On Saturday, my brother Brendan is racing in Ironman Hawaii. For the last three years, it has been Brendan’s primary goal to qualify for Kona before he reached the age of 30. My family and I were lucky to witness him qualify last Thanksgiving during Ironman Cozumel (after finishing third in his age group), which he completed in 10 hours and 24 minutes.
Ironman is known to be one of the most grueling athletic events in the world, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, and culminating in a 26.2-mile run. When I first heard Brendan was racing an Ironman a few years ago, my immediate reaction was, “All in the same day?” and quickly proceeded by “That’s absolutely insane.” My reaction hasn’t changed much. Ironman Hawaii is the world championship, allowing only those who qualify and a few luck lottery winners to compete. The reason it’s so selective is because the heat is sweltering, the ocean is rough, and the race curves through lava-covered terrain and volcanoes. I know what you’re thinking — no big deal.
Let me tell you a little bit about Brendan — nothing ever stops him. I remember being forced (against my will) to play Monopoly with him when we were kids and thinking it was the most horrible experience ever. Our games would last for 3-4 days, and he would not allow me to stop playing until I had mortgaged every property, and given him every dollar that I and the bank had. He wasn’t happy with just winning—he had to have complete and total domination. I hated it. Side note: years later he admitted to me that he would take extra money from the bank, being that he was always the banker since I was too young to do any complex Monopoly math. I’m still bitter.
As we got older, things just progressed down this road of extreme competition. We couldn’t just play basketball fairly; he had to block every single one of my shots. It was never satisfactory to play MarioKart64 for fun; he had to lap me at least once to make it a legitimate win. And when I went to my college orientation, it wasn’t enough to just sit while I went to the seminars; he had to get in a fight with YouDee the Fighting Blue Hen. But this is another story, altogether.
I insist that although my brother is hyper-competitive and extremely determined, none of these stories really provided me with the emotional scars that I tend to exaggerate. Having a brother who does the unthinkable, such as Ironman Hawaii, only makes for great stories and an interesting life. And I am sure that he is happy to be the first of my three brothers to receive a lengthy blog post.
Given all his determination to be the best and to achieve his lofty goals, it was actually not much of a surprise when he announced that he’d be moving to San Diego to pursue his dream of racing Ironman Hawaii. Even if moving meant riding his bike (as in bicycle) across the country, and quitting his rather impressive New York City job. And now, with Kona just days away, the idea that no one really understood years ago is finally a reality.
On Saturday I’ll be following the race at home online, and through videos that my dad texts me throughout the day. I just want to take this opportunity to congratulate Brendan and say how proud I am, and the rest of our family is, of his accomplishment. There are few people who would ever think to follow through on something as grueling and challenging as one Ironman, let alone the unarguable ultimate triathlon. I couldn’t be happier for you. And obviously for myself, since this time I’m not competing against you.
This is supposed to be the point where I wish you good luck, but that seems unnecessary since I never had any doubt that you’d make it to Kona. Just kick some ass.