At some point in the past 27 years, he grew up into this awesome adult. Recap - hes wanted to be a pilot since he could talk. No lie. Half of his childhood Halloween costumes consisted of a flight suit with patches from the pilot-neighbor down the street. When Halloween was over, the flight suit turned into normal clothes that he'd wear to play flight simulator games in. We watched Top Gun 8000 times and at family get togethers (or really, at any random time), we'd make him sing "You've lost that Loving Feeling". When the three year old who still can't pronounce all the words right serenades you with that song, you just melt. To us, he was "Maverick". Every summer, we'd venture up to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the EAA air show, one of the highlights of our summers - we'd watch the air shows for the jets, the fast fly-bys, and the war birds - none of us were ever really interested in the acrobatics... it was jet engines and speed that impressed us.
He wanted to be an Air Force pilot. So, he got accepted to USAFA by way of Dennis Hastert, a pretty big deal of a man himself. It was tough on him at first... he struggled a lot that first year. In my heart of hearts, I'm glad that he went through that because it made him a different, yet stronger person. He grew up so much during that time - all of a sudden we were using words like "mature", "respectful", "dedicated", and "successful" to describe my baby brother.
Long story short, he graduated from USAFA and is now flying an F-16. That's neat.
The point of this weird-tribute-that-went-slightly-off-topic is he's always been athletic - I've been
Around Christmas time last year, he told me he was planning on running a marathon. He followed that up with "But I've never run more than 3 miles before". I thought to myself, hell, I'll be pretty impressed if he trains and sticks to it. As much as I love my brother, follow-through is not always his strong suit in sports.
But then... he began asking me about training plans. Then shoes. Then knee pain - Ankle pain - Hip pain! We talked about GPS watches. We discussed work-outs, long runs, tempo runs! We've talked more this year on the phone than we have in years past. The months passed and the map-my-run alerts increased in frequency (and distance). Wait, he ran 13 miles? 15? 18???
In the middle of all the running, triathlon started to creep into our conversations. I knew he was proud of what I had done last year, going from a minimal triathlon background to a full 140.6 in less than a year. I wasn't sure how much it impressed him, but I knew that he thought it was cool.
He started asking questions about bikes (those two-wheeled transportation devices I know little about). I sought the opinions of the "experts" and researched online. More and more, he was asking ME questions. Me, the big sister who has always looked UP to her LITTLE brother. He wanted MY opinion. "What do you eat before/during/after you work out?" "I found this thing online called TrainingPeaks, what do you think?" "I'm thinking about signing up for a race, whats your opinion?"
A few weeks ago, he told me his goal for the marathon was 3:42.1. (421 is his squadron... I think. Bad sister).
Last weekend, he ran 3:39. He crushed it! (On that note, he also crushed my time, but I'll let him have the spotlight for today). His girlfriend kept sending videos and updates - my whole family were glued to our phones for just over three and a half hours, getting live updates and tracking his progress online.
Are there bigger accomplishments out there? Absolutely. Are there far more important things that are done all over the world everyday? No doubt. But on that day, I was proud as hell of my little brother. I told all my friends. I sent them video clips, I forwarded the updates. He had a following!
The kid just signed up for his first triathlon, he will be doing Ironman Silverman 70.3 in Vegas. He's planning on doing a couple shorter ones prior to it, likely Chicago later in the summer. And he started a facebook page (I think thats what the cool kids are doing) to hold himself publicly accountable for training. I even scored an acknowledgement on the bio page - "After seeing my sister transition from mortal human to Ironman, I decided I would do the same." Rad.
I'm just SO excited for him. Its really neat to share the sport with my family - I hope he grows to love it like I do. And if he doesn't, he'll find his passion elsewhere. He has the talent and the body type to be really good - I know if he sticks with it and pushes himself, he will be surprised at the end result.
The sport came into my life just as a major chapter was beginning to end. If we are being completely honest (and you know I try to be), it altered the trajectory of my life path. My affection for the sport is multi-fold but part of it stems from distracting me from my less-than-happy prior life. A year ago, I never dreamed I would be where I am today - career-wise, triathlon-wise, personal-life-wise. Triathlon isn't my entire life, nor do I want it to be - but does it greatly enrich my life? Hell yes. Will little brother feel the same way after a month, a summer, a year? Only time will tell, but I'm excited to follow him on that journey... From Beer can to Ironman.