Utah man finishes World Championship half Ironman while dying from ALS
ST. GEORGE, Utah — An elite cyclist from Farmington finished the half Ironman he vowed to complete in last month after he found out he had an aggressive and terminal form of ALS.
Kyle Brown has been diagnosed with Bulbar ALS, and he just completed the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in a time of 5:38:35. The race was held in St. George on September 18th.
“You know to experience this and especially with this support group behind me, I hate to say this but I can die happy. I really can,” Kyle said just after he crossed the finish line.
Emotions were high for Kyle before the race. He’s already been on a journey just to get here. Bulbar ALS, which starts in the mouth, affects his speech which has already started to decline. His throat closes when he swims which can cause him to choke. He feels extreme fatigue and his hands are in jeopardy of not being able to squeeze the breaks on his bike.
— Lindsay Aerts (@LindsayOnAir) September 18, 2021
“You can’t hide behind someone and draft, you ride an uncomfortable bike, and you run like you stole and the cops are behind ya. And that’s after you swam a long ways,” he said describing how different an Ironman is from a cycling race.
As he took off for the 1.2-mile swim, he struggled. His family watching from the shores of Sand Hollow Reservoir were nervous he was choking when he stopped early in the swim.
“I was throwing up the whole time, in the water, on the bike, and it was affecting my stomach,” Kyle said.
But he was determined. He had plans to do a log-roll over the finish line, and nothing would stop him. His log roll was to honor a fellow triathlete who died from ALS, named Jon Blais.
The Jon Blais connection
Blais is the only man to complete a full Ironman with ALS. He was the originator of that roll over the finish line. Triathletes still honor him by doing it, it’s now known as the Blazeman roll.
“His doctors said if you’re going to do it they’re going to have to roll you across the finish line. So he said, alright.” Kyle said, fighting back tears. “So he finished it.”
Blais stopped right in front of the finish line, laid down, and rolled across. And wearing his number, that’s what Kyle has planned to do.
The bike and run
Kyle made it out of the water, then it was a 56-mile bike ride through the grueling red rocks of St. George. With each mile, he grew wearier. Biking, however, is in his blood.
“It’s my true calling in life I guess.”
And finally the run, 13.1 miles. The last 100 meters Kyle said his legs were cramping.
“I don’t know if I can do this anymore, that about killed me. And I don’t need help.”
As Kyle approached the massive Ironman black carpet and archway, party music blaring the background, he got about two feet from the finish line, got down on all fours, and log rolled. His very own, Blazeman roll.
He then buried his head in his hands and sobbed.
“I got there, and it all hit me,” he said crying. “Just overwhelmed.”
Not only did Kyle finish the race he gained support from fans, strangers, and other athletes along the way who heard his story while at the race.
After the race, Kyle held up a white flag with black lettering.
“It’s too late for me but not for someone you love, the cure for ALS is close,” it read.
Final race day message
Kyle’s final message on race day: go out and live.
“Don’t waste time, do somethin crazy and stupid, do something you love because you don’t know what could happen tomorrow.”
When you’re faced with tragedy, he said, you can come alive or you can come undone.
“I hate to say this but I can die happy. I really can. I’m not lacking anything. I haven’t missed out on a thing.”
Kyle and his wife Colleen have also set up a fundraiser to help raise awareness and create policy changes for people with ALS.
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