gmhTODAY 08 gmhToday May June 2016 - Page 97

Brian Conrey… An Ironman at 60 Swimming Written By Robin Sheperd L ast summer, Brian Conrey marked his 60th birthday by competing in the IRONMAN Vineman Triathlon in Sonoma County. As a triathlon contestant, he had to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a 26.2-mile marathon. Brian lives in Morgan Hill and works at the American Institute for Math where he is Executive Director. It was a grueling test of endurance and there were moments when Brian thought he might not be able to complete the race, but he crossed the finish line after 16.5 hours of dogged effort. “I had never done a triathlon before so I had no idea what to expect,” Brian said. “I trained for months before the event and I have a real sense of satisfaction at having done it. I’m thankful that my family was there, cheering me on at different points during the day.” Taking the Plunge (6:39 am) Brian donned his wetsuit and dove into the chilly 74-degree waters of the Russian River at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville. Despite leaky swim goggles and self-confessed difficulty swimming in a straight line, Brian emerged from the river an hour and 44 minutes later, feeling good about his progress thus far. Clipping In (8:33 am) Brian took off on his bike with bottles of Gatorade and protein bars stashed in his bike jersey pocket. He pedaled past acres of vineyards along a hilly course with a 385-foot incline at mile 44 followed by a similar climb at mile 100. The 85-degree heat was bearable but an afternoon head- wind slowed him down. Stopping at an aid station to grab half a banana and more Gatorade, Brian narrowly escaped a fall that could have put him out of the race. His family was there, cheering and waving hand-made signs that said, “Go Dad Go!” and “Motivational Sign.” He finished the 112-mile ride in less than 8 hours. The End Run (4:30 pm) The 26.2-mile marathon began at Windsor GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2016 High School. It took a while for Brian to find his running gear because he’d forgotten what color his bag was. While changing his clothes Brian heard that the triathlon’s fastest female competitor had just crossed the finish line, setting a new race record in under ten hours! Cutoff time for the triathlon was 11:15 pm, giving him nearly seven hours to finish. More Conreys appeared with signs that read, “Good Job Grandpa” and “Swim, Bike, Run” with the words Swim and Bike crossed out. Their encouragement buoyed his spirits. Brian wanted to finish the run in less than six hours. The course seemed endless. At one point he tripped and nearly fell, which could have been disastrous. While speed-walking he ate from a baggie full of pasta and drank Gatorade, figuring that by mile-ten, his food would be digested and he’d be ready to resume running. He stopped at aid stations along the course, grabbing banana-halves as he went. Brian figures he probably ate 10 bananas before the race’s end. The Finish (11:00 pm) He spent the last leg of the race on pitch- dark country roads. Race volunteers handed out glow-in-the-dark rings for the remaining runners to wear. When his stomach started to rebel, Brian had to slow to a walk, but he crossed the finish line with a big grin and 15 minutes to spare! Hats off to Brian, conqueror of the Vineman. When asked if he’d consider doing another triathlon, Brian laughed and said, “There are four different categories based on overall distance: Sprint, Olympic, Half- Ironman, and Full-Ironman.  I could see doing an Olympic distance triathlon, per- haps even a Half-Ironman, but I’m pretty sure I won’t ever do another Full-Ironman!” Brian’s Vineman Stats • 16 hours 18 minutes and 10 seconds • Seventh out of eight finishers among male contenders aged 60-64 • 284th out of 302 finishers overall gmhtoday.com 97