A last-minute twisted ankle isn't going to keep this Legacy athlete from toeing the line at the race of his life.
by John Post, MD
Put your feet in this athlete’s shoes for a moment. You’ve been a triathlete for 16 years, finished countless short-course events, 13 IRONMAN races, and you can’t believe your good fortune: you finally earn a Legacy slot to the 2016 World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Life is good, just like the T-shirt says, right?
Not so fast. On a morning training run four weeks before you’re scheduled to board the 757 for the Big Island and this much ballyhooed race, you take a slight misstep going up a curb on a route you’ve done 1000 times before, and CRACK! You twist your ankle and this awful popping sound comes from it. There's real pain, unlike simple sprains you’ve encountered before. Your first thought is whether or not you've jeopardized your performance in Kona.
In the next frame you’re in the ER. After your X-ray, the smiling doctor comes in with the good news—from his perspective: "It’s a clean break, should be healed in six weeks and you’ll be good as new. No surgery needed." That's it, no Kona. "Maybe you can just pick another race," the optimistic doctor says. What? Pick another race? There is no other race! October 8th is the pinnacle of my athletic life. No Kona. Tears of disappointment rain down.
This all happened to 39-year-old Seattle resident Brett Kruse, a human resources director for Starbucks. Fast forward three weeks. You’ve had great medical care by a sports minded Orthopedic team. Maybe there’s a chance. Kruse points out that "doctors speak in averages, but have little experience with the level of motivation of the IRONMAN athlete!" Amen, brother.
Broken foot or no broken foot, Kruse, a father of two, has decided to start the race. As for his prospects for success, he confesses that it may take a miracle. But if not, he says he'd prefer to give it his all until the final hour and then live with the result. "Both scenarios are better than sitting on the couch being bitter," he says.
Kruse is doing his part to follow his doctor’s orders to keep the foot immobile when he swims by donning an old bike shoe covered with bubble wrap for flotation, and as a deterrent to kicking. He’s heard that a woman from Alaska did the whole Kona run course in a fracture boot a couple years ago, but if possible, he’d like to be back in his regular shoes exiting T2 on race day.
Kruse's plan is for longevity in the sport is not necessarily speed. It’s easy to see why he loves the balance of triathlon’s three sports. A sub 10-hour finisher at one point, he would be the first to admit that he actually loves the sport. He uses the term love more than once when discussing racing and training—the perfect fit for a guy who loves being outside and says that over 90 percent of his training is on the road or in the open water. (He has a multi-day bike event in Glacier already scheduled following Kona.)
One highlight of Kruse's long triathlon career is the pride he takes in the number of friends and college mates he’s brought into the sport. When a college acquaintance would suggest poker night or a couple of beers at the local pub, Kruse just convinced them that it would be more fun to meet for a swim. He says this has provided him a social life as well as adventure and enjoyment. We would do well to emulate his seemingly effortless ability to splice training into his and his family's life. It allows him to flow with the sport instead of attacking it.
This commitment to swim, bike, and run will obviously extend past his trip to Hawaii. "IRONMAN has taught me a lot, but I feel that the biggest lesson is now just days away," he says.
So how'd he do? Brett had a rough race, but it wasn't what you'd think. After a stellar 1:03 swim and 5:48 bike, being careful not to stomp on the pedals, his foot performed admirably well. But like so many of us, his GI tract shut down leading the inability to keep anything down accompanied by pretty significant abdominal pain. As you've read so far, this guy is a trooper, and one who, like Crocodile Dundee, "thinks his way through" problems. Brett figured out small solutions to big problems and was eventually able to run/walk his way to a 7:53 marathon. (Just writing about it hurts,right?) He crossed the line in 15:02, his 14th - and arguably most difficult IRONMAN - finish to the cheers and admiration of waiting family. Nice work, Brett, we're proud of you! Really proud. Great work.
Kruse's longevity tips
Beyond the clock: "Be realistic with family and work. Few of us get paid to do this and it would be stupid to risk your career or family stability for a race time."
From the heart: "Celebrate the process. Great race results will happen on occasion when you manage all the variables in your control and you get lucky with the rest. Focus on quality habits, love of the process, and keep a positive mindset regardless of what happens. Then be at peace with the results."
Metrics that matter: "I only get 10 or so hours of training each week, 15 occasionally. I get most of my training done in non-family time, working out with friends whenever possible." IRONMA