Racing An Ironman 70.3 World Championship With ALS
Our Gearhead Defies The Odds To Pursue His Passion
Kyle Brown had never qualified for an Ironman World Championship event, despite his 30 years of competitive history in endurance sports. In April 2021, he finally did—just a month after receiving an ALS diagnosis.
Kyle has been a Competitive Cyclist Gearhead for eight years and counting, and if you’ve worked with him, you know his fierce determination whether he’s recommending gear to a customer or riding his bike. So it’s no surprise that in spite of having a terminal disease, he raced the Ironman 70.3 World Championship with passion, heart, and legs—and shared his journey with us.
What Is ALS?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a terminal disease that affects motor neurons in the body, which lose the ability to contract muscles over time. Kyle has bulbar onset ALS that initially compromises the soft tissue in the throat and mouth, appearing as disrupted speech patterns and difficulty swallowing and breathing. This aggressive form of ALS results in an average life expectancy of 27 months.
I keep riding. I keep racing.
Why Keep Racing?
By Kyle’s own admission, he’s “an odd duck.” There’s no end to his pursuit of endurance sports, even though his grip strength is fading and swallowing is now a focused effort in concentration. “Athletes are freaks,” he says with keen self-awareness, “but we know our bodies.” And when awarded with, what is for most anyone, a once-in-a-lifetime shot at Worlds, and legs that can still take him to the finish line, he couldn’t say no.
I’d won my spot. I’ll never get this chance again. I was excited!
In addition to the seemingly inhuman accomplishment of simply finishing, the Ironman is also known for bringing out some of the strongest displays of camaraderie in sport, especially for those afflicted with disability or disease.
Those familiar with athlete Jon Blais know this well. Despite Jon’s ALS diagnosis, he beat odds and completed the 2005 Ironman in Kona, rolling across the finishing line in defiance of doctor’s expectations that he would need to be rolled in order to finish. Kyle was honored to wear Jon’s race number 179 to support ALS awareness and do the famous Blazeman Roll over the finish line.
Ironman 70.3 World Championship In St. George, UT
On race day, Kyle’s fellow Gearheads and Competitive Cyclist community were cheering him on, along with over a dozen of his friends and family members. They pushed him for fast bike splits and celebrated his finish on the run. Kyle raced to 121st place out of 314 age-group competitors, fulfilling a dream few hold even in perfect health, and bringing essential awareness to the fight against ALS.
After 70.3miles, Kyle paused at the finish line, bent to the ground, and rolled—unassisted—for Jon, himself, and the ALS community and into the embrace of his family where his accomplishment was saluted by all.
Here’s the race-of-a-lifetime recap in Kyle’s own words:
“At the finish, I was numb. It had all gone by so fast. Every emotion one can have, I had. It overwhelmed me. The love I felt was something I can’t describe.
I sat down, because I didn’t know what to do. I was too mentally, physically and emotionally spent to think. I’ve done this race before, but never at a Worlds level, and never under these circumstances, wondering if it would be my last race.
I lost it, sobbed, both in joy and sadness. I don’t know if that’s possible, but I did. My wife and son, as always, were there to make sure I was okay and wrap their arms around me. They know how deep my emotions are over a silly race. They know what’s behind it, so they felt it, too.”
“Go out, ride your bike, hike, enjoy your life.”
—Kyle’s advice for a fulfilled life.
Kyle’s Pre-Race Interview
Longtime friend and coworker Luke interviewed Kyle before his big race to talk about ALS, his training, and the support and love he feels from his family, friends, and fellow Gearheads.
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