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ÖTILLÖ 2013

ÖTILLÖ 2013

Ironwoman and Headweats-sponsored Athlete completed Ö TILL Ö – otherwise known as “One of the toughest 1-Day races in the world.” That’s right, WORLD. Here’s her recap of the race:

Written by Penny Comins

Penny with her race partner Renata at start of the race.
Penny with her race partner Renata at start of the race.

Being the only kiwi that has ever raced I felt I had to knock this one off. As the waves rushed up the rock face, crashing me against them and then sucking me out as quickly as they had compressed me, I was more worried about my life than representing my country. Drawing on my rock climbing lessons at school I looked for finger holds and pulled up on the wave, scrambling with hand paddles failing around my wrists and my pool buoy trying to separate my legs, I made it out of the water. No time to soothe myself as we had to press on. Time to engage legs and run, and scramble. This was the Swim-Run World Championships in Sweden. My partner Renata and I were deep into the race, learning on the job. 22 islands, 65 kilometres of running, 10 kilometres of swimming.

A neutral start set us off on the first island of Sandhamn. The sun rose through the cloud in a star formation, symbolic for the adventure that lay ahead. We were a bundle of nerves. So many questions that had stirred around in us couldn’t be answered until we were actually doing the event. Hitting the water for the first time and swimming to a flashing beacon showed us just how raw and open this race was going to be.

On paper, the race sounded achievable; O till O is 75 kilometres of racing over the Stockholm Archipelago, the second largest in the Baltic Sea. Broken down, the longest swim was 1,650 meters while the longest run was 20 kilometres near the end of the race on the longest island Orno. Completed in pairs, my partner Renata was an accomplished Irish long-distance triathlete. We mused for weeks over kit and how the distances broken down would be achievable. We had tried to calculate our splits being very generous on the timings to allow for getting in and out of the water. With these times laminated and glued to my swim paddles we thought we would have a tough day but make all five cut offs and finish in time for beers before dinner.

O till O Race 2013

The first island was nature’s slap in the face, timings went out the window as our focus shifted to getting through each cut off with time to spare. Our mantra was always to ‘keep moving forwards.’ We were told repeatedly to not stop moving at any time. The rocky shoreline, boulders and slippery granite that greeted us was not conducive for a nice easy running flow. We got down to a fast scramble and picked our path along the shore, through scrub and over boulders following carnival tape hanging from trees.

O till O Race 2013

We were told at the briefing that we had to go around the side of several islands due to land ownership issues; we were cursing the owner after 4,400 meters of wobbly walk/running in ankle deep waters.

Prior to the race I had been in contact with the previous winning woman’s team; they had said to get your ‘in’s and outs’ practiced. If you waste five minutes with each entry and exit over 22 islands that equates to three and a half hours of dead time. Simply, we would never make the cut offs if we mucked around. We had a decided to verbalize our process as trying to put your goggles on when you already have your hand paddles on just wouldn’t work. “Pull buoy, goggles, paddles, push off.”

Once in the water it was nice to cool the legs. Each island had a yellow flag on the shore that we had to sight towards or in the swims over a kilometre a flashing strobe light. Without the comfort of buoys marking the course, we could take any line we liked. The rules state you must be 10 meters from your partner at any time; many using a tow rope. We trailed a rope but found that it was more hindrance than help and opted for looking out for each other. This added to the adventure when the current was ripping between the islands pushing us out to sea. Having been brought up near the beach in New Zealand I didn’t find this too stressful and just swam in a vector to the current. For my Irish teammate this was a new sensation and she nearly missed the exit points several times, showing how nature has the final say each time. This made for interesting swims watching out for her while still navigating to each exit. The birds flew above while jellyfish pulsed below, an overwhelming feeling of being in nature rushed me many times. We were really doing this!

Climbing out of the rough water onto equally rough terrain
Climbing out of the rough water onto equally rough terrain

We made it through the nine am cut off with 25 minutes to spare. This was going to be a tough fought race with nature; our minds and the time checkpoints. The course headed west for four islands before a crossing of 500 meters to head south. The weather forecast had given us favourable winds for the day pushing us to the final island Uto. Due to the nature of being 60 kilometres off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea several storms rolled through bringing thunder and hail at times but these were brief and almost a relief when running in our wetsuit.

Either the favourable weather or the fact that this year’s race was the SwimRun World Championship where teams had to qualify through the Uto swim race or merit meant that of the 114 teams on the start line 99 made it to the finish, the highest completion rate in the eight year history of the race. Last year only two woman’s teams finished and this year nine of the 13 finished indicating the level of participant that the race now attracts. 120 teams were given slots from over 300 applicants and with the use of qualification or merit proved to be a winning formula meant the top teams pushed each other harder than in previous years. The record of nine hours and 15 minutes set in 2011 was smashed by 32 minutes this year.

O till O Race 2013

Sprint prizes throughout the race kept the teams pushing all the way. The Red Bull sprint prize was first on the island of Rumaro and won by Team NybrovikenRib passed the line in first, which was the same as last year. Followed by Paul and Björn of team Head swimming and Lelle and Magnus who were last year’s winners.

However at the Addnature sprint prize, 24 kilomteres in to the race the order had changed to Paul and Björn in the lead while Magnus and Lelle had used their prior course knowledge and over taken Nybroviken Rib, Simon and Rasmus.

The Milebreaker.com last 15 kilometres was a test of who had paced their race in a way to have enough gas for the last half of the 20 kilometre run and then five more islands to hop over. As Michael and Mats, race organizers, had said in the race briefing, this is where the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker.

O TILL O - Island Hopping Race

Coming up the last hill dubbed ‘Devil’s Hill’ to the finish line at Utö Värdshus Björn and Paul of Team Head swimming held their lead and won Ö till Ö 2013 World Championship in a winning time of 8 hours and 35 minutes. Lelle and Magnus followed seven minutes after. Simon and Rasmus of Team NybrovikenRib rounded the podium off. A total of four teams finished under nine hours, a new record that tested the logistics team of the race.

In the woman’s it was a one horse race with mother-daughter team Puppy TS of Bibben and Lotta leading the whole way and setting a new course record of 10 hours and 55 minutes placing 21st overall. Last years winners Helena and Linda of Lisa’s Cafe finished second and Sanna and Victoria, Team Cougar completed the set. In the Mixed competition Team Freddan and Ankan smashed the last record in 10 hours 33 minutes, a compelling 15th overall. Björn and Marika of Team Adeptic came in second with Erica and Thomas of Team Bisnode pushed hard for third.

Meanwhile Team PenRen, the Irish and Kiwi girls were ticking off the islands one by one. Without Renata knowing, I had set my watch fast by 10 minutes so every checkpoint we went through we had a bit more to spare than she thought. Still, we were not on our times, down to the wire and starting to fade. Renata’s shoulders started to feel the strain of the paddles and the longer swims in waters of 10 to 16 degrees she was feeling the cold. Luckily running in our cut off wetsuits and swim caps meant she warmed up quickly. Momentarily we did wonder how we got in to this crazy race as we came to rock faces to climb over, ducked under branches, wove through reeds and swam in grey silt filled inlets all in our wetsuits, caps, paddles and a pull buoy tired to our leg.

O TILL O 2013

Getting through the 1,400 meter swim from MörtöKlobb – Kvinnoholmen was the demon we had in our minds as the current is tough in the exposed swim and has taken athletes up to an hour in the past. We got across the straight and out the other side relatively unscathed. It was the 20 kilometre run on Orno that showed us this was an ultra race in every proportion. We decided to take our wetsuits to our waist and run this section hard to make the six pm cut-off at the south end of the island. Once we passed here we could take as long as we wanted to get the finish.

We struck several hurdles when the terrain became rocky and slippery so we had to run the gravel road section hard. Renata’s body wanted to shut down but she fought hard to hold her legs together and support her shoulders that stabbed with every jarring step. After the milebreaker.com feed station we had an hour and 20 minutes to cover 7,900 meters. “Easy,” I hear you say. Not so when you have been in and out of the water all day covering 60 kilometres. We were reduced to a walk-run strategy and chatted with other teams who too were just ‘moving forward.’ We made the cut off by 30 minutes and gave garbled whopping interviews to the TV cameras at the timing zone. Mats said he would see us at the end for beers in the hotel, a great touch for the race directors to be out on the course.

O TILL O 2013

Only 7,100 meters and five islands lay between the finish and us. We totally underestimated the enormity of this simple thought; coupled with the sun going down and the current ripping around the smaller islands made for a rock n roll entry and exit at each island. Tired, slightly delirious, and starting to swell from the exposure we smashed over the islands in and out of the water. Each time we got out there were more people cheering us on yet the wind had picked up and Renata was shivering uncontrollably. Some blueberry soup at the last feed station helped as we pushed on not wanting to be swimming in the dark. The last exit was emotional as that was when the swimming was over. We ran-walked to the finish under the orange sun sliding to the horizon. As we got closer to Devil Hill, the hotel and finish line sat on top, Renata got a new lease of energy and bolted to the top and across the line. Her first words ‘Can I have a big beer for me and my mate?!’

O TILL O 2013

2014 entries open in February with qualification or merit the way in to the swimrun World Championship.

 For more info on the race, visit: www.otillo.se

Penny Comins takes on another IM

Penny Comins takes on another IM

Headsweats Athlete Penny Comins takes on yet another Ironman – Ironman Kalmar in Sweden this past August. Read her full race update – with emotions and all – below. Congrats Penny!

Ironman Kalmar

Written by Penny Comins

The blue carpet, the blur of the crowd, the music and one voice crystal clear – you are an Ironman. It never grows old. All 15 times it has been a spine tingling moment, only seconds before the immediate release of emotion. The past three months of training, sacrifices and the 140.6 miles you have traveled to get to this moment in time come exploding out. Sometimes it has been joy, sometimes bewilderment and often tears. This time it was tears.

  Ironman Kalmar

I finally got a time trail bike and trained harder than ever on the bike. The plan was to ride 5 hours 30 minutes and run 3 hours 30 minutes to get a new Personal Best. Entering Ironman Kalmar presented a relatively flat cycle course, playing to my strengths. The weather gods had other ideas, as on race morning the flags were at full attention around the small UNESCO town centre.

Penny Comins, IM

Winds gusting from the south at 50 kilometres per hour made the 120 kilometre loop on the open marshland on the island Oland a trudge down and low flying back. Unfortunately I didn’t make up the time lost heading down the island on the way back and was 16 minutes down on my time check heading back over the six kilometre bridge to the mainland. The final 60 kilometres were rolling countryside to Rockenby with a stonking headwind coming back in to town, just when energies were low. It was time to start on the Maxifuel Viper gels and get the caffeine rush in. I came in off the bike at 5.51.56. After a longer than planned swim, or more accurately described as a drownfest, 1.22.55, it was time to get the deficit back on the run.

 goofing around

I stared off at a pace that felt fast but able to hold. As the wind showed itself on the course and my body started to wear down my pace slowed and relaxed at just over five minute kilometres. As the world started to spin I took the precautionary step to slow down through a few aid stations, get some water on my body and in my Headsweats visor to keep my core temperature down. I took on salt; more Maxifuel gels and a few Sports Legs to buffer the lactic build up.

I started to feel better, or was it the finish line feeling looming? Regardless I pushed on. My devoted boyfriend kept popping up in the last few kilometres of the run in the historical city giving me splits and pushing me to go sub 11 hours. I just got my head down, engaged any energy left and pushed with all my might.

 Ironman Finish Line

Relieved to see 10.56 above my head I had done it. I wobbled to the catchers having pushed the hardest I have ever done in all 15 Ironman’s I have completed. Yet tears rolled down my face when I saw David, I felt I had let him down by not cycling a faster time. On reflection the whole field was slower this year with the crowded swim and hurricane winds. The elusive 5 hour 30 minute bike and 3 hour 30 minute run has evaded me again. Well, until Ironman South Africa next year.

My 3.34.27 did give me the 12th fastest ladies marathon on the day, including the pro’s. My Sigvaris calf guards kept my legs in tact to have the power to push when they would normally feel fatigued.

2012 San Diego Triathlon Challenge a Success

2012 San Diego Triathlon Challenge a Success

Haven Shepherd leading the pack in the kids run at SDTC
October 21, 2012 marked the “best day in triathlon” as over 750 participants (200 of which were physically challenged athletes) gathered at La Jolla Cove for the 19th annual Aspen Medical Products San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC). Athletes completed a 1 mile swim, 44 mile bike, and 10 mile run as individuals or as part of a relay team.

Among those participating were pro athletes like Jordan Rapp, Chris “MACCA” McCormack, Sarah Piampiano and Jamie Whitmore, legends like Bill Walton and Scott Tinley, celebrities like stars of ABC’s The Bachelor, and dozens of Paralympians home from London. This year’s event raised over $1.2 million for Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) to help physically challenged athletes be able to participate in the sports they love.

The weekend got started on October 18, with plenty of opportunities for challenged athlete kids to participate in forums, clinics, a family picnic, and more fun activities. Thanks to the tireless efforts of volunteers, kids were able to play, explore their abilities, and learn from experienced athletes.

The San Diego Triathlon Challenge rounded out the weekend on Sunday, October 21. The best day in triathlon kicked off with the parade of athletes and without hesitation the 19th annual SDTC was underway! The 24 Hour Fitness Tour de Cove and Kaiser Permanent Thrive 5k all later commenced creating a trifecta of inspiration, fun, and fitness down at La Jolla Cove.

“You never know true inspiration until you’re inspired by people who rise above their abilities, and CAF and its competitors started the spark.” – Stephen Groce of Sport Chalet

Check out all the photos from the day’s race here. And for more details and footage of the day’s event, click here. Headsweats is so happy to have been a sponsor of CAF and part of the Triathlon Challenge – it was a day of inspiration and motivation for all.

We’d like to also share the story behind Haven Shepherd – who’s featured in the photo above: Haven Shepherd is a bubbly energetic 9-year old who loves to run and play with her friends and six brothers and sisters. Her parents have even appropriately nick-named her “Tigger” after the playful tiger that won’t stop bouncing around. Born in Vietnam out of wedlock, her parents were so ashamed that they committed a family suicide resulting in the parents’ death and the loss of both of Haven’s legs as a baby. She was adopted by the Shepherd family from Missouri and immediately fit into a family of athletes. Last year, CAF granted Haven her first pair of running legs and she has already competed in a school track meet. She is shown here running for the second year in a row at the San Diego Triathlon Challenge Kids Run. Haven was awarded our Catch a Rising Star honor this year and we believe there is no stopping her now.

IRONMAN World Championship Race Report

IRONMAN World Championship Race Report

Who watched the NBC broadcast of the 2012 Ironman World Championship this past Saturday? To all those who’ve been following Ironman religiously over the past weeks and months, Headsweats is happy to share one athlete’s personal story. Brady Murray shares his personal race recap along with some incredible photos of this year’s Ironman. Brady races to raise money for RODS (Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome). Check out his website here for more information.

It’s hard to believe the Ironman World Championship has come and gone. What an incredible experience! Everything couldn’t have gone better and I’m thankful for the opportunity to race. I want to thank Headsweats for your support on my journey to Kona and especially for getting the RODS visors to Kona in time! That was huge!

Ironman and this year’s presenting sponsor did some remarkable things for RODS Racing and the child I was racing for.  I’m excited to see this story told. Read on for my full race report:

Race day started at 3:20 a.m. when the alarm clock welcomed me into the days activities. The normal race day jitters and nervousness was strangely not there right from the beginning. Instead of nervousness I was feeling excitement! It was time for the big dance and I couldn’t wait. I knew I had done everything in my power to prepare for this race and I was ready.

The morning of the race

I made my way down to the start. I was among the first athletes to arrive. One of the first things they have us do is get a number stamped on your arms. The energy was huge from the very beginning. With race number 137 successfully tattooed for the day I then stepped on the scales for a weigh in. I’ve never actually been weighed at a race check in. I wish they would have weighed me after to compare. I bet I lost a few pounds in water weight.

I then put my race nutrition on my bike that had been carefully calculated to give me the correct amount of calories at the right time of the race. This is such a huge part of the race and cannot be overlooked. Regardless of the amount of hours trained, without enough gas in the tank it doesn’t matter how well tuned the engine is.

By now there were a lot of athletes starting to pour in. About this time is when I was introduced to an NBC Sports camera crew. They started filming me prepping my bike. It was a little uncomfortable at first, but then I found it to be kind of fun. The other Kona Inspired athletes started to arrive for the day as well. We have all become very good friends. I feel like I knew them all from their videos. To get to meet them in person was great. To get to race with them was even better.

As the horizon started to brighten, I knew it was time. I put on my speed suit from Aqua Sphere and checked in my morning clothes bag and made it back to the start just in time for the pros to start the race. With the pros gone, it was time for all of us to enter the water. 25 minutes until the cannon goes off!

Stepping into the ocean increased the excitement even more. I swam out so I could see if I could see my family sitting on the cement wall that was lining the bay. Sure enough, I saw them all there with their RODS Racing shirts on. I got their attention and then made my way out to the starting buoy. I’ll never forget looking back at all the spectators lined along the bay. There were also many hundred athletes still filing into the water. Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, started to give us the estimated time before the start. 10 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 1 minute. By this time I was like a 10 year old on Christmas morning waiting to open presents. We were all stacked in there which made it impossible to tread water without having contact with other swimmers. A warm up of things to come. Then the countdown, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BOOM! Instantly the blue ocean water looked like it was boiling. All you could see was white water and arms flying all around. Immediately I started hitting into other swimmers all trying to make forward progress. It was utter chaos! I had never been in a swim start quite like that one. I found myself trying to avoid being kicked but at the same time, not backing off one bit. This lasted for a few minutes before things started to normalize and the rhythm of the swim strokes started to settle.

Within 5 minutes of starting I got behind a swimmer who was going slightly faster than I was. Perfect! I slipped in right behind him and started to draft. Drafting in the swim is perfectly legal and can be a big advantage to conserve energy and pick up a few minutes as well. It’s amazing how much it helps having someone break the water in front of you as you focus on staying right on their toes. I stayed so close to this swimmer that I found myself tapping his toes every time my arms came forward in my stroke. I worried that this might be annoying for him, but he just kept on swimming and I kept on following. The other advantage of doing this is you aren’t required to site as much. As long as the swimmer you are following is going straight, you can keep your head in the water. This was also nice because I loved looking at all the fish during the race. It was a nice distraction.

The entire way out I stayed right on this swimmers feet. There is a big sailboat at the turnaround which gets pretty congested. I had to work hard to stay behind him, but I managed and before I knew it, we were on our way back after having just swam the first 1.2 miles. Heading back into shore was much faster. The current was pushing us and I think we all were excited to get on the bike. The entire swim seemed fairly congested, but I later found out from Andrea that I was swimming in a group of 15+ swimmers and there weren’t any other swimmers in front or behind us when we came in.

Getting through transition was quick. I had a camera man following me which I wasn’t necessarily ready for, but it was fun. And just like that I was on the bike riding up the infamous Palani Road. The first 10 or so miles weaves through town where there are hundreds of spectators all cheering. You honestly feel like a rock star in this race with all the fans cheering. My legs felt great and all systems were checking out well. After weaving through the city streets there is a steep climb going up Palani and then on to the Queen K. Once you make it to the highway it settles down and you can get into a groove for the remaining 102 miles.

20 miles into the ride there were a lot of other bikers. Swimming is my weakest discipline which means I typically pass a lot of bikers the first 20-30 miles. It was fun seeing all of the other athletes from around the world. We had a big tailwind heading out which meant that the miles were flying by. Around mile 30 I had another TV crew pull up next to me filming for about 8 miles. I didn’t know what amount of filming would be done while I was racing before the day started. One thing I am thankful for is when the camera is on you it helps you go faster.

By about mile 35 I hit my first difficult part of the race. I had a hard time keeping my wattage up and I was going into a big headwind. I decided it was time to have a peanut butter and honey sandwich and some PowerBar Blasts which really hit the spot. Within 5 minutes of finishing my meal I was feeling much better. When you are exercising for this amount of time the food gets into your system almost instantaneously. By the time I started the long climb into Hawi I was feeling great. One thing I did notice though was the wind was really starting to pick up. By the time I got the the last 3 miles of the 18 mile climb the wind was blowing hard. I looked out over the ocean and it was pure whitecaps as far as the eye could see. Right before I started feeling sorry for myself I remembered back to May 5th, the day I raced Ironman St. George. A big smile emerged as I remembered how much worse the wind and conditions were that day. Nothing will compare to St. George wind. I picked up the pace and started to go faster.

The bike course turnaround in Hawi is right at 60 miles. It felt great to get the wind at your back and have a very long downhill heading back to Kona. By this time it was around 11 a.m. and it was starting to get hot. On my way back to Kona our route took us back through the lava fields. I remember hearing about how the heat would radiate off the blacktop but it was hard to imagine there being more heat from below than from the sun above. Let me tell you, this is absolutely true. It was like somebody turned on a heater on the road and it was blasting you from all angles. One way to combat the heat was while going through aid stations to fill up every possible water bottle cage with full bottles of water. Not just to drink but to pour it all over your body while you are riding. This provided temporary relief, but the heat would just not quit. The good news is mentally I was still very much where I needed to be. Any time I found any negative thoughts come to mind I found it relatively easy to replace them with the thoughts and feelings of why I was doing this. The cause of racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome allows me to mentally stay positive and stay where I need to be in my mind throughout these races. Without that cause I believe I would find it much more difficult to battle through the hard times and ultimately finish.

Coming into town I felt great. I was going faster than I was expecting, averaging 20.2 MPH over the last 110 miles. My heart rate was good and my legs felt good. Time to go run a marathon. Coming into transition I was met by a camera crew. My feet were all wet as I was trying to get my socks on. My right sock went on perfectly. My left sock was off a little bit and I didn’t take the time to adjust it. This would come back and haunt me 3 hours later.

Running out of T2 is always a big test. The test is how do the legs feel? If you go too hard on the bike, you will know immediately. Luckily the legs were feeling fantastic. This was good. I ran out of transition and saw all my family. Their cheers are pure adrenaline and energy. Thank you!

Something different for this race than any other is I had never ran the course before. This was kind of fun, but it was also a little frustrating. Fun in a way because it’s all new. It’s kind of like going for a drive in an area you’ve never seen before. Kind of entertaining. The frustrating part is I sometimes felt like a little kid always asking myself “are we there yet” as I look for the next turn or turn around. The first 10 miles of the run took us through town and right next to the ocean. What a great route! I was feeling great and my pace was holding true. I was sticking with Ironman Perform and water to drink and an occasional gel every few miles. I also saw my good friend Mark Wilkerson as well as Alex and Risa Wight during this portion which helped. After 10 miles you have to climb right back up Palani. I wasn’t ready for this. I went up this in my bike and it was tough, now I had to run up it. Crazy! Getting to the top is when we once again turn onto the Queen K and leave all the spectators behind. The next 15 miles were going to be lonely.

About the time I hit mile 13 I could feel another mental challenge coming on. By this time I was 10 hours into the day. I had just ran 13 miles and I had to get my arms doing it all over again. The heat was still an ever present factor and I was starting to feel fatigued. This is when the Ironman secret weapon had to be utilized, Coca-Cola. Most people don’t realize this, but one of the best sources of nutrition in an Ironman is pure Coca-Cola. Not Coke zero, not caffeine free Coke. Only the good stuff! This stuff is magic! I always wait as long as I can before I start drinking coke when they offer it in the aid stations, but it was definitely time! I was able to keep my pace and continue to progress along the course.

Next up on the run course is the infamous Energy Lab. This is a place where you leave the Queen K highway and take a left into one of the most desolate places on the entire island. It’s called the “Energy Lab” because of the huge solar panels and different facilities on the road. What this place does not do is give you any energy. In fact, it sucks it out of you. When I saw the Energy Lab just ahead I decided right then and there that I would pick up my pace when I entered the Energy Lab. I refused to let this 4 mile stretch get me. I went into the energy lab with a chip on my shoulder kind of like a little brother that finally thinks he has a chance at beating his older brother in a foot race. I did pick up the pace. I could feel some deep pain in my quads but I pushed. I knew this was gut check time and I was not letting up. The first 2 miles felt OK. Miles 19-21 were among the toughest faced yet but I lasted and it fueled me when I finally exited having taken on the Energy Lab and won. It was time to take a right back onto Queen K and head back into town.

With only 5 miles to go I kept telling myself, “You got this! 5 more miles! You’ve ran 5 miles a hundred times this year! Keep pushing!” Things were starting to get tough. I could feel a blister on my left foot start to form. I remembered back to the transition area when I didn’t get my sock on right. I demanded that the pain leave my mind and I kept going. My pace was still steady, but my heart rate was increasing rapidly. “Only a few more miles, keep pushing!!” I kept telling myself. The battle that was going on in my head was as intense as it’s ever been. The adversity I was facing on whether I could do this or not was real.

“Keep going!” I kept reminding myself over and over. Mile 22 passed and I celebrated, 4 more miles. I can do this! Between mile 22-24 was the hardest of the entire day. My quads were smashed, my head hurt, and I was spent. Every athlete will face this during an Ironman. This is really the true test in my opinion. It’s easy to race when you are feeling good. It’s when you are hurting, when you’re body tells you that you can’t do this, that you find out what you really are made of. All you want to do is walk. Your mind will start to reason with you. It will say things like, “you’ve done great, just walk a little bit.” Then it will get more aggressive. “This is crazy, why are you doing this to yourself!” it screams. The thoughts of “Why am I doing this” and “I can’t go on anymore” start flooding your mind. It was here where I had to go back to why I was doing this. I remembered Maelie and I remembered the commitment I made to myself to find her family. If pushing through this temporary physical pain meant that she has a family I would do it. If this meant that Down Syndrome as a whole is more widely accepted and that together we can prove that Anything is Possible, I would do it! I kept the pace and pushed harder.

Before I knew it I was on the top of Palani making my way down the big hill I had to run up a few hours earlier. It was here that I knew I had it. Tears started streaming down my face as I thought not just about the day, but this year. Here I was, running the last mile of the Ironman World Championship for these kids that have become such a big part of my life. Last year at this time I didn’t even know Reece’s Rainbow existed or that there were hundreds of children with Down Syndrome withering away in orphanages throughout the world. Now I was getting to represent them at this very moment. I was afforded the opportunity and blessing to be their voice. To stand on their defense and bring hope at that very moment. In this moment I also gave thanks to a loving God. I knew this last year wasn’t anything of my own doing, but more a tender mercy from a loving Heavenly Father.

As I turned down Ali’i drive I could see the finish line in the distance. The pain was gone and I was running on pure adrenaline. Thousands of people lined the streets cheering and high fiving. I came into the final hundred yards under the bright lights and everything went to a blur. As I crossed the finish line I saw lots of people and I saw cameras. Then I saw Alex, he had the biggest smile on his face and I bet mine matched it. He gave me a huge hug and I lifted him up off the ground. Then Andrea and Nash came to me and we hugged a very long hug. I looked into Nash’s eyes and could see that innocence and look that was the source of so much motivation. I then saw my Dad, my Mom, and my Sister Paige and hugged each of them. Then I gave a huge hug to Rob Wight CEO of myList, David Deschenes, Executive Director of Ironman Foundation, and Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman. That’s when I saw this huge check made out to RODS Racing. I was in shock. It was for $20,000 and it was for Maelie’s adoption. This meant that this little girl has a chance! It was joy in the purest form!

I want to take a moment to recognize and show my appreciation for Andrea. RODS Racing and Ironman is a team effort. There is no possible way that I could serve these children as I have without her. I can’t stress this enough. She IS the reason why things have worked out. Her level of contribution is huge, but often goes unnoticed behind the scenes. Thank you Andrea! I love you!

After the race I went in the transition area and had a chocolate milk. The adrenaline quickly dissipated. I sat down on the grass in a corner as far away as I could get and put a towel over my head. Piece of mind came over me. I knew I left it all out on the course and gave it everything I had. I suppose doing this race is a lot like life. We’ll face exhilarating highs and extreme lows. Pain always comes but it’s how we handle the pain that defines us. There are a lot of people cheering us on at times and at other times we are alone in the lava fields. It takes a team effort. It’s never just one person, but in the end, the results are dependant upon the one looking back at you in the mirror. I hope that at the end of my life I can go to a far away corner for a moment, put a towel over my head and know that I left it all out on the course.

Final stats on the day were: Swim 1:19:42; Bike 5:33:48; Run 3:51:11 Total 10:51:32 I was able to beat my Ironman St. George time by 1:35 minutes!

Total Stat’s for 2012 are: Swim 152 miles; Bike 5,443 miles; Run 1,194 miles Total Hours 802

At the end of these race reports I always find myself asking the question, so what’s next? Well, I can’t wait to watch the Ironman Broadcast on October 27th at 2pm MST. I have a feeling that Maelie will have a family very soon. My hope is that we can find Megan and Maggie a family very soon as well. I’ve already spent time putting together the plan for RODS Racing in 2012. I will continue to race, but my hope is to continue to develop a network of other athletes and advocates who are passionate about racing and passionate about Down syndrome. In the end, our work is not done until every child has a home and until society as a whole has a better understanding of just how much of a positive impact a person with Down syndrome can have. One thing that I have learned this year that I plan on applying next year is this: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!!

Feel free to visit Brady’s personal blog here, for more photos of the day’s highlights!