In the second part of a two-part story, I am honored to share the words of Kyle Pease, who last week achieved Ironman status along with his brother Brent in the rustic and rural city of Madison, Wis. In doing so, the Pease Brothers became the first assisted bother team to become Ironmen.
Kyle has cerebral palsy and competes in races just feet in front of his brother Brent, who swims, bikes and runs the 140.6-mile competition with Kyle in tow. In a time of 15 hours, nine minutes and 24 seconds, the two brothers from Atlanta overcame all odds and became Ironmen.
In the story below, Kyle shares his thoughts and feelings on what the accomplishment means to him and his brother as well as to those they inspire through their work with the Kyle Pease Foundation.
“Inspiration at its best. The Ironman Madison was the epitome of physical and mental dedication being manifested in one day of truly hard work between two outstanding brothers.” - Sam Harrison
It’s been incredible the support that we have received throughout the Atlanta community as well as from the gracious and kind people from Madison, Wis. and all over the country following our quest to become Ironmen. The love and the warmth we have felt has been outstanding. A week has passed and yet I’m still smiling ear to ear and get goose bumps every time I think about our momentous day.
I actually inspire myself when I think about wearing the title Ironman because I didn’t know that I had this in me. I knew I could do it from a mental standpoint, but from a physical standpoint, there were many challenges that Brent and I had to conquer. As each obstacle presented itself, I tackled it head on and achieved.
In many ways, being an Ironman is something I am used to by battling with the everyday challenges that accompany those of us with cerebral palsy, but getting recognized for such an accomplishment is beyond my wildest dreams.
Being out on the course for the 15 hours, nine minutes and 24 seconds that Brent and I were competing was both physically and emotionally grueling, but with the love and support of my brother and my family, I leaped these hurdles with ease.
Like Brent, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with the help of my good buddy and caretaker Sam Harrison. We got ready to leave for the Ironman as Sam put all my clothes on and got my equipment ready for the day. I ate white bread with almond butter, a banana and a 10-ounce glass of water with my breakfast. Overall, for the day, I estimate that I drank about 300 ounces of water and peed quite a bit, which was very good for my body.
John David Johnson, our friend and photographer, and Michael Kidd set up the kayak while I got final instructions from coach Matthew Rose. I needed some quiet time to gain focus because there was so much activity around us, so I asked one of my buddies to take me to a quiet area. He took me over to the water where we did a quick prayer and drank a bit more water. Greg gave me a hug and a kiss and Michael gave me a kiss. I know this sounds like there was a lot of romance going on for a guy in a kayak, but we are a tight group and they wanted to wish me well.
Brent pulled me out in the water just behind the professional athletes, which was really cool because I got to meet some very amazing Ironmen and Ironwomen. Brent and I went over one more set of instructions and then I had to go to the bathroom on myself. This was one of nine times throughout the course of the day that I peed on myself and though this may seem a bit more graphic than my normal blog post, I felt it was important for readers to know what goes on behind the scenes. Being an Ironman comes with its downsides and one of those is the need to pee on yourself.
The cannon went off signaling the start of the race and we were off. People were blowing their horns and were going absolutely ballistic. When we started the second loop, I got water in my eyes so I couldn’t really see what was going on because my glasses were so fogged up, but Brent said he could hear me screaming instructions the whole time in the water. Whether momentarily blind or fully sited, I had a job to do, and like a stage actor, the show must go on. From the moment the cannon went off, I was totally engaged throughout the whole race.
We were in the water for about an hour and 15 minutes, which was a great time and set the tone for the day. With a slower swim, we would have been in trouble, but the torrid pace gave us a bit of a cushion, which we needed as we struggled at times during the bike portion.
When we came in to the transition to the bike, it was one of my favorite moments, as the crowd was going absolutely crazy as we ran up the helix. They were screaming and yelling and we were feeding off of their energy. I let out a big scream and had an ear-to-ear smile on my face. The crowd really got us off on the right foot on the bike.
Before the race, we also hooked up with Christian Jensen, the executive director of My Team Triumph Wisconsin, who would later complete his Ironman journey with assisted runner Mary Cox. They finished in 16:23:52. It was great to meet people who have similar goals as we do.
The bike was one of the biggest hurdles for both of us as the two of us, coupled with the weight of the bike, was 330 pounds of rolling weight. I wasn’t very strong in physics class, but even I know that’s a lot of WEIGHT to move over a long DISTANCE for an extended TIME (W x T=D).
The first mile of the bike got us really motivated because there were people lined up along the course going absolutely crazy. I was loving it but knew I had to stay focused since we had a big job ahead of us. I needed to be there for my brother as we got increasingly close to the ultimate goal. We knew we weren’t here simply to experience the day. We were here to become Ironmen and to prove to anyone who witnessed our feat that anything is possible.
It’s important for readers to remember, Brent and I truly do not feel that this is for us. The glory is great, the media attention and the notoriety is very flattering, but we both believe with every fiber of our being that this is more for those around us than it is for us. If one person who witnessed this day makes a decision to achieve something they didn’t think was possible, than it was worth it. So in our minds, there was more riding on our success than a medal or a victory wreath.
There was the desire to exhibit proof that anything is possible.
Throughout the 112-mile ride, we averaged 13 miles per hour and topped out at 41 mph, with our lowest speed being three mph when we were going up a hill. My body felt great and I had very little problem despite being in a sitting position for most of the day. I got a little tight on the second loop of the bike, but the adrenaline and Brent’s positive outlook really carried us home. Coach Rose really motivated and inspired us when we went into a valley and helped us every step of the way. We saw Brent’s wife, Erica, who did an outstanding job throughout the race, and our photographer John David Johnson, each of whom elevated our performance when things were going bad.
About Mile 80, we got a little nervous about the time as we had to finish before 5:30 p.m. Central Time. So from this point on, I kept shouting, “We gotta go. We gotta go.” I kept asking Brent if we’re good on time and he said yes. Though our cushion was dwindling, we kept pushing harder until we had nothing left in the tank.
We were one of the last teams to make it before the cutoff, so the fans were extra enthusiastic in cheering us to the finish. Remember, those who didn’t make the cutoff were done for the day and had to pack up without having a chance to complete their Ironman dream. By making the cutoff, we had the pleasure of another five hours on the course and could keep our dream alive.
Upon the completion of the bike, we went to the transition area where we did a very quick change. After Michael and Greg changed me into my running gear, they helped me into the racing jogger and got me all ready to go for the run. We got our final instructions once again from Coach Rose to make sure that I was mentally prepared for the run and knew what we needed to do to finish this thing off successfully.
It’s important not to confuse efforts with results, and no one remembers all of those who were almost Ironmen. We were off and came out to a huge, huge ovation. People were going crazy, and there were cameras going off like a Hollywood premiere. We started by going through the downtown area, which was so exhilarating.
Toward the end of the race, we went through and around Camp Randall Stadium at the University of Wisconsin, which was just one of the highlights amongst many during the day. It was dark outside now, and though the stadium was not filled with people, the lights were on, and it created a surreal Chariots of Fire type experience.
We had a bike escort and it was very quiet, allowing us to get away from the crowd for a while. Brent and I talked to each other and kept the conversation very light. I was able to get my thoughts together and it was very peaceful to be there with just Brent. This allowed us to mentally prepare before we reached the big crowds.
The volunteers were phenomenal on every discipline, but during the run especially they treated us in an incredible manner. They gave us water and Coke, grapes and chicken broth, and they were really nice.
At one point on the run, around Mile 22, one of the volunteers asked to take our photo. The realization that I was going to be an Ironman with my brother felt surreal. That was the most special part about being able to be called an Ironman, not by myself, but with Brent. I remember when we were going on the second loop, I said to one volunteer that I can’t wait to come back again. He said, “I know you’re coming back, and I can’t wait to welcome you when you do.” That was an incredibly beautiful sentiment from one of the many welcoming Cheese Heads.
As we were coming to the end, I again had to collect my thoughts and make sure that Brent was OK. I began visualizing the chute as Coach Rose had taught us from the beginning of our training. I got goosebumps realizing that two short weeks ago we were training for this moment and that now, today, we would be known as Ironmen. I can’t conjure up the words to express what it feels like to work toward something so special and have that dream become a reality.
As we neared the finish line at about 10:15 at night, people were coming out of their houses and onto their porches to clap. It was like a scene from a movie. It seemed that with every additional step, the crowd began to swell and explode with enthusiasm. They really respected us (as we do them), and they really kept us going.
As we ran up the chute, we saw our mother first and gave her a kiss, and then about 350 feet farther up the chute, we saw everybody. In many ways, I felt like a pitcher who was standing on the mound in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series about to see my lifelong dream come true. It was so exhilarating.
About 25 feet away from the finish, we saw all of our supporters. Brent stopped and embraced Erica and I was just screaming and going crazy. It was one of the happiest days of my life. At that moment, I heard the greatest dozen words I’ve ever heard in my life, “Kyle and Brent Pease from Atlanta, Georgia, you are an Ironman.”
I am so overjoyed and so humbled by everyone’s support and want to take a minute to thank those who sacrificed of themselves to help make our dream possible. Think about that for a moment; they sacrificed of themselves to make our dream possible. That is the very definition of true giving.
Following our accomplishment, I received an email from my father that, though private in nature, I have decided to share. It means more to me than I will ever be able to express. The feeling that you did something that made your parents visibly proud is one of the greatest feelings known to man. I thank Dad for taking the time to put his thoughts on paper and to share them with me.
“Kyle, I usually do not get excited about a trip, a vacation, or other special events until the night before. Then these special events usually fade a bit a few days after they have ended. Your accomplishment with Brent, becoming an Ironman, got me excited with anticipation and beaming with pride at least 5 days prior to the event. Since then, I have continued to bask in the afterglow. My heart & soul are awash with warm feelings of the strength and brotherly love between you, Brent, and Evan, as well.
Words do not express my feelings of pride being your father. You have all accomplished so much already in your young lives. You have grown into incredibly good human beings. Thank you for being who you each are, have become, and hope to be in the future. You give hope to so many more that you do not even know.
There was something else that struck me more than previous races or other events that you and your brothers have been involved in together. That is Love. The love that you show for each other in all that you do transcends everything else. It is just beautiful.
For you, Kyle, I offer the Corinthians that I know you cherish: And now abideth Faith, Hope, Love, these Three; But the greatest of these is Love.
With that beautiful sentiment engulfing my heart, I wanted to end this post by thanking the many people who made this all possible. As Brent said of me following the race, “He might borrow my legs, but I borrow his spirit.” If I can take it a step further, we borrowed the love, the enthusiasm and the dedication of our friends, family and support team.
I’d like to start with Erica: “Erica, I really feel that you are a major part of this as well. You have been there every step of the way and your support and love have meant a lot to me personally and I am glad that you are a part of my life.”
To Mom and Dad: “You never say no to me throughout my life and always encouraged me to reach my full potential. It’s a real credit to you both that we’re on this amazing journey. Thank you for good people like yourselves. You’re the best and I love you.”
To Curtis, our bike mechanic: “Thank you so much for everything. The bike was awesome and you da man.”
To Matthew Rose: “I knew I always respected and loved you, but this brought our relationship to a new level. You’re the man and the way you live your life is inspiring to me.”
To Greg and your entire family: “I am in such awe of what you have accomplished, and I really appreciate the support and guidance and appreciate everything you have done for me.”
To Andrew: “Thank you for taking time out of your schedule for coming to Wisconsin. It meant a lot to me personally, and I can’t thank you enough.
To Todd, my PR guy: “Thank you for helping to put Brent and I on the map. Everything that you do prepares us for the next part of our journey. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to us and the foundation.
To John David: “I know I have said this to you many times, but without you I would not have gotten through college without your tough love and support. And now that you are on this journey with us and the foundation, you have given up so much of yourself and your time to help me become an athlete, and I love you so much.”
And finally, Sam: “Knowing you has made me a better person and I’m so grateful that you are in my life. You are the man, and I’m at a loss for words to tell you how very much I appreciate you. I just love you and you’re one of the best caretakers I have ever had. I’m so appreciative that you’re in my life.”
To my brother: “You’re a beast, but more importantly, you’re my brother, and I just thank you for allowing me to realize the dream that I have always wanted. I am so happy to share every moment with you. You have helped me to become a better man and I love you.”