Sunday morning we woke up knowing it was going to be a big day. Alexa and I met my mom and sister down in the lobby at 4:45am and headed out to the venue. We arrived in great time and were off to check gear bags with the rest of the Stallworths by 5:15. After getting all of our special needs bags set and all nutrition put into the right areas, we headed to the bikes to get everything race-ready. Tires were pumped up, nutrition was set, power meters calibrated, it was time to go! We went to the Smile Train tent for warm-up and to see family before heading to the start. After a quick snack and some warm-up, we gave the loved ones a hug goodbye and Alexa, Ayla, and I headed to the swim.
Ayla and Alexa are great swimmers so they weaved in and out of people to the front of the swim start. I had been improving steadily on the swim so I went with them hoping to stay on Alexa’s feet for as long as possible. After the national anthem and a quick kiss good luck to Alexa, we headed into the water and started the long day. I quickly got on Alexa’s feet and followed her around buoy 1, but around the second buoy Alexa went under the Corner and took off around it and I lost her feet. I tried 2 or 3 times to catch up but DAMN that girl is fast. I settled in behind another guy and followed him for most the swim. Around 20 minutes in we passed under a bridge and I was really getting bored and sick of swimming so I laid on my back and waved to the people on the bridge for a few seconds before returning to the same guy’s feet. Every time I saw an airplane or a bird I took my time to watch it just as something to do. The swim is so monotonous and boring I just needed something to do. Around the halfway point someone grabbed my ankle and swam right over me, this gave me something to do! For the next 3 minutes and probably 200 strokes, I did everything I could to touch his feet EVERY. SINGLE. STROKE. If you are going to swim over me, I’m going to annoy the heck out of you :D we turned to go back to the swim exit around 3000 yds in and my arms were toast. I did what I could to get in at a decent time and ended with a swim time of 1:03:49
I was happy with my swim but a little disoriented, as I began running to T1 I realized the cement was freezing. My feet were going numb every single step along the way of the 0.3 mile run to transition. Once I reached my bag and entered the tent I had a really tough time getting my socks on because I could not feel any of my feet. After the volunteer helped me get everything on, I thanked him and handed him a wristband as a thank you before going to find my beautiful bike. I could see the bike from across the lot so it was easy to track down and get out of there.
Now for the bike…. Oh the bike. I hadn’t trained much lately as I had been having knee pain cycling and running but just a week before I had realized my seat had been slipping down so I was finally confident in the bike but under trained. I set out on the first lap (3 lap course, out and back, uphill out, downhill back) and right as I left town I saw Ayla!! we said good luck and I put my head down to grind away for a few hours. It took almost 50 miles for my feet to thaw out and the rest of my body was uncomfortable and felt off because of the numbness the colder water and frozen cement had left in me. I had good power through the first uphill and felt strong. Upon reaching the top of the hill I saw my beautiful girlfriend absolutely crushing it on the bike. I caught up to her and exchanged a few words and a fist bump before slowly pulling away downhill. I reached the 25 mile mark and tried to eat some more of my nutrition but some got stuck in my throat, as I tried to clear it I ended up puking which I knew would make for a long day. We got back to town and started the second lap, and as I left town I did not feel good at all. Power had dropped significantly, I was uncomfortable, I could not do anything to get going. I tried eating more and drinking more but it just came back out so I threw away my bottle and picked up some Gatorade at the next aid station. Lap 2 I spent nearly the whole lap struggling to find any power and sitting upright for most of it as I was so uncomfortable. At the far turn I saw alexa was still right behind me and crushing her bike which made me happy but also realize how much my power had dropped.
Every lap I listened and looked for Ayla who yelled out for all of us as she passed, but I hadn’t seen her in a while and was worried I had missed her. I was in such a bad place mentally I started to tear up thinking I had missed Ayla this lap and I needed that more than anything. Within a few minutes I looked up and HERE COMES AYLA!!! she yelled out for me and it was so desperately needed. As I came into town on lap two my knee started to flare up again, I knew something was very wrong so I looked down to see my seat had slipped down a bunch and was creating a lot of pain. I suffered through to mile 5 of lap 3 where I got off the bike at the aid station, took my tool box and went to the porta potty. Figured might as well do it all at once so I used the bathroom while eating and finding my tool I needed. I reset the seat and cranked the bolt down so it would not move this time and jumped back on the bike for one last loop. Immediately my power was right back where I needed it and I was more comfortable than ever. I cruised by everyone as I made my way back up the pack. Upon turning around I put my head down and gave the bike almost everything I had left. I made it back to town with a decent bike split of 5:05:21
T2 was quick and painless as I threw on shoes and grabbed all I needed to become an ironman!
The run would be…interesting to say the least. I had run maybe 10 miles in the past 2 months while fighting knee pain. I had thought about dropping out many times but decided if I had to I would walk the marathon as I am doing this for something way bigger than myself. For Smile Train, for children around the world getting a better life because of this. So put one foot in front of the other and prayed for everything to hold up. With the bike seat slipping I was very worried I would be having pain early on. The first few miles flew by. I was running mid 6s to low 7s while walking aid stations to make sure I retained enough to make it. I saw my family and all my amazing support squad with Mrs. Stallworth and Blake and Corey. I was feeling great and kept a good stride through mile 10 with little to note besides not being able to hold down much nutrition still.
Mile 10 I realized I was slowing a bit but Corey and Blake were running around like crazy giving me splits on how far I was in the lead. It sounded like I just needed to keep pace and I was golden! At that same time Alexa was going through the aid station the opposite way and Corey yelled out her name and my eyes lit up. We both yelled “I Love You!” and wow did that make my day. I have never been so happy in my life. To have something special to share with your better half, and the joy I felt seeing her on course was amazing! So I kept cruising along and taking in as much nutrition as my body would let me, and every time I slowed i thought about that moment. I started lap 2 in good shape but was walking the aid stations a little slower every time. By mile 15 I knew something was wrong. My body began to shut down on me and starting to run after each aid station was getting harder. I knew not being able to keep food down would hit me, I just didn’t know when.
My knee also started to act up and I realized I was in for a LONG last 11 miles. At 17 I saw mom and I needed a hug more than anything. I told her I don’t know if I can do this, but she hugged me tight and said just under 10 miles to go, you can do this. Those words were needed more than she will every know. The internal battle is a hard one, especially when its not your muscle fatigue, but your body shutting down. I jogged on and made it to the far side for one last little loop. As I approached the 21 mile mark my body started to call it quits. I saw Corey who was screaming for me to keep going, he told me I still had a good lead but I had to keep moving. As I left the aid station I noticed my eyes were heavy and I started to get dizzy. It felt like a dream and I realized I was actually starting to fall asleep.
My mind wandered and I started to think about how much sleep I got the last few nights until I realized it was the nutrition (or lack of) that was making me shut down. For the first time, I stopped. I kneeled on the side of the path, dizzy and out of it. After a minute or two I saw the next aid station was just a little ways away so I walked to it. I grabbed pretzels, water, and sat down in the porta potty, and before I knew it…… I was asleep. Yup. I fell asleep. After a quick 7ish minute nap I jolted myself awake. Still holding my pretzels I finished them (why let em go ot waste 😉) and came out feeling refreshed. I could run again and was not nearly as dizzy so I made the next few miles in good time before starting to fade again. I found Corey and Blake again at mile 23 and was in really tough shape. They coaxed me to run again saying I still had a decent gap but I needed to keep going, and I made it almost to the next aid station before Corey came running up to tell me he was hot on my heels and catching fast.
. I tried to gut it out but my body shut down again 100yds before the second to last aid station. An AMAZING volunteer named Scott came over and got me food, talked about why I was doing this, how I was almost there, he walked with me for a bit as I refueled and set a fire in my belly to finish. I gave him my second wristband before taking off over the final bridge with just over a mile and a half to go. I knew I needed to gut it out hard if I wanted any chance of making Kona so I settled in to my 7:30/mile pace and skipped the final aid station to reach that finishers chute. As I came up the hill to the chute I stopped my watch and gave all the high fives I could. I took in the incredible journey I had just went through and heard those words ive been waiting to hear for years since the addiction started.
BRENDEN SCHEEL, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!!
....Eh, close enough
I laughed as I crossed the line and went to go find my family. I gave them a huge hug and thanked all my friends and family for helping make this all possible. I didn’t quite hold my first place but hey, it was the first time! After another quick nap I went and found Alexa at the finish to congratulate her as well. We had done it! We were Ironman finishers.
I can not thank any of you enough for all of the continued support throughout this journey. To my family, you are so incredible following me around the world and supporting me no matter what I take on and what I try to do. Alexa, you are my rock. I never would’ve signed up if it wasn’t for trying to impress this cute girl hundreds of miles away, and that crush turned into the most supportive and incredible relationship I could have dreamed of. Thank you for supporting and taking part in all of these crazy things and being at my side through it all. Thank you to the Stallworths for helping me along this journey to becoming an Ironman! To my friends, Corey and Blake I needed someone all over that course and you guys were. You flew across the USA to run around in the sun and scream at me as I slept in porta potties… that’s true friendship right there. You guys rock. Jay, Nathan, and all the other amazing people who offered endless support and encouragement through these last few hard weeks, you people helped me cross that start line. I was set to defer to 2019 but you made this happen!! And to everyone else along the way, THANK YOU!
shout out to Mom and Blake/Bulldog Advertising for the amazing photos!