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A few weeks ago at Ironman Boulder, two amazing brothers finished their third Ironman race together. As children, they loved sports. One brother would sneak into the other brother’s room, carry him down the stairs, so that they could watch cartoons together. This was against the house rules. However, from an early age, it was clear there was no stopping these boys.
Kyle Pease was born with Cerebral Palsy with Spastic Quadriplegia. His brother, Brent, decided not to wait until their mom woke up on Saturday mornings in order to bring Kyle downstairs to join him—he took it upon himself to get Kyle down the stairs—not because of any other reason than he wanted his buddy there to watch cartoons.
Fast forward more than a decade later, Brent began to tackle the sport of triathlon. Kyle accompanied Brent to his first Ironman in Louisville, spectating and cheering on an unseasonably hot day from his motorized chair. At the conclusion of the race, Kyle wondered if he could also become a triathlete. The brothers’ friend, Betty Janelle, said, “Well of course you can!” and the wheels (pun intended) began to turn. The dream was born from there.
Kyle and Brent completed their first triathlon at St. Anthony’s triathlon in Florida in 2011, and went on to achieve what would seem to be impossible—Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman Florida in subsequent years. But how do they do it?
Brent swims with Kyle in an Advanced Elements kayak, rides with Kyle on a Freedom Concepts Tandem bike, and runs with Kyle in a push-chair. Together, they wheel and together they are, and continue to be, triathletes.
Just a few weeks ago, the Brothers set out for their third attempt at the mega-distance at Ironman Boulder. Out of the short list of approved races for physically challenged athletes (with the bike like Brent and Kyle use), Ironman Boulder is one and Ironman Wisconsin is the other. Since the Brothers had completed Wisconsin, they threw their hat in the ring for Boulder.
It had been a while since they had raced at altitude at all, and never at this distance race. As with any race they do together, it is a big feat, but they were ready.
“The swim was okay,” Brent said. (Ah-hem. This was a 1 hour and 7 minute swim, y’all. Also known as “better than okay.) “Okay, okay, we had a great swim,” Brent admitted.
Kyle interrupted, “Brent is very modest. Sometimes it kills me how modest he is. [The swim] was incredible under the conditions.”
Brent laughed, “Okay, yes. It was good. Look, when you do the math, it’s going to be a long day, no matter what. The bike is always a challenge. So I often forget about the swim rather quickly.”
Of course, you might say, the bike is hard for everyone. But the Brothers on their bike? Together they are 370 pounds—powered by Brent alone.
“This was the first Ironman we did with power. I pushed the same watts I would push in an Ironman by myself. The difference is that I do it [with Kyle] for nine hours. Kilojoules is the measurement of the power output, so the typical output for an athlete in an Ironman is 3000-3500 kilojoules for a ride. We did 5400 kilojoules. So about 40% more output is required. The bike [in these races] is where the big give is,” Brent explained.
The Boulder bike course is three loops. “We did our first loop in two and a half hours, and we felt good about that,” Brent says. “We go 12 miles per hour, remember [because of the bike weight]. And then the altitude and allergies started to get to me. I started having trouble breathing […] and swallowing. And because of that, I stopped taking in calories.”
Kyle said, “I think the one mistake that we need to do better is our nutrition. Our nutrition was abysmal.”
“We had a plan, but everyone has a plan,” Brent said, and they chuckled.
“We kept getting slower and slower. In Wisconsin, we made it with a few minutes to spare. At Boulder, we never felt like the cut-off was in jeopardy, but we knew we were going to do it. But I started bonking because I wasn’t eating, because I couldn’t swallow or breathe well.”
Kyle said, “I give him words of encouragement. But for me, I just wanted to get off the bike.”
“We had a wobbly wheel, but I saw Curtis Henry of Cannon Cyclery [part of our support crew], and he checked it, and we were okay,” Brent said.
What seemed like forever passed, and they did it—finishing the Ironman bike course, just as they knew they would. However, the task had been a big one for Brent and Kyle—they were both more than ready to get on with the run.
Kyle said, “There’s a great picture of our handlers getting me off the bike, and Brent is walking off like ‘peace out,” the Brothers laughed.
“T2 was hard,” Brent said and Kyle agreed. They both used this time to catch up on nutrition and a little rest, with the longest T2 they have had.
Kyle went on, “We really needed that time [in T2] just for a minute [to gather ourselves].”
“We started on the run, and we started doing 12-13 minute miles. This was going to be a long day,” Brent said, “I kept thinking, ‘We have to eat. We have to get moving.’ We pulled up to an aid station. I said, ‘Here’s how you feed Kyle,’ and I grabbed a handful of stuff [to eat] and jumped in the Porta Potty, using the bathroom and eating. We stood there for 3 minutes. But we had to refuel. It was time to go.”
At that point, the Brothers started ticking off the miles, running at 8:30-9:00 minute mile paces for the rest of the marathon. The Brothers’ stops are longer than regular racers, because the same routine at aid stations would happen in each one—Brent making sure that Kyle was fed as well—so that added to their overall time, but the run was going well.
“It’s very taxing on my body,” Kyle says, “The [run chair] is a little more laid back, so it’s more comfortable. But the whole race is hard on my body as well.”
“The best thing this trip was our support crew. We had THE BEST entourage, and we truly couldn’t have done it without everyone,” Brent said. “I saw Dani Grabol throw a glow stick in the air, dancing at one aid station. I knew if she could dance, I could run. I don’t know how we would do it without the extra support.”
The Finish, for every racer, is jubilant.
For the Pease Brothers, jubilation might be an understatement. The finish is a culmination of hard work, sure. But their finishes are proof what can become of a dream, a community, family and a relentless determination.
Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, welcomed the Brothers, “Kyle Pease, YOU are an Ironman! Brent Pease, YOU are an Ironman! This is one of the best stories in all of Ironman!”
They did it—third time Ironmen. “Kyle’s face is always jubilation. Sometimes I have more relief and exhaustion. But because of what we got through, this was something else. So I was incredibly excited. To come out of the depths at the bottom, I was thrilled,” Brent said.
“I was extremely happy. I was so proud of what we did. I was so proud of Brent. When we got there, before we hit the red carpet, we need to acknowledge all of our wonderful support team on the red carpet. So we made sure we did. There’s a red carpet there for a reason—to welcome you. So you can go however you want to go,” Kyle said.
And go they did. With gratitude, grace and relentless forward progress.
In 2011, the Brothers founded the Kyle Pease Foundation which serves to create awareness, inclusion and promote success for persons with disabilities by providing assistance to meet their individual needs through endurance sports. This past year, they had over 40 wheelchair athletes at the Publix Georgia Half Marathon.
Their most recent finish at Ironman Boulder serves to remind us all that when we think we can’t go another step, that not only can we, but we must never give up.
Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is tackling the Marine Corps Marathon in October, raising money for the Kyle Pease Foundation with her new buddy, Logan. Meredith is the host of the new podcast, “The Same 24 Hours,” a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com