My Support Team

  • Cross
    My Father
    No doubt about it. He has led me through the trials and down this road, and I thank Him every day.
  • Amanda
    My Daughter
    Without question my biggest supporter - driving SAG for my long rides, making sure the surgeon doesn't screw up, giving me reason to push so hard. Love you, munchkin!
  • My Tri/Run Coach
    I never would be able to accomplish this without my coach. Love your patience, Briana!
  • My Cycling Coach
    It all started with the cycling. Much thanks, Coach Jeff!
  • My Docs
    I wouldn't be here were it not for Drs. Venegoni, Baptiste and Oliver.
  • My Family and Friends
    Your support and understanding these past 11 years has kept me going. Love you all!

Ironman Florida 2011

IMFL run

Ironman Arizona 2012

IMAZ run

2015 70.3 World Champion Race

Zell Am See Pic

My Story

I have been truly blessed - with great family support, awesome medical support, and a circle of friends that are just unbelievable.

This chapter in my journey really started in April 2004. Perhaps the smartest thing I have ever done is recognize when something I don't understand is happening inside my body. I was home changing clothes after the usual long day, and I felt a tightness spreading across my back, from one arm to the other. My breathing was challenged more than usual from the climb up the stairs. I had a nasty feeling about this. I grabbed an aspirin and headed for the phone. After I told the 9-1-1 operator who and where I was, and that I might be having a heart attack, it wasn't 10 seconds before I heard the sirens from the nearby fire station. I turned the porch light on and opened the door, and the firemen were inside and across the living room before I could sit down on the couch. My first trip in an ambulance, and shortly after, I found out I had 100%, 80% and 30% blockages. I received the first two of five stents that night, and was told later I was a recipient of a couple of jump-starts from the electric paddles. Two more stents three days later, and the last one a month after that.

My father passed away when I was really young, so we knew nothing of the medical history or inherited genes from his side of the family... figures, right? Apparently, my issue was genetic cholesterol, and this little episode was going to happen at some point, regardless of diet or activity level. Guess it is a good thing I paid attention to the Bayer commercials on TV...

Once I had completed rehab, I got involved in the American Heart Association, participating in the Heart Walks in the area, even dragging my mother out with me. AHA does a lot of great work, but walking wasn't cutting it for me. After a couple of those, and needing more vigorous activity than the geriatric parades, I got approval from my cardiologist to start riding a bicycle. Slowly...ever so slowly... I built up my mileage from riding 5-10 miles 2-3 times a week, to eventually riding the century rides in the area. I got involved in a charity cycling team and met some great people. I decided I wanted to complete five of the 100-mile rides before I turned 50...

Yeah, guess again... I had completed three of the five before going in for my annual cardiac stress test in July 2008. Couplets and triplet beats on the treadmill, and two days later, I was in the hospital for what was supposed to be another angiopathy - cool! another stent and I would be out of here the next day! - which turned into a diagnosis of double bypass because of where the blockage was located, and then triple bypass when I was on the table.

Rather obstinate I am, as Yoda would say ...I modified that last goal just a bit... I knew then that I wanted to finish the five century rides before I got OUT of my 50th year. Well, with great support from my cycling crew of friends, I managed to get not only the 5th, but the 6th, 7th, 8th AND 9th done that year. And it has not slowed down. I have managed to finish almost 50 of those 100-milers, including the Triple Bypass Ride in Colorado in July 2010 (well, yeah, why WOULDN'T a triple bypass survivor ride the Triple Bypass?); 120 miles, through 3 mountain passes (really four, but for some reason they don't count Keystone) and over 10,000 feet of climb. In 2012, one of my cycling psycho crew threw down the 12-12-12 Challenge... at least one century ride in each of the 12 months of 2012. Made for lots of riding, especially with other commitments.

As part of the training for the Triple Bypass Ride, I got into triathlon because I thought it would help with my endurance. It was supposed to start off slow, with a few sprint distance races. Working with my coach and training partner, we realized that the first event on my calendar wouldn't be the Rookie Tri as planned; the Texas Ironman 70.3 weekend in Galveston would be first. In 2010, sprint and olympic distance races were held on Saturday, and the half-iron distance race was Sunday. I had signed up for the sprint, and some friends had signed up for the Half, so we were at the race site early Saturday morning, me getting ready in transition and my friends there to support. However, the night before, a storm had rolled in with 75 mph winds that had blown over most of the race infrastructure, and had even sunk one of the police boats. There were still white caps in the bay, and the race director originally delayed and eventually canceled the swim. With the decision to have a duathlon, we all marched back to transition to get out of the wetsuits and into bike gear. With the winds still up, there were a couple accidents with the first few riders out, so I decided to not race, and hauled my gear to the truck. We were supposed to meet some friends for lunch after the race, and in a moment of insanity as we drove to my rental to drop off my gear, I wondered aloud about a slot availability on Sunday. Once my coach got over the craziness, we drove back to the race and after a brief discussion with the athlete registration folks, I signed up. So my first triathlon ever was to be a 70.3-mile half-Ironman!

It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't fast, but I finished, and I wasn't last! -- yeah, pretty much my mantra for any triathlon; and I am okay with that. Just for the record, I don't "race," I "participate." I don't expect to ever be fast enough to be competitive, but I do enjoy the personal challenge.

Since that crazy weekend, I have completed a number of sprint races, a couple of olympic distance, a handful of half-Ironman-distance races (and one I didn't finish because of a bike crash), AND two full-distance 140.6 races, Ironman Florida 2011 and Ironman Arizona 2012. The Florida race was such an awesome experience! Swimming in the gulf, you can see the jellyfish and stingray swimming beneath you. I actually finished an hour faster than I expected. Ironman Arizona 2012 didn't go quite as I had hoped. I was kicked in the thigh pretty hard during the swim, my leg tightened up on the bike, and by the time I was off the bike, it had swelled a bit. I ended up walking most of the 26.2 miles, finishing the race at 16:40 only 20 minutes before the deadline. While the finish line at that time of night is electrifying, I would prefer to be in the stands watching by then.

I was fortunate to race Ironman Arizona with a great group of cardiac survivors, some with congenital heart disease and others with issues later in life. The decision had been made to make a documentary, from registration to finish line of a major sports event, to prove life doesn't end on the surgery table. The event chosen was Ironman Arizona 2012, so we filmed at the 2011 race, the next day at registration, and off and on throughout the year. It will be fun to see the outcome from this effort. The IronHeart Racing Team was widely recognized on the course, as we were featured on the big screen at the athlete dinner prior to the race. We unfortunately lost one of our own a few months after we had registered in November 2011 (miss you, Scott Roy!) but the WTC folks allowed Scott's wife, Tristin, to race with us in his slot. I was the last of the team to finish, given the way the rest of the day went. Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman finishes, was a bit surprised when I came across the finish line carrying the traffic cone...

The fun didn't stop there. 2013, 2014, 2015 and to some degree 2016, were filled with lots of training and racing, and 2014 culminated with another trip to Ironman Arizona. Unfortunately, that trip to redemption ended earlier than planned - broken spokes and flats put me in a position unable to beat the bike time cutoff. Stuff like that happens sometimes.

The 2015 race season was truly amazing. The plan was to race Ironman Tahoe 70.3 in September 2014, but Ironman cancelled the race at the last minute because of a huge forest fire. The night before the race, the smoke shifted into and the race venue so thick it was unsafe to put athletes and volunteers on the course. WTC offered up a number of replacement races and if you made the decision within 2 weeks, your name was tossed into a lottery for the 30 slots for the 70.3 World Championships. While at Ironman Arizona I got an email telling me I got one of the slots! More on this on the 2015 Journey page.

2016 was filled with ups and downs. Some disappointments, but some successes as well. Read about the 2016 Journey here.

But as always, 2017 promises to be a whole new adventure. Here we go, baby! Follow the journey here.