred's number and I'll be pushing Curtis.  So, Curtis, get ready for a 12-hour marathon!
In the year since the last Marine Corps Marathon, I've seen Naomi and Tina several times and I talk to them on the phone every few weeks.  We ran a two more races together the following months and Naomi got to go bowling with my two middle school-aged daughters at the annual KPeasey bowling fundraiser.

The greatest part of this entire process has not been getting in shape, running a marathon or raising money for the foundation.  Those are all wonderful things, but to be invited into another family's life has truly been the greatest gift.

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The Kyle Pease Foundation Continues to Be Busier Than a Moth in a Mitten

As summer fades into the rear view and the weather continues to get cooler, Kpeasey is hotter than ever. With so many events on the foundation calendar we are busier than a moth in a mitten. 

We just completed Camp Wheel-A-Way, a camp for individuals with cerebral palsy where we partner with Camp Twin Lakes to host an amazing group of enthusiastic campers. The weekend was filled with biking, running, boating, Smores and a lot of smiles. It was quite a weekend filled with laughter and enough memories to last a lifetime. Kpeasey and the campers even went air born going zip-lining above the woods at Camp Twin Lakes.  

Our very own dude, Justin "J-dude" Knight is preparing fiercely for
Ironman Florida. He has been eating, dreaming and breathing Ironman for the past three months. He is super excited and is in top shape for 140.6 miles of fun. 

Along with his teammates John Rutledge, Tim Myers, and Paul Linck, they are ready to tackle any obstacle that may come their way because after all, Where There's a Wheel, There's a Way!
Don't forget to come out to Justin's send off party on Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta on Wednesday, October 28th. We are super excited to see Justin compete as he is the first KPF athlete to ever attempt this prestigious feat. This is the culmination of the vision that Brent and I saw when we started the foundation. 
Speaking of "Where There's a Wheel, There's a Way!", KPeasey can now add the title of author to my business card as my new children's book is on pre-order on our website. We are putting the finishing touches on an audio version narrated by yours truly and a big print version, so that everyone can enjoy the book. All profits from the book and the DVD are going to the Kyle Pease Foundation.

If you want to learn about inclusion, my life and the foundation, the book will be officially unveiled on November 15th and it will be available at the the Annual KPeasey Bowling Event. This event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for our foundation and we even have a special guest attending the event and spreading his message of Together We Wheel! We will also be announcing the Jake Vinson Family Grant winner. 

Next week we will be taking a team of athletes to Washington DC to the Marine Corps Marathon, which is a great event taking place in our Nation's capitol. After a quick turnaround, Brent and I will be going to NY to run the NYC marathon on November 1st as Kpeasey Meets the Big Apple and the Big Apple meets Kpeasey. Hope the city is ready for us!!

Wrapping up our busy stretch is the Holcomb Bridge Hustle on
Saturday, November 14th. This is our final race of the season and is always a great time. We may even get our social media director and co-author of my book, Todd Civin, to lace them up as he'll be down for the bowling event and book signing. 

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