Last Saturday in the normally quiet city of Madison, Wisconsin, the hills were alive with the sound of rabid race fans who lined the city streets and surrounding rural roads as triathletes from around the globe competed to achieve Ironman status.
Among the thousand plus athletes that paddled, pedaled and pumped their way over 140.6 miles of prime Wisconsin countryside, was a brother tandem who hails from Atlanta, Georgia. Following in the path carved out by father/son triathlon and marathon team, Dick and Rick Hoyt, the Pease Brothers represent the next generation of assisted athlete pairs to take center stage in a growing phenomenon.
Kyle Pease has cerebral palsy and spent the 15 plus hours being pulled in a kayak over the 2.4 mile swim, pedaled in a specially designed bike for 112 miles and pushed in a running chair for the final 26.2 miles by his older brother Brent. Sounds like an easy day at the office for Kyle and a tough day in the salt mines for Brent unless you see the two in action.
"Kyle is every bit the athlete that I am", explains Brent. “He might borrow my legs, but I borrow his spirit. Without Kyle pushing me every step of the way, we are not Ironmen"
Together the duo created the Kyle Pease Foundation, which has a mission of creating awareness and raising funds to promote success for persons with disabilities by providing assistance to meet their individual needs through sports. Like the Pease Brothers themselves, KPF athletes compete in road races of varying lengths to promotes success for young persons with disabilities by providing assistance to meet their individual needs through sports and competition.
I have the pleasure of working with Brent, Kyle and the KPF team on a daily basis as their Director of Publicity and have opted to turn over my Bleacher Report space to share their thoughts as opposed to mine as they recap their Ironman experience. I will bring you Brent's thoughts and emotions today and Kyle's feelings on Friday of this week. Together We Wheel!!
Sometimes there are not enough words to express the gratitude we feel for those that make the biggest difference. Ironman Wisconsin was a team effort. It started a long time ago with our parents and the life they encouraged us to live; one with compassion for each other and for those around us. It continued with our friends, sponsors and everyone who cheered us on that day. Sharing not only the race but specifically the finish line with Kyle is something that was truly special and I cannot thank everyone enough for making such a difference.
Race morning came early and as usually my alarm was just a back-up. I was up at 3:30 and began final preparations for race day. I was more calm than normal and packed my bags to head down to the lobby. Once in the lobby we met Kyle, Sam, Curtis (Freedom Concepts) and our great friend John David Johnson (photographer extraordinaire and gear junkie). The drive over was calm and we had every detail worked out for our day.
The swim was the easiest part of the day and with all of our planning we knew that we had everything ready. The boat had been blown up and stored the night before so all we had to do was joke around and prepare for the day. Kyle wanted to get in early so we could have some quiet time about 30 minutes before the swim start. We loaded the boat, threw on the TYR Freak of Nature and with 15 minutes to spare we swam out and positioned ourselves behind the pros as Wisconsin is an in water start.
I told Kyle no matter what happened the rest of the day I was proud to be out there with him and that today would be memorable. He smiled, agreed and got the look on his face that all athletes get before the gun goes off.
The swim itself was trickier than expected thanks to a strong head wind for the majority of the swim. The Advanced Elements kayak was as trusty as ever and before I knew it we were closing in on the shore. The scene after the swim is something that cannot be equaled.
You must run up a four story Helix where the crowd had been lining up for prime positioning since 5 a.m. The sound coming from the helix were unreal and to say we were running up it is an understatement...it was AWESOME. We headed into transition to make our way onto the bike.
We knew the bike would be tough. The mathematical equation of:
Me + Kyle + Bike = 330 lbs. of rolling weight.
The boys at Freedom Concepts did a great job of getting this bike ready for 112 miles but we are two people and a bike weighing a total of 330 pounds so the stress of the weight was considerable. Ironman Wisconsin is one of the more challenging bike courses there is so before the race our coach Matthew Rose told us that this bike course would require that both of us prepare to dig deep into our souls, deep into our mind and to simply find a way to get it done. Matthew has been a tremendous friend and supporter since day 1 and having him with us for this occasion made us appreciate his sacrifices even more.
The bike is a 16 mile out section, two 40 mile loops and then 16 back to transition. The first 16 miles we were flying down some nice rollers and with the aid of a little tail wind were making great time. The course is rolling but around mile 40 it really turns up hill.
The crowds there were UNREAL...it is as close as we will ever get to a Tour-like atmosphere.
My good buddy, Josh Salzman, had arranged for a core of drummers to literally follow Kyle and I up the hill. It was amazing listening to the crowds pull us up the hill and we almost forgot we had to come back and do it again. When we finished the climbs we saw Matthew and my wife Erica and told them BE THERE FOR ROUND 2.
I could feel the fatigue in my legs and knew it would be a battle on lap 2. We hit the turn back onto lap 2 and grabbed special needs. I gave Kyle some Coke, a baked potato and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We had been eating every hour, but after nearly 4.5 hours on the bike we wanted to load up before we got to the hills again. The average bike in Wisconsin was around 6 hrs. So when we turned off to lap 2 you can imagine the roads weren't nearly as crowded.
I have the utmost respect for people that race in the back because that race is all about YOU...you don't get the benefit of the crowds, there are less people, and well, being out there that long is hard. Well on Lap 2 it was all about me and Kyle. He pushed and pulled me around that course, screaming at me, checking the time and helping to keep our spirits up. On the big hills, Matthew, my wife, JD and Curtis were all there to help us get over those climbs. It was some of the hardest work of our day. Every fiber was burning in my legs and all I kept thinking about was everyone that was there for us, everyone that had made this day possible and I knew we had to… no WE WERE going to finish.
When we got to the top of the last hill I was absolutely spent. I had to pedal slowly for a minute and that's when Matthew told us, “find something within you Brent. Dig deep into your soul and do whatever it takes to make this bike cutoff.” He told Kyle to “fight like you have never fought before to push Brent harder than he’s gone” and to make sure we made the cutoff. That motivated us and then we turned at mile 90 straight into a head wind. “Oh crap!” I thought. “How can we do this now?” but Kyle was there like he was all day to motivate and push me. I've said it before but “he might borrow my legs but I borrow his spirit.” Nothing would stop us now and we rolled into transition just under the bike cutoff to a bevy of volunteers all cheering for us. It was such a relief to get off the bike. We took a moment in transition to relax and get some fluids.
The run started off through downtown to some of the loudest cheers I have ever heard. It gave new life to my tired legs and fired us both up. I knew that together we were going to do this and that no matter what we were getting to the finish. We hit every aide station and loaded up on Gu, cookies, pretzels, chicken broth and fluids. We had a big spend on that bike and we needed all the energy we could get. Around mile 8, I really started to struggle and so did Kyle. We started to walk. I did a quick check on the math and I knew we could walk and finish, but we both knew that wasn't what we set out to do. We talked a bit, went to the bathroom, grabbed some more calories and with some encouraging words from our friend, Micki, we got moving again.
From there adrenaline and emotions took over and I actually started running faster than the beginning. This was HAPPENING. One foot in front of the other. Kyle pulling me...me pushing Kyle…together we wheel! Together we were going to be an Ironman (men). On the last lap, after our friend Adam, who had been following us for about 10k, headed towards the finish, Kyle and I exchanged some words. I let him know how proud I was of him. Kyle is hands down the toughest athlete I know and without him that day isn't possible. As we rounded the corner with less than 10k to go someone got the best photo of us. It was one of those “we are doing awesome, how do we look moments???" Well, as we neared the finish you could feel the crowd surge and when we turned with the Capitol Building at our backs all we could hear was screaming. Kyle finally let go, I pumped my fists and allowed the accomplishment to set in. We had done something so special and were able to show everyone (as Greg said) “how powerful the mind can be.” We set out to finish the race and here we were.
We saw our mom first and gave her a BIG hug!! It starts with the parents! Then we saw our friends, my wife and it was crazy from that point on. I could barely hear Kyle screaming. As we hit the final stretch Mike Reilly called out those famous words. Brent Pease and Kyle Pease, from ATLANTA...YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!
And we were there. Medals on dad, hugging and snapping photos, wife crying, coach crying...so proud. So proud to be a brother, so proud to be an Ironman. So proud to share this day with so many.
There are almost to many to thank and so much to be thankful for.
- Matthew Rose—you are an incredible spirit and you make so much possible to so many. Thank you for pushing us to new heights.
- Betty Janelle—you told Kyle he could do it and here we are. Your passion is infectious and we cannot thank you enough.
- Curtis Henry—the bike is spot on and your compassion even more so.
- Greg Smith—thank you for believing in us before anyone else did and helping make the Kyle Pease Foundation real.
- Josh Salzman—since 2 years old, buddy..Since 2.
- Kiddo you are going to make a great father. Thanks for sharing our day.
- Micki—those 12 miles were awesome. The years leading up to it better!
- Bryan—please save us a gin and tonic. Till then thank you for being there for us since day 1.
- Andrew Shanks and John David Johnson—32 hours in a car so we could race. Is thank you even enough??
- To all of our friends—we simply say thank you.
- Evan—the word brother says it all. We might fight, push, pull and yell but we are brothers and we are blood. We all stand together and thank you for being in our corner by our side.
- Mom and Dad—thank you for showing us that nothing on the outside matters. It's what we do with what's inside that counts.
To my wife—who took care of our home, took care of me and pushed me towards my dreams thank you for believing in the dream and thank you for being by my side forever.
- Kyle—you are a rock. You inspire all those who cross your path and I am so glad to have made the journey with you that day. Let me say that this is only the beginning, sport. We have many more to share this with and Wisconsin was just the start. Proud of you, bud.
To learn more about the Kyle Pease Foundation visit http://www.kylepeasefoundation.org/.