The Story of a True Ironman

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The following is the story of Brian Whelan. Brian came to me in December of 2010 and hired me to train him for Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2011. Brian was diagnosed with MS in 2004 and I must say that his story ranks right up there with the likes of those you see in the tear-filled commentaries at the Ironman World Championships in Kona (finishers with artificial limbs, cancer survivors, heart transplant survivors, Team Hoyt, etc). Below is Brian’s race report from Ironman CDA in June reprinted with his permission.

The Background

The road to Ironman Coeur d’Alene (IM CDA) began on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010, 2 days after I DNF’d (DID NOT FINISH) at IM Cozumel. It began with a note from Coach Felty saying, “Just to whet your appetite…CDA has community spots open still, St. George is still open and Louisville is still open…you will want to deal with this demon at some point.”

Up to that point, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to attempt another training cycle. The defeat in Cozumel seemed so far reaching that considering another training cycle seemed incomprehensible. A terrible swim got me out of the water in 2:16:38 almost completely spent from fighting bad technique against a current, leaving little in the tank for the bike which ended after 75 miles due to cramps and exhaustion. It was crushing.

Jim’s note, combined with my wife, Peggy’s encouragement to “take one more shot at this thing” pushed me, after a couple weeks of sulking and eating, back into training mode. As I reflected on what went wrong in Mexico, I felt like there were 3 things that needed improvement; first and foremost was the swim. I knew I was slow but I was shocked at how hard I worked in the ocean only to barely make the cutoff time and be in bad shape for the ride ahead. Part of the problem was mental. I knew I wasn’t making good time, about 60 minutes into the swim, and the fear of failing the first stage of a goal I had worked so hard to achieve caused me to swim hard, not well, and the lactic acid I was dumping into my muscles worked against me on the bike. The next two things I needed to work on were core strength and flexibility.

The New Plan

With those things in mind, I decided to enlist the help of Ryan Chapman (B.A.S.E Training – www.tribasetraining.com). Ryan teaches Total Immersion swim technique which helped my swimming immensely. I’m still not fast but at least I’m not working against myself (my kick was actually moving my feet in the opposite direction of my stroke – crazy). During the training for Cozumel, I swam 2.4 miles in a lake with a wetsuit in 1:55 but in the ocean in Mexico, the results were terrible. After working with Ryan, my lake swims were around 1:38 and I wasn’t working hard at all. To work on core strength and flexibility, Ryan had me doing the P90X DVD series 3 or 4 days per week in addition to everything else. Ryan also got me using a heart monitor for my bike and run training. All these things worked together and, over the next 6 months, I got stronger and more confident.

Setbacks and Obstacles

Following my last hard weekend of training and ready to start my taper, my body shut down. I got the flu for a week then a cold for another week. Also, like the Cozumel training cycle, I had problems with my neck again and, in April, had to get 2 more cortisone shots in the discs just to be able to turn my head and not have my back muscles lock up. They found another herniated disc at C3 so that was something else. I also had the ankle problem I brought to Cozumel with me but added a torn right calf muscle 6 weeks before the race. Needless to say, my physical therapist was my constant companion.

Final Preps for the Big Day

We got to Coeur D’Alene (CDA) June 22nd, the Wednesday before the race, and I did a short ride on Thursday but wasn’t feeling great so I put off my swim till Friday. It had been windy so the lake had 2 foot waves when I went out Friday morning and I was a little apprehensive at swimming in conditions as rough as they were but at least it gave me an idea of how to deal with it. The forecast for race day was for overcast skies, high of 65 F, and a chance of showers with some wind. It was like being in a washing machine.

The Big Day

Race day dawned clear with almost no wind. I felt like this was going to be a special day. I got up around 4:00am, ate a little, went out for a short warm-up run, then came back and stretched a bit. A quick post “Acts 20:24 – “… my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”” on Facebook and I was ready to go. I hoped to treat this race, as advised by my friend Rich, “like a nice long day of exercise”. Peg and I walked from our house to the swim start area and Transition Areas One (T1) and Two (T2). We were standing there marveling at how awesome the weather was when Josh (my oldest son) ran up. He got tears in his eyes and Peg and I both promptly choked up. We had all invested so much in this process, emotionally. I knew they wanted this for me as badly as I wanted it for myself. I left Peg and Josh and walked into T1 to do some last minute checks on the bike and fill up my center tank with my liquid calories. After a bathroom break and donning my wetsuit, I went over and met the folks from our Tri-Club. It was nice to see them and eventually, we migrated over to the swim start, snaking our way through the crowd to take our places on the beach. The last few minutes ticked away and the cannon went off to begin what I hoped would be a better result than the last experience.

The Swim

The swim was very comfortable. I started in the back of the pack and tried to stay out of people’s way. It got crowded a few times and I had to pull up at a few points as the folks in front of me started to bunch up but it was never the riot that most people at the front and middle of the pack experienced. This was a 2 lap swim on an out and back course and at the end of the first lap, we ran out of the water, across a timing mat, and a quick left turn back into the water for lap 2. The wind came up a little bit so the second lap was a little bumpier than the first but nowhere near as bad as it was earlier in the week. Lap 2 rolled by without incident and a few checks of my watch told me I was doing okay (unlike the crazy fear I had in Cozumel where my watch was an unfriendly reminder that I was out of my league).

Two days before the race, we attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes prayer and worship service where they prayed for all the athletes. One of the songs the band did was this worship chorus called “How He Loves Us” (written by John Mark McMillan made popular by the David Crowder Band) and the rhythm was perfect for my swim stroke so I had that song running through my head for the whole swim and much of the bike. It was so awesome.

I came out of the water in 1:48, feeling very strong. The first person I saw was my friend, Kevin Sutherland. He was yelling and we slapped hands. It was an awesome bit of encouragement to begin the next stage. A few more steps toward transition brought me past Peg and the gang, including my friend Amy Laurence from San Francisco. Everybody was smiling and cheering and it provided such a lift as I ran into the waiting arms of the wetsuit strippers (volunteers who help you out of your wetsuit… no poles involved) before heading into the T1 changing tent.

T1

As I was getting into my bike clothes (before I had actually gotten my shorts on), I was aware that the wall of the tent had fallen down so the folks outside T1 got a bit more of a show than they planned for. I looked around for my feather boa but couldn’t find it so I finished dressing and dashed out to the sunscreen applicators (the volunteers were amazing the whole day), then off to grab my bike and out of T1. As I pedaled out, I passed my fam who had run from the swim exit. Once again, they were screaming encouragement. It was epic!

2 nights before the race, the guy in charge of the bike portion of the race cautioned us that the air temp would be pretty cool after the swim so we should dress appropriately because we’d be coming out of a very cold lake and riding in 50 degree weather with a cold core, which could make wearing a light race jersey a problem. The night before the race, I decided to wear a shirt under my race jersey and put my jacket in my T1 bag so I could wear it for lap 1, then drop it off to my family as I went by. As it turned out, it was warm enough when I came out of the lake that I didn’t need it (one less thing to think about) so I left it in my bag. It was the first of 2 fortunate clothing decisions I made during the day… well, aside from not wearing those pumps for the marathon. The other good clothing decision I made the night before the race was to put a long sleeve polypro shirt in my run special needs bag (these are the bags containing any items we think we might need ½ way through the marathon – they also have them for the bike but I didn’t use one) in case it cooled off as much as it had been during the previous days.

The Bike

The bike began with a short out and back to the Higgins Point boat launch on the lake. It was about 7 miles out and by the time I came back through town, the course took me within a half block of our house so Peg and the gang had reassembled there to cheer me on as I rode by. It was hard not to smile as I came around the corner toward them. It was like a shot of adrenalin as I waved and rode past for the trek out to Hayden Lake and the hilly part of the course. 2 months before the race, I had a chance to ride the bike course with my friends Rich and Alisa Siebert (also participants in the race). It was such a great experience riding the same course and distance we would be racing and the benefit of knowing the hills and the turnaround point was huge.

Getting out of town and into the woods was amazing. There were a number of times that I was struck by the beauty all around me and so grateful to God for the fantastic weather. It was sunny and warm and I was on a curvy section so there wasn’t anyone around me when I suddenly caught the sweet scent of pine sap and that, combined with the mountain scenery and the lake to my right, caused me to have an incredibly powerful memory of my Dad who died in 2009. It was so intense that it took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. That scent is one of my most powerful sense memory triggers. My Dad instilled his love for the mountains in me (and my brother and sisters) and that smell was one of the earliest cool things I remember from hiking with my Dad. It couldn’t have been more awesome to share that moment with him. That charged my emotional batteries for the toughest hill on the course; very steep but not too long and I stayed in the saddle and ground it out.

My improved my core strength and flexibility made me stronger physically this time around than last time but another factor was my attitude toward hills on the bike. During my training for Cozumel, I definitely put in the miles on the bike (probably about 30% more than this time) but it was like I didn’t want to have to really work hard so my attitude toward hills was that I endured them rather than attacking them (apologies to my previous coach for being such a lemming). This time, I put more difficult rides into my training and developed a bit of a mercenary attitude, wanting to knock off the most difficult hills in the area where I trained (and there were some very tough ones).

The hills on lap one came and went and I felt great. The wind had come up a bit but wasn’t too bad. I was able to stay down on my aero bars without too much neck pain. As I headed back toward town, my right foot started getting sore. I’d had a big callous on the back side of the ball of my foot and it had a nasty crack in it that always developed a hot spot during the ride and run. After sanding down the callous as much as I could, I had used some adhesive-backed boot fitting foam to pad the underside of my bike and run shoe insole in front and behind the crack to attempt to alleviate the pain. While I was breaking the axiom of never racing with a setup you didn’t train with, I knew that I could always remove it if it became a problem. Needless to say, it became a problem, so about 6 miles from town, I pulled over and removed the padding.

As I got closer to town I began to notice that my anti-chaffing strategy wasn’t working too effectively. Last training cycle, I experimented with a number of different products but never really found the one thing that did the job any better than Vaseline. This time around, I tried using nothing. My rides on the trainer went quite well, as did all of my road rides. I felt like I was really on to something and it was one less thing to deal with. I had three 100+ mile rides plus numerous 60’s through 90’s and the plan was validated with every one… until race day. I figured I could stop at one of the water/aid stations and lube up.

Passing through town and seeing my family was rewarding, once again and I headed out to Higgins Point once again. This time, I stopped at the water/aid station a mile or so after Higgins Point, got Vaseline from a volunteer, stepped into the Porta-Potty, and applied as required. When I stepped out, I dumped my last bottle of liquid calories into the center tank, filled the rest up with water, and took off. I felt fantastic and ready to go for lap 2. The ride past my family again was great and they were as enthusiastic as ever. It couldn’t have been better.

The ride out to Hayden Lake was terrific and I was unnecessarily apprehensive about the hills because I felt great grinding through them. What I learned from CDA was that, in some ways, a hilly course is better than a flat one (like Cozumel) because you never get a break on the flat. Coasting means slowing down and when you add wind to the equation, it can be really tough… okay, it was tough for me as opposed to most of the people who actually finished. The hills in CDA were not a problem (not that I was fast by any means) and I never felt like I couldn’t go on or even that I was killing myself to just keep going.

As lap 2 rolled along, I started to feel a bit bloated. To that point, my nutrition (Max Endurance liquid/gel for calories, Hammer Endurolyte capsules and Cliff Bar Shot Bloks for electrolytes, additional calories, and caffeine) had been working very well. Part of the problem is taking in a lot of liquid and spending a lot of time bent over on the aero bars. It isn’t real conducive to enhancing digestion. I wasn’t totally comfortable but wasn’t worried about it. As I got closer to town I experienced “a touch of the wind” and was able to get some relief by the time I got to T2.

T2

It was great to have earned the right to do the run, something I didn’t do in Cozumel. The family was there to greet me again as I got off the bike and dashed toward the changing tent. I changed shorts and socks, put my shoes on and ran out to do battle with the marathon. I felt great and got an equally great send-off from the fam.

The Run

I sprained my left ankle in a hiking fall in September of 2009 which dogged me, despite months of physical therapy, for the entire Cozumel training cycle. I couldn’t run on the road for more than a mile or two so most of my training was done on our elliptical (which I was grateful to have as an option). It was so bad that, one day, 4 months before the race, I walked 26.2 just to see how long it would take if I couldn’t run at all (6:58). I never got to the run in Cozumel so it wasn’t an issue but things had gone much better in the run up to CDA but between the ankle and the torn calf muscle (on my one good leg), I was still doing some combination of running and walking.

On the CDA marathon, I ran the first 2 miles, then settled into a 2 minute walk followed by a 6 minute run. This pace kept me around 12 minute miles which would have given me a 5:15 marathon and put me across the line under 15 hours, which was my goal. It’s worth mentioning here that it seemed like there were parties everywhere on the run course. The people were all out in their yards, playing music and encouraging the athletes. It was a blast.

After mile 7, I started getting mild cramps in my calves when I was running so I started walking more. The run course went out toward Higgins Point again but turned back before the bike turn at around 6 miles. Although my energy was great, my stomach started cramping and I had to hit the bathroom. Interestingly enough, the water/aid station (and Porta-Potty) I stopped at was the same one I used to fix the chaffing problem on lap 2. Precious minutes ticked away as I sat, feeling like I’d feasted on sun-baked possum the night before (“Momma said not to eat the road kill”). Finally after close to 15 minutes, I emerged, feeling better, and ready to get running again. I was able to run for 10 minutes or so before the calf cramps returned but at least my insides felt better. I was able to run down hills and on some of the flats but could still see my average dropping. I knew I wasn’t going to get near my goal so I set a new one of getting in before 11:00pm.

Toward the last few miles of lap 1, through the most gorgeous residential section of the course, right along the lake, Josh and Marissa (my oldest son and daughter) showed up. It was awesome! I was walking more than running at that point so we just strolled along together. As we approached the area where our special needs bags were held I realized two things; 1) I needed to get my long sleeve shirt and 2) I had to go to the bathroom again. At that point, Josh and Marissa headed back to join the family and I accomplished what I needed to do (again spending at least 10 minutes in the Porta-Potty).

Lap 2 was more walking than I had hoped to do but I still felt good, aside from my stomach. I had plenty of energy and had decided to start taking potato chips at every water/aid station to try to alleviate the cramps when I ran. As I moved along the lake toward the final turnaround, it was getting dark and the temperature was definitely dropping. I was so happy to have my long sleeve shirt on. I saw so many people who looked cold in addition to being exhausted. It just seemed to make a difficult task even more so.

The water/aid stations along the lake toward Higgins Point had different themes. One of the most notable was the pirate station but all of them were great and provided much needed food (pretzels, chips, cookies, flat coke, water, and ice) and the emotional support we all needed at that point. I reached the turnaround point a little before 9:30pm (a little over an hour before the final cut-off time for that point – if you weren’t there before 10:30pm, you were not allowed to continue because the likelihood of making it back to the finish by midnight wasn’t very great) and, although I knew it would be close to making my goal of finishing before 11:00pm, I felt okay about my chances. I was able to run along the lake for about 15 minutes before the calf cramps came on again but as time ticked away, I was not able to sustain the pace I needed to make my goal so I purposed to just enjoy the rest of the trip back in. I knew I had plenty of time to finish so I felt like I could relax a bit. As I got back into the neighborhoods along the lake, everyone was so encouraging, congratulating me and telling me I had just a few more miles to go.

As I reached the area where our special needs bags were (about 4 blocks from the finish), I removed my long sleeve shirt and belt with my water bottles and stashed them in the bushes to grab after the race. I wanted to cross the line in my West Sound Triathlon Jersey. They had been such an awesome support system throughout my entire training experience so I wanted to “represent” a bit. I started running after dropping my stuff and as I turned on to Sherman Avenue for the final few hundred yards, I could feel the pull of the finish area and could see the glow of the lights and hear the pounding of the music.

With 3 blocks to go, I decided to walk a block just to make sure I didn’t cramp up coming into the finish chute. My first triathlon (2010 Boise 70.3 series race), I had problems with calf cramps and had to walk the last few miles. Every time I tried to run, my calves would lock up and it was so frustrating to come down the finish chute with the crowd roaring and encouraging me to run and not be able to do it. I didn’t want to have that happen this time around. I started running 2 blocks away and drank in the roar of the crowd. A block or so from the finish, the crowd was packed on both sides and I heard my friends Rich and Alisa shouting to me. I looked over and smiled (heck, I’d been grinning like a fool all day long).

The Finish

As I got closer to the finish arch, I saw Peg and the family and my friend Amy and ran over near them as I headed to the line. It was an experience I’ll never forget and I was able to take it all in as it was happening; the sights and sounds; the emotion, the adrenalin and the prayers of my family, friends, and everyone who had supported this effort along the way, all carried me across the line to hear Mike Reilly (Ironman announcer) say the words I’d been imagining and dreaming of for so many years, “BRIAN WHELAN… YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!”

Once again the volunteers were amazing. They handed me a Finishers hat and shirt (clothing I’d coveted for years), put a Finishers medal around my neck, and then took my Finishers photo (strangely validating, that word). It was such an incredible mix of feelings; joy, relief, gratefulness; they all washed over me as I walked, wrapped in a foil (heat reflective) sheet for warmth, toward the food and massage tents. At that point, forgetting that Gabe, my youngest son who had been my support team (driver, encourager, gear pickup guy, etc.) in Boise a year and a week before, was going to get my bike and gear bags for this race as well, I wandered out to the Transition areas to get my stuff. I remembered as I stared at an empty bike rack before heading back to join my family. It was a moment of solitude that crystalized my emotions and my gratitude to God for bringing me through this adventure that had dominated my focus for almost 2 years (significantly intensified after not finishing Cozumel). I couldn’t have been more content. The memories of the hard work, the long days, the pain of injuries and the uncertainty they wrought, the shock and frustration of the DNF, and the love and support of everyone who was aware of what I was doing, all played, like a movie in my mind, as I walked back to the finish area to join my family.

More joy, more tears, more hugs, a few pics, and then we piled into the stands at the finish to cheer on the last competitors as they crossed the line. It felt sort of like New Year’s Eve as we counted down to midnight. Shortly after that we started walking back up Sherman Avenue toward the house and saw one competitor making her way to the line, a mere 2 minutes after midnight. The crowd cheered and urged the woman on and celebrated every bit as much as they had for everyone who had finished before the deadline. Remembering how I felt in Mexico after pulling out of the bike phase when I realized I wasn’t going to make the cutoff, I wondered how she felt. Happy to have gotten so close? Desolated because she didn’t finish in time to receive the title of “Ironman”?

In the grand scheme of things, this was a blip. In the scale of importance, considering what some folks face (cancer, mental illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or a career), anybody who had the means to train for and compete in this race was doing a lot better than so many others who were struggling with life in the “real” world. That fact was never lost on me, even as I pouted and chastised myself for not finishing Cozumel. In fact, the idea that something like a race could mean enough to make me feel that bad while so many people in my life faced real challenges made me feel petty and shallow in the days following that failed attempt. People said I was still an Ironman and that the journey was the important thing. I know they were just trying to encourage me but I’ve always had so much respect for the people who actually finish this race that I felt it was demeaning to the title to call someone an Ironman when the standard was so completely black and white (crossing the line before midnight) and I hadn’t met it. As far as enjoying the journey, I absolutely recognized the benefit that training for Mexico had on me, physically, but I’ve always been an “end-results” type of person. Climbing the mountain is one thing but standing on the top is the payoff and the reason why I took the first step toward the goal. That’s what made Cozumel so devastating and Coeur d’Alene so wonderful.

I have to admit, though, that I did enjoy more of the journey to this moment than I had leading to Cozumel. I believe there were a couple of reasons for this; the biggest reason was my coach, Ryan Chapman. Without him retooling my swim with Total Immersion, I wouldn’t have gotten out of the water as quickly or feeling as good as I did. The core and flexibility work he had me doing, using P90X plus some of the cycling drills he had me doing made a big difference. While none of it was a picnic, I was a better athlete going into CDA than I was 7 months before. Additionally, from a training standpoint, Ryan had me working with a heart monitor on the bike and on the run, which gave me a frame of reference for how I was performing, regardless of how I felt. Staying in target heart zones was brutal at times but it made me stronger. The last part of my training regimen was the race simulations. Ryan had me do 2 of them during my last six weeks of training. They were basically 60-80% of the full race distance with 90 minute breaks between each phase and they provided me with a sense of assurance that I actually could finish one of these things because I had gotten close before. Doing these simulations was the biggest reason I could treat the race as just another long day of exercise. Ryan was encouraging and thorough in his directions and explanations in our one on one sessions and thoughtful and adaptive to my various injuries as he laid out my training schedule. Working with him was awesome. He’s a pro.

The After Party

As we made our way back to the house, laughing and enjoying the moment, it felt so great to be with the people who had been such a big part of the process in making this moment a reality. After one very cold 5 minute recovery bath followed by a 20 minute hot shower, I went downstairs to join the Team Whelan stragglers who remained awake. It was a phenomenal feeling. Monday, we opted to skip the awards banquet in favor of lunch at a Brazilian Steak House. It meant more to me to celebrate with the people who had invested so much emotion in this endeavor so it seemed like a fitting way to end our experience in Coeur d’Alene. That afternoon we said goodbye to my friend, Amy, as she headed back to San Francisco, and to Josh, Jenny, Audrey, Marissa, James, and Gabe, as they packed into Jenny’s car for the drive back to Seattle. Tuesday morning, Peg, Amy (my daughter), and I left the house that had been a wonderful gathering place for a week. It was the perfect place for what we needed and yet another big contributor to a phenomenal experience in Coeur d’Alene.

Reflections

Coming back home and getting into normal life was great. I feel a little weird that finishing this race had such a powerful impact on my mental/emotional life but it really did. In a sense, it was a weight off my mind but it was also such a sense of satisfaction in reaching something I’ve wanted almost since I watched Julie Moss drag herself toward the finish of the 1982 Ironman race in Kona and wondered if I had that level of drive and determination in me. Ironman has brought out the best in so many over the years (Jon Blaze – 2005, Brian Boyle – 2007) and I would be remiss if I neglected to mention someone who’s race at this year’s IM CDA epitomized the spirit of Ironman in a manner reminiscent of Christian Sadowski (2004 IM Kona Lottery entrant who was hit and injured (oh, and his rear wheel was crushed) by a motorcycle 7 miles from the end of the bike so he put the bike over his shoulder, walked the remaining 7 miles of the bike, then ran his marathon to finish in 16:39). Michael Eilmes is a member of our Tri-Club (West Sound) and, at mile 42 of the bike, he fell and broke his scapula. No big deal; he got up, finished the bike in 6:14, then ran a 4:57 marathon to finish in 12:44. THAT is an Ironman!

Special Thanks

There are so many people to thank that it would take pages but a few folks need special mention. Peggy has been my constant support and I wouldn’t have done IM CDA had she not echoed the sentiments of my previous coach, Jim Felty, by encouraging me to take another shot at an Ironman after the disappointment in Mexico. Peg put up with 2 years of me missing various events because of my training schedule. Additional thanks to my kids and their spouses and my granddaughter for all of the same reasons.

Jim Felty was a terrific coach and it wasn’t for his lack of effort that I didn’t finish in Mexico. A lot of things went sideways in Cozumel that never happened during my training and race experience leading up to that race. It was his email a few days after Cozumel that helped me turn the mental switch to start thinking about the next race.

Another person who was pivotal in my journey was Cheryl Iseberg. Cheryl is a multi-repeat Ironman (CDA was her 8th finish). I met her via email after reading her awesome race report from Cozumel 2009. Cheryl also battles MS (diagnosed the same year I was – 2004) and has been a phenomenal example of an Ironman with serious chops who doesn’t take herself too seriously and is enthusiastic and encouraging to everyone around her. I met her in person last year in Cozumel, where she finished strong and again this year in CDA, where she was a featured athlete by Ford Ironman (see that page here). Cheryl’s also the CEO and Owner of Blue Zone Consulting, an IT consulting company in the Healthcare industry. Pretty classic underachiever. I probably asked Cheryl every dumb question there was about Ironman and she was always articulate and motivational.

A special thanks goes to my family and friends and everybody at Bayside (church) who encouraged me as well as Rich Siebert and everyone at West Sound Tri-Club who made the road to IM CDA a fun, shared experience.

Ryan Chapman at B.A.S.E Training was a great coach and friend and I’ll always be grateful for the multitude of ways he helped me.

To everyone who donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the name of “Ironman for a Cure”, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Your gifts have contributed to the fight against this insidious disease that has taken so much from so many. You can be proud to be part of the fight.

Now, to the person who was my inspiration and honoree for my MS fundraising effort, the real Ironman, Debbie Crabtree, who faces, daily, a far greater task than anything I’ve encountered in my training, my races, or my own battle with MS, Thank You for keeping me focused and determined on those long days of training. Your life is a testament to the grace of God and the power of his spirit in you.

And finally, Thanks to God, whom I strive to glorify with my life (and don’t always succeed), I thank him for saving me and trying to keep me focused on what’s real and what matters. He’s made all the difference in my life and is the author of anything good that anyone has ever seen in me. Whether the people around me believe in him or not, they give him glory when they think well of anything good I’ve ever done.

Kinda cool how that works.

Brian Whelan

7 Comments

  • Maureen Brundage

    September 10, 2011

    Awesome Brian.It is with all humility you give our wonderful and loving Father God all the glory.Without His breath we wouldn’t be here.I am so proud of you and so encouraged to do my best and become my best..I again have started running.Again to do another half marathon.Your story is so well written.I couldn’t stop reading.Your family is so awesome. I love you my brother
    .Maureen

  • Maureen Brundage

    September 10, 2011

    Awesome Brian.It is with all humility you give our wonderful and loving Father God all the glory.Without His breath we wouldn’t be here.I am so proud of you and so encouraged to do my best and become my best..I again have started running.Again to do another half marathon.Your story is so well written.I couldn’t stop reading.Your family is so awesome. I love you my brother
    .Maureen

  • John Bennett

    September 10, 2011

    This was simply a terrific, awe-inspiring story, Brian. I certainly know you much better through your writing of this chronicle. It is amazing what God puts in our hearts as we follow Him. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Cheryl Iseberg

    September 10, 2011

    Brian, another congrats on your victory in CDA! I am so glad you stuck with it and gave Ironman another shot. I cant wait to see you out there again 🙂

  • Denise Henderson

    September 12, 2011

    Brian, this made me laugh; and it made me cry. I know how very important this was to you; and I was elated when you finished! You are awesome!

  • Christy

    February 20, 2014

    Great to come across this article Brian! Your story is very encouraging as I prepare for IM AZ. I was at IM CdA (and the FCA IronPrayer!) in 2011 and volunteered with the sunscreen slatherers 🙂 I could picture the whole event as you described it. Awesome testimony. Thanks for sharing, and may God continue to bless you that you may continue to be a blessing!