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Alex's IRONMAN Origin Story

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Alex's IRONMAN Origin Story

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Triathlon started for me in 1999, the year my dad was training for his first Ironman. We spent most weekends that summer driving around to small New-Brunswick communities that were hosting low-key sprint triathlons. No chip timing, no carbon things, lots of mountain bikes…that type of low-key.

Most of these events would also hold mini kids tris. So my brother and I would line up at the start line with our game faces on. I would wear my favorite Winnie the Pooh bathing suit with ruffles around the waist (I had yet to learn about drag …obviously), and then I would only do the swim and run part because I didn’t really like biking. Not much has changed there.

While I remember being super impressed with my dad exercising for a really really really long time on the actual day of the Ironman, my interest in triathlon faded for quite a few years after that summer.

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I began to just run, a lot. I was completely focused on the road running race scene. I actually trained quite hard, even making the occasional training schedule…although not usually following it. I did anywhere from 5kms to marathons, and after many years became an accomplished mediocre runner.

I jumped back on the triathlon train in 2012 when one of my best buds inspired me by completing her first 70.3.

I chose the half iron distance as my re-entry into the sport of triathlon. And as I lined up at that start line wearing a wetsuit I had never swam in, no more than 6 training rides under my belt, and no concept of what this “brick workout” chatter in transition was all about, I realized I had potentially made a big mistake.

My race that day featured all those key learning experiences from the classic panic attack in the water, to 2 flats on the bike, to a finishing chute being packed up as I ran through one of the final finishers.

Despite a bit of a rocky start, I eventually got the hang of the whole triathlon thing and have now completed a couple of 70.3s and a full Ironman.

Actually, just as I was about to move away from triathlons again and shift my focus to trail running in those beautiful BC mountains… I met Trevor (formerly known as Kevin Swimming) in a swim class, and now somehow find myself an official member of Team Unicorn Sparkle Adventure working my way up to my 2nd 140.6......

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Tammy's IRONMAN Origin Story

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Tammy's IRONMAN Origin Story

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Despite my best efforts to get this outsourced I have been instructed to write my own origin story…not really much of a story, but here it goes… I was born with an insatiable need to be busy…

After my first year teaching in the middle of nowhere Manitoba, an impromptu weekend visit to Vancouver made me realize that Vancouver is the ideal place for someone like me to live. Biking, hiking, kayaking, and snowboarding all outside my door… I packed up and moved here (everything I owned easily fit inside my car) and embraced it all. Eventually buying a house, I filled my free time with renos and when those were done I decided to do my Masters of Education just to ensure I never had even a moment of free time. On the last day of my final class, an overwhelming sadness filled me…. I was done. I had nothing to do.

What could I do? OMG I am sooooo bored. I looked at my husband and said, “I think I’m going to apply to do another Masters or maybe a doctorate.” He rolled his eyes and said. “Why don’t you go for a run to think about it?” Within minutes I was running my school textbooks up Burnaby Mountain to SFU. (I felt like it was symbolic in some way) 6 big textbooks, 5 of which I never even opened, 16 km from start to finish…up through Vancouver Heights and up Capital Hill. It was then that I had an epiphany… It wasn’t that I should sign up for more school…it was then that I realized I LOVE TO RUN. To quote Forrest Gump…”from then on I was a running fool…. anywhere I went I was"

Tammy Start
Tammy Start

RUNNING.

Two months after my epiphany I finished my first ½ marathon, 3 months after that my first full marathon. I was addicted. Running makes me happy, thinking about running makes me happy, looking at my collection of running shoes even makes me happy - nothing beats a long run and the runner’s high that comes with it.

BIKING:

I spend my weekends in Whistler and am enamoured by the beauty of the drive up highway 99 to get there. So when I heard that once a year they close the highway down so people can ride their bikes up one of the most scenic highways in the world I decided I must do this. I set out to buy a road bike…knowing nothing about bikes I chose it based on colour. A few months later I peddled myself up to Whistler. It was hard work, but worth it. I’m not going to lie…. I don’t love biking, well not on a road bike. I rather ride my mountain bike but that would make me even slower during a race so I will stick with the road bike.

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One weekend in Whistler we were stumbling home as Ironman Canada was going on. It was nearing midnight and I was watching some of the last finishers cross the line. Someone said, “You should do a triathlon,” (looking back I’m not even sure they were talking to me) but I thought…Hey…I SHOULD do a triathlon. I can run, I can kinda ride a bike; I just need to relearn how to swim.

SWIMMING:

It was on my second set of swim lessons that I met Trevor…he turned to me during the first class and said…”Wow a 50-meter pool…looks so long…do you promise to save me if I don’t make it all the way to the other side?” Trevor was the only person who was less serious than me in those lessons, if you tried to pass him he would grab your foot and pull you back, he made funny comments about our classmate’s swim trunk choice and he always showed up with his gear in a very tattered old Safeway bag.

Tammy Swim (2)
Tammy Swim (2)

So that’s my story. Really not so interesting. I like to run, swim and bike…I need to keep busy…so I train for triathlons.

I started with Olympic distance, the moved to ½ and now apparently a full (yikes!) I enjoy planning and training for a race much more than the race itself.

I make fancy colour coordinated spreadsheets that I look at every night.

I try to find ways to sneak workouts into my day by doing things like running home from work, biking to the pool, swimming with my dog or playing an intense game of teacher tag with my class.

Honestly, I’m not really sure why I want to do a full ironman…but I know that Brandon and Trevor are two of the funniest people I have even met…and if I need to signup for 17 hours of torture just to be on their team then so be it :)

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Announcement: We've Caught Two Unicorns!!!!!!!!

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Announcement: We've Caught Two Unicorns!!!!!!!!

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*ALERT* *ALERT* *ALERT* *ALERT* *ALERT* *ALERT* *ALERT*

WE ARE GROWING!!!!!!!!

We are so very very excited to announce the addition of two outstanding and inspiring athletes to TEAM UNICORN SPARKLE ADVENTURE

The majestic Tammy Wreggit who will be tackling IRONMAN Arizona on November 20th, 2016 

Read Tammy’s bio here

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aaaaaannnnnnnnnddddddd...............................

The prodigious Alex Smolinski who will be tackling IRONMAN Cozumel on November 27th, 2016 

Read Alex’s bio here

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Their minty fresh kits are officially on order.

Welcome to the team!

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Brandon's IRONMAN Origin Story - Part Two

If you missed part one, you might want to refresh first.  If you not, it is now March. I’ve spent a month in Japan, touring around and enjoying the hell out of myself. I did a little running and a touch of swimming, but in all honesty I mostly drank incredible Japanese beer and whiskey, ate their delicious cuisine of sushi, ramen and udon and visited as many sights as I could. Not a great start to training for your first IRONMAN 70.3. Bike. Check.

Running shoes. Check.

Swim Trunks. Check.

Now what? I spent the next day's research the heck out of anything I could regarding triathlons. I bought myself a fancy Garmin Forerunner 920XT, because well everyone else had one.  It took me awhile but I did my homework and started training … if you want to call it that.

Two things before I go further: First, all I was thinking was, “I’m going to finish the race. Period.” That was the goal.

Second, I must stress that what I did is something no one in their right mind would call “training”. I loosely set out a number of days I’d do each sport and for the most part followed that schedule. Loosely. Often thrown off schedule through social pressure of friends and drinking. I also knew I wouldn't be able to do an introduction event like Trevor did before the IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria.

Let’s start with swimming. I’m not a good swimmer. I know how to swim but I was worried. I started hitting the pool about 3 times a week in the mornings before work. Haha. 3 times …. More like 1-2 times. When I first jumped in the pool I was embarrassed. Men and women of all ages flying by me, while I sucked air and my heavy ass lower body sank to the bottom of the pool. I looked like a horizontal letter “L” as I panted my way up and down the lane.

Trevor did the smart thing - he took lessons. I chose the self-teaching method using the internet. Be like Trevor.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I was good enough to finish the swim in probably just under the time limit (70 mins), but I wasn’t going to make it much under that. I resigned to just pulling my heavy ass through the water using almost exclusively my upper body. It isn’t pretty. But it gets the job done.

I soon improved enough to have confidence that I could at least finish the swim and get onto my bike - my strong point. Honestly, to make gains in the pool I knew I’d have to spend an inordinate amount of time for minimal overall race time gains - training time I didn’t have; well more like training time I didn’t want to commit to at the expense of other social activities.  I thought if I spent the equivalent time on my bike or running, the overall time gains would be much better. Turns out I was right.

Two issues still bothered me: I had never swam in open water for an extended period, nor had I ever swam in a wet suit. I addressed both those issues in the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean on April 26th, 2015; a day I will never forget.

Prior to this swim, that turned my hands a colour of red I have never seen before, Trevor and I drove out to some farm in the middle of nowhere to purchase a wetsuit. I’m not going to say it was a sketchy situation; no ..... no I am going to say it was a sketchy situation. Picture two ridiculously naive individuals buying wetsuits out of the garage of someone they’ve never met, trying the suits on in their office bathroom and, of course, paying in cash which was taken out from a sketchy Quickie Mart down the road. Just another adventure brought to you by Trevor.

Interesting story and all, as I tiptoed into the frigid pacific ocean in the first wetsuit I had ever tried on and summoned the courage to belly flop into the water and swim, I thought to myself, “Holy shit, I’m floating! I don’t even need to use my legs!” I felt good after experiencing the first (and only) wetsuit swim in open water before the event. I figured I’d be ok with the swim.

To be honest, my bike and run story isn't very exciting. I was a very athletic individual growing up. While I never had run more than 10 km, my running wasn't too bad and I wasn't that worried about it.

Biking has and continues to be my strong point. I rode a lot of mountain bikes when younger and 2 years prior to the IRONMAN 70.3 I had bought a new road bike and was getting pretty experienced on it.

So by themselves I had enough experience with the sports. Never did I put them all together in some crazy single event. June 12, Victoria 70.3 would be my first ......

To be continued ........

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Brandon's IRONMAN Origins Story - Part One

I didn’t come into the sport completely green. I’ve been on bikes for as long as I can remember. When I was 16/17 I would bike from the farm to my grandparents town to work.  I’m not a stranger to the weekend warrior type of riding. Swimming? Sure I could swim, but I preferred splashing around in a lake or ocean, if at all.

Running? Trevor isn’t too far off with his antelope comment. Not my preferred method of exercise.

Putting them all together. Crazy.

December 2014. Trevor is in town for Christmas visiting. Let’s try get together for drinks he says. No problem, It’s been a long time. So there we are, knocking back stein after stein and it drops, “Brandon, I’ve signed up for an IRONMAN 70.3 in Victoria, you should totally do it with me! I’ve got little to no training, you ride your bike so you’re halfway there. Come on. It will be fun.”

I’ve got to say I was intrigued from the get go. Not because I thought I could do it. No. It was more along the lines of, “if Trevor seriously thinks he can do it, really why couldn’t I?” I know he played me. I know he said all the right things. I agreed anyway. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but I agreed.

I had never seen a triathlon. I didn’t know the difference between Sprint, Olympic or IRONMAN. I knew I had to swim, bike and run. I owned a bike, shoes and trunks. How hard could it be? I signed up. Zero research. I just paid the fee and told Trevor. He was ecstatic.

So I turned to google. Wow. These men and women are gooooood. The effort, the planning, the training and the dedication splashed on the screen with every stroke, every push of the pedal and every foot that hit the pavement. I was impressed. I was motivated.

Let’s be clear about one thing at this stage of the story: at this stage I was soft. I wasn't out of shape, but I certainly wasn't in tip top shape. Athlete? Beerfest, maybe.

Then came the remorse. Holy shit. What did I get myself into? I have how long to finish? I have to swim how far? What the hell is a transition area or bag? I was starting to immediately regret my decision.

Oh ya … and I was heading out on a month long vacation to Japan in February of 2015. It is now already the middle of January and I haven't done a lick of training. 

What have I got myself into?

To be continued ..........

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Trevor's IRONMAN Origin Story - Part One

  • For Trevor's IRONMAN Origin Story -- Part Two read it HERE
  • For Trevor's IRONMAN Origin Story -- Part Three read it HERE

It was a few years ago and I was sitting at my desk one day.  An email popped up with the subject line: “Registration, Ironman” or something like that.  All that was in the body of the email where those four words, “Why the Fuck Not?”, together with my buddy Rob’s registration details for the Coeur d’Alene Ironman.  

I had no idea what Ironman was.  I barely even knew what triathlon was.  And as it turns out neither did Rob.  But Rob is probably the fittest guy I know, and so I was hardly surprised that he simply decided to “take on the challenge”.  I still remember his training partners laughing about how Rob’s first marathon was the marathon in his Ironman.  I think he pulled it off right around 4 hours.  The guy is a hero.

But more than that, he’s dedicated.

Rob took a structured training approach.  He followed a plan.  He found the time.  And he made it happen.  And the next year I went up to watch Rob race the Ironman Canada in Whistler, together with a few other buddies.  The wheels in my head started turning that day as I watched the wheels on those bikes grind their way down the scorching hot asphalt.

Earlier in the spring I had completed my first ever endurance event.  The Whistler “Tough Mudder”.  I trained for it with (what I then thought) was a pretty decent resolve and commitment.  Tough Mudder was the first time I had ever run 20k (and I cramped, badly, at the 15k mark and at every kilometre going forward).  Prior to that I had done a few 10ks, one of which I was so out of shape and unprepared for I ended up with torn feet, lost toenails and a limp that made it look like I was in to a whole other kind of endurance fun.  So completing Tough Mudder was, well, tough.  And I thought it would be rewarding.

But in actuality Tough Mudder left me defeated.   Why?  Because the event itself was basically a roaming buffet.  Every ~2km they had a massive food table with all these fat, out of shape “tough mudder” people stuffing their faces with free protein bars and GUs and whatever else they could get their hands on.  At one point a queue actually formed for food.  Like, a long queue. Yes, instead of running and jumping and powering through, people lined up to eat in the middle of their endurance race.  I was unimpressed to say the least.

So back to watching Rob in Whistler.  I’m standing on the sidelines thinking to myself “none of these people look like the bums in Tough Mudder, they look like they want it, like they’re fighting for it”.  And they were.  Some were on $10,000 bikes, some on $100 bikes, some had full aero kit, some wore mom shorts, some were ultra ripped, some carried a bit more weight, but they all, and I mean all, had the same look on their face:  “I’ve trained for this, I’m doing this, I’m going to get it”.

They cared.  And the challenge mattered.

So I’m standing there.   I can’t swim or run or bike.  But I begin to think, “I can do this”.  And at a party in September, 2014 where I knew no one I struck up a conversation with some triathletes who said “well there’s a race next week, you should sign up”.  And so do you know what I did?  I said “Why the Fuck Not” and signed up for my first ever race, a try-it tri in Stanley Park, Vancouver, on 6 days notice…

...to be continued…

 

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